Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I saw Philippians 4:13 as I was reading this morning and sighed. I often hear people quoting it as if it were a blanket promise to enable them to do anything at all. Verse 13 is not a promise to make us superhuman, but a promise to make us contented humans. And that might be, in modern America, pretty close to a super power.
So what does verse 13 mean? It must be taken in its context. It is the conclusion of a preceding thought. Paul is writing to the Philippian believers about how blessed he has been by their support of his ministry. Indeed, he begins the thought with a comment in verse 10 that they were concerned for him, but had no way to do anything about it. Paul was known to work to support his own ministry, so financial support was often unnecessary. Sometimes, however, circumstances would be such that he could do with some help. And the Philippian church was ready to help.
In verse 11, he tells the believers that he is not in a position of want; not coming to them asking for anything, but rather commending their concern for him and for the furtherance of the gospel.
He continues in verse 12 to speak of what God has taught him, viz. how to get along in any and every circumstance. He has been poor and rich, barely had enough food and had more food than he needed. God has, according to verse 11, taught him how to be content in all of these circumstances.
That brings me back to verse 13. What Paul is talking about is being able to be poor or be rich and be content with either one; to be hungry or to be filled and to be content with either. Paul has been beloved by the crowd and persecuted to the point of death and he is content with either one. Can I meet with either hardship or ease and be equally content with either? Through Him Who strengthens me I can. And that is the promise of verse 13, that I can be content in all circumstances — rich or poor, filled or hungry, loved or hated.
Let me learn contentment.