I can’t say, as Paul did, that I have learned to be completely content and happy. But I am learning and I want to mature in this area. The secret is to live in His strength and power. When I seek His desire, I have confidence that He will strenghten me. That is happening. When I wander off on my own, oh boy, I can never be glad in God and happy.
The other area that helps me be happy is knowing who I am in Him. I am fully redeemed and His child. Knowing that strengthens me. Whoo Hoo!!!
God’s goal is for me to be content and happy. The way to get there is through God, who gives me strength.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it. I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship. | Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Php 4:10–14). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Paul is quick to let his friends know that he is not complaining! His happiness does not depend on circumstances or things; his joy comes from something deeper, something apart from either poverty or prosperity. Most of us have learned how to “be abased,” because when difficulties come we immediately run to the Master Jesus! But few have learned how “to abound.” Prosperity has done more damage to believers than has adversity. “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17).
The word “instructed” in Philippians 4:12 is not the same as “learned” in Philippians 4:11. “Instructed” means “initiated into the secret.” This word was used by the pagan religions with reference to their “inner secrets.” Through trial and testing, Paul was “initiated” into the wonderful secret of contentment in spite of poverty or prosperity. “I can do all things through the Messiah which strengthened me” (Phil. 4:13). It was the power of Jesus within him that gave him spiritual contentment.
All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the disciple’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life. Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life. “I can—through the Messiah!” was Paul’s motto, and it can be our motto too.
“I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me,” is the way J.B. Phillips translates Philippians 4:13. The Living Bible puts it this way: “I can do everything God asks me to with the help of the Messiah who gives me the strength and power.” No matter which translation you prefer, they all say the same thing: the disciple has all the power within that he needs to be adequate for the demands of life. We need only release this power by faith.
Every disciple ought to read Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, because it illustrates this principle of inner power in the life of a great missionary to China. For many years, Hudson Taylor worked hard and felt that he was trusting Jesus to meet his needs, but somehow he had no joy or liberty in his ministry. Then a letter from a friend opened his eyes to the adequacy of the Messiah. “It is not by trusting my own faithfulness, but by looking away to the Faithful One!” he said. This was a turning point in his life. Moment by moment, he drew on the power of Jesus for every responsibility of the day, and the Messiah’s power carried him through.
Jesus teaches this same lesson in the sermon on the vine and branches in John 15. He is the Vine; we are the branches. A branch is good only for bearing fruit; otherwise you may as well burn it. The branch does not bear fruit through its own self-effort, but by drawing on the life of the Vine. “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As the believer maintains his communion with the Messiah, the power of God is there to see him through. “I am self-sufficient in the Messiah’s sufficiency” (Phil. 4:13, AMP).
The overruling providence of God and the unfailing power of God are two spiritual resources on which we can draw that we might be adequate for the tasks of life.