Contentment in Poverty and Prosperity

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity.
–Philippians 4:12

How can we joyfully live above our circumstances by experiencing contentment? In Philippians 4:12, Paul said, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

As a prisoner in Rome, Paul was experiencing poverty as he wrote this letter. He had also endured poverty as a minister of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, Paul said he was beaten within an inch of his life five times. He was stoned, shipwrecked, in frequent danger, hungry and thirsty, cold and exposed. Yet Paul said he learned to be content, even in those difficult situations. Paul knew the secret of being content in poverty.

Paul also learned the secret of being content in prosperity. In Philippians 4:12, he said, “I also know how to live in prosperity.” Do you know that for many people, prosperity is harder to handle than poverty? Many people find it more difficult to feel content during prosperous times. This is why Paul said, “Learn the secret of being content in prosperity.”

God’s Word tells us about how to deal with prosperity: “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Timothy 6:17-19). This passage gives three principles about being content in prosperity. First of all, if you’re enjoying prosperity, thank God for your situation. God “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” God wants you to enjoy what He has given you–just never forget who gave you the blessing. Next, invest in God’s work. Verse 18 says, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” If God has blessed you financially, be sure you’re investing some of that blessing in God’s work. Third, realize how quickly our economic situation can change. Verse 17 talks about the “uncertainty of riches.” Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. Wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.”

Paul said he learned the secret of being content. That phrase “learned the secret” was a gentle jab against the Greeks who believed in mystery religion. The Greeks believed that to know their gods, you had to know the secret. So Paul was saying, “Guess what? I’ve learned the secret of being content in whatever circumstance I’m in.”

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “When You Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

 

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