The Letter To The Philippians, Part 18

Philippians 4:10-13, 19-20

Brothers and sisters, we have come to our last personal Bible study on the book of Philippians, and if ever the adage, “saved the best for last” applied, it does here.  This passage is a personal favorite of mine, and it couldn’t be more timely considering the circumstances we are living in.
Let’s begin with intentional reading.

  • Read Philippians 4:10-13, 19-20 and consider the following:
  1. Did you notice anything in these scriptures you have never noticed before?
  2. Are these verses familiar?
  3. Do these verses have new meaning for you today? Why?

Paul writes this letter to the Philippian church toward the end of his time on earth, and the wisdom that he shares in these few verses is profound.  Here, Paul describes a state of contentment modern readers may take for granted as being part of his personality.  Content, however, would not be the first adjective most would use to describe Paul.  Paul passionately pursued knowledge and passionately shared the things he believed in – both before and after he came to know Jesus Christ.  The contentment that Paul is describing to his readers is not a disposition people are born with, but a disposition disciples decide to adopt. Yet, the decision to live in contentment isn’t as simple as saying YES to being content.  Paul says that he had to learn contentment.  

  • Read Philippians 4:10-13 and 2 Corinthians 11:22-30.  Based on these verses, had Paul encountered difficult circumstances in his ministry?  In what ways did these experiences plus his imprisonment give Paul the opportunity to learn contentment? What did Paul have to accept in order to learn contentment during these times of suffering?

  • In both Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 11, Paul mentions times that his physical needs were not fully met, and yet he says that he has learned the secret of contentment regardless of his physical circumstances.  Read Philippians 4:12-13.  What is the secret to Paul’s ability to be content in spite of having needs?  What does Paul’s statement about Jesus in verse 13 teach us about the priority Jesus was in Paul’s life?

Philippians 4:13 is likely one of the most well-known and quotes verses in all of scripture. However, the context of the verse is often overlooked. In Philippians 4:13, the all things Paul can do refers to maintaining his faith and sharing the gospel whether he has plenty or is in want, is hungry or well fed.  Paul perseveres through all circumstances with the help of Jesus who is the source of his strength, his joy, and his hope.  Paul’s identity is anchored so securely in the person and saving work of Jesus Christ that he refuses to let earthly circumstances shake his faith or hinder his mission.  Paul never asks God to make his road easier or to remove the obstacles that he faces.  Instead, Paul relies on the strength of Christ to endure everything he encounters while ministering, and he does it to bring glory to God.  It is because of this decision to be content that Paul can thank the Philippians for their gift but in the same breath tell them not to worry about his needs.  Regardless of the situation Paul finds himself in during his ministry, he seeks Jesus first, draws near to Him, and rests in the provision of the Lord. Because of this attitude of committed discipleship and his faithfulness during even the most difficult circumstances, Paul can teach by example that it is not our situation that determines our satisfaction, but our proximity to the Lord.  

  • Read Philippians 4:12-13 again.  In what ways have these verses been lifted from the context Paul wrote them and been made to mean something other than what Paul intends? How does it weaken this verse when we change it to mean we can overcome our circumstances instead of drawing near to God in the midst of them? How does it misrepresent Christ when we use this verse out of context?

  • How can centering our lives on Jesus Christ help us be content regardless of our situation in life?  Read 2 Peter 1:3 for Peter’s perspective on this idea.

Before we leave Philippians, there is one last idea I’d like for us to spend time with, and it’s this: contentment brings freedom to believers in Christ. Once we learn to live in contentment with the provision of the Lord, relying on His strength to get through any circumstance we face, we are truly free.  True contentment in the sufficiency of the Lord makes us free from what people think of us, free from the need for more stuff, free from the need for approval from or to be appreciated by other people, and from pursuing anything other than Jesus Christ. Paul understood that learning contentment not only leads to true freedom in Christ, but this kind of freedom is what God wants for his children.  This understanding is why Paul could confidently write in verse 19 that God would supply all of the Philippians’ needs through Jesus.  When we confess faith in Jesus Christ and receive Holy Spirit in baptism, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead strengthens us to be content in any earthly circumstance.  Relying on the strength of Jesus gives believers freedom from the fear, frustration, and anxiety that plague our world.  Paul knew this.  He wanted the Philippians to know it.  Holy Spirit wants us to know it.  Contentment is freedom in Christ.

  • How content are you? Are there areas of your life where it’s easier to feel contentment in? Areas that are harder? What about our culture hinders contentment? What about your personality hinders contentment? What is the connection between contentment and peace? 

  • Where would you gain freedom in your life if you could be content? 

  • How is a lack of contentment potentially a lack of faith? How does pursuing contentment grow faith?  

From prison, Paul had more strength, was more content, and was more free than many of us who live our own lives and make our own decisions. Paul rejoices, praises, ministers to others, and says he has no physicals needs because, even in prison, his identity is anchored in Christ.  Paul had lived enough life – both good and bad- to learn that having a relationship with Christ was far more important than any circumstance we encounter on earth.  Paul continually rejoices – even in prison – because he is content knowing Christ is his savior.  Paul is free to share the gospel and to worship because he draws his strength from the Lord, not his circumstances.  Move toward freedom in Christ by drawing on His strength to find contentment where ever you are.

Be blessed.  Be a blessing.

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