I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. - Vs 13
That's the secret. Paul has learned the mystery to contentment and he shares is with us right here. He has discovered the hidden key to a life of contentment, regardless of the circumstance he finds himself in. And he is writing this while sitting in a prison cell!
In verse 12, Paul shares what this life of contentment looks like: "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little." (NLT). He lists three sets of polar opposite circumstances: Poverty vs abundance. Hunger vs fullness. Plenty vs want. These are extreme opposites that reveal what Paul means when he says he has learned to be content. The word translated "content" means sufficient for one's self, strong enough; independent of external circumstances. Paul has learned to be self-sufficient, independent of external circumstances. In other words, he has learned not to have to depend on circumstances to bring him joy, peace, and true contentment. But while he has learned to live independent of his circumstances, he has also learned live dependent on God. That's the secret. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." The Message says it this way: "Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am."
Paul's secret was God's strength. It was his dependent relationship on a dependable God. That's why Paul could sit in a prison cell and write about contentment and really mean it. His joy was not based on his freedom or lack of it. His contentment was not based on things turning out the way he wanted them to. He was willing to trust God and "be anxious for nothing" (Vs 5). He was willing to prayerfully trust God with his circumstances and enjoy "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension" (Vs 7). He was willing to keep his mind focused on those things that were "true and honorable and right," "pure and lovely and admirable," and"excellent and worthy of praise" (Vs 8). Poverty is no more true and honorable and right than plenty. Instead of focusing on our circumstances, we should focus on those things that really matter for eternity. The faithfulness of God, the promises of Scripture, the reality of Christ's resurrection and coming return, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the power available to us because of His presence, the unfailing, unchanging love of God. That's what we should learn to think about. Not our circumstances. Because as we all are seeing happen all around us today, circumstances can change. One day we can be on top of the world, and the next, at the bottom. We can go from plenty to poverty in a flash. We can lose our popularity, our health, our wealth, our position,our power, but we never run low on the enabling power of God. Now that's something to think about.
Father, help me to truly believe that I can do ALL things because You provide the strength I need. I don't have to live according to my circumstances. But the truth is, I do allow my circumstances to control me. I pray for my circumstances to change, instead of asking You to change me in the midst of my circumstances. I view my circumstances as obstacles rather than opportunities to see You work in me. Give me a new perspective. Help me to learn the secret that Paul learned. That I might learn to be content in whatever circumstance I am. Amen