I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)
I can say with almost full certainty that almost everyone knows Philippians 4:13. Even if you have never cracked open a Bible, you have probably heard this verse quoted ad nauseum over the last several years. For a time, Tim Tebow even had it plastered on his eye black during every football game he played.
We are all divided on our opinion about this. There are those who love to claim this verse as a battle cry before every activity they undertake. Then there are those who are anxious and eager to reprimand people for claiming this verse before their activities. “Paul is talking about facing persecution and jail” they exclaim. “How dare you apply this verse to something as unimportant as sports!”
I understand. In the grand scheme of life, athletics is really not that important. However, as I was once again reading through the book of Philippians, when I arrived at chapter 4, I saw something that I had never really noticed before as I was blinded by the massive attention seeking light of verse 13. I noticed Paul’s exact words in verse 12. “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
What I noticed is that Paul says that he has learned the secret to facing plenty and abundance. Notice that he doesn’t say that he has learned the secret to facing successes or hardships, he says he has learned the secret to facing all of it. Paul is stating that Christ strengthens him not only when he is facing the trial of persecution and jail and beatings, but also when things are going Paul’s way.
You see, we are just as prone to sin when we are “succeeding” as much as when we are “failing.” Paul was stating his need for Christ to strengthen him to not sin when things are going well, as much as he needs Christ to strengthen him when things are going badly. But do we cry out to Jesus to help us when we are getting the things that we want, or only when we are found in want of something? We are very quick to cry out to Jesus when we are in need, and we are even quick to praise God when things are given to us, but how often do we ask his protection from pridefulness when He gives us good things?
Paul knew better than anyone that pride could very easily sneak in. In fact, he told the Philippians in chapter 3 that if anyone had a reason to boast, he had more because of his lineage and legacy as a Jew. However, Paul knew that all of his credentials were nothing compared to the greatness of what could be obtained in Jesus Christ. So when Paul says that he has learned the secret of facing abundance, he is saying that he has realized that regardless of the circumstances of his life, he needs Christ.
I pray that we reach this same realization today. God has given us far beyond anything we could ever imagine. It is in these times that we must remember that we still need Jesus. Sin is not only crouching at the door when our world is falling apart, but also when we feel like we are on top of the world.
We truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We can overcome adversity, but we can also overcome success. The Lord can lift us up out of the mire of our broken lives, but he can also keep us humble in the wake of our greatest successes.