Its been a while since I’ve put ‘pen to paper’, but I think it’s time I write down my thoughts to bring to light truth, encourage myself, and perhaps encourage others.
I’ve become somewhat obsessed with performing word studies lately. I wouldn’t say that I grew up enjoying reading, but I did enjoy listening to and seeing people explain their topics. That pertains to anything; sports, cooking, schooling, religion, etc. I just seemed to learn better by hearing and seeing rather than reading something for myself. But, as I’ve gotten older, the desire to read and become encapsulated with a book or a book of the Bible has become enthralling to me. I find myself being able to put myself into the story I am reading as if I can see the author writing the book for the first time. I am able to visually see the words on the page come to life and its so exhilarating.
I just spent the last 3 months studying the book of Philippians with some close friends. As we studied this short letter written by Paul, I tried my best to understand everything about it on a much deeper level. As I dug even further, I felt as though I began to know and understand Paul as someone much deeper than just a character in the Bible. It was as if the things he was talking about in the letter were being written to me as an encouragement and as a joy in the fact that we were such good friends. I can’t really explain how or why I felt this way but it truly brought his letter to life for me.
In chapter 4:11-12 of the letter, Paul states, “I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content. I have learned the secret of living in every situation.” This short and simple statement has been on my mind for a month now.
What does ‘content’ mean? I looked up many different definitions of the word to try and understand what Paul was referencing here. What I settled on was this simple, yet profound, explanation of what I think being content means. To be content is not having all you want, but wanting all you have. This sounds good, but is it really achievable?
As I continued to study this letter one central theme was ever present in Paul’s words, which gave him the ability to make a statement like he did in chapter 4 and to actually believe it as truth. The theme. Perspective. Paul’s perspective blows my mind! He wrote this entire letter from a prison in Rome, but it is filled with so much joy and thanksgiving. And he learned the secret of living in every situation! “I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content…I have learned the secret of living in every situation” (Philippians 4:11-12)
Being content is contradictory to our human nature. From the moment we are born into this world we become creatures of need and want. The human struggle is often centered around “more”. We are never satisfied. We always need something. A new house. A new car. A new job. A new something. But Paul explained being content as something that is learned. Being content is learned! It doesn’t happen overnight. One does not just become content. One learns how to be content. And for me, the only way we can learn to be truly content in life is to spend time communing with God the Father. Wow, what a beautiful image. To be able to spend time just resting in His presence. Not only does time spent with Him bring peace, love and joy but it also allows us to understand how to be content with life because of Him. Remember, it is learned.
As I began to think of the word learned, I was reminded of my years of academia and athletics. If I wanted to get an A in my Calculus classes, I had to put in hours upon hours of studying and understanding mathematical theories. I had to learn the material and commit it to memory. It was the same approach applied to athletics. If I wanted to excel at my particular sport, I had to put in hours upon hours of time practicing and perfecting the craft. I had to learn how to be great at the sport. Paul understood that being content was something that is necessary to learn.
Paul also stated that he learned the secret of living in every situation. Paul learned a secret? I thought secrets are things that are always supposed to be kept hidden and un-findable? Not to God! God wants so badly to reveal His entirety to us, but He will not do so unless the posture of our hearts is in a position of yearning and desiring to know Him. To truly know Him. Paul’s genuine desire was to know God. And I think that’s how Paul learned the secret. The Lord whispered it to him in his ear…”Paul, you can do all things through me, because I am your strength!” Woah, epic!
Along with meditating on Philippians chapter 4 for the last month, I’ve also been listening to a song over and over again that ties directly into Paul’s letter. My favorite lyric from the song is as follows: “When it comes to Your voice, I’m learning to listen. Just to rest in Your nearness.” Rest in His nearness. Learn to listen. Learn to be content. Just as Paul did. And perhaps the Lord will begin to whisper revelations of secrets in our ears too!