Whether Abased or Abounding
by Impact Church
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound…” (Philippians 4:12)
Sitting in a dark prison cell in Rome and writing to encourage the church he had planted at Philippi a few years before, the Apostle Paul probably couldn’t help but manage a wry smile at the irony. Here he was again, shackled and confined, for preaching the gospel.
Different town, different time. Same message, same result.
The last time he had been in Philippi, Paul and his cellmate, Silas, must have sounded like drunken fools singing praises to God with metal stocks around their ankles and with fresh blood running down their whip-lashed backs during the darkest hour of the night. You’ll remember the miraculous conversion story of the jailer that night (Acts 16).
“I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content,” Paul writes from prison. “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.”
Contentment is a word — indeed, an attitude — we don’t hear much today. In our “bigger is better” capitalistic culture, the concept of contentment has become synonymous with settling. Why settle for an iPhone 5 when the new 7 is out? Why settle for driving a Chevy when you can spend a little more every month and cruise in a Lexus? Why settle for that 2013 model when the new ones have more gadgets?
Let’s face it. Even in a non-consumer-driven economy like the 1st Century, being at peace with what one has is just not natural. It’s a basic human desire to improve our station in life. That’s why Paul said he had to learn contentment whether in regard to his circumstances or material possessions. Here’s a man who had gone from an almost aristocratic, well-heeled, highly educated past to his present life as a habitual convict for the sake of the gospel.
What is the temptation when we are “abased” — suffering lack or poverty or simply enduring hard times? (Ever been there?) The tendency during such seasons of life is to think that God has forgotten us, that either He doesn’t see our need or, worse yet, that He doesn’t care what we’re going through or can’t do anything about it.
What about when we “abound” — just got that raise, everyone’s healthy, life is good? The temptation during such times of prosperity is for us to forget God! Scripture warns us to be careful not to let pride arise and think that you alone have brought blessing on yourself and your family (Deuteronomy 8:10-17).
The Apostle gives us the key to finding lasting joy, peace and contentment no matter what life brings our way: “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Later he instructed his son in the faith, Timothy, that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
Paul had learned a lesson that still speaks to us today. It’s not what we have or where we are that gives us fulfillment in life. It’s Who we have and where our relationship is with Him!
Only Christ — the All-Sufficient One — is able to make us complete whether we have money in the bank or we’re mired in debt, whether we live in a mansion or under a bridge, whether our marriages are thriving or drifting in different directions.
People of God, let’s seek Him and His kingdom first and be content in Him! Christ alone is the Source of our hope, our peace, our prosperity!