The church in Philippi had been the first, and at times the only, one to support Paul as he was traveling and doing his work. Several times he had been in need. He didn’t necessarily have food or shelter, nor a way to pay for it, but the church was willing to help him.

We could take an example from when Paul was in Corinth. When he arrived there, he didn’t have a way to live, and he had left the Macedonian churches behind – the Philippian church being one of these – as a result of persecution. At each point along the way, Paul had either been beaten, put in prison, or chased out of town because the Jews wanted to kill him. As a result, he needed to move, and move quickly.

So when he arrived there in Corinth, he needed to work, and he couldn’t continue preaching and teaching full time as a result. As it turned out, that is how Paul met Priscilla and Aquila as they made tents together. So God used this time in Paul’s life that he needed to work to support himself, but when Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, they brought the support that Paul had needed so that he could continue to do the work that God had called him to do, to teach and preach again full time.

However, regardless of whether Paul was in need or had plenty, or regardless of whether he needed to work to support himself or had been supported by the churches, Paul remained content in his situation.

His contentedness wasn’t something that he just knew how to do. It was a way of thinking, a way of acting, a state of being that he learned. I suspect it was something that God taught him through his call and through difficulty.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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 all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:10-13

Paul had learned what it means to be content. He learned how to be content. He learned it through the trials of the life that he was living. But most of all he learned it because, even in the difficult times, God gave him strength to endure, and it was through this endurance that he gained his strength. This strength from God and endurance through the difficult situations made Paul to be content and taught him that God will provide for him in each situation, that he is with him and walks with him, just as Jesus promised.

This is the source of Paul’s contentment. Not money. Not provision, but God’s presence with him in the form of Christ.

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