The Apostle Paul was used of God to write down the Philippians 4:11-19 passage. Included in this letter is part of the experience of Paul’s life. Paul was a missionary during the early church years following the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul endured tremendous pressure to denounce Christ. He was faced with criticism and intense persecution on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Ironically, Paul, previously known as Saul, was present at the execution of the first Christian martyr, Stephen in Acts 6. From that moment, Saul became a persecutor of “The Way.” His story is found in Acts and also in his New Testament letters. Part of his story is in our text.
As a persecuted missionary traveling the world over, Paul endures great troubles – shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, public riots, angry courtrooms, and more.
From his example we can learn about contentment.
If this is where to find contentment in the Bible, then where can I find contentment in my daily life? Are there practical steps to take that can lead to a life of contentment?
Yes! Here they are:
- Find the Sufficiency of Jesus in You. (vs. 11-12)
Jesus is all we really need for life. Outside of the true necessities for staying alive, what do we really need to grow, thrive, and go through life?
As Paul describes himself, notice the contrasts.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
- Abased and Abound
- Full and Hungry
- Abound and Suffer Need
Paul goes as far as to say that “everywhere in everything” (all things) he chose to be content. For a man rushed upon in riots, beaten, shipwrecked, and frequently jailed, that is an amazing statement.
Abasement and Abounding.
Abase means “to depress, humiliate, or bring low.” Paul knew the pain of being pressed down by the evil people of his day. Nearly the entire society was against his teachings and way of life. Sure, there were converts, and the world was “turned upside down” during the time of the Apostles but 10 Roman government waves of persecution against Christianity began soon after the Resurrection of Jesus.
Beginning with Nero (whom Paul witnessed to) and ending with Diocletian, millions of Christians, over a period of two centuries, were killed in unconscionable ways.
John Fox, in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, tells the story of Nero best: “The first persecution of the Church took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities. Among other diabolical whims, he ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, which order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that ‘he wished the ruin of all things before his death.’ Besides the noble pile, called the Circus, many other palaces and houses were consumed; several thousands perished in the flames, were smothered in the smoke, or buried beneath the ruins.” He continues:
“This dreadful conflagration continued nine days; when Nero, finding that his conduct was greatly blamed, and a severe odium cast upon him, determined to lay the whole upon the Christians, at once to excuse himself, and have an opportunity of glutting his sight with new cruelties. This was the occasion of the first persecution; and the barbarities exercised on the Christians were such as even excited the commiseration of the Romans themselves. Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.”
With this as the back drop, Paul says Christians can be content. Paul new what it was to be pressed against. Every Christian who was persecuted in the first and second century learned about being abased the hard way. With personal experience.
Abounding is the contrast to abasing. Abounding means to “super abound, be in excess, overflow.” In spite of the deflating pressure of persecution, Paul said he could abound. He could still have a “good day” in the “worst of days.” How is this possible? It all goes back to the sufficiency of Christ. Paul relied on Jesus alone to meet his material, physical, relational, and spiritual needs.
Full and Hungry.
Is it possible for a person to be physically hungry and yet content? Many people get angry when they are hungry. There is a new term for this: “Hangry!” I have been hangry at times. How about you? There were times when Paul, with limited resources and not much food, was hungry yet content with all the rest that God gave to him.
Abound and Suffer Need.
A man with one set of clothes, a single coat he left in prison one time, some parchments to write on, and a few books does not have that much. In spite of the “lack of things,” Paul saw himself as having everything he needed for life.
Have you ever complained about not having “enough?” Not enough money. Not enough room. Not enough things to do. Not enough. I have said things like that. Be honest. Did you say something to that effect in the last 7 days?
Please continue in the next posting, PART 3…