Philippians 4:11-14 (NIV)
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be contentwhatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.
It is the start of Thanksgiving week and our thoughts turn toward how our year has gone. When your year has not been all that rosy, you probably think about what is missing first.
I think we would all like to be able to say what Paul in the above scripture - at least I know I would – But how do we get there? Especially when life at the moment is difficult or hurts.
Want to you tell what is so remarkable about Paul saying these things. He had been beaten rods and lashed with whips, jailed, chained a dungeon, shipwrecked, had a chronic condition that God would not heal. He was blind for a time and later in life, his eyesight failed him. Paul and his closest friend parted ways. He did not have money on the road while he talked about Jesus unless the church’s supplied him. Before he was Paul – as Saul the Pharisee, scholars believe he had at least modest wealth and the admiration of his peers. He said ‘yes’ to Jesus and he was sometimes hungry and dirty and rejected. And during the fight for his life, not one Christian stood up for him in his first hearing for fear of their own safety.
These are just some of the hardships. To be able to write the words – from a prison cell as he awaited a possible death sentence – in nothing short of extraordinary.
So if Paul can endure all this – what can we learn from him? Philippians 4: 6-9
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
He prayed. Paul took his anxieties to Jesus. Petition means he pleaded. He counted on God to “guard his heart”.
He had a purpose.Paul found meaning in his suffering. He believed that his choice to serve Jesus was worth the struggle.He found something positive to give his time and energy to
He had people.In verse 14, Paul says “Yet, it is good of you to share in my troubles.” He had a support system – this included Luke, who stayed near him in Rome while Paul was awaiting trial his final appeal. In his journeys, he never traveling alone.
He praised. Probably the most practical thing, other than prayer, was that he focused on what he had and what is good. Later in this letter, he also asks for what he needs – a coat for the coming winter. He trained his mind to focus on “what is pure and good and right.” I dare say he also focused on the truth he found in Jesus.
Put Paul’s strategies into action
When we focus on what we have rather than what we do not. When we can find meaning & purpose in any situation. When we surround ourselves with people who care and want our best, and those with whom we can ask for help. Then we are in a great position to see just what we have to be grateful for. It does not mean that we do not ask for more or that we do not seek better. It simply means that we can find peace through communication with God count on Him and count our blessings, the more content we will be.
Adapted from a worship service given at Lindner Center of Hope, Mason, Ohio 11/24/19