“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
Paul writes the words as he is completing his letter to the Philippians. What is this “secret” he is referring to in this passage?
Paul had the most interesting of ministries. Earlier in his ministry, he is sharing the Gospel with a lady named Lydia who becomes a believer in Christ. Lydia is a wealthy merchant who is blessed with much prosperity. Paul spent time with her and others in her lavish lifestyle. This would be akin to staying in a gigantic Beverly Hills, California home or a New York City Penthouse.
At another point in his ministry, he is severely beaten for preaching the Gospel and thrown into prison. He is bleeding and bruised lying on the floor of a concrete jail cell. This would truly be a nightmare scenario for any on of us.
And yet Paul repeatedly says through out the book of Philippians rejoice.
- Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice! -Philippians 1:18
- Yes, and I will rejoice. -Philippians 1:19
- Rejoice in the Lord. -Philippians 3:1
- Rejoice in the Lord always. -Philippians 4:4
- But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. -Philippians 4:10
What makes a man say “rejoice” in such amazing and worldly circumstances with much wealth and in such horrific circumstances with nothing at all? What is this “secret” that Paul is referring to? The secret is that Paul’s rejoicing doesn’t lie within his circumstances. Paul’s rejoicing is found solely in the person and work of Christ.
Jesus brings comfort to his soul when he is in the worst of circumstances and Jesus is the center of his thankfulness in those times of abundance. There will be many circumstances in your life that are completely and totally out of your control. Your ability to “rejoice” will be dependent on your understanding of the truth of Gospel.
Do you believe that God is for you? That He loves you deeply? That He is sovereign and King? That He will never leave you nor forsake you? If you are deeply rooted in this truth, in the best of days and the worst of days you will “rejoice,” as Paul describes, and will fully understand what Paul was saying when he said, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances.”