My memory verses for last week were Philippians 4:11b-13:
… I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. (ESV)
Philippians 4:13 is probably one of the most quoted verses in the New Testament. But I am not sure that it is always applied appropriately. This past week, I actually paid attention to the two verses preceding Verse 13.
Paul tells us in verses 11 and 12 that he has learned to be content with life, no matter what is thrown at him.
Verse 12 is interesting. Paul tells us that he knows the secret of facing times of hunger and of need. The secret is Christ! But Paul also states that Christ is his secret to handling times of abundance and plenty.
I am thankful for the reminder that we also need Christ when we are facing times of plenty. Just ponder that for a moment. I think we often fail to recognize that times of abundance and plenty can be just as challenging as times of need. What do I mean by this? I mean, we are deceived if we don’t recognize the existing temptations and potential pitfalls of possessing a lot of stuff. I could go on and on about this, but I told myself that my post this week would be short (here’s hoping!).
I truly believe that the consumerist landscape of American culture is one of the most challenging environments for believers to live out an authentic Christian life –this is because in the midst of constantly consuming material possessions, our desire for Christ can easily be muted.
While quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, David Platt writes in his book, Radical, that “the first call every Christian experiences is “the call to abandon the attachments of this world.’”
Just to clarify - nothing wrong with having stuff. Money and material possessions are blessings from the Lord. But as sons and daughters of God, we must remember that our calling on this earth is not to fecklessly consume, but to use the blessings that God gives us (including money and material stuff) to the glory of God and the good of others. The only way we can learn to temper our desire for material possessions in the midst of our lives of plenty is to set our hearts on Christ. After all, He is the only one who can bring satisfaction to our souls. The problem is not that we have stuff; it’s that we are trying to find contentment in our stuff. We waste our God-given time and our God-given resources when we try to spend all of our money on ourselves. This is not the example laid out for us in Scripture. The early church sets the standard for selfless giving (Acts 2:45; 4:34-36) We should follow their lead. We must cultivate an awareness of the possible dangers of living a life of plenty - the secret is Christ (v. 14).
This passage is all about knowing how to be content in whatever circumstances we may face, and that can only be done when we are content Jesus, even if He is all we have. He should not just be our number one priority, but the all-encompassing reason for even getting up in the morning. If this begins to occur in our lives, when it comes time for us to decide what to do with our “plenty,” we will have a mindset not to consume, but to worship.