1 Timothy 1:12
2 Timothy 2:1; 4.17
Philippians 3:7-8; 1:20-23
Romans 6:22; 7:4
2 Peter 1:8-10
2 Corinthians 5:10;
1. Note the three pairs of circumstances Paul mentions in verses 11-13. What are they?
2. 4.10-13 Paul is stating that no circumstance is essentially the foundation of his joy. So when he says in verse 13, “I can do all things,” it is because he has “learned” something. He has “learned the secret.” Hint: the secret is not to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” as if “all things” means you abound all the time through him who strengthens you. What does “all things” truly mean here?
3. “I can hunger through him who strengthens me. I can be in need through him who strengthens me. I can be brought low through him who strengthens me.” This is so utterly crucial to see, lest we think that Paul’s happiness and joy and perseverance in the ministry hangs on Christ strengthening him always to abound. The strength doesn’t always produce abundance, but gives strength for need. It doesn’t always produce plenty, but gives strength for hungering. So wherein does Paul’s strength consist? How is this strengthening mediated to Paul such that he calls it the “learning of a secret”? Or the “knowing how to be brought low and knowing how to abound”? Here are some clues below…
The first clue is “through him.” It is through Christ. And this is not an isolated statement, he writes this way in his other letters as well. (Eph 6.10; 1 Tim 1.12; 2 Tim 2.1, 4.17)
The second clue is in the word “content.” It literally means “self-rule,” which may sound to some of you like Greek philosophy, very stoic and un-Christian. It may sound like a worldly approach to contentment saying, “just learn to rule yourself so that when you are brought low you just command yourself to think positively and the power of positive thinking will give you contentment.” So why would Paul choose to use this word taken directly out of Greek philosophy? It is likely he does so to turn the idea on its head, precisely in the idea that the strength comes from Christ, not from self. It is we who experience and act out this contentment, yet it is God who produces the miraculous strengthening in us (Philippians 2.12-13; 1 Cor 15.10; 1 Peter 4.11).
The third clue is in the word “learned” in verse 11 (different than verse 12) which is the same word he just used in 4.8-9.
The fourth clue is, this is called a secret because the Devil knows these truths and they do not give him Christian contentment. Truth alone does not produce this miracle of Christ-exalting contentment. It must be believed. The secret is going further than awareness. Further than intellect. It is seeing these truths with the eyes that regard them as precious. More precious than anything in the world.
The fifth clue revolves around the question, how do you rejoice in the Lord when the Lord has blessed you with abundance and plenty? How do you rejoice in the Lord and not the abundance? How are you content in the Lord and not in the plenty and the abounding? (3.7-8; 1.20-23)
4. What have you learned that if you believe them would yield this contentment discussed in 4.11?
5. How do we practically live out contentment in abundance and plenty?
6. How do we practically live out contentment in misery and need?
7. Paul’s celebration of their generosity to him does not mean he is seeking a gift from them or even that his celebrating is in the gift. He is seeking fruit. What does this mean?
8. What is the function of this fruit in our lives at the final judgement?
9. How is the fruit then working in relationship to faith and sanctification?
10. How do our deeds become pleasing to God?
11. How do we reflect God’s great glory back to him and to the world?
What did I learn about God today?
What did I learn about myself?
How is God relating this to my life right now?
What does God want me to bring in prayer to Him today?