I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 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.
- Philippians 4:10-13
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.
- Philippians 3:4b-6
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“Most of us aren’t going to be able to say what Paul says here—at least not without some heavy-duty life experience. What Paul says is that he has ‘learned’ that Christ is enough. He has learned to know that Jesus is his satisfaction both in a full belly and in a growling stomach.
“The truth is that the majority of us will not swing between these two poles all that often. Some of us have an abundance: wealth, steak, caviar, or whatever. Maybe you’re eating mac ’n‘cheese or Ramen noodles occasionally. Even if we can’t eat the steak and caviar all the time, nearly all of us in the first world eat three meals a day, or we could if we wanted to. Most of us don’t have to wonder where our next meal will come from. Most of us will grumble about it, but we can usually afford to put some gas in our car. Money might be tight, but we don’t live in poverty.
“But Paul is saying here, ‘I’ve been poor. I’ve been hungry.’ And that is odd enough compared to our typical life experience, but the more astounding thing he says is this: ‘I learned to be content in those situations.’
“Paul is an interesting man. He’s a Roman citizen, but he’s a Jew. And not just an average Jew. He has serious Jewish cred, remember? ‘Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee’ (Phil. 5:5).
“Paul, whose original name was Saul, has learned the Pharisaical code, learned the law inside and out, and distinguished himself as an up—and-comer. He’s essentially a phenom. He’s from a good family. He’s bold and aggressive. Everybody who’s anybody in the Pharisaic organization knows Saul. And he’s from Tarsus, so he’s a city boy, an intellectual, and, on top of that, both passionate and brilliant. He basically develops the reputation as the next big deal.”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
Have you been poor enough to not know where the next meal will come from and so rich that you could eat any delicacy that you desired? Okay, I have eaten caviar, oysters on the half-shell, escargot, and chateaubriand. Not all at the same meal and the escargot when I was stationed in Germany, near the French border. The chateaubriand was a meal that my wife and I shared at our favorite restaurant in Houston, TX, back when I was going to graduate school and also worked fulltime in the petrochemical industry – the last time my pay had any buying power.
And even then, if it were not for my wife who went to bed hungry many times growing up, we might have wondered from where the next meal would appear. When I was laid off in Washington state just nine months after being out of work for a year, we made the conscious decision to not have a traditional Thanksgiving meal. It was not that we did not have anything to be thankful for. But we were worried that we might spend too much on one meal and get rather hungry by Christmas. Just as we made that decision, in prayer at the kitchen table, there was a knock at the door. Someone from our church presented us with a basket of Thanksgiving side dish ingredients and a coupon for the local grocery store, at least the one across the street from the church, for the turkey and a few other things. But there were enough Southern folk at that church that they knew what to purchase in the first place.
I guess that story about being poor enough to not know where your next meal comes from shows that sometimes you really do not know from where your next meal comes. Sometimes, God has a plan that we are not aware of.
I will have to admit that no one seems content these days. The millionaire or billionaire wants the next one. The poor just want some cushion so that they do not have to fear going to bed hungry. Of course, they would like the million also.
My wife knows a gambling addict who just came into some money, a savings of maybe one thousand dollars each month. She asked if they felt content. My question was, “What money? They’ve already gambled that money away and then some. To a gambler, a little extra money in the bank is simply a higher stake to get rich quick. And they will eventually lose it all. Even if they win a little, they do not know how to walk away while ahead.
But when we believe in Jesus, meaning belief and trust, we know that He will provide. Thus, there is no need to worry about our next meal. And we can be content with what we have.
That almost seems opposite to the American Way, but I think it is more opposite the present American Way. When you look at our founding fathers who set the system into motion, they had an understanding of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness where everyone strived for their share. Harming others to get ahead was not part of the deal. Thinking yourself as the winner when you died with the most toys was not part of the deal either.
When we trust that God has already given us all we need and we trust in Him, we can be content. There is no need to push and shove.
Lord, guide me. Help me to be content with what You have provided. Help me to live each day for You, knowing that You will provide. And I praise You for the provision You have already offered. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
I like that Mark, there is no need to push and shove, that which so many folks do to try and get more. The generations are sure different, we grew up with so little but did not know it at the time. I remember that well and it is not bad memories, they are actually great memories and I have stayed that way my entire life. Just living off what I made and not needing to be rich and always wanting more. I feel that it is a more relaxing life with plenty to give when we trust in our Father.
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A lot less stress.