When my son started learning to communicate, I taught him hand signals to help him convey his needs. One sign was “more”, to be used when he wants more to eat. I would then give him more food.
Sometimes, he didn’t get what he wanted. If the food ran out or I was managing his intake, I would sign back, “no more.” Initially, he couldn’t understand why I would say that. He would cry and keep asking, “More! More! More!” I had to show the empty plate as proof.
As grown-ups, we like to think that we are reasonable. But more often than not, we tend to react to circumstances the same way my son did. It could be a financial need, or a challenging circumstance, like losing our job or having little access to basic facilities. Or even when all is well and we have a good job, comfortable home, nice car, and enough to save for the future, we somehow don’t believe them to be enough. We think all will be well if only we had more, more, more!
When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, he was in prison. The Philippians delivered a care package to him (Philippians 4:10), and he was grateful for their help. However, Paul also clarified that whether the help had come or not, he had learned to be contented, whatever the circumstance (v. 11).
Paul could say this confidently because of what he has experienced. He’d been arrested, imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and put on trial. But there were also seasons when he was more settled—safe, nourished, and in the blessed company of believers. Having gone through both happy and hard times, Paul learned that he could be content regardless of his circumstances.
What was his secret?
These days, my son understands and accepts my “no more” when I say it. He accepts it because he knows and trusts me. He knows that as his mother, I am looking out for his well-being and will never deprive him of what he truly needs.
In the same way, Paul knew God and trusted that He had his best interests at heart. He knew that whatever he had, whether little or plenty—even the gift from the Philippians—came from God. So even though circumstances around him might indicate otherwise, Paul knew that his heavenly Father was looking out for him, and he would always have enough.
Jesus Himself points us to the goodness of God the Father in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
And throughout the Bible, we see the writers affirming their trust in God’s provision. A personal favorite of mine is: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
Ultimately, Paul’s secret is laid out in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul’s contented life was not dependent on his material state—but rooted in his personal relationship with God, a God who “does not change like shifting shadows”, but whose goodness towards His children can always be trusted and depended upon.
What faith did Paul have! Let us be inspired to journey with God in the same way, trusting in His character and His provision. Let us be content, knowing that God will provide all that we need, even if what He provides might seem small in our eyes.
Because the truth is that God has given us Himself. And that is more than enough.
—By Charmain Sim, Malaysia
Questions for reflection
- What is one area in your life that you are dissatisfied with? How can today’s passage encourage you to view it in a different light?
- How have others shown concern for you in your time of need?
- Is there anyone in need whom you can show concern to?
About the author
Charmain has a thing for chocolate chip cookies, Jane Austen, and extraordinary stories of ordinary people. She loves being surprised by God, especially in the little but meaningful moments He plants into her everyday.
It always starts with something small. I look at the various part-time jobs I have scheduled for the week and feel tired. Then I wish for the thousandth time that I could have a stable, full-time job like most of my friends. Then I worry about my precarious finances—what if the jobs suddenly dry up, where will money for the rent and groceries come from? Then I agonize that I’m not working hard enough and start to think of ways to get more work. Then I envy my friends who have a career ladder that they can climb, one that will reward them for their hard work and increase their sphere of influence as they get better at their jobs.
Before I know it, my toxic thought pattern reduces me into a paralysis of believing that I have to fend for myself. I end up bitter with God for not being more helpful, which then affects how I act towards Him.
What starts out as just a thought, when attended to and indulged in in a negative way, mutates into a full-fledged attitude that eventually has the power to dictate my actions. And if consistently entertained, as I did for several years in my mid-twenties, it even has the power to alter my entire disposition and sour the way I relate with God.
Paul knew about the importance of guarding our thought life. He knew that the substance of our thoughts would be a crucial factor in determining whether we are pressing toward “the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Our thoughts have a profound way of shaping our realities.
In this last chapter of Philippians, Paul gives us advice on how we can develop a thought life that will help us walk towards the fullness of the resurrected life. Rather than ruminating on our fears and frustrations, Paul encourages us to think about the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. All these things are rooted in the unequivocal goodness of God.
In other words, as we cultivate thought patterns that are grounded in the character of God, we will begin to recognize what is in line with God’s purposes, and what isn’t! We will know which are the paths that lead to life, and we can then choose to walk in them.
Even the smallest things, when true, or noble, or right, can be an overflow of God’s grace. Did someone do something that made our day better? Did we do anything for someone else that brought us joy? When we experience these moments, we can be sure that God has been behind them.
Paul then exhorts us to practice being these admirable and Christlike things that we have “learned or received or heard” in others (v. 9). We are not simply to think about the good things God has done, but we are to put them into action in our own lives. When we live them out, it helps us remember that God is very much present in our lives. It pulls our reality in line with His and keeps us firmly conscious of the fact that He is at work.
Meditating on the good things of God has started to change my outlook to life. It encourages me to keep fixing my eyes on these unassailable truths whenever anxiety or doubt threatens to overwhelm me: I have not been forgotten. I can be at peace.
From this place of confidence and assurance, we can live in a way that reflects the goodness of God, a way that then reveals the goodness of God to others around us.
—By Nelle Lim, Singapore
Questions for reflection
- What are some thoughts that you consistently indulge in, even though they do not align with the truth of God’s word? Write them down and bring them to God in prayer.
- What do your thoughts reveal about the parts of your life in which you have yet to experience God’s peace? Ask God to help you surrender them to Him.
- In place of these negative thoughts, what are some true, right and lovely thoughts that you can meditate on instead?
About the author
Nelle loves reruns of classic TV. She believes that good stories help us find our truest selves, and she’d be lost without the ones from Jesus, the Master Storyteller.
All of us have grappled with doubts and questions about God.
Why should I believe in God? How can I trust the Bible? If Christianity is true, how do we make sense of the brokenness that we see?
These questions reveal our deepest fears and struggles, as well as the deepest desires of our hearts—for purpose, identity and belonging. For some, these questions make it difficult for them to trust God. For others, these questions help strengthen their faith as they examine the evidence for what they believe in.
We may never get the answers to all our questions—but there are some fundamental truths that we can be certain of. Here are our top three articles on Apologetics, exploring some of the biggest and most common questions we all have about Christianity.
Although I’ve been a Christian for a long time—and brought up as one—I must admit that I have occasionally toyed with the questions: What if Christianity was a lie? What if everything I believed in turned out to be untrue? What if there was really no God or Jesus, and I had been believing in nothing all this time? What would it mean for me? What would I do?
Why didn’t God “delete” the earth and start all over again? After all, another six days’ work wouldn’t have been too difficult, would it? Of course, you could argue that knowing man, Creation 2.0 would probably have gone down the same route, anyway. So the question is, why did God bother at all? Why create a world that He knew was going to go wrong eventually?
The question about evil and suffering has no easy answer because it is not about logical possibilities or impossibilities. Rather, it is an issue of the heart—we want to understand why people go through various difficulties. In fact, to hear the cries of help and feel burdened is a good thing, because it reveals a side of our humanity.
The idea that truth is exclusive is deeply upsetting to many. We cherish the liberty to decide for ourselves what is true and what is not; at the same time, we demand that others be truthful to us. We tend to place more value on how we feel, or whether something works for us, than on whether it is actually true. What then are some of the reasons that have led many to conclude that all religions lead to the same God?
YMI (which stands for Why Am I?), is a platform for Christian young people all over the world to ask questions about life and discover their true purpose. We are a community with different talents but the same desire to make sense of God’s life-changing word in our everyday lives.
YMI is a part of Our Daily Bread Ministries.
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