10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I Can Do All Things
Calm down. Calm down. This does not mean that I can fly to Africa with no need of a plane. This does not mean I can break down walls with the touch of a finger. It definitely does not mean that I have superpowers that I can use whenever I choose. Of course, God can transport me, as he did Philip, in an instant to wherever he chooses. Of course, God can walk, as Jesus did, through walls. God is not limited in his working through us by time and space. That is all very exciting, but it is not taking this particular verse in context.
This paragraph follows an anxiety suppressing embracing of peace. Paul now responds to the Philippians’ concern for him by asserting his own peace and contentment. Their gift is appreciated, but his financial circumstances do not dictate his emotional well-being. He is at peace, he is in harmony with God’s world, he is content. It is in his focus on Jesus that he finds his constancy. Jesus is faithful and constant, so Paul can endure all other inconsistencies because of the constancy of his relationship with Jesus. It would carry the sense of the verse more to say I can endure all things. As Eugene H. Peterson paraphrases: Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.
The question is whether you have a gentle and reasonable spirit in every circumstance. The opening of Philippians 4 stated the same point. Paul is just applying his previous commands to release anxiety to himself. Finances are among the top reasons people get anxious, fight, and break apart. Paul uses his own equanimity to teach the lesson he has taught. As Dan Huffman would say, “He’s Livin’ It.” Are you?
I preferred when I thought you gave me superpowers without challenging my ability to follow you. I like to be passively babied. Now when you challenge whether I am content in every circumstance, I have to say that my life is marked by some serious lack of contentment. Let me be more comfortable with any financial circumstance, any housing arrangement, any car, any criticism, and any changes to my health. Help me to truly be able to endure anything because I always have you.
- What has Paul just finished talking to the Philippians about?
- How is his personal life a reflection of what he preaches?
- How is verse 13 often ripped out of context?
- How do finances cause people anxiety?
- How could God help someone you know maintain their emotional equilibrium whether they come into new money or enter into financial hardship?