11 Not that I speak according to lack, for I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be content.
12 I know also how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to bound and to lack.
13 I am able to do all things in Him who empowers me.
9a And be found in Him,
10a To know Him and the power of His resurrection…
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
2 Timothy 4:
22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
In chapter one of Philippians, Christ is the life for us to live; in chapter two, Christ is the pattern for us to follow; and in chapter three, Christ is the goal and the prize for us to pursue. Now in chapter four, Christ is the secret and also the power for us to enjoy. In doing many things we must first know the secret and also have the power, the strength, the energy, to accomplish those things.
LEARNING THE SECRET
In teaching people to do things, even insignificant things, we mainly teach them the secret. We may not know the secret of sufficiency in Christ found in Philippians 4. We may talk a great deal about the book of Philippians, but not know the secret of experiencing Christ. To change the figure of speech, because we do not have the key, we cannot open the door to the experience of Christ. I say again, in chapter four we have the secret and the power. On the one hand, Paul says, “I have learned the secret” (v. 12); on the other hand, he testifies, “I can do all things in Him who empowers me” (v. 13).
In verse 11 Paul says, “Not that I speak according to want, for I have learned in whatever circumstances I am to be content.” To be content should be connected to I have learned. Paul had learned to be content in all circumstances. He could say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
APPLYING THE SECRET
According to 4:10-13, Paul applies the secret he has learned to his circumstances in prison. As a prisoner in Rome, he was far away from many of the believers and from many churches which had been raised up through his ministry. No doubt, during his imprisonment, he suffered both psychologically and physically. He was in need of a material supply. It certainly was not easy for him to be in prison under such circumstances.
The Philippian believers had opened a heavenly account with Paul and were known for the way they had supplied his material needs. However, when Paul was in prison, he had certain physical needs. Because Paul was still human, he expected the Philippians to continue remembering him. But for a period of time, the Philippians did not do this.
Before Epaphroditus came, Paul was abased. After he came with the supply, Paul was abounding. But he did not know how long this abounding would last. He knew that probably the time would come when once again he would be in want. He had been in a low situation; now he was at a peak. But perhaps in not too long a time he would be low again. This was the reason he first said, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” But because Epaphroditus had arrived with the supply, Paul then changed the order and said, “I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to be in want.” Knowing that his circumstances could change again very soon, Paul said that he knew not only how to be abased and how to abound, but also how to abound and how to be in want.
GOD’S SOVEREIGN ARRANGEMENT OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Our circumstances are always sovereignly arranged by God. Sometimes His sovereign arrangement puts us in a low situation, and at other times in circumstances that are quite good. Paul realized that even though the supply had come from the church at Philippi, his circumstances were still in the hand of God. In God’s sovereign arrangement, the Philippian church did not send the supply until now. Perhaps they had the heart to send him a gift, but not the opportunity until Epaphroditus could come. When the opportunity was available, the Philippian believers sent a gift to Paul. This supply brought him out of the condition of humiliation, want, and abasement and set him on a peak.
In verse 13 we find a basic principle related to the apostle’s secret of sufficiency in Christ: “I can do all things in Him who empowers me.” Paul was a person in Christ (2 Cor. 12:2), and he desired to be found in Christ by others. Now he declared that he could do all things in Him, in the very Christ who empowered him. This is an all-inclusive and concluding word concerning his experience of Christ. It is the converse of the Lord’s word concerning our organic relationship with Him in John 15:5: “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
DOING ALL THINGS IN HIM WHO EMPOWERS US
In 4:13 Paul refers to Christ as the One who “empowers me.” To be so empowered is to be made dynamic inwardly. Christ dwells in us (Col. 1:27). He empowers us, makes us dynamic, from within, not from without. By such inward empowering Paul could do all things in Christ. In Christ as the One who empowers him Paul could do all things. He could say, “Christ is my secret of sufficiency. As long as I have Him and as long as I am in Him, I can do all things in Him.”
Have you seen the secret? Do you have this secret? Our circumstances may change. In certain circumstances we may abound, and in others we may be abased. But whether we abound or are abased, the enjoyment of the Lord is the same. It may even have been the case that Paul enjoyed Christ more when he was abased than when he was abounding. Perhaps he enjoyed more of Christ when he was poor than when he was rich.
If we have learned the secret, we shall know how to counteract anxiety. If you are in poverty, there is no need for you to be anxious or to worry. The Lord is still at hand, and He will take care of you. By nature, we are given to worry, to anxiety. This is true as much of the rich as it is of the poor. Only those who are truly in Christ in their experience and who are inwardly empowered by Him have no need to worry or to be anxious.
As a human being, Paul did undergo suffering with respect to material needs. Paul was not an angel, and he was not like a lifeless statue without feelings. No doubt, he had learned the secret of sufficiency in Christ. When he was in want and was tempted to worry about his situation, he applied this secret. Then, in his experience, this secret eliminated his worry. Therefore, he could have the boldness to testify that he knew both how to be abased and how to abound. The very fact that Paul knew how to be abased indicates that he experienced feelings of abasement. He knew what it was to have worry and anxiety in times of suffering. But at those times he applied the secret of the indwelling Christ. He applied the very Christ in whom he could be found. This Christ is real, living, near, available, and prevailing. This was the Christ who was Paul’s secret.
THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
In his word of blessing Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Grace is God in Christ as our supply and enjoyment conveyed to us and realized through the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (1:19). To experience Christ as Paul did we need this grace.
Throughout the years, we have given a number of definitions of grace. Now we see that, in brief, grace is God Himself in Christ as our life supply and enjoyment. This supply and enjoyment is conveyed to us by the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and it is realized by us through this Spirit. When Paul says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,” he means that the supply and enjoyment of the Triune God by and through the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ should be with us. When we have such a supply, we enjoy and experience the Triune God all day long.
WITH OUR SPIRIT
According to Paul’s word in verse 23, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is with our spirit. The spirit here is our regenerated spirit indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. It is in this spirit of ours that we enjoy Christ and experience Him as Paul did.
Many Christians today have missed the mark of the regenerated spirit. They speak much about the Holy Spirit, but not of the human spirit. Because of this neglect of the regenerated human spirit, there is very little experience of Christ or enjoyment of the all-inclusive grace.
If we would enjoy the grace which is with our spirit, we need to exercise our spirit. The way to exercise the spirit is to pray, pray-read the Word, and call on the name of the Lord Jesus. Whenever we call on the Lord Jesus or pray to God the Father, we automatically exercise our spirit. When we call on the Lord, pray in a proper way, and pray-read the Word, we truly exercise our spirit. Exercising our spirit in this way is the secret to enjoying the grace which is with our spirit. As one who has been reading the Bible and studying it for more than fifty years, I can testify that nothing brings me into more enjoyment of the Triune God than pray-reading the Word. Oh, we all need more exercise of the spirit to enjoy the Lord!
The Life Study of Philippians, Chapters 29 & 31 W. Lee