10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
We should remember when Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Christians, he was imprisoned in Rome. No doubt his circumstances were less than luxurious, yet he explained a great lesson he had learned.
Paul wanted these people to know he had been in good times and bad times, and through it all he had learned the lesson of contentment. Human nature is proof that we all find contentment when times are good and our lives are running smoothly. The bumps in the road, the distress of an illness, the loss of a job, and countless other bad things, cause us to struggle to even act like we are content.
The word contentment carries the meaning that we can be satisfied with what we have in life. Further, it means we possess an adequate amount and do not require aid or support from another source. Paul said he had lived with plenty and he had lived while in need, but still he had learned the secret of being content no matter what the circumstances.
Are we ever that content? Paul says it's a secret and we need to learn it. Let's look at some people who seemed to never learn that secret.....the children of Israel.
The Bible tells us in their wandering years in the wilderness, God delivered provisions to them daily in the form of what was called "manna." They had plenty because God was providing. The story continues to show us another side of them, in that they became complainers, not being content with what God provided. They wanted real food.
Their complaints were consistent enough that God told them he would see them eating meat until it ran out of their nostrils. God did just that through providing quail for them to eat in abundance. In his wrath, God filled them to literally overflowing with quail, and then hit them with a plague causing the death of many. The lesson to us is simple. When we crave more than what God supplies, it is sin.
Do we really believe God supplies our every need? Paul believed that, but he also knew the secret. He even tells us the secret of contentment. Earlier in Philippians 4 he said, "6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." That's not a promise of "name it and claim it." It's the secret to finding contentment.