Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album was one of my favorites years ago. And my favorite song on that album was “You Learn.” The chorus is going through my mind today: “You live you learn, you love you learn. You cry you learn, you lose you learn. You bleed you learn, you scream you learn.” Another quote going through my mind is “I’ve succeeded and I’ve learned. I’ve never failed.”
Think about it. Learning is a profound process. It means that we are never finished. We never arrive until there’s nothing left to learn, and believe me, that day will never arrive. And yet, we each have to come to grips with the choice of learning or repeating mistakes. We get to choose whether this lifelong reality of learning will be experienced by us as either a burden or a blessing. If we choose “burden” that reveals we really don’t want to learn anymore. If we choose “blessing” that means we will never be defeated ever again!
Look at our lesson today in Philippians 4:10-23:
BRETHREN, I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving except you only; for even in Thessalonica you sent me help once and again. Not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more; I am filled, having received from Epaphroditos the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
St. Paul is wrapping up his letter to his precious Philippian parish and he sets a pretty high standard for us, especially in light of all he’s suffered since becoming a Christian and a missionary for this Christian faith.
St. Paul tells us he’s learned to be content! Content! Notice, he doesn’t say “happy” or “satisfied” or even “resigned.” He says he’s learned to be content. Of course, that begs the question “What is contentment?” Paul tells us that contentment isn’t in either being without or having plenty, in being hungry or well fed. No, contentment, for Paul, is the revelation that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” The Source of Paul contentment lies in his settled perspective that the temporary successes or failures of life do not and cannot exhaust who he is. And they cannot deprive him of the internal strength given to him by Christ. So please notice that the fear of poverty or the illusion of safety in physical wealth are both dead ends. It is only learning how to experience plenty and poverty from the eternal perspective of Jesus Christ that will ever bring you and me contentment.
He even thanks the Philippians for sharing in his pain and suffering but even that participation was more for their benefit than his. Because their hearts were softened to serve! He was content to continue suffering or to be rescued from suffering. With that kind of attitude toward life, you can never be overcome by your circumstances!
Today, are you in poverty? Learn to be content. Are you enjoying plenty? Learn to be content. Allow the Orthodox Christian faith to teach you how to treat both extremes as the temporary situations they really are and don’t allow your mind to be deceived that “It will always be this way.” Because if you fall into that delusion you just may find it eternal! And you were made to be Orthodox on Purpose and not a slave to any delusion!