Philippians 4:10-13 ESV
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for 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.”
Poor by America’s Standards
I grew up as a child in a family that was poor by America’s standards. Part of the time we lived off the Welfare System in our country, though not for long, but we just didn’t have money like other families. I can recall that we had a time when we had no vehicle, no TV, and no telephone, because my dad was out of work at the time, I believe. But we all survived it. And sometimes I had to take my lunch to school wrapped in a newspaper.
I had to quit Girl Scouts because my parents could not afford the 10 cents a week dues for me to remain in the Girl Scouts. And my mom had to pay for my lock for my school locker on time payments, because that was the only way she could afford it. Most of our clothes were hand-me-downs or homemade, but I got excited over hand-me-downs because they were new to me. Anyway, we just didn’t have much by worldly standards.
We never went without food or clothing or a place to live, though, so we weren’t as poor as a lot of other people, especially not as poor as people in other countries where they don’t have much at all. But in comparison to many other families we lived nearby, we seemed to be much poorer than most. At least that is what I recall. And when I got married to my husband, my mom made my wedding dress and my parents bought my veil, but that is all that they could afford. So, we had a very simple wedding.
And my husband and I never had much money, either, but more than my parents did, I think. We had four children and I was a stay-at-home mom, so we didn’t have extra money to spend for many years, not until our children were grown and then we had some extra money we could spend that didn’t have to go for necessities. And then we knew what it was like to have some surplus, but never abundance, not by America’s standards.
But I do know what it is like to not have to live paycheck to paycheck, too, and to have extra that can be used for other things and to help others who are in need. I wouldn’t call it “plenty” or an “abundance,” not by America’s standards, but we have had several years where we have had enough to supply us beyond our basic needs. But with prices going up the way that they are presently, that could change very soon. But we’ll survive.
I Have Learned
Honestly, some of the best times have been when we didn’t have much at all and we had to live absolutely by faith one day at a time, not knowing if we would have enough to pay the next bill. But God always supplied the need, not necessarily with surplus, but just with enough to survive. But then those times when we had surplus were good, too, for we were able to help others and do some things we were never able to afford before.
So, there were good things about being poor and there were good things about having a little surplus. But whatever circumstances I found myself in financially, whether living paycheck to paycheck, or having some room to stretch a little, God still supplied the needs. And sometimes they weren’t our needs but other people’s needs, and the Lord would supply some extra money just in time for someone’s else’s needs to be met. All glory to God!
I can’t say with any certainty that I was always content with whatever income we had, but I don’t recall being discontent. There was a time when my husband lost his job and he got another job but it wasn’t enough to pay our bills, so we did look at our budget and we decided what we needed in order to pay our bills, so he ended up getting a different job which was enough to pay our bills. But we both felt that was God’s will for us.
But this isn’t just about money. This is about learning to be content in whatever situation the Lord places us in. Now we should never be content with anything that is evil, but we can be content in the Lord in the midst of evil knowing that we will have enemies, and that people will come against us, and that they will fight against us. We can still be at peace if we know that we are living in the center of God’s will for our lives.
We can be content in the Lord in sickness, in danger, in times of difficulty, in times of persecution, in times when others reject us and speak evil against us, and when our world that we know it comes crashing in and everything is turned upside down and life as we have known it just isn’t the same anymore. And that pretty much describes the last two years for most people, I would think, though I don’t know how many nations are going through the same things that we are here in America.
I Can Do All Things
Now, this last verse here is one that is often misquoted because it is pulled out of its context and thus it is being applied in ways it was not intended to be applied. For this is not saying that we can do “all things” through the strength of the Lord, for the Lord is not in all things. He doesn’t supply us with strength for “all things,” especially if those things are not of God, and if they are contrary to the will of God.
He does promise to meet all of our needs, and he does promise to carry us through trying times and difficult circumstances, and he does promise us his peace through the dark valleys of life, so we know he will strengthen us so that we can endure trials, that he will supply what we need to resist Satan and to flee temptation, and that he will help us to be content in all circumstances we might go through in this life.
But we must be careful that we don’t assume that God will give us his strength to do things that are contrary to his will, or that he will strengthen us at all in anything we go through if we are not walking in fellowship with him, and if we are not obeying his commands. But he will supply his strength for the things he promised and for us to do what is in accord with his will for our lives, such as learning to be content and not being anxious when we are faced with the trials of this life.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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