I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:12-13
How do we learn something really well? Isn’t it usually by going through something, by gaining wisdom through an experience? Although we can learn by listening or reading, if you really want something to be stamped on your heart and mind you have to experience it.
We usually think that these lessons have to be through enduring difficult circumstances. Of course that is true, but notice that Paul mentions both sides. He has been in situations where he was in need, and others where he had plenty. The lesson he has learned is how to be content. Learning this was so important to him, he refers to it as learning a secret — something rare, significant, and hard to find out. He has become satisfied when having little, but perhaps more importantly he has learned to be satisfied when having plenty. We may assume the second thing is easy, but think about it for a moment. When we have plenty is that not when we often forget to be thankful, neglect that God has provided, and perhaps strive to gain even more?
Paul knew that he needed strength to make it through the times of great need, but he also knew that God’s strength would help him have a heart of gratitude and spirit of thanksgiving when He provided an abundance. Then that thankfulness would increase into all of his circumstances, because what is contentment if not being thankful? Paul had learned the secret through experience — God would always provide, but He would always give strength to recognize that it was He alone who was doing the providing!