Paul sits imprisoned. Paul, the extremist murderer turned church planter. Paul, who in only a few years would be killed for the Christ he once raged against.
He writes to his beloved church in Philippi, “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.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
In plenty—Christ is His strength. In need—Christ is His strength.
In all things, content. In all things, dependent.
It is this attitude that frees our hearts to overflow with gratitude and find thanksgiving and contentment in all circumstances. We give thanks—in better and in worse, whether rich or poor, sick or healthy. We give thanks—when our tables are full or empty, when we are laughing or crying, when we face triumph or tragedy.
In plenty, we give thanks. We thank God for loving families, warm homes, good jobs,and supportive friends. But we look to Him as the giver of these good gifts and refuse to settle into self-sufficiency and pride. We seek His strength to reject the consumerism that turns material possessions into gods and to deny the never-satisfied cravings of greed. We overflow with generosity, using abundance as an opportunity for blessing others.
In lack, we give thanks. We thank Him for seasons to see the true extent of His strength in weakness, of the peace that passes understanding, and for the bedrock of joy. We thank Him for the ways suffering reshapes our priorities and reminds us of our dependence on Him. We rest in His goodness and faithfulness. We look to Him as our sure hope and as the One who can work all things for His glory and our good.
Contentment brings us to a place of “peaceful satisfaction” and “freedom from worry and restlessness” (thanks, Merriam-Webster). We find ourselves in a place free from both anxiety and complacency. We are at rest and dependent. We give thanks.