by Jack Moraine

Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
One of the most striking features of Paul’s short letter to the Philippian church is that 16 times in four chapters Paul uses the word “joy” or “rejoice.” It’s all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison cell. How can Paul encourage others to rejoice – to experience joy, and how can he be experiencing joy himself in prison of all places?

It’s easy to understand how we can experience joy when things are going well – when good things are happening, we’re achieving our goals, and life is smooth sailing. But how can we experience joy when the opposite is taking place in our lives -- when we are experiencing loss, disappointment, rejection, and hardship? Is joy even possible in times like these?

In the verses cited above Paul tells us that:
Joy is an inside job.

Joy, according to Paul, is related to contentment. Think about it. If we are stuck in discontentment, it’s impossible to experience joy. In verse 12 Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Wouldn’t you like to learn that secret too? Wouldn’t you like to be able to echo these words of Paul and have them be true of your life? It sounds so simple, but in our own strength it seems so unattainable. And, in our own strength, it is.

That’s why Paul goes on to say in the very next sentence,” I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v.13). The secret to learning to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in is not found in looking within ourselves, but in looking to Jesus who gives us strength -- the ability to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

For years I have heard Philippians 4:13 misapplied in church. Most of the time I heard this verse quoted or taught, it was being used as a rallying cry to challenge and encourage people to advance the kingdom in Jesus’ name – to take action because “we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.”

Now, I’m all for advancing the kingdom, but in the original context in which Paul penned these words, he was talking about the secret to contentment and joy. He was saying that he had learned that regardless of circumstances, whether living in plenty, or in want, he could still experience the love, grace, and presence of Jesus, no matter what. No wonder he could rejoice!
Even though Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, he never lost sight of the fact that he was still in Christ. It was his ongoing relationship with Jesus and the experience of His presence that caused him to rejoice.

During this season of advent, may you experience the strength and presence of Jesus and rejoice!


Is there an area of your life where in which you are experiencing discontent? Tell Jesus about it and ask him if there’s anything he wants to show you, or you tell you about this.


Pray: "Father, in this moment, I give you my discontentment (name them specifically) and I open my heart to experience your joy and peace. Amen."