Tuesday, 28 February 2017
I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:12
The words of this verse explain what he just said. Taken together, they read –
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Saying, “I know how to be abased,” indicates that in a state of deprivation, he could still properly function. The word used indicates “being brought low,” or “being humbled.”
Next he says, “and I know how to abound.” This is in contrast to being abased. It indicates “to exceed the ordinary,” and thus a state of surplus. When things were going exceptionally well, he took it in stride. Such times of abundance did not change him into a prideful soul, nor did he learn to rely on that abundance. Instead, when things abounded for him, he understood that it was simply a gift from the Lord.
Following this, he says, “Everywhere and in all things.” It is an absolute statement concerning every facet of his life. Wherever he walked, and whatever came his way, it was included in the attitude he now possessed.
And this attitude was that, “I have learned.” The word used more fully means, “I have learned the secret.” It is a metaphor which comes from the rites of initiation in pagan mysteries, and so it signifies something like, “I have been initiated.” From his past life, he had been initiated into this attitude which he now possessed. The secret of contentment was learned. This contentment was “both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
His contrasting words show the totality of his life experiences. To him, he could get along with any extreme without demonstrating the negative qualities which normally surround someone when faced with the same. In times of being full, there was no need to boast; in times of famine, there was no need to worry. To Paul, life was lived for Christ. This carnal, temporary world was not the only hope he possessed, and so whatever the state, it was nothing more than another step on the way to final glory.
Life application: Paul’s attitude in this verse is one which we should strive to emulate. If we can truly acknowledge that whatever we are facing now is the Lord’s will, then we can trust that it is the proper place to be, even if it is a place of deprivation or total loss. Glory lies ahead. This temporary life is not the totality of our existence.
Lord God, help each of us to focus on the eternal. Whether we face lack or abundance, or whether we face joy or pain. Each thing that we experience was ordained for us by You, and it is temporary. There is a great glory which lies ahead for those in Christ, and so help us to keep our eyes, hearts, and thoughts directed to that glory. Help us to not be anxious or frustrated, or overly confident. Instead help us to trust in Your provision as being perfect for each moment. Amen.