The Search for Joy
Learning the Secret
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; where in ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul, in this passage, is expressing his deep felt gratitude to the Philippian church and his joy over the special relationship they have shared since the founding of the church. The believers in Philippi, at one point in Paul’s ministry, were the only ones that supported him financially and now, again, they are sending him a gift of love. This letter from Paul is his “thank you” note to them explaining his contentment in Christ. There is no substitute for an intimate relationship with Christ while experiencing a heart that is transformed through the power of this bond.
Paul confirms his contentment in the Lord when he speaks of the acceptance of abounding in much or in the lowly station of poverty. The secret of his serenity could only be achieved through a personal relationship with Christ and the unfailing power of God in transforming that life. Contentment is not complacency: a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements, but an abiding peace and confidence in the One who guides and protects midst life’s storms.
Life need not be stated as a series of accidents, but as appointments with God. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8). I can do everything that God asks me to do through Christ who gives me strength and power adequate for the demands on my life. Hudson Taylor was a great missionary to China and for many years thought that he was trusting Christ for all his needs, but somehow he had no joy. A letter from a friend opened his eyes and he began to see that it was not him, Hudson Taylor, and his faithfulness but it was Hudson Taylor trusting in the Faithful One. This was the turning point of his life and his work in China.
Thought: The Lord Jesus teaches us this same lesson in John 15 on the vine and the branches. A branch is only good for bearing fruit while drawing upon the life of the Vine. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Realizing that all that we are and all that we may accomplish in this life is only because we are self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency alone.