Paul writes the book of Philippians in the midst of very difficult circumstances. He was a prisoner in Rome, chained to a Roman soldier, confined to a small room, lacking the freedom to live and to minister as he once enjoyed. As he was unable to work, he was dependent on the generosity of friends for his needs, which was probably at a very basic subsistence level. But as you read the letter Paul wrote during his confinement, what do you see? Words of complaint or discouragement? No, what you read are words of joy—vibrant, triumphant joy. How is that possible? How can someone living in such difficulty write such a letter overflowing with thankfulness, joy, and peace? As he brings his letter to a close, Paul writes,
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
Trust in God’s sovereignty, God’s wisdom, and God’s faithfulness allowed Paul—and will allow you—to have contentment and confidence even in difficult circumstances.
Over a hundred and fifty years ago, a soldier died during the Civil War. That was nothing unusual—hundreds of thousands soldiers died in that war. But what was unusual was what was found with him. This soldier carried with him into war this piece of paper on which was written these words:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked God for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked God for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but everything I hoped for…
Despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men most richly blessed!
That is the rare jewel of contentment. May that be yours by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.