I grew up hearing the verse Philippians 4:13 quoted at football games, chanted prior to musical auditions and mumbled under the breath of those nervously working through a difficult test. I recited it more than once when I was interviewing or auditioning for something I really wanted. It wasn't until this past year, at the ripe old age of 37, that I realized that I and, many of those with whom I grew up, were wrong. This verse didn't mean what we thought it meant.
When I read through Philippians with fresh eyes and heart, I noticed something very interesting about the verses that sandwich this oft-mis-quoted and decoratively displayed verse.
Verse 12 says, "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."
Verse 14 says, "Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles."
In my most recent reading of Philippians I discovered that Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. In other words, he was currently experiencing hunger, and pain and was in want. And yet he says of his present circumstances and the ones to come that he could do all things through Christ who was giving him strength.
Strength to do what?
He could be joyful with plenty, and joyful with nothing or very little.
If I'm honest I must admit that I find that it is much easier to be joyful when everything is going my way.
- my finances are great, it's easy to give with generosity.
- my children are behaving, you can't wipe the smile off my face.
- I'm rocking my job, I'm feeling good about myself.
However, there are realities that can weigh us down.
- a child who melts down in the middle of the Target aisle.
- bills that continue to pile up no matter how hard I try to follow the budget.
- challenges in my marriage that I never thought would be a reality for me.
How do you find joy when your world as you know it has you held in a prison you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy?
Paul, who was in prison, says he's found the secret. He says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength".
Contentment happens regardless of our circumstances, and is made possible, through the power of Christ in our lives.
Life isn't easy. In fact, Christ promises us that we will have troubles in this world (John 16:33). But if we place our faith and trust in Jesus, it is possible, like Paul, to have joy no matter what.