Have you ever given a gift to someone only to see their reaction as one saying, "Thanks, but this makes no difference to my life?" It's like when I was a kid and opened a gift on Christmas morning only to find a new package of underwear. What kid gets excited about that!? Some have interpreted Paul's words in Philippians 4 to say this. But actually, Paul is saying something very different.
Paul unlocks THE SECRET TO LIFE when he says to the Philippian church, (4:12)
"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."
This is Paul's ultimate reason for rejoicing in Christ even in difficult circumstances. Even here in this letter, he is revived somewhat in the Philippian's love for him. But Paul is quick to assure them that his contentment lies not in their love and gifts toward him, but elsewhere. In other words, Paul finds his contentment in something other than the support he gets from them. Paul has learned the "secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need."
This is a lesson for all of us who live in a culture of materialism and insistent "want of more." There is a grounded basis to Paul's words and they remind us of the traditional marriage vows,
"I, _______ take you, ________ to be my wedded wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy law; and because of this, I give you my love."
What is this saying? I choose to love you no matter what circumstances may come because God would have me do that! That's what Paul is saying to the Philippian church! But even more so, Paul is saying these words to Christ. Yes! I love You because You first loved me! Christ, the One who loves him and gave Himself for him (Gal 2:20). Even death will not separate! Paul is utterly content in Christ's love! This is why Paul said earlier in chapter 1:20-21, "...as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Whether he lives or dies, he has found the secret to living for Christ rather than himself.
Do you see that The Secret to Life is to know who you are and Whose you are? Everything is by grace and is linked to the fruit of the gospel Having Christ as our center and highest value, we can face every circumstance in this life whether we have much or little. Christ's love for us is our highest motivation for living and therefore we can live in any circumstance! In Jesus, we have all we ever need. This is why Paul says, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." See you Sunday.