Dear Student of the Word,
In this installment, I present the last of my four-part devotional series on Paul's letter to the Philippians. This letter is my favorite of all Paul wrote, and I have learned a lot and been refreshed in my studies of it; I hope you have been as well. After this, I will begin to edit and republish my study of the book of Acts and will send one installment to you every 10 days, or 3 every month. That should require the remainder of this year to complete.
This week, I tackle one of the most misinterpreted and misapplied verses in the New Testament, which I cover in part four of this week's seven-part study. Here is what I wrote:
Study Four, Part Four
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
4:10 – Paul rejoiced greatly that the Philippians gave! He was happy to see their spiritual life in action. It was not that they had not wanted to give, but Paul was a difficult man to bless. Remember that Paul worked to pay his own expenses and not just his, but those of his entire team. Paul could have lived off the offerings of the people, but he did not want finances in any way to detract from his message to the Gentiles. The Philippians revived their concern for Paul. Is there a concern for someone or some cause that you need to revive? The best way to revive it is to give to that cause or person as you once did, or as you have always wanted.
4:11 – Paul learned to be content. Oh Lord, help me to learn to be the same. I see new things and I want them. I see others doing something and I aspire to do them. I hear where others have gone and I want to go there. I am often not content! Are you content? How can you be sure? Yet I don’t want to be content with my spiritual progress or my work God has given me to do. I want to excel and grow. Is there any area in your spiritual life where you have reached a plateau and have stopped climbing and growing?
4:12 – Can you see that the entire context of these verses is financial and the things of life? This is critical to interpret the next verse. Paul’s focus in this part of his letter was the Philippians recent offering to him. He was explaining how he had learned to be content. Paul is about to share the secret of contentment in Christ!
4:13 – This verse is one of the most quoted in the Bible: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Yet look at the context of this verse. It doesn’t pertain to any great feat or spiritual duty. It is talking about learning to be content with what you have in the way of possessions and basic needs. Paul stated that he had learned a secret, and it was that through God’s strength, he could survive lean times and enjoy plenty. Paul could survive leanness and enjoy bounty because God had given him the strength to live in contentment. As I write this, the last two years have been lean financial years for me due to a job transition, but God has been faithful. I am learning to be content, which is a work of the Spirit in my heart. Are you content with what you have?
Can you see how often this verse has been misapplied? Look at its context and to what it is referring: contentment. Are you content with what you have? Where can you improve? Can you see that the secret of contentment is going through both hard and good times and seeing that they are both from Him? Once you see that, you have learned the secret because you have a track record in Him. You have watched Him work in your life and you know He is faithful no matter what!
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the unpublished volumes of The Faith Files.
UPDATE FROM KENYA: Here is the latest email update I received from Alice, founder of the Each One Touch One Orphanage, which I will be visiting with a team on Tuesday, March 8.
Hallo Dr. Stanko,
We at EOTOO are fine, children, members and the chicks.
Thanks for communicating.
Nairobi is very hot. It has only rained once since Jan 4.
The Chicken Coop Project is doing well. We are compiling the January report to see how we are doing against the budget. We have concluded with the water method vaccinations; the last one having been done on Friday the 4th and on schedule. From thereon, the vaccinations will be intra muscular and we shall enlist the services of a Vet Doctor.
Will send you the latest photos as soon as possible. (At right is a picture of some of the children at the orphanage eating lunch when I visited recently - JS).
Looking forward to meeting you soon are EOTOO members, children and time allowing the chicks.
God bless the work of your hands.
There is still time to help us establish this chicken farm and others like it by giving today so we have it before we depart on March 4. You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. I know there is someone out there who is supposed to invest in this project. Maybe it's you? But if it isn't you, don't let that stop you from sending what you can and sending it today. Thank you and God bless you.
If you need to read more about my initiatives in Kenya, you can go here to read them in their entirety.