The POWERFUL Philippians 4:11 Meaning (‘I Have Learned To Be Content’)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in all things. Philippians 4:11

There’s a lot of words I could use to describe our world today. But content is not one of them. And that’s what makes the Philippians 4:11 meaning stand out. To be content in all things seems impossible. But also alluring, doesn’t it? 

I mean wouldn’t it be nice to be content? Not always wanting more and chasing something only to have it let you down. I think we all want to be content, we just don’t know how. 

But Paul does, that’s why he could say, “I have learned to be content in all things.” We are going to break down this verse and see how we can also find contentment. 

The Context Of Philippians 4:11

To understand the Philippians 4:11 meaning, we first need to back up and look at what’s happening in the verses surrounding it. The context of a specific verse is something we should never ignore. It helps us understand what the Bible is communicating to us. 

Each book of the Bible was written by a real person and to a real people that lived thousands of years ago. Understanding who these people were and what they were facing will help us better understand how to apply it to our life. 

The book of Philippians really isn’t a book, rather a letter written by the Apostle Paul. This letter was addressed to the church in Philippi. Paul felt a great kinship with this church that went back years (Act 16). 

Now the city of Philippi was a polytheistic culture that did not exactly welcome Paul when he first visited. They were stripped, beaten with rods, severely flogged, and thrown in prison (Acts 16:19-23). Despite this the church in Philippi remained strong and supported Paul in his ministry. 

Fast-forward a while and things are starting to look more and more bleak for this church. Paul is under house arrest, they are starting to face persecution (Philippians 1:29), church members were acting selfishly (Philippians 2), false teaching was arising (Philippians 3), and Paul even calls out two women by name (Philippians 4:2). 

Things aren’t going well. So it might seem a little surprising that Paul intentionally focuses on joy, rejoicing, and being content. But in doing so Paul is pointing out an important truth. 

This church is facing external pressures and internal issues. Paul is challenging the church to view being content in a different light. And it’s a lesson that I think is one we should lean into. 

So, now that we know the context, let’s dive into the Philippians 4:11 meaning. 

Philippians 4:11 Meaning 

To help us better understand the meaning of Philippians 4:11 we are going to break down this verse. 

I Am Not Saying This Because I Am In Need 

Remember the context. Paul is under house arrest. He’s been beaten and flogged. He’s not exactly living his best life… at least by most standards. 

And yet despite his circumstances he responds to this church’s concern for him (Philippians 4:10) by saying he’s not in need. He has everything that he needs already. 

This should cause us to lean in… what does he have that we are missing? How can he be content despite such dire circumstances? 

I Have Learned To Be Content In All Things 

Some translations say, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances.” Regardless Paul is clear. Whether he is facing arrest, beatings, shipwrecks, or even death he is content. Paul had learned to be content (and to rejoice) regardless of his physical circumstances.

It’s easy to be content when it’s smooth sailing and things are going our way. But true contentment is tested when life goes haywire. And Paul has been tested and he is still content. 

So how does Paul do it? How can he be content? The next two verses reveal this secret.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Paul is saying that you can have it all or nothing. Fed or hungry. Living in luxury or poverty. All that doesn’t matter. Whatever your circumstances are you can be content… IF you have Jesus. 

Essentially Paul is saying, Jesus + Nothing = Everything 

We are focusing on the Philippians 4:11 meaning in this blog post. But if you want to learn more about Philippians 4:13 check out this blog post I wrote: The REAL Meaning Of Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ)

3 Lessons From The Philippians 4:11 Meaning 

Now that we’ve looked at the Philippians 4:11 meaning I want to break this verse down into three practical ways you can apply it to your life. 

What You Have (Or Don’t Have) Won’t Lead To Being Content

We think that being content is based on our circumstance. We are content when we have plenty, have him/her, the pain of life stays away, and life is generally going our way. 

But the Bible teaches us a different way. Even if we get every single thing we want we won’t be content. Why? Because contentment isn’t found in what we have/don’t have. 

Therefore we can always be content, even in the worst of circumstances… if we go to God. 

Contentment Is Found In Jesus

The secret to being content isn’t in our things, but a person. Jesus. 

Just about everything in your life can change and be taken away in a moment. Life is harsh. But there’s one thing that will never change. Jesus and his love for you. And when you have that, you can be content. 

This might seem foreign to many, especially those who live in a land of plenty. But Paul not only taught this, he lived it. He experienced extreme difficulties in life and was still content because Jesus was with him. 

And the offer is still true for you. You can be content regardless of what you are facing when you keep your eyes on Jesus. 

Christians Can Be Content No Matter What They Face

Christians ought to be the most content people. While the world chases around the next thing hoping it will make them happy, content. Followers of Jesus should stand in stark contrast because they have the most important thing. 

Paul’s contentment, and even joy, while sitting in prison shows us his maturity. And it challenges us to do likewise. God has the same joy and contentment for you. If you look to him

If the church got this and practiced the Philippians 4:11 meaning, not only would we be content we would be a witness to the world. We could show them the incredible life that Jesus is inviting them into. We could show them a better way of living. 

So, keep your eyes on Jesus and not your circumstances. Then you will be content in all things. 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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