“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about[d] these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ Gift
I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now, at last, you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. “
For many of us, imagining what it’s like to truly be in need is impossible. We have so much in our lives we take for granted that even luxuries like TVs and computers are expected in people’s homes, and we’re surprised if someone goes without them. In our verse, Paul says he knows “what it is to have plenty,” but his definition of plenty and ours are probably wildly different. We live in a culture where “plenty” doesn’t just mean having all of life’s necessities, but a whole lot of luxuries as well. Our culture is telling us to always want more, to the point that we’re anxious if we don’t have the video games, clothes or kitchen appliances we want, even if our needs are more than taken care of.
One reason we want so much can be explained by the concept of “Retail Therapy.” When we feel stressed in certain areas of our lives–work, relationships, even finances–buying something we’ve been wanting makes us feel a little better and gives us some sense of control–for a while, at least. In our materialistic society, it makes sense that we seek to acquire and surround ourselves with stuff to push back against worry and fear. We’re being sold on what we “should” have everywhere we go, and advertisers do a great job of making us feel like buying their product is the best way to improve our situations and finally feel peace. But when will we think what we have is enough?
But Paul provides a better solution: “…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” At the end of these verses, he further explains that his method for contentedness in situations of both poverty and plenty is knowing that he can do anything “through Him who gives me strength.” The fact that those of us who already have plenty still want to acquire stuff should show us that owning more won’t make us content in any meaningful way. But if we follow Paul’s example of giving all our worries to God, we’ll find God’s peace no matter how much we have.
we so easily fall into the trap of believing that the amount of stuff we have and the contentedness we feel are linked together. Help us remember that the peace needed to heal our anxieties comes from You, not our possessions. Remind us how much we already have, and help us to be grateful for even the bare necessities. Amen.
Written by Preston Thiemann
Preston Thiemann married his wife, Rachel, in September 2017. They live here in Lincoln. He is the Web Content Coordinator for the ASEM Marketing team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, where he’s worked since April 2015. At Sheridan, he also plays guitar on the Praise Band. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching movies and spending time with friends.