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Basic Bible: Learning Contentment

Philippians 4:4-18

“Rejoice in the Lord alway . . .” (v. 4). In verses 4 and 5, Paul directs the Philippian believers to rejoice continually in the Lord and to let their moderation be known unto all men. The Greek translated here as “moderation” is epieikes, meaning moderate in the sense of letting one’s patience and gentleness be known.

This instruction follows a plea from Paul to Euodias and Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord (v. 2). Who were Euodias and Syntyche? They were two women who had labored with Paul to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ but now found themselves to be in disagreement over a matter that they considered to be of personal importance. Once united in the cause of Christ, they had strayed from the path.

Paul’s instruction to “Rejoice in the Lord” and “Let your moderation be known” directs and informs all believers upon the manner in which we are to approach fellow believers who are of different mind. It is instruction given to the Philippians on how to re-establish the unity in Christ that once joined Euodias and Syntyche. There is no division in Christ (I Cor. 1:10). We are to maintain unity by focusing upon Him who knew no sin. We are to destroy barriers that separate by rejoicing in Him and displaying the moderation that He has shown to us.

“Be careful for nothing . . .” (v. 6). We are not to hold back. We are to fully trust in Him. We are to ask, believing that He will supply all things according to that which He has promised. All things work together for good when we love Him as we should (Rom. 8:28). He shall deliver the peace that passes understanding, the peace that keeps our hearts and minds in Him (v. 7).

In verse 8, Paul instructs believers to think upon things which are true, are honest, are just, are pure, are lovely, are of good report. While his words may sound to some as though Paul is advocating the power of positive thinking, he is not. All that Paul implores us to think upon are found in Christ. Paul is instructing us to think upon those things which are of God, things which the Son has made known to us, things which are exceedingly greater than our works which are as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Paul elaborates upon the things which we are to think in verse 9. They are things which the Philippians had learned, had received, had heard and seen. We, like the Philippians, have learned things of Christ through instruction and through having received (accepted and taken hold of) them. We also have experienced Christ in that which we have heard from and seen in other believers. We can abide in Him and He in us when we do as Paul has instructed.

Paul shares an example of his own rejoicing. He rejoiced because “. . . at the last your care of me hath flourished again” (v. 10). The care which Paul cites is that which Epaphroditus delivered to him on behalf of believers at Philippi (see 2:25). This was not the first time that the church had sent gifts to Paul. The church at Philippi was among the churches of Macedonia (see II Cor. 8) that had previously provided financial assistance to Paul’s ministry.

Paul states that their care (their thoughtful mindfulness of his needs) is the cause of his rejoicing. Paul is not rejoicing because of benefit received. Paul is rejoicing because the Philippians related to his afflictions (see v. 14). Their actions testify of their love for their Lord and Savior. Paul rejoices because they shall be rewarded for the love of Christ which is evident in them.

As for his personal needs, Paul states, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (v. 11). Paul has learned from experience. It is by experience that one learns to trust the Lord in all things. The Lord fulfills His promises time after time without fail. The book of Acts lists the many learning experiences which gave Paul cause to trust the Lord. God uses believers to reach out to the unbelieving. Paul was content because he had learned that the Lord is all sufficient. He had learned that he could stand upon every promise of the Lord.

Paul knew how to be abased (belittled) and how to abound (v. 12). Paul had learned to trust in the Lord in every situation and on every occasion. Paul had learned from experience. It is by and through experience that he could state: “I can do all things through Christ which strengteneth me.” Paul could do all things through Christ because His word is true. Jesus said: “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (Jn. 14:13). Paul did not hold back in trusting the Lord. He sought to glorify the Son.

In verse 18, Paul states that he has all, that he abounds. He is full because he has received that which Epaphroditus has delivered — an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. Paul is not speaking of cologne; the odour of sweet smell is the spiritual sacrifice that is well-pleasing to God. Paul finds himself to be full because their act of giving is a fruit deposit (v. 17) into an account that produces eternal reward. Paul is filled with joy because God rewards the faith of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).

Paul’s message is not for the Philippians alone. It is for all would let the power of God’s love be seen in them. Let us “rejoice in the Lord alway” and let our moderation be known. May His love abound in us.

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