One of my pet peeves is that, often times, we take God’s word out of context. We don’t bother to look at the situation in which the writer has penned a verse. We like the verse so we take it and run with it, without giving a second thought to its context.
One of these verses is the often-quoted Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” What does that verse mean? Does Paul really expect that we can do ANYTHING? I know I cannot run a four-minute mile. In fact, I am pretty sure that, presently, I cannot run a mile at all! I cannot lift 200 pounds over my head. I cannot sing the National Anthem on key (or any other song, for that matter). What does Paul mean, we can do “all things”?
Well, of course, we need to look at the context. Specifically, in this case, verses 11 and 12. Here, Paul tells us “…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.” Paul is not claiming that he can do anything; he is claiming that no matter what comes his way, he can be content with his situation. Now, some people may find that a disappointment. But think about it: how wonderful it would be if we, as Christians, were content with our situation? Content with our jobs, content with our spouses, content with our house, our car, our looks, our position in society. Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we learned this contentment?
The good news is that we can! Paul said he learned the “secret”, but it’s really not a secret, is it? Jesus kind of told us this secret way back in Matthew, chapter six, verse 33: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything you need will be given to you.” Everything you NEED will be given to you. But, when you seek first the kingdom, that’s really all you WANT, because you are content with your standing in life.
Oh church, let’s strive this year to learn this contentment. We have been given so much – no generation before us has been blessed in the way we are. Just 50 years ago, only the very wealthy had air conditioning in their cars; now it’s a pretty standard feature. Fifty years ago, you were blessed to have one telephone in your house; now every member of the family walks around with a computer disguised as a phone in their pockets, no matter what their financial status is. Even the refugees here in Italy have them! Those are just a couple of the countless examples of our prosperity. We, of all people and of all generations, should find it easy to be content with what we have.
Why are so many of us discontent? Perhaps we are not seeking first the Kingdom of God. Ouch. If you fall into that category, just remember it’s not too late to change your priorities. Put God first, seek His face, and strive to be like Jesus. You will realize, in a short amount of time, how blessed your life is and contentment will no longer be a problem for you.