December 11, 2020

The Secret of Peace of Mind is Contentment

"The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God."[1]
Daily Reading : PHILIPPIANS 1 - 4
TEXT : Philippians  4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.  4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.  4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  4:9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.  4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.  4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Preface to the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians
We have already seen, Act_16:12, that Philippi was a town of Macedonia, in the territory of the Edones, on the confines of Thrace, and very near the northern extremity of the Aegean Sea. It was a little eastward of Mount Pangaeus, and about midway between Nicopolis on the east, and Thessalonica on the west. It was at first called Crenides, and afterwards Datus; but Philip, king of Macedonia and father of Alexander, having taken possession of it and fortified it, called it Philippi, after his own name. Julius Caesar planted a colony here, which was afterwards enlarged by Augustus; and hence the inhabitants were considered as freemen of Rome. Near this town, it is thought, the famous battle was fought between Brutus and Cassius on the one side, and Augustus and Mark Anthony on the other, in which the former were defeated, and the fate of the empire decided. Others think that this battle was fought at Philippi, a town of Thebes in Thessaly.
The Gospel was preached first here by St. Paul. About the year of our Lord 53, St. Paul had a vision in the night; a man of Macedonia appeared to him and said, Come over to Macedonia and help us. He was then at Troas in Mysia; from thence he immediately sailed to Samothracia, came the next day to Neapolis, and thence to Philippi. There he continued for some time, and converted Lydia, a seller of purple, from Thyatira; and afterwards cast a demon out of a Pythoness, for which he and Silas were persecuted, cast into prison, scourged, and put into the stocks: but the magistrates afterwards finding that they were Romans, took them out of prison and treated them civilly. See the account, Act_16:9, etc.
The Philippians were greatly attached to their apostle, and testified their affection by sending him supplies, even when he was laboring for other Churches; and they appear to have been the only Church that did so. See Phi_4:15, Phi_4:16.
There is not much controversy concerning the date of this epistle; it was probably written in the end of a.d. 62, and about a year after that to the Ephesians. Dr. Paley conjectures the date by various intimations in the epistle itself. "It purports," says he, "to have been written near the conclusion of St. Paul's imprisonment at Rome, and after a residence in that city of considerable duration. These circumstances are made out by different intimations; and the intimations upon the subject preserve among themselves a just consistency, and a consistency certainly unmeditated.
First, the apostle had already been a prisoner at Rome so long, as that the reputation of his bonds, and of his constancy under them, had contributed to advance the success of the Gospel. See Phi_1:12-14.
Secondly, the account given of Epaphroditus imports that St. Paul, when he wrote the epistle, had been in Rome a considerable time. ‘He longed after you all, and was full of heaviness because ye had heard that he had been sick;' Phi_2:26. Epaphroditus had been with Paul at Rome; he had been sick; the Philippians had heard of his sickness; and he again had received an account how much they had been affected by the intelligence. The passing and repassing of these advices must necessarily have occupied a large portion of time, and must have all taken place during St. Paul's residence at Rome.
Thirdly, after a residence at Rome, this proved to have been of considerable duration, he now regards the decision of his fate as nigh at hand: he contemplates either alternative; that of his deliverance, Phi_2:23, Phi_2:24 : ‘Him therefore, (Timothy), I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me; but I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly;' that of his condemnation, Phi_2:17 : Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all. This consistency is material, if the consideration of it be confined to the epistle. It is farther material, as it agrees, with respect to the duration of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, with the account delivered in the Acts, which, having brought the apostle to Rome, closes the history, by telling us that he dwelt there two whole years in his own hired house." Hor. Paul., page 242.
On the agreement between the epistle and the history, as given in the Acts, Dr. Paley makes many judicious remarks, which I cannot insert here, but must refer to the work itself; and I wish all my readers to get and peruse the whole work as an inestimable treasure of sacred criticism on the authenticity of Paul's epistles.
The Epistle to the Philippians is written in a very pleasing and easy style; every where bearing evidence of that contented state of mind in which the apostle then was, and of his great affection for the people. It appears that there were false apostles, or Judaizing teachers, at Philippi, who had disturbed the peace of the Church; against these he warns them, exhorts them to concord, comforts them in their afflictions for the Gospel, returns them thanks for their kindness to him, tells them of his state, and shows a great willingness to be a sacrifice for the faith he had preached to them. There is a Divine unction in this epistle which every serious reader will perceive.  (Adam Clarke)[2]
The Apostle Paul reveals the secret of peace of mind here in our text from the book of Philippians.  He states that he has learned in whatever state he was in - whether he was doing well, or when he was not doing well, he had learned to be content.  This is certainly a great lesson to learn in life.  That is, being at peace in the inner man no matter what the circumstance may be in the outer environment.
You should take notice of the word "learned." This indicates that contentment in this life, whether things are going well, or things are going poorly, is something the Apostle Paul did not know at one time but came to know from the Spirit of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  He states that contentment in Christ is something he "learned." Thus, it is something that you want to learn as well.
Many professing Christians know how to prosper in the LORD, but they do not know how to be abased.  Conversely, many professing Christians do quite well when the circumstances are adverse, but do not do so well when they are in prosperity and good health.  In other words, depending on the person, some are diligent in Christ when things are going well, and some are diligent in Christ when things are going poorly.  Yet, the secret of peace of mind is to learn how to be content in whatever state you are in now.  In other words, no matter what season you may be in -the season of well-being, or a season of ill-being, you must learn the secret of contentment.
The so-called secret of the Apostle Paul's contentment is found in his statement in Philippians 4:13.  He stated - "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." This is how he learned the secret of peace of mind in any type of circumstance, whether good or bad.  It was learned through Christ Jesus.  Further, the chief lesson is that "he can." More precisely, the Apostle Paul found that when Christ strengthened him in the inner man, then he could do anything.
This is what the LORD referred to in John chapter 15.  Jesus said he was the "true vine." Moreover, he stated that you are one of his branches.  Finally, Jesus said that without him you can do nothing.  However, when you turn that phrase around, you have the statement of the Apostle Paul in the Philippians 4:13.  In other words, if without Jesus you cannot do anything; with him you can do "all things." There is a reciprocal relation to want you can and cannot do with reference to your relationship to Christ.
This is why faith is so important.  That is, believing the word of the LORD.  As you believe, and trust the word of God, you receive power in the inner man.  This power comes from the Holy Spirit.  Yet, it is procured by believing in Christ.  This is how the Apostle Paul learned the secret of peace of mind - through contentment, in any state he found himself.  It was through his many years of following Jesus' commands and instructions.  In the end, the Apostle Paul learned the secret of peace on the inside through contentment, no matter what was going on in the outer environment.
Everyone knows the outer environment (the world) can be a harsh and indifferent place to live in.  This fact applies to all people.  Yet, you can learn the secret of peace through contentment.  It is learned by believing Christ in all circumstances that in turn produces the sense of security and serenity that you both need and want.  Once you have learned that Christ will always supply what you need in whatever condition you are in (see Philippians 4:19) - you will have peace. However, this lesson of contentment though simple, is not always easy.
Often you will find yourself in an uncomfortable environment, circumstance, or situation.  This can be on the inside or the outside.  When you do, the test begins.  Will you trust Christ?  Will you believe his word?  Will you assert your will to refuse to believe anything you see, hear, feel, or sense, that contradicts the truth of the Word of God? That is the test.  Further, this is where the lesson is either learned or not learned.  You want to make sure that you "pass the test," so you can "learn." That is, learn that the secret of peace of mind is found in contentment.  Peace of mind occurs when you learn to be content whether you are being abased or whether you abound, for Christ will always supply what you need, no matter what it is.

  • [1] Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813
  • [2] Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
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