…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 everything through him who gives me strength. (Php 4:11-13)
The Book of Philippians is often referred to as one of Paul’s ‘Prison Epistles.’ It is called a Prison Epistle because it was one of the letters Paul wrote while he was in a Roman prison.
Paul was not in prison because he had committed some crime. Paul’s imprisonment was because he preached salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (see Acts 21-28) At best, Paul’s living conditions at this time were difficult. Many resources state that Paul was chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine the verbal and perhaps even physical abuse he often had to suffer. Yet Paul did not complain. Instead he wrote – “I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances.” How could someone be content while being confined in prison?
Some believe that men like the Apostle Paul are of a ‘different breed.’ They reason that pastors and missionaries and older saints don’t feel pain or become discouraged the way the rest of us do. Yet Paul tells us that he fully understood what it was like to be hungry and to have need.
Others think that over the years he had become hardened; therefore, he had forgotten about the finer things of life. Yet Paul also tells us he still understood what it was like to have plenty.
Paul’s contentment was not because of an inability to experience pain or a lack of desire for comfort. Paul’s contentment was because he had found an inner strength that was always sufficient. What was this inner strength? It was the grace of God.
We read from the book of 2 Corinthians –
2 Corinthians 12:7… a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Many have tried to determine what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was. Some suppose that it was a physical problem while others suggest that it was his struggle with his old fallen nature. We are not told what the problem was and perhaps for good reason. It doesn’t matter. The grace of God is always sufficient for every need.
Perhaps you are struggling with some issue in your life. Perhaps you feel like you’re confined in some prison. If so, I encourage you to draw upon the strength of God’s grace. Pray as Paul prayed – “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”