I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Many years ago my parents were shocked when friends of theirs got a divorce after 25 years of marriage. “They got through all the difficult times and now they had it made,” my Dad said. “Why would they get a divorce now?” Why indeed. This was no play for a trophy wife. This was not a matter of kicking out the philandering husband (as far as we knew). Something, however, was obviously missing. There was something out there for which one or the other longed that they concluded couldn’t be experienced in marriage.
Paul speaks of contentment that is not tied to one specific situation or another. He is able to be content in times of plenty or want. These words echo the marriage vows, “for better or worse.” But Paul is not speaking only about marriage; he was speaking about life. Sometimes he had received great and generous support from the brothers and sisters in Philippi. For a while, however, the support dried up. Now came the renewal of their expression of love – probably in the form of a financial gift for his wellbeing.
Paul knew what it was like to be brought low and how it felt to abound – having more than is necessary. He held onto the strength of Christ, the promise of his faithfulness, the forgiveness of his sins, and the hope of eternal salvation in the face of plenty or little. He knew and relied Christ’s strength in all things. This was his life.
Those who live under the rule and reign of Christ – a gracious reign in the heart of the believer – will embrace this same approach to every moment of life. We will remember and rejoice in God’s provision in our lives with thankfulness when it is obvious and hopeful anticipation when we are in need.