“I’m fine,” seldom means that today. It’s our nice way of lying to one another about our hardships and the emotional waves we’re riding. Contentment and the “happy life” seem far away.
How would you like to be able to say “I’m fine” with perfect honesty, no matter the circumstance?
Complete contentment regardless of circumstances—sounds like a superpower, doesn’t it? Complete contentment isn’t a superpower but a skill that the Bible says any of us can learn.
God used Paul to tell us the secret to a contented life. In his letter to the Philippians, we find the gem that so many people have taken out of its setting: the verse “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV).
A Little About Paul’s Letter
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from jail, and he said that it brought him a lot of joy that they were so concerned about his situation. He knew they were anxious about him earlier but there wasn’t a way for them to help him (Philippians 4:10). And even when they did, he wanted them to know that he wasn’t truly in need, because he had learned to be content no matter what’s happening (Philippians 4:11).
This doesn’t mean life was easy for Paul. He had been through tough stuff. He was awaiting his death (1:20). He endured flogging, multiple shipwrecks, and had been stoned, among other troubles (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
Paul also knew what it was like to eat good food with good friends, be well treated, and have all his needs met (Acts 18:18).
When Paul wrote, “I can do all things,” it followed two similar statements: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” and “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12 ESV).
Paul knew how to endure—how to get through the good and the bad—and he knew how to endure well. His letter to the Philippians bleeds joy.
Where does this confounding happiness come from? How do we get that kind of fortitude and strength?
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Paul’s Hero and Paul’s Contentment
Who is this “he” that’s strengthening Paul?
Look back at the second chapter of Philippians where Paul describes this person. Paul says in Philippians 2:6-11 (NLT):
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This little song in the middle of Paul’s letter tells a story about Jesus—who gave up his divine privileges and took on human form. Stop. That’s amazing. Why did he do that? To die a criminal’s death? Why? He had done no wrong. He was God!
Jesus died a criminal’s death because we are criminals. We deserve a similar death for all the ways we break God’s law. But Jesus died in our place. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV, emphasis added).
Death wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. It was a door into a new life for him and for all those who believe in him. Jesus marched to death for a reason—so that sinners would become children of God, in a loving relationship under his good reign.
Jesus went to the cross to take away your sin and lay on your head a crown you don’t deserve so that as his thankful subject, you would crown him as the King he truly is and know God as your Heavenly Father.
Jesus knows “how to be brought low” and “how to abound” just like Paul (Philippians 4:12). He laid aside his heavenly crown and let us shove a crown of thorns onto his head and hang him on a cross. Why? For us.
Jesus understands our every circumstance because he has experienced heaven and the hell of God’s wrath for our sake.
The someone who strengthens Paul is the Savior of the world, but also the Lord of all. He’s Paul’s Savior and Lord, too. And because Jesus was Paul’s Lord and Savior, Paul could have contentment and a happy life.
Why Can Jesus Be Our Strength in Every Situation?
Because he intentionally walked through every degree of life—good times and bad, torture and triumph—Jesus will walk with us to strengthen us for whatever we face. He’s been there.
Doesn’t having someone close to us who understands, make a world of difference when we suffer?
Jesus has been there, wherever you are—highs and lows. He has feasted and fasted. He’s been mocked; he’s been worshipped. He’s been hung on a cross; he’s sat on a throne.
How Is Jesus My Strength?
If we have believed in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, then Jesus will be with us; Jesus understands us, and we will know Jesus better through everything we endure. Jesus will also strengthen us in at least three ways.
First, Jesus strengthens us as we remember his mercy. Nothing in this life or in eternity could be worse than being permanently under God’s wrath, and this is what Jesus came to deliver us from. So in all of life, no matter how deep the suffering, we can say with Paul “I can be content” because of Jesus. Anything we face is a small bitter cup compared to what we deserve.
Second, Jesus strengthens us by his presence. Any good or bad we face is faced with Jesus, with the goal of knowing him better. But it’s the bad stuff we worry about most, isn’t it? Paul says he even looks forward to sharing Christ’s sufferings because he will know Christ better (Philippians 3:10). He understood that every experience, especially the bad, is a bonding opportunity with our Lord, Brother, and Friend.
We instinctively understand this. Don’t we bond best over blood, sweat, and tears? Aren’t you closest to those you have suffered beside the most?
Last but not least, Jesus strengthens us by his Spirit. To all who believe in him, he sent God’s Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit promises to help us and to strengthen us in our inner being and to give us the power to live for God (Ephesians 3:16).
Through Christ, we can find contentment and live the happy life.
Tell Me the Secret to the Happy Life
What’s the secret to contentment?
The secret to contentment is to know the Savior at your side.
He shall be the end of all things—the end for the believer in Jesus is to be physically reunited with him when he brings heaven and earth together. And for us Christians, he’s the beginning. He initiated the relationship by leaving his throne to make us his friends and not his enemies. And he’s the middle too, the ever-present friend in every circumstance. In essence, he’s everything. And he’s enough. Contentment, found in Jesus, leads to the happy life.
The secret to being content is to know Jesus. Do you know the secret? Do you know him?