Philippians 4:10-13 and Contentment

I had an interesting talk with a man at church recently.  He shared with me that the first church he attended after accepting Christ was a “health and wealth” type church.  If something “bad” happened in your life, there was an assumption that you had sinned and were being punished for it.  On the other hand, if you had good health and a decent salary, you must be doing pretty well spiritually.  I do not have much patience for this sort of theology since it is a bad application of a few texts from the blessing passages of the law mixed with some American optimism, and occasionally a greedy pastor or two.  In fact, I am not sure how anyone could believe that God will automatically bless you for proper behavior or curse you for your sins after reading Philippians 4:10-13.

I think that most people can agree that Paul the Apostle is a “model” Christian.  (If you can’t agree with this, go read 1 Thessalonians 2 where Paul himself tells his readers to follow his example as a “model” of Christ.)   Paul is in fact a man who was so led by the Spirit of God that he is virtually responsible for Christianity in the western world, 13 letters in the NT and a major influence on Luke and Acts.  One cannot discuss “Christian theology” without discussion Paul.

Yet in Philippians 4 he says that he knows what it means to be in want, he knows what it means to be “brought low.”  At the writing of this letter Paul is in prison and it is entirely possible he will die as a result of this imprisonment.  I am not sure that it can get any lower than that!  Yet Paul does not connect his present suffering with any behavior, with any “curse” of God for something he has done or not done.  His suffering is exactly what God has planned and he could not be happier about it.  Rejoice! Paul says, and again, I say, Rejoice!

What is remarkable is that Paul says he has learned the secret to being content in all circumstances, whether blessed with “health and wealth” or blessed with painful suffering physically.  That secret is that any success he has is not his at all.  He can only be successful through Christ, who strengthens him.  The way Paul expresses this is interesting.  The verb μυέω is only found here in the NT, but it has the sense of being let in on a secret which is a dark mystery.  It is used of the mystery religions which had elaborate rituals are deep secrets that only the really advanced people understood.

Perhaps this is a hint from Paul that one does not learn the secret to contentment without a lengthy initiation, and that initiation is a road filled with suffering and heartbreak.  You do not learn the secret of contentment by being blessed with wealth, you learn in by making due with very little indeed.  Here is a lesson American Christianity needs to learn quickly.  Perhaps it is not the church with money and power which has learned the secret of contentment after all, but the little country church will no money and only a few loyal believers.

27 thoughts on “Philippians 4:10-13 and Contentment

  1. Two of my best friends come from a background of theology very much like what the man you met comes from. It has always frustrated me when I talk to them and they are sick, or struggling financially, and instead of just taking it as “I’m ill” or “I’m broke”, it was always “God is trying to tell me that I’ve sinned” or some such thing. This frustrates me not only because of Paul’s testimony of “whatever situation I am in to be content”, but also because if you look through the history of the Bible there is no theology like this! It is practically the opposite.

    Paul speaks of his suffering in Christ — and yet he still praised God, knowing that he was in God’s plan, Polhill says of Paul that his example was one of “willingness to suffer for Christ…readiness to surrender everything in order to be found in Christ” (Polhill 176). Job was “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1) and yet he experienced the worst of situations, losing EVERYTHING, and yet he still did not sin against God! Noah was a “righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Gen 6:9), and yet all his friends drowned, and he was stuck on board a boat for ages…the list of men like these, who were pleasing in God’s sight continues, and most of them were plagued with troubles, doubts, and sins that had to be forgiven. I think this is evidence enough that God doesn’t only draw near to those who are “doing well” in a worldly sense, but rather that He is seeking those who would give up all and even suffer in His name, as long as they seek Him with their whole hearts.

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  2. How does one truly believe that the gospel is about health and wellness. You provide an amazing example with Paul, but I think we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of great examplesthat this “health and wellness” gospel is a complete joke (this is not to teach that God will not bless those who are generous or those that he sees fit in his perfect will.).

    But what about Jesus Christ. Let us not forget that he is God. He is divine and sinless yet his time on earth was spent as carpenter who was mocked, tortured, and hung on a sinners cross to die. Excuse me. Could someone please point out to me the health or abundant prosperity that Christ had his entire life as a sinless man? Or, perhaps someone could show me where he sinned and was cursed by God to serve as a humble servant.

    Or what about ninety-nine percent of all missionaries? Where is their wealth? Are they such wretched sinners that God sent them to the lowest in the world so that they may be appropriately punished for their wicked ways?

    I have felt conviction and a repentant heart for being the kind of person who treats God like Santa. I have come to him with a list of needs and done nothing but ask of him. So, how does one begin to treat God like he is a bank or carnival/Vegas game. People all over are turning to God and expecting him to bless them because they’ve behaved; they have lowered their credit. People want to walk up to God, think about how good they are, and pull the lever, hoping to win the jackpot or the giant stuffed panda. This is ridiculous.

    Throughout the entire Bible we see a god who blesses. And rarely is he in the business of helping those who help themselves; or of giving to those who have the most faith. Or maybe the gospel writers just decided to change the part where Jesus let Peter drown becuase he lacked faith. Heck! Who wants to go play tag with the messiah out on the lake if he is going to stand there, pointing at you and laughing as you descend into the cursed sea floor?

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  3. I do fully agree with the statement, “Perhaps it is not the church with money and power which has learned the secret of contentment after all, but the little country church will no money and only a few loyal believers” (P. Long), and here’s why.
    Following the thread of this entire class, let’s use Paul as our example and textbook. Before his life became saturated with the gospel and living for Christ his sole purpose, Paul had a lot going for him. After his conversion everything (in our worldly eyes) went down hill. Polhill says, ” He really had lost a great deal by normal human standards when he embraced Christ – his status as a rising star in Pharisaic circles, perhaps even family ties. What had he gained? He gained suffering, poverty, imprisonment, recalcitrant converts.” (Polhill, 174) Sounds like a horrible trade, but that wasn’t truly what Paul gained. Polhill continues, ” No, he had gained Christ Jesus as his Lord. Everything else faded in comparison to Christ, everything he once treasured now seemed to be mere rubbish, material for the dung heat.” (Polhill, 174) There was obviously a drastic shift in Paul’s life after his conversion and it can be hard to believe at times that his attitude maintained a positive tune throughout, but Paul’s own testimony speaks of his newly learned lesson. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
    Could Paul (or anyone of us, for that matter) have learned to be content without knowing want or need? Could he have found peace without pain? I feel that at times we want to know the easy ‘contentment’ that we find when things go our way. When we get what we want. But that’s not true contentment. After you have been through the worst of the worst, then and only then can you truly appreciate whatever lot God gives you.

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  4. I think the “health and wealth” gospel is attractive to people, not just because of its karma-esque “logic,” but also as an explanation of sorts. For those who don’t fully understand the grace of God through Jesus versus the problem of sin, the idea that “sin begets punishment,” and “good deeds beget blessings” makes sense. People don’t like not being in control of their lives, and it’s so much easier to understand why bad things happen to good people if they just say “oh, I must not be as good as I thought; I must have sinned pretty bad to have deserved losing my house…”

    I know a girl who holds firmly to this “health and wealth” gospel, among others. Once, she told me that she was getting sick, and she knew the only reason she was getting sick was because she had sinned. Therefore, through her odd logic, she decided the only way to counteract it was to pray, and fast from all food except pizza… Yeah, I don’t understand it either, but evidently it does to her…

    But, my point is that this false gospel gives people a sense of control over their lives. Whereas to accept the gospel of Grace would mean letting go of control to the One who gave you a Will in the first place. It’s a hard thing to do for most. In verse 13 of Philippians 4, Paul says he can do all things THROUGH CHRIST. Paul knew he couldn’t do anything on his own. He knew that no matter his surrounding circumstances, God could handle it. I think once Christians understand that to let go of control and stop relying on their own deeds to be right with God, and instead look to Paul as our “model,” they’ll realize that no matter the circumstance, the grace of Christ Jesus has made them right with God. That is where we’ll find contentment.

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  5. Jerad I love the question then what about the ninety nine percent of missionaries? Where is there wealth? Paul knows what it is like to have to rely on God’s provision. I was in Europe this summer and met a lot of people in the same boat as those “ninety nine” percent of people who have no finances. They were simply there because they felt the call of God in there life and followed Him at all costs. They gave up thensecurity of a great job here in
    America and decided to follow God to the unknown regions, at least unknown to us, of His plan for the world.

    In chapter nine of Polhill He talks about the generosity of the Phillipians “In any event, the Phillipians seem to have been particularly generous in their financial support of Paul’s work (Polhill 176)”. He had no idea where the support was going to come from but he states in verses 10-13 in chapter 4 that despite the circumstances that he runs into God will always come through.

    I almost wonder if Romans 8:28 came about because of this circumstance or circumstances like this. I don’t know and have no way of proving it but I feel like it may have along with the culmination of many other instances like this.

    Going back to the people I met in Europe and tying it in with contentment, I think those people have it. They worshipped God in a way that doesn’t even compare to America. Their love for God is so much more pure than most here simply because they have to rest in the uncertainty of the financial darkness that is before them.

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  6. My neighbor back home for the longest time was a health and wealth pastor. He lived it out, too. He always had people from his congregation mowing his lawn and trimming things up. Hehe. We didn’t agree with him, but he was a nice guy, as far as I saw. Paul is definitely not an advocate of the health and wealth gospel, as Philippians so obviously states. Jesus is our all and our boast; therefore we ought to be content no matter our circumstances.

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  7. That is exactly the problem with many American Churches. They do not know what it is like to be in want. They don’ t know what it is like to be on the verge of not having their needs met.
    Many of us live in comfortable homes (or dorms) and always have food in the cupboards (or at the cafeteria). We do not know what it is like to need to rely on God for our basic needs to be taken care of. We take many of these things for granted.
    The American Church, it seems, does not know what it is like to need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives. We have grown content being apathetic and taken the Spirit’s work for granted. And that problem is what seems to be the wrong thing to be content with, in my opinion. We seem to have it all together here in America. We always have the resources to buy what we need for our churches, we always have the right people praying for us, we always can count on our pastors to be there every Sunday, or Saturday, to preach a sermon to us. It’s always available to us.
    The number of believers is being added to daily and in magnificent ways in Asia and the Body of believers there are on fire for their God that they can’t help but talk and share Him with their peers. And it seems that in Asia we find the heaviest persecution of the Church. We see pastors and laymen of the Asian church being put in jail and punished daily.
    I wonder if the persecution they are suffering there and the spread of Christianity that is undeniable, especially for such a “restricted” continent, have any connection?
    I bet they do. I have a feeling that because of their heavy persecution they have learned what it means to find true contentment in Christ and not what it means to always be in want (the case of the American Church, which is not persecuted in that way). They have learned that they are not their own at all, but rather Children of the living God.

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  8. I really like P-Long’s example of Paul and how he suffered as a Christian. Paul exemplified what it truly means to be a Christian and still be content even in the midst of pain and suffering. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-26 Paul writes “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. Paul knew what it meant to suffer as a Christian, but he also knew what it meant to be content.

    Some Christians out there equate godliness to having lots of money and a big house. They figure if they have all these blessings, they must be doing something right. On the other hand, they might think they are going through pain and suffering as a result of something they do. These two things may sometimes be true but are surely not always the case. I look at Job. Job was an upright man who loved God. He had a beautiful family and a nice home yet God allowed Satan to Job to the test by taking away his family and home and later on giving Job scary looking sores on his body. Job 1:22 says “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job knew he did not do anything wrong yet his friends and even his wife tried convincing him otherwise. God sometimes allows us to go through certain trials in our lives because he not only wants us to draw closer to him but when we experience these trials, we are experiencing a tiny fraction of what Christ experienced on the cross.

    I think the american church has distorted this a little bit. It is a huge problem especially when it comes to the “health and wealth” gospel. Some churches just do not know what it means to be in want. Like I said, they equate good health and lots of money with living a life pleasing to GOd. I know for a fact that this theology is faulty.

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  9. As I am reading through some of these posts, they seem to be not directly connected to one another, but connected to the original post from P Long. I see the debates of the ‘health and wealth gospel’ and the effects of being punished for sin. I also am reading about the idea of contentment in the posts, Joe Peterson does make a wonderful point in the description of America and Asia. I would have to attest to his argument that too often I rely on my own efforts to fulfill and accomplish my needs than let the LORD meet my needs. (Phil 4:19) A prior post mentioned that that health and wealth gospel appeals to the desire to be in control, it appears that trusting in God’s provision is much more difficult in the sense of surrender and faith compared to accomplishing our needs on our own. Within this sense of contentment one seems to be content within themselves rather than on the Spirit of the LORD Jesus. This would be a dangerous place to be in because this is the exact opposite description of what Paul describes as contentment in Philippians 4. Paul’s contentment can only be attributed to the strength that he finds through the LORD Phil 4:13. Other observations from the text that would help contribute to Paul’s contentment is found in verse 6 and 7. He describes not to be anxious but to pray, and that the peace of the LORD will guard your hearts and minds. I also notice the emotion of rejoicing in Paul’s circumstances. I would say through this chapter because of Paul’s understanding of the LORD, he sees the greater vision of God’s plan of Redemption. He trusts in the LORD’s promises, He knows that his citizenship is in heaven, (Phil3:20) He relies on the fact that his body will be transformed conformed with the body of Christ’s glory (Phil 3:21). In Chapter 3 we find that Paul considers all things loss at the sake of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8), that his fulfillment doesn’t come from the law or his own righteousness but rather through faith in Christ; Paul’s righteousness comes from God. This is where we can attribute the contentment through Paul’s theology, or knowledge of the true God of the Holy Scriptures. The beautiful truth to this statement is that in Paul’s contentment of the LORD he doesn’t use his contentment to live in solitude, but rather uses the strength that he receives from the LORD to continue preaching the Gospel that others may find their contentment in faith in Christ.

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  10. Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” We all know this verse. What drives me nuts is when people quote it or have it as their life verse. Do not get me wrong, it is a great verse. I just think that this verse has so much more meaning and depth when it is quoted in context. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13). Paul explains all the situations that he has been in and suffered through for Christ. Then at the end of all these deep statements he says “I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13). Everything Paul says here builds to verse thirteen which to me is almost the climax of the entire book.

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  11. It is tough to believe that “health and wealth” churches are out there, since they are so bluntly against what Jesus preaches and what Paul exemplified. Polhill explains it well, as he describes Paul’s writings at the end of Philippians as Paul speaking of his “self-sufficiency in Christ” (Polhill, 176). Paul suffered great physical hardships and he was never sufficient in his wealth, and at the same time in my opinion may be the guy I look up to the most in history, and the most Christ-like character in the Bible besides Christ himself. It is almost as if these type of churches must have 100% misinterpreted Paul’s entire life, since his life does not mirror the views at all. In my personal experience as well in my times of distress and pain in life, is when relying on God is the easiest.

    Philippians 3:7-8 “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

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  12. Yeah, sadly, this “health and wealth” mentality of Christianity is growing (thanks to preachers like Joel Osteen). Like you, P. Long, I do not understand how anyone could believe in this type of Christianity. And, like Jared said, there are countless examples throughout the Bible in which followers of God are in suffering.

    I think this health and wealth mindset may start as something relatively small, like having an improper focus on prayer. Like Jared, I too am guilty of praying only when it suits me. Yes, I believe that God wants us to bring our problems to Him, but we should not see Him only as our “problem solver.” As simple as it is, the common phrase, “no pain, no gain” has some profound meaning in this situation. If we do not go through pain (sufferings of many sorts, not specifically physical) we cannot truly gain (contentment in God and in life).

    Unfortunately, people are blinded by their selfishness, and the health and wealth mindset becomes their Christian lifestyle.

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  13. The “Health and Wealth” belief simply does not make much sense when you think about it from God’s perspective. God’s will does not revolve around the things that we do. This gives far too much power to the individual and sounds like Karma! Often, God does not reveal the reasons behind the trials or blessings in our lives and we must have faith and hope that God’s will is perfect and for the best. This is where the contentment comes from, faith and hope.

    Hebrews 13:5-6, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

    Our hope that God will never leave us or forsake us should keep us content but it’s so easy to forget that he is right there waiting for us to come to Him in the midst of a trial or for that matter a blessing. This makes me think of the words from the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

    Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
    prone to leave the God I love;

    Instead of being content, Christians in America often turn from God when things are going poorly and forget God when things are going well. The only time we remember Him is when a problem in our lives is solved. We thank God and then quickly forget about Him.

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  14. Obviously those that preach the health and wealth sermons have not read much of their bibles. I can only imagine that they take bible verses out of context and use them to prove their points. I would also guess that they themselves probably have not hit very many hardships. In my own experiances it is sometimes when I am at my lowest points worldwise that i am at my highest spiritualy. The Bible does not garantee all sunshine and roses if you follow Christ quite the oposit.”Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12. almost all of the apostles ended up dead, they did not get there because they were not right with God it was for the oposite reason. On a less dramatic note, the women with the two cions instead of the many was said to be far more Godly than the richman. Your ritchess and how “great” your life is has nothing to do with how great your spiritual life is.

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  15. When reading this article the Middle Ages came to mind for some reason. This is probably because the church exercised so much power in land, and wealth during that time. I wonder how the church taught on this passage that “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 all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12).” Even thought the church was the keeper of the Bible during that time I wander how they treated this passage? Did the church make sure that their congregations knew how it felt to be in need? Did they take it on themselves to be trusted in by the people in their control instead of God himself?
    Perspective in life is so important. If a person sees life in a Biblical way of contentment the American church would be a whole different animal. Like Chris said we find in many countries a person’s “love for God is so much more pure… because they have to rest in the uncertainty” that they perceive and know that God is already there.

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  16. When reading this article the Middle Ages came to mind for some reason. This is probably because the church exercised so much power in land, and wealth during that time that they held on to almost everything in their spheres. I wonder how the church in that time taught on this passage that “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 all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12).” Even thought the church was the keeper of the Bible during that time I wander how they treated this passage? Did the church make sure that their congregations knew how it felt to be in need? Did they take it on themselves to be trusted in by the people in their control instead of God himself?
    Perspective in life is so important. If a person sees life in a Biblical way of contentment the American church would be a whole different animal. Like Chris said we find in many countries a person’s “love for God is so much more pure… because they have to rest in the uncertainty” that they perceive and know that God is already there.

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  17. I like all that is being said in these replies. Paul is an excellent example of a case against the health and wealth gospel. Paul obviously suffered and was obviously a great example of Christ as we see in the scriptures pointed out. So health and wealth fall short when looking at Paul as the ideal example of a Christian. As others have pointed out, the idea of being content in all situations is the challenge. It is hard to tell people in poverty to be content while they have a dying child, but this is what Paul calls us to be. But “one does not learn the secret to contentment without a lengthy initiation, and that initiation is a road filled with suffering and heartbreak.” Though people will almost always find it hard to be content in the most difficult situations, it is through these situations that one learns to depend on God. Philippians 4:11-13 testify to Paul having to learn this virtue of contentment. This idea of learning contentment also parallels well with Romans 5:2-5. We rejoice in hope, and to understand this hope we must rejoice in our sufferings. For “…knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” We can rejoice in our sufferings because of our hope. Therefore it is our hope that brings us contentment in any situation.

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  18. It seems like the issue here is a matter of prioritize. “Which should I make the center of my life, God or money? The Bible says one thing but my culture tells me another thing.” After feeling something like that I bet many a money loving, American-culture shaped Christian would love to believe that money and health are basically the same as spirituality. They don’t want to have to work hard, or do something as painful as radically changing their life. They love God sure. They are big fans of Him. But they are not followers.

    Now I’m not saying that all health and wealth Christians are not trying to live their lives out for Jesus but I just suspect many aren’t. One the other hand I’m sure that their are many deceived into thinking that living for Jesus is a worthy cause but don’t understand why a sacrifice is needed.

    P. Long used the example of Paul but there are many others in biblical and church history that have been amazing followers of Christ. Job was brought low not because he had sinned but because that was God’s will. The blind man (John 9) was not born blind because of his sin nor because of the sin of his parents. Instead “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

    Who knows in what ways the Lord will work. Who knows what His plan might be. Christ did not call us cheer Him on from the pews but to daily pick up our cross and follow Him.

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  19. I have heard of this type of theology a lot from a few people I went high school with who believed it. I always found it difficult to understand being that my mom suffered so much from cancer, but was one of the strongest Christian women I know. I never was able to wrap my mind around it when people always told me that it had to do with her spiritual life. This is one reason why I find myself referring to Paul a lot in conversations with people. Paul did suffer during his journeys, and I think this goes to show that you can be a strong, “good” Christian/believer, but you will still suffer through out your life. We do not understand why God lets things happen to people who are strong in Him, but the ultimate thing here is understanding that these things do not happen because they are doing bad in their spiritual life. I think this view tends to be a way for people to try and understand how things work in the world, but I believe that some things we are not meant to understand yet.

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    • Thanks Jackie, I think Paul’s boast in 2 Cor 11:16-33 is important here as well, since rather than boasting about his success (which he had) he chooses to boast in his suffering. For Paul, suffering for the sake of Christ is what proves he is an authentic Christ-follower. But that is not very American, is it?

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  20. I have done a lot of study on this passage and have come to some differing conclusions than many Americans reading this passage. Philippians 4:13 in particular is one of the most misinterpreted verses in the whole Bible, and is indeed very misinterpreted among many Christian athletes. Many athletes take this verse and credit it to their successes that they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength. However, this is taking their own humanly view of success and putting that above an earthly view of success. Paul is not taking about success in this passage, but instead being content with earthly failures. Many people read this verse and completely ignore the context of the passage. Paul is writing this letter from prison…This is not a successful place to be in the matters of earthly standards and the world’s definition of success. But Paul didn’t care about the world’s view of success, but solely cared about the gospel to be spread. We have to rely completely on the strength of Christ, not our own strength, because when we do that, we make this verse all about ourselves, that it is by our own strength that we can swallow our pride and accept our failures. I think a correct way to view this verse as an athlete is to read it and say “I will continue to praise God and find contentment in Him despite my earthly failures and circumstances”. It takes the focus off of yourself and your successes and be content with coming in last in a race or losing a game by thirty points. Paul was content in all circumstances but not by his strength, but by Christ’s strength. By our own strength and power we will never be content.

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  21. I would have to disagree with you that there is no blessing or curse due to obedience and or disobedience. Paul was very aware of the Torah, Deuteronomy for example says,

    “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:1-2). These blessings are listed:

    -Your towns and fields will be blessed
    -your children and crop will be blessed
    – the Lord will conquer your enemies
    -Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed (Deut. 28:3-7)

    Then the last part of the chapter discusses the curses from disobeying. The curses listed are typically the opposite of what was listed as a blessing.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting a health and wealth Gospel nor do I think entirely that our health and financial blessing is directly related to obedience. A person can desire something so strongly and God gives it to them. such is the case in the wilderness where the Israelites complained about not having meat, and God didn’t want them to have meat, but he gave it to them anyway and He cursed them for partaking of it.

    the Apostle John, said in his third letter, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2).

    Paul later in Philippians 4 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

    Though spoke this in the context of finances the principle still stands. Now, going back to contentment. You are absolutely right. Paul learned to be content whether rich or poor and in any hardship. Contentment is the antithesis of covetousness. He desired to do the Lords will, and that was it.

    I believe in our culture, even the Church, firmly desires to be well off, to be secure, financially blessed, be in a relationship etc, more so than we desire to do the will of God. Is this not Idolatry? Contentment comes from loving God and doing His will. A truth I think Paul was also trying to communicate.
    Longnecker points out, “Paul desired for them to dwell on things that are ‘excellent or praiseworthy’ and to ‘put into practice’ what they had learned or received or heard from Paul, or seen in him” (TTP. 207).

    The chapter models contentment in all things and to meditate on all things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtue or worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8) I obviously disagree with the “Prosperity Gospel”, and firmly agree that the Body of Christ must thrive on contentment in order to do the Lord’s will and succeed in their missions.

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  22. When you say, “You do not learn the secret of contentment by being blessed with wealth, you learn in by making due with very little indeed.”, I can see how this would be intimidating to people today. We are a very consumer focused society, so the idea of having something, especially wealth, taken away from us, even for the sake of growing in the faith, does not sound ideal. Obviously this is one of the biggest downfalls of society/christianity today so it is easy to see why this is such a hard concept to implement into everyday living. It is easier to be comfortable, especially if you are secure in your finances, jobs, homes, and relationships. This is not how we are going to grow though. Paul wanted nothing more than the church to be thankful for what they had and to praise God through everything, giving himself as an example of practically everything that could go wrong. “He seeks to impress on the Philippians his deep-seated belief (shaped in the cauldron of deprivation and affliction and rescue from the same) that God will supply all their needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (TTP, 207) It is sad that church has turned more into a show than an opportunity for community and growth. Many churches don’t even realize that some of these ideals about wealth connecting to being a “good” christian have crept into their theologies.

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  23. I think that it is a little ridiculous that people believe in if you sin you will be punished for it. I do not think that punishment is the correct term, people will have to pay the consequences for their sin and not following God’s will. But I do not believe that God punishes us for when we sin. Jesus took the ultimate punishment when he died on the cross specifically for our sins. Sin is what creates the problems in the world not God, for example many churches today consider that someone with a mental illness can just pray it away or they had a big sin in their past that gave them that that illness. This is so far from the truth, sin has corrupted the world not God. Yes God does use trials to grow people and help us mature in our faith “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). But God does not tempt us and he does not punish us for our sins, he has already forgiven each and every sin, even before we commit one.

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  24. As I was driving home from work today, I got a text from a friend expressing that they were not going to attend a church event because their week would be spent with their sister–one whom they thought they were going to lose to pneumonia and an infected gall bladder which had spread to sepsis. Reading this made me quickly take a deep breath and thank God for the life I have been given. Currently, it is incredibly easy to desire a greater amount of security and comfort. Interestingly enough, there is an obvious reason for why I do not have any of that. I would not admit to understand what it means to be content–especially when life is not as how I would like to see it.

    This causes me to question if there is a place for what could be called ‘holy discontentment’. Longenecker expressed, “Indeed the ‘secret’ of Paul’s contentment, ‘whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want,’ was his trust in the Lord’s strength and provision” (TTP 207). Paul does not clearly express to love life and if I were him, I would most likely be hating it, yet he continues to trust God. Are we able to absolutely and honestly hate our circumstances, while still knowing that God is in control?

    I do not understand how one can look at their life, see that it is nothing they ever wanted, yet still be thankful and be faithful to the reality that God has a plan. What is the most vital aspect of what Paul is preaching: to be content in all circumstances, that God has a plan, that one should not dwell on their circumstances more than God’s glory? My mind is racing with questions.

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