This morning’s Morning and Evening puts an interesting twist on the call to contentment. Instead of encouraging the downtrodden to lift their heads and fill their eyes with Christ… today’s devotional addresses the dangers of having much.
The context is contentment. Paul provides his firsthand experience with the matter. Philippians 4:11-12 says,
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
He concludes with this famous phrase found in verse 13,
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul needed Christ’s strength to endure all things in every circumstance. The same is true for us. Whether we face plenty or hunger, abundance or need… we must cling to the cross of Christ. We can never afford to forget the mercy, grace, and goodness our Savior’s sacrifice has provided. Unfortunately, forgetfulness is easy when our bellies are full and our hands are blessed. As Spurgeon said so well,
Rest assured, it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry—so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God.
Let’s not cling to our treasures or trials. At all times, let us embrace the cross of Christ. We should be thankful for all things and give honor where honor is due.
Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.
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…and I know how to abound. — Philippians 4:12
There are many who know “how to be brought low” who have not learned “how to abound.” When they are set upon the top of a pinnacle their heads grow dizzy, and they are ready to fall. The Christian disgraces his profession more often in prosperity than in adversity.
It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial for the Christian than the place of prosperity. What leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God!
Yet this is not a matter of necessity, for the apostle tells us that he knew how to abound. When he had much, he knew how to use it. Abundant grace enabled him to bear abundant prosperity. When he had a full sail he was loaded with much ballast, and so floated safely. It needs more than human skill to carry the brimming cup of earthly joy with a steady hand; yet Paul had learned that skill, for he declares, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger.”
It is a divine lesson to know how to be full, for the Israelites were full once, but while the food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them. Many have asked for mercies, that they might satisfy their own hearts’ lust. Fullness of bread has often made fullness of blood, and that has brought on emptiness of spirit.
When we have plenty of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the blessings we have received. We are full, and we forget God: Satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven.
Rest assured, it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry—so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God. Take care that you ask in your prayers that God would teach you how to be full.
Let not the gifts Thy love bestows
Estrange our hearts from Thee.