JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
May 31, 2010, 1:52 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

I am finishing Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. After encouraging them of their citizenship being in heaven because of the Lord Jesus Christ, helping one another, especially for those who do not agree with one another, he describes the importance of rejoicing “in the Lord always,” and thinking rightly. We sometimes forget that when difficult things happen, like a relational conflict, that God brings them into our lives to help strip away the old man and to help Jesus Christ shine through us. It is then that we really get to know Christ better, “the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.” Because of this, while not pleasant at the time, if we have Jesus’ attitude and discernment we can look above our difficult circumstances and realize they are for our good and for Jesus glory! Let us think about things that are true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy!

Paul now concludes this wonderful letter! “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” This begins to bring Paul’s wonderful joy for these Christians back to forefront of his letter. Because of the concern that this church had for Paul no wonder the beginning of his letter was so full of thankfulness! “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I find this interesting. Often times we have a concern about someone but at the moment we are unable to help, maybe we do not have the skill or knowledge or financial support, but in time God will honor that genuine concern. His Spirit will guide us. Paul makes a point to say that “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 everything through him who gives me strength.” Sometimes our inability to help someone is perhaps God still helping the other person to learn to be “content in any and every situation” and for us to learn to have “tenderness and compassion.”

I find many times in America that we have so many easy ways to get money, charge money, etc that we really don’t understand these verses. Our fast food way of living and our fast food Christianity is also found in our charity. We get into financial debt to easily. For some reason we think we need to go into debt with money that is not ours in order to meet someone’s need or even wants. We really don’t know this “secret of being content in any and every situation,” we really do not know Christ “who gives me strength.” Perhaps we need to get out of debt first, perhaps we need to rethink the tithe (the tithe is no longer necessary in organic church life), perhaps we need to rethink the use of multiple credit cards. Perhaps we need to realize that, instead of getting another credit card so we can use it to help someone in need, using someone else’s money, this is the opportunity for us not to show our concern financially, maybe another way to help would be more necessary. When we do this maybe we might know Christ better because we would really be dependent upon Him. Perhaps this is the opportunity for someone else to give, not just you.

Paul goes on and says “yet it was good for you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Living by the life of Christ means living in constant mutual relationship. This mutual relationship involves a constant “giving and receiving.” There is a sense of flow here, a sense that in our relationships in the body of Christ everyone has the opportunity to function, to give and to receive. The gifts of the Spirit seem to fit this context. Sometimes we are the givers of the gifts God has given us, sometimes we are the receivers, receiving the gifts God has given someone else. No one person should just give and no one person should just receive in the body of Christ. Today God allows me to give to the body, tomorrow God allows me to receive from the body, or during our gathering there is an opportunity to receive something of Christ from someone and another moment later I give something of Christ to someone else in the body. Like Paul said: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” If Jesus Christ is Lord in the assembling of His body then there will be a mutual giving and receiving within its members. Is everyone of this same mind, same love, same spirit, same purpose?

The words “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account” sounds very superficial. I think the actual rendering gives some more depth to what Paul is getting at here: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit – increasing to account of you” (1). What is the increase going on here? I think it is another reflection of Paul’s desire he sought in every church: the increase of Christ, the progressive manifestation of Jesus life in every believer, the tossing off of the old man and putting on the new man. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be sincere and unoffending until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” The mutual giving and receiving within the relationships of the body of Christ are meant to help the body bear fruit. If we are not giving when it is in our power to give we will not bear fruit, if we do not receive from others out of their concern for us we will not bear fruit. The fruit of Jesus life living through us! Let us give and receive in all humility and allow the fruit of Jesus life to live through us! Then “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory into the ages of the ages. Amen”!

What an incredible letter! Paul ends with “Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” How we miss one another in the body of Christ when we are away from each other! How we miss the receiving and the giving of Christ when we cannot see each other! Yes, let us pray that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” It is all about Jesus! It is all about Jesus Christ lordship! It is all about the lordship of His life in us to one another, “to the glory and praise of God.”

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 585.

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