Philippians 4:12 (ESV)
12 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.
Paul had quite the life. Before his conversion, he was a high ranking Jew with a great education. He was respected and feared. He probably had an abundant life. All of that changed on the road to Damascus. He was hated by those who once respected him and those who had once feared Paul were confused as to how to treat him. Life became difficult.
He found abundance in his Christian life as well, though. In fact, I am sure if we interviewed Paul about his life he would say that after becoming a Christian his life was better! I say this because of the word “joy”, or “rejoice”, or even phrases that connotate joy are found in concentrated form in his letter to the Philippians. Twelve times Paul uses the words “joy” or “rejoice”. So what? So, he was sitting in a prison cell writing this letter about joy to people that he once would have persecuted. Obviously, joy was something Paul experienced in his life despite the circumstances he found himself in.
He knew how to live a humble life in hard circumstances such as facing hunger or in need of other things to survive. He also knew how to live when his life was abounding in plenty of food and had all he could ever ask for. Whatever circumstance Paul was in he was able to be content (according to the previous verse in this chapter). More importantly, he was able to find joy. What was the source of his joy? If you know the letters that Paul wrote you should easily know what his joy was by now. His joy was Christ.
Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV)
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Everything Paul had he counted as loss for the sake of gaining Christ. He saw Christ as infinitely better than anything he could ever gain here on earth. Just as David wrote in Psalm 16:11, God made known to Paul the path of life in Christ, Christ’s presence gave Paul fullness of joy, and Paul’s life was characterized as one that always had his eyes fixed on the right hand of God, where the pleasures that last forevermore are seated in Christ.
If we examined our own lives, would we find that we can be content in any and all circumstances? More than that, could we find fullness of joy in Christ despite our experiences? Are our eyes fixed on the pleasures that last forevermore seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high? In all that we do, I would pray that we could say with Paul, “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.”