Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Contentment is Sufficiency in Christ

I don't say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11
Contentment is Sufficiency in Christ
It is my belief that the greatest statement of Christian maturity is Paul’s statement of contentment in any circumstance in the verse above.  Read it agian and see how much wisdom and life experience is behind this statement. 
Was he in need?  Probably. To Paul, it made no difference whether he was free or bound to a soldier, whether the day was hot and humid or bleak and frigid, whether the Philippians sent a gift or failed to make contact.  The point is that he knew that contentment is not found in circumstances. Circumstances are unstable because they can always change. He knew that being content in Christ meant to be content always, in every situation. 
Content may be a mistranslation of the original language, even though many versions use it. The Greek word autarkes, which is translated as content, really doesn't refer to one's emotional state of satisfaction. Rather, the word autarkesmeans "self-sufficient" or "self-reliant." 
As the Christians at Philippi first heard this letter read in their assembly, they may well have been shocked by Paul's claim to be “self-sufficient”. They were all-too-familiar with the whole concept of "self-sufficiency" because it was prized by the popular philosophers of their day, the gurus who preached in the marketplace.  Many of these counselors were advocates of Stoicism, the most popular philosophical system in the Greco-Roman world during the first century A.D. At the core of Stoic ethics was the view that human happiness can be attained through self-sufficiency; through relying only upon oneself in all things.   SELF-HELP GURUS!!
If we can stop depending on the opinions and help of others, the Stoics argued, then we can be truly happy, and nothing will take away our contentment. So, at first blush, Paul appears to adopt the Stoic way of life when he says, "I have learned to be self-sufficient with whatever I have." How very Stoic of Paul! Or so it seems.   
Philippians 4:13 explains everything. Paul freely and eagerly gives away the secret of contentment: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Though the text doesn't tell us who “Him” is, the overall context in Philippians leaves no room for doubt. Paul is speaking here of Jesus Christ. 
Without verse 13, verse 11 sounds very Stoic. Paul seems to say that he has learned to rely upon himself in every situation. But with verse 13 in mind, verse 11 reads in an utterly non-Stoic way. In fact, Paul is not self-reliant at all, but wholly reliant upon Christ.and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness.  2Corinthians 12:9
How about you?  What is it that you seek to find your strength from?  Are you trying to be self-sufficient, only relying on yourself Where do you go for the power to get through the tough times?  Do you seek consolation from sources other that Jesus Christ? We can turn to lots of different sources in life to find strength, but we will never find the strength and contentment for this life until we discover what Paul did – that we can only find true contentment and the strength we need in Jesus Christ. 
…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love.  Ephesians3:16-17

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