The apostle Paul was amazing in so many ways. In story after story throughout the New Testament we read about just how much he was willing to sacrifice—even potentially his life—to proclaim the gospel. We hear about how he sang in prison, remained calm while being shipwrecked at sea, and even how he went right back to preaching after being nearly stoned to death.
These stories are remarkable, but I want to focus on an area of Paul’s life that is often overlooked—his contentment. In his letter to the Philippians (4:11-13, NIV), Paul says:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Let’s briefly take note of some important lessons in this passage:
- Paul had learned to be content. It’s not something that came naturally. We can take encouragement from this. If Paul could learn to be content in all circumstances, so can we.
- Paul was content even in the extremes of abundance and poverty. Some may struggle with contentment because they have all we could ever need but still want more. Others may struggle with contentment because their needs aren’t being met. While we strive to make the world a better place through living out the gospel, we have much to gain by finding contentment no matter our circumstances.
- Let us notice the context of the famous Bible verse in this passage: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” We take great hope and encouragement from this verse, and we should. This promise is true in any context, but it’s rarely shared in its full biblical context. When we stop isolating that verse and instead connect it to the surrounding context, we find that it is linked to contentment. As we rely on Christ to strengthen us, we can find contentment whatever our lot may be.
As we engage in another Thanksgiving holiday, let’s keep this passage in mind. You may be grieving the fact that this Thanksgiving is different. Maybe you won’t be getting together with family. Maybe your celebration will be a little smaller. But let’s learn, as Paul did, to be content with whatever we have. Regularly giving thanks can lead to a deeper appreciation for God and what He has given us. While it may be extra challenging this year, let’s claim the promise: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”