For the first eighteen years of my life, people were always looking for ways to distinguish my identical twin sister from myself. When we were young, it was the smallest of physical attributes that helped people tell us apart. As we grew older, our activities and accomplishments helped define who we were to others. I always felt as if I were living in my sister’s shadow. Yet, as I matured in my faith, I realized God created me uniquely in His likeness for His purpose.
Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” I have experienced that joylessness in my life. The pitfall of comparison and the feeling that we are not enough pervades across our culture. Social media highlights how many friends and followers a person has. The brands we own determine the status of our wealth. The longing for more must stop. Recently, my children visited a house and asked me when we could own a house that was a mansion. Discontentment apparently is learned at a young age.
So how can we combat thoughts that who we are and what we have is not enough?
I believe we can learn a valuable lesson from Philippians 4. Paul founded the church in Philippi on his second missionary journey and later wrote the letter of Philippians to the church during his imprisonment in Rome. After persecuting the early church, the converted apostle faced trials of many kinds for the cause of Christ. The theme of joy threads throughout the writing.
As Paul closes the letter, he reminds the Philippians that their citizenship resides in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Because of our knowledge of who we are in Christ and our future inheritance through Him, we can be encouraged to live out our faith in confidence with the principles found within the text.
Here are 10 things Philippians 4 teaches us about living a content life:
1. Stand firm (4:1)
The realities of this world are not what we as believers were created for and they are not our final reality. Until Christ makes everything whole and right, we are to stand fast and firm in our faith. Given the context of not feeling that we are good enough, this charge to stand firm in our faith in a fallen world knowing that our ultimate citizenship belongs in heaven should give us hope.
2. Be united (4:2)
Even the church of Philippi had division amongst the leadership. Paul exhorted these women to unite together in the Lord. When we come together as believers for the good of the church, we aim to encourage one another rather than compete. As I have grown and matured in my faith, likeminded believers have helped spur me onward in accomplishing goals that I felt God wanted me to achieve for Him.
3. Rejoice (4:4)
Paul emphatically commands the church to always rejoice in the Lord. Regardless of our circumstances, we are to always express our joy found through Christ. In recounting all God has done in our lives, we realize how blessed we are. Our thoughts reside not on our own inadequacies or on what we do not have, but rather on Christ’s sufficiency.
4. Let your gentleness be evident to all (4:5)
While Paul speaks in the context of adversity, we can apply the command in the context of our struggle with inadequacy. We must allow gentleness to permeate into those we encounter as well as within ourselves.
5. Do not be anxious (4:6)
Paul tells the Philippians to not be anxious about anything. Feelings of inadequacy often breed anxiety. Yet, we are to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us.
6. Pray to God with Thanksgiving (4:6)
The solution to anxiety is to seek God in prayer. Because the Lord is near to us through Christ, we can go to Him in prayer. He desires for us to come to Him in everything – including our weaknesses. Yet, when we pray, we are to petition and give thanks, to maintain our heart of gratitude.
7. Allow God’s peace to rule (4:7)
Paul gives the Philippians the promise of God’s peace that surpasses all understanding. It is this peace that will guard their hearts and their minds. As believers today, we must allow this peace to infiltrate our lives, especially in times when we feel discontentment lurking.
8. Think about the things above (4:8)
The apostle gives his church a list of virtues to turn their minds towards daily. In essence, they were to practice thinking good thoughts. Likewise, to combat the comparison trap and negative self-talk, we can practice thinking about things that are true, praiseworthy, and commendable.
9. Learn contentment (4:11-12)
We learn that Paul experienced a broad range of provision and conditions throughout his ministry. As he testifies to the Philippians, he states that he learned to be content, or well-pleased, in all his circumstances. The reason for his satisfaction was because of his sufficiency in Christ. When we grasp this lesson that Christ is enough, we will become well-pleased no matter our circumstances.
10. Do everything in God’s strength (4:13)
Knowing that all his identity and value comes from Jesus Christ alone, Paul declares that he can do all that he does by God’s enabling strength. The lesson for believers struggling today with any thoughts of inferiority is that anything we do is done with the strength God bestowed us with and should be seen as such. Therefore, whatever we do, should be done to the glory of God and should never be seen as inferior because it was done by His power.
I still have days where I want to compare myself with others or where I feel that I will never reach the unobtainable bar called “Enough.” Yet, on those days, I fall back into the grace of my Heavenly Father and simply rest, knowing that my identity and my joy resides in Christ alone.
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Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at www.unveilinggraces.blogspot.