People struggle with contentment. People jump from one job to another trying to find the perfect work, or they jump from one relationship to another, or even from one fad diet to another. People struggle with contentment. But there is help. There is a secret for contentment, an open secret.
God commands us to be content, “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have. . .” (Hebrews 13:5). Contentment is the best thing for us. It’s something most people desire. But real contentment is hard to accomplish. How can we be content, as God wants us to be, in all the difficult circumstances we face in life? Is that even possible? It is. We can claim the promise of God in Philippians 4:13, which reads, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Precious and Very Great Promises
We find in 2 Peter 1:4 that God’s promises are precious and very great. The promises of God are precious in that they are of infinite value. There is no price tag on them. You can’t buy them because the price is too high. God gives them to us. They are also very great. What word in this world can be greater than the word of God? Because of this it is important that we know them and claim them in our lives. God has given us his promises for our blessing and spiritual growth. So, in Philippians 4:13 we encounter one of these sweet promises. But what is the context of this promise? What does it mean?
The Scope of God’s Promises
The promise in Philippians 4:13 is a well known promise from God. People find great comfort and strength from this promise. It is set in the context of being content in life with what we have whether a little or a lot. Paul said that he has learned the secret of being content. Like Paul, we can be content because we know that God supplies what we need and that he will give us strength to face need with contentment. We can do it! We can be content because he give us the strength in our moment of need, whatever that need may be.
But this promise has wider application than that. It is important to understand every promise in its own context or we may claim something is from God that he never promised. We often see in the Bible superlative words like all, always, everything, nothing, nowhere and the like. They are universal positives or universal negatives. These words widen the scope of the promise, but they still must be kept within the boundaries of the context.
Therefore, the Bible says here in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through God’s strength, not just find contentment in times of lack. We can find contentment from God by claiming this promise, and that’s a great thing. But we can claim this promise for more.
We have to ask ourselves exactly what, “all things” means. Is God saying that we can do anything at all we desire to do? No, that’s not the intent of the promise. This promise has probably been claimed for many things that God never had in mind in the promise.
Paul is talking about the needs he faces as he travels around on gospel mission with God, doing his work and will. On his missionary journeys he would sometimes have enough to supply his and his team’s needs. At other times he did not have enough. He knew that he was in God’s hands and that he would supply. Therefore, Paul could be content because he can do all things with the strength God supplies. So, the all things in this passage refers to the things God calls us to do as we are on mission with him. God is promising that he will give us strength to do all the things, with contentment, that he calls us to do.
Strength from on High
We may struggle with certain things God calls us to do. God calls us to love our enemies, to witness to those who need to be saved, to love him with all our hearts and many other things. We see here that the commands of God are obeyed by the promises of God. We cannot obey the commands of God by our own strength . We need the strength he provides. The beautiful thing is that God promises to supply that strength. We must claim the promise and trust in him.
This promise helps us to see that we can only do what God calls us to do “through him who strengthens me.” The word, “him” refers to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is the Father who strengthens us in the person and work of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a beautiful and precious promise about the concern and action that the Triune God has for us. If God did the most for us in sending his Son to die for our sins and raise from the dead for our eternal life, will he not give us all that we need to do his will (Romans 8:32)? God is for us in Jesus.
Struggle on the Journey
What are you struggling with that God has called you to do? Maybe just to trust him with something he has allowed to come into your life. The hard things we face have meaning in the mission of God. Meditate on this promise in light of your struggles. What is God calling you to do for his kingdom? Maybe you’re struggling with something you’ve failed to do for God or some sin that is plaguing you. Claim God’s strength for your life. Find joy and peace through your Heavenly Father who loves you and sent his Son to die for your sins. He has given you a promise of strength. Offer a prayer to him now of your faith in this promise. He will keep his promise. Strength is on its way. The secret of contentment is the secret of strength. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).