Finding Fruit in Philippians
an SK Bible Study
Week 8: Knowing the Secret
Philippians 4:10-23 (NIV)
(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. (14) Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (15) Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; (16) for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. (17) Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. (18) I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (19) And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
(20) To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (21) Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. (22) All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. (23) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
What did Paul mean when he said, “I have learned the secret of being content…” (vs.12)?
In trying to understand what he meant when using the word secret, I looked it up in the dictionary. This definition seemed to fit what he was writing about:
A secret is a valid but not commonly known or recognized method of achieving or maintaining something.
How did Paul learn that secret – that “valid but not commonly known method of achieving something”? It seems as if he was able to learn through life’s experiences. As he stated, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (vs. 12a) He knew what life was like among the elite and educated, and yet he knew the life of the poor and uneducated. He knew the life filled with acceptance and power, and also learned the life of persecution and hardship. Through all of life’s circumstances, he came away with the wisdom of realizing that true contentment is not exterior. True contentment lies within. Contentment can not be determined by outward variables.
It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fulness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want.
That means that those of us from the United States, one of the most prosperous nations in the world, need to watch out! We have been, and are being, severely tempted by Satan. He is enticing us with more and more. What we have never seems to be enough. Contentment does not seem to last.
Personally at times, we have struggled with making a financial decision because we want to be sure that the option we choose is not just out of a desire for more (a lack of contentment). For example:
(1) It took us a long time to decide whether or not to rent the house we were thinking of renting because it was so much bigger than the houses of our Chilean pastors’ families. If one pastoral family of six can live in an 800 square foot house, is it right that we choose to live in a 1,500 square foot house?
(2) It was difficult to decide whether or not to put the boys in a soccer club (similar to the summer leagues in the US) because the vast majority of our co-workers in ministry cannot afford to pay that for their children.
I am sure you have many of these types of decisions to make as well. As each of us looks to make financial decisions, it is important to wrestle through the questions, the struggles, the reasons. What makes it tougher is that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. This is not an area that is black and white; this is one of those gray zones (much to my chagrin!). And, to make matters worse, no one else can make that decision for us. Part of the decision-making process should be to pray and ask God to give us wisdom and a selfless heart as we decide what is best.
I have to say, though, it has been easier to make these type of financial decisions here in Chile versus when we lived in the States because of the vast difference in living standards. For us, when living in the States, it was hard at times to not be tempted to buy something just because it seemed that everyone had it or it seemed strange not to have it. Marketers do their job well, don’t they? You need this job, you need this vacation, you need a bigger car, you need this much land, you need a bigger house, you need these new appliances, you need this different dish set, you need this larger outdoor grill, etc.
Each of those things are not wrong in and of themselves, yet we need to be careful that they are not decided upon with a discontented heart or just a desire for more.
My hope is that each of us can learn this life secret. My prayer is that we can know, and rest, in the peace of true contentment.
(When answering, please be sure to first put the number of the question in your comment.)
- Do you have a personal example of how you wrestled with making a financial decision?
- Please fill in the blank with a fruit of the Spirit: With contentment, comes ______________. What is the correlation between contentment and the fruit you chose? (Reminder: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22,23a)
- Let’s glean from each other. What specific life lesson(s) did God teach you in this Bible study? What new treasure(s) are you walking away with?
Thanks so much for joining me in studying the book of Philippians these last eight weeks! I look forward to starting another one after the holiday season.
Remember to keep praying for the things that are listed on our Prayer page.