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 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.
41 thoughts on “Philippians 4:10-13 and Contentment”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
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.
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?
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.
Well said, thanks. And sadly, too many Christians in America look to athletes for their scripture interpretation!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The health and wealth view may be a form of manipulation to keep people in the church that give money. Nobody wants to be deemed unworthy and nobody wants to be made the example of what happens when you “don’t follow God”. Sometimes, people may give more just to keep up the façade that they are actually “successful”. People also want to hear that their good works will result in a better life and a better situation. This is the American dream is it not? If you work hard, you will eventually succeed. I believe this statement may be true to some degree. If you are growing in the Lord every day, then naturally, other areas will be easier to give up to the Lord and you may be successful in your perseverance. You may become successful in not being angry or maybe, you may become more successful with giving praise in your trials. Success and suffering are not usually synonyms, but Paul seems to be suggesting often that his biggest growth spiritually is when he is at his weakest because Christ becomes strong when he is weak (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).
I have personally found that the churches that have people at or below the poverty line are the ones that have members with great relationships with God. This may be since they have to rely on God for provision every single day so trusting God is second nature, or maybe because they have realized that they cannot do it alone. I know that money is a double edge sword. In 1 Timothy 6:10, we learn that the love of money is the root of all evil. Although many people who have a lot of money are still humble and still live within a budget so that they can give away more, this is not the case for everyone. Some people are rich because all they did was think about money and did not take care of any other responsibilities within the family so that they could make more and more money. Some people are just not satisfied with how much they have, and thus, the large sum in the bank does not equate to contentment. As a church, we need to be careful of not pushing people in that direction to show that God favors them. Longenecker describes the verses in Philippians 4:10-20 as almost a “thankless thank you” to the gifts that Paul receives (Longenecker & Todd, 2014, 207). Paul then goes on to describe the gifts as spiritual credit or as a fragrant offering to the Lord. All this to say that although Paul was very grateful to have received something when he had nothing, Paul would have still praised God and been content if they had not given him anything. Longenecker explains that Paul’s secret of his contentment was his “trust in the Lord’s strength and provision” (Longenecker & Todd, 2014, 207).
Quite honestly, this is literally my favorite blog post I have read thus far by P. Long, his interpretation and knowledge of Philippians 4:10-13 addresses one of the most frustrating aspects of American Christianity. P. Long not only writes how frustrating “health and wealth” gospel is to him, but more so how counter it is to true Christianity and how Paul encourages us to find contentment within Christ alone. Within Philippians 4:10-13, we read that whether we suffer or if we benefit, God is in control and sovereign thus we can find contentment in Him always. This same theme can be found throughout the Bible, specifically the book of Habakkuk stands out to me in regard to this theme of contentment in God in all situations. Bruce Longenecker and Todd Still in their book Thinking Through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology write that the secret to Paul’s contentment is that whether he has lots or nothing to eat, living in wealth or in needs, Paul will focus on and trust in God’s strength and provision (Longenecker, Still, Pg. 207). This type of living and following God allows us as Christ followers to be free in spreading the good news of the Gospel to all people groups everywhere!
I have always struggled with the “health and wealth” gospel as well. True contentment does flow from understanding both perspectives- both of much and of little. I think it is important to note that God knows our every core need, but because of American culture and American Christianity, we think this means we will always be sitting well, in overabundance in materialistic needs, and not have a worry in the world. Later in Philippians 4, Paul states “and my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). God is our Father and our Provider, and many people tend to think of things like money and substance as what He will provide, when in reality it is what Jesus Christ has provided for us that is enough. We will go through different stages of life where we are in lack, or when we have plenty, but knowing and trusting that Christ is all we need will be the key to contentment, no matter what hits you in life (Philippians 4:12). Situations where a believer is in lack opens their eyes to their need for dependence on Christ and that everything on Earth is so temporary. In other Pauline books, he states that when we go through suffering and trials on this Earth, because it will happen, it gives us an opportunity to go from glory to glory, gaining a fresh surrender and dependence on Christ in the process. We share His suffering, and we will also share His glory.
I like your point of how the American culture and American Christianity think that they will always be in a comfortable life with all we need at our fingertips. This idea is what makes us never content, it seems like we would be, but we all figure out that there is more out there and that what we have is not enough. I personally have not sat in prison, but I imagine that it can be very lonely and degrading on your spirit, but Paul was able to find the good in it and realize that God had put him there for a reason. If Paul had not found a way to be content with his time in prison, he would not have been as productive with his time. When Paul was in jail in Philippi, a jailer heard him and Silas praying and singing hymns (Acts 16:25), and the jailer ended up falling to their feet wanting to be saved. Paul could have chosen to be upset and be angry in jail, but then God’s work would not have been done in the jailer. We will be put into situations that are difficult, and as said in class, they may be more difficult than what we can accomplish, but that is where we turn to God for help. Knowing that we always have God to help us through tough times should help us realize that we do not need to be chasing after material things but learn to be content like Paul, and use that content feeling to do God’s work.
Being content is something that is not accepted widely in America, in fact it seems that the opposite is often pushed. Companies are always advertising to get the next best thing and always try to make your life better, but Paul is saying this is wrong. Paul is in prison when writing this letter, where positivity is not a common thing to grasp, but has come to learn that he is to be thankful for the situation he is in. Like the beginning of the main post, it is easy to be content and satisfied when you are at the top, but when you are in Paul’s position it would be much more difficult. There are times in my life when I have felt like what has happened to me is strictly a negative situation, but have come to learn the importance of finding contentment in all situations. The idea that health and wealth are related to sins is not true, as Paul expresses in Philippians 4:10-13. I instantly think of the story of the man born blind, who had not had a chance to sin, but looking at his life you would think he has sinned heavily. Jesus states in John 9:3 that he was born blind so that the work of God could be done in him. There are going to be difficult things in all of our lives, and God intends to use these circumstances for the better of us and those around us, and that is why we are called to be content. If we are unhappy about a tough situation, we do not trust that God is going to make good of it.
This blog post has been one of my personal favorites that I have read throughout the course of this semester. This post worked similar to a daily devotional to me. I feel challenged to be more content with my life, regardless of the circumstances of my life at a given time; this feeling of contentment comes from knowing that God’s plan is in motion for our life. In my opinion, it is much, much easier to be content during a difficult period of one’s life if that person is able to identify and trust the idea that God is in control and has a plan for one’s life. It makes a difficult period seem much less detrimental when one knows that the Lord wants you to go through that difficult phase or experience those troubling circumstances.
Moreover, the fact that people do believe the idea that health and wealth connect to our sins or acts is a bit disappointing. I say that it is disappointing because that idea is opposite of what is preached throughout the gospel; as stated in the blog post, Paul preaches this idea of health and wealth branching from our sins or righteousness as incorrect in the passage of Philippians 4:10-13. Health and wealth are not connected to how we act from a spiritual standpoint. This idea is profound in the Bible. Sometimes, people carry theological ideas and concepts in their lives that are clearly not supported in the Bible. Furthermore, sometimes, people deny some theological ideas and concepts in their lives that are clearly supported in the Bible. This can be a bit disappointing. It is understandable that some people are not always fully informed about what the Bible says on a particular topic, including myself, but it is incredibly important to build one’s theological outlook on the basis of the Bible.
It is very easy to display contentment and satisfaction when things are going well. Whether that be financial success, athletic success, academic success, etc., it can be relatively easy to be content and happy about your life at a specific point in time. However, the challenge arises when things are not going well. Christians and humans should strive to display contentment in the manner in which Paul does during his difficult and trying imprisonment in Philippians 4. According to Longenecker and Still (2014), “Paul also composes the letter to express his joy in the progress of the gospel in spite of his present peril” (p. 204). This quote suggests that Paul’s contentment with the progress of the gospel was a motivating factor as to why he wrote the letter of Philippians. This shows that contentment in difficult circumstances is incredibly important in the eyes of Paul, and this branches from devotion to God. If Paul can be content and satisfied with his life when he is in prison and his life may be coming to the end, then why can’t everyone find contentment in their difficult circumstances because of the love and presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.
I agree that Paul’s life disproves the idea that those who have good lives must be spiritual, and those with trials must have deserved it. This idea of Karma is very unbiblical as Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matt. 5:11). We will face trials on this earth and it has nothing to do with what we have earned or deserve. No matter how righteous we live, we are all sinners and deserve nothing but the worst. The fact that we have the opportunity for eternal life is far beyond what we should have the opportunity to receive. What we receive, we receive solely from God’s grace and nothing that we’ve done to earn it (Eph. 2:8-9). Paul’s life is a picture of this idea because even though he was the “model Christian” as you stated, he suffers many trials and tribulations.
What I disagree with is that in order to be content a person must face struggles and hardships. I believe that there may be times where going through struggles increases a person’s ability to be content, but I disagree that trials are the only way to understand true contentment. There are many different difficulties that a person can face and while everyone faces struggles, very few people (if any) have had to directly face every single possible issue. I have learned contentment in areas where I have had little and learned contentment even with things I have had in abundance. My parents are married and my family has always gotten along – yet I am more than content with my family life. I could give this same example with other people and other situations. I would argue that lacking something doesn’t directly correlate to learning contentment, but I could agree that until you lack something, it is easier to take it for granted.
I was glad to see this blog post about Philippians 4:13. This verse has had a bittersweet taste in my mouth for a while now. But I enjoy and agree with what the blog post has to say about being content with any circumstance in your life.
The main reason I have had a bittersweet relationship with this verse for a couple of years now comes from when I started to take my faith seriously, I started to read scripture more. I wanted to fully understand scripture for what it meant. therefore I would get frustrated when people took Jeremiah 29:11 and applied it to their own life. In the same way, I was being very critical to Christians who recently decided to follow Jesus, they would take Philippians 4:13 and make it their life verse. They believed that they can do anything they want because God will give them strength. And this didn’t sit well with me for some reason. I wanted them to truly understand what this verse means.
Paul is talking about being content with any circumstance in your life. yes , the verse does say that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, this doesn’t mean that I can go jump off a building and fly, this means that if I want to share the love of Jesus to this group of people, even though they will deny what I have to say and throw it back in my face, I can do it through the strength that God gives me. I believe it’s all in moderation. I just want people to understand that through any circumstances, that they can have hope and peace because God wants to give you the strength.
Philippians 4:13 in recent years has become many “Christians” favorite verse and often times it is for the wrong reasons. They interpret the verse to get over a challenge and that they can defend that giant ahead of me because I have God on my side. When the true meaning of the passage is not that at all, it is being content where you are because God is with you.
Paul is writing this from prison, do you really think that God will magically kill the guards and set him free? No, Paul is content (4:11) and is despite his circumstances that he finds himself in. He is telling that Philippians that “God gives believers the strength to do whatever he asks them to do” (ESVSB, p. 1584). Paul knows it is not about himself, what he wants to do, it is about what God called him to do; spread the Gospel, even though he finds himself in prison awaiting his certain death.
Paul’s “confidence in Christ was and remains both contagious and transformative” (Longenecker, p. 206). For that reason, we should still read and reflect on Philippians time and again today. When rightly interpreted, Philippians will help us understand why we put our trust in God in all things despite whether we find ourselves in debt, single, broken, and so on. We know there is a greater purpose beyond ourselves and that we need to share and show that to everyone we come in contact with just like Paul did in his 13 letters.
Philippians 4:13 is my favorite verse. It is not my favorite by how non-Christians view it, but by its true context. People who are not familiar with the context of the verse see “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” as a method of using God to do whatever they want. That God will provide according to the person’s will. However, that is not the reason I like the verse. Paul writes the verse when talking about being content in every circumstance. He is in prison, writing one of the most joyful books of the Bible. This is probably the best example of applying the verse to real life. Lile Long added, “He can only be successful through Christ, who strengthens him” (Long, 2019). The verse is about being content in every circumstance. That no matter we got through, God will give us strength to endure it. Whether that be when we are going through trials or living in a season of blessings. Like Long added, “If God calls us to do something, He will give us the strength to do it.
I agree that suffering is not a curse from God from sin or wrongdoing where blessings are a sign of good acts. God has a plan for everyone, and people’s lives look different from others. Some have seasons of struggle where others have seasons of blessings. This is not because one person is a “better Christian” than another. But that God’s will for their lives looks different. And through these differences, we can be content in the circumstances we are in like Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13.
I think it is kinda ridiculous. For example, I can think to myself if I do something right then I will be good and go to heaven. If I do something bad in my life then I will be punished and probably go to hell. That is how I saw it when I was reading the first paragraph of this article. For most of the article, I can agree that Paul is an example as a “model” of Christ which we should be. The one thing I struggled with is the “health and wealth” gospel. It is important for us that God knows what core we need, the reason is the American culture and American Chrisitianity, means that when we are overabundant in materialistic needs, then we should not worry. Philippians 4:19, mentions that God will supply our needs. He is our provider who takes care of his people and children of those who know Christ. Paul learned the secret to accept the circumstances whether be blessed with “health and wealth” or blessed to go through a difficult situation. Philippians 4:13 that we can do anything with Christ who will give us strengths. God is there for us in any struggles or situation that we cannot meet our needs. He is also there for us when we are in good health or wealth and he will bless us. I may not remember what God blessed me but when there is something that I did not expect it that it would come into a surprise. The only thing we should do is thank God for helping us get through anything whether it is good or bad.
Ah yes, the health and wealth church movement…. So close, yet so far. It goes without saying that the prosperity gospel is flawed and heretical, led by some, well, nut jobs. While I will not mention any names (*cough cough* Joel Osteen… *cough cough* Kenneth Copeland), some of the most well-known preachers have gone off the deep end and are the forerunners of the prosperity “health and wealth” movement and some other false doctrines. One thing I have grown to admire about Paul is how willing he is to suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Christ, having Christ as his example in this. Paul speaks on how suffering comes with the territory of being a Christian, going so far as to basically say that if you are not suffering (going through trials, persecution, etc.), are you truly a growing and God-fearing Christian? Are you really serving God to the point that Satan sees you as a threat? Nowhere in the Bible does it say God will bless you financially or grant you perfect health. Not only does God provide just what we need (not an excuse to not work!), but I think the main reason God does not bless all of his children with “health and wealth” is because of this: if we had all the money we needed and were healthy, why would we need God? We would have everything we need here on earth, so why would we need God? As dumb as this sounds, this is a prominent part of our human/sin nature. Jesus says in Matthew 19:2 that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (ESV). While having all kinds of money and being perfectly healthy is not a good thing to work and strive for, God provides everything we need and most often, not having everything allows us to see why we need God so much.
(*cough cough* Joel Osteen… *cough cough* Kenneth Copeland)
Heh…I see what you did there.