Abound and Suffer Need
By: Scott Morton
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
The Apostle Paul gets into a discussion at the end of the epistle to the church at Philippi about some practical information they need. One of these things is getting into a discussion about the fact he was able to be content no matter what condition he was in. This is an interesting discussion to get into; as he was in prison at the time he wrote this epistle. There are probably not many people who can say they are content when they are in this condition, but the Apostle Paul was able to say so.
Source of rejoicing
In order to be in this condition, there has to be some joy. There can only be one true source of joy, which is God. It is He who has taken care of our condition related to sin and death, which is why the Apostle Paul states he can glory in nothing but the cross (Galatians 6:14). He also identifies something related to the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
When someone is walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), this is the result. All of these items are present in the life of the believer, as it is one singular fruit which is being spoken of. The opposite of this is when an individual is fulfilling the lust of the flesh. The text does not say the believer is walking in the flesh because it is impossible for a believer to do so. The flesh has already been crucified, which means we cannot walk in it. It is impossible for those who are in the flesh to please God. If it were possible to walk in the flesh, an individual would be able to put a sin on their account which is the transgression of the law and is worthy of death. If this sin was there, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross would have been of no effect on the life of the believer and they would lose their salvation. This discussion is the whole point of Romans chapters 6-8, which has caused a lot of confusion for believers today (Note: For more information on this topic, click on the link entitles Who am I).
Part of this fruit is joy. There is joy because of everything which has been accomplished for us as members of the Body of Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul was rejoicing in, as he knew what had been accomplished, not only for himself, but for all individuals who put their trust in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Without the salvation and what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross, there can be no rejoicing for anyone who lives during this dispensation.
It can sometimes be difficult to think about how there is to be joy when there are so many bad things going on in society and for us personally at times. Our thoughts can start to dwell on all of the bad things which are going on, which tends to rob us of the joy we feel. This is not what is intended for us at all, as we are to be feeling this joy at all times during our life. We do this by focusing in what the Lord Jesus Christ did. This is why it is Him who strengthens us to be able to get through any of these situations in our lives.
There was a joy the Apostle Paul had when speaking with the church at Philippi:
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,  Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
The Apostle Paul had a joy because he could look at the members of this local assembly and see how they were living their life. He had taught them the doctrine related to the gospel of the grace of God and now he could see the effect it was having on them. The Word of God is supposed to have an influence on individuals, which he definitely could see was going on here. Since it was and there were changes happening in them, he could rejoice in the growth being experienced by them.
As a member of the Body of Christ there is something we are to be rejoicing in that is a problem for many people. The Apostle Paul mentions this in his epistle to the church at Colossae:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:
The Apostle Paul states he glories in sufferings which had occurred for them. Many people would think there was something wrong with him to state he had any sort of positive feelings for something bad happening to him. He could feel this way because it has been promised for those who are members of the Body of Christ to suffer persecutions (Philippians 1:29) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to have this level of suffering, it would mean he was standing for the doctrine which had been given to him and is now being shared with other members of the Body of Christ.
He states he is having these things happen to him for their sake. The Apostle Paul worked to try to have the members of the Body of Christ experience the life God intends for us. He knows that the doctrine found in the Word of God is what truly has the influence on the life of the believer in order to be pleasing to God.
Paul also was able to rejoice because he saw the care the members of the Body of Christ had for him. He knew that no matter the circumstances he was in there would be individuals who would be trying to do what was best for him:
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:  Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
As he was writing this epistle to them, he was in prison at this point. Even under these circumstances there is still a joy that was present in him. He had this joy because of the position as a member of the Body of Christ:
2 Timothy 1:8-11
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,  But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:  Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.
As he writes to Timothy in this last epistle, he speaks about how the members of the Body of Christ are not to be ashamed of what is going on. It is easy to be ashamed when things aren't going well. Paul could have been ashamed when he was cast into prison, but he did not feel this way. It is easy to be rejoicing when things are going well. However, when things are going bad these feelings often change. The focus no longer is on the cross, which is the only thing we can glory in (Galatians 6:14). This is why we are able to rejoice and should not be ashamed.
The church at Philippi had a care for the Apostle Paul. The problem for them is they felt they lacked the opportunity to demonstrate this care. They would have wanted to have followed the example of the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15-16) where they had addicted themselves to the care of the fellow members of the Body of Christ. This meant their whole lives revolved around the care of other members. They were demonstrating what the Philippians had the desire to do with the Apostle Paul.
Contentment in all circumstances
The Apostle Paul spoke about how he felt in all circumstances. There was never a feeling of desire for something else. He was able to figure out a way to live a life where he felt that no matter the circumstances, he was okay with how things were going. One of the ways he was able to do this was by:
2 Corinthians 11:9
And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
He did not want to be a burden unto them financially. He was able to focus on the fact that his needs were being met and didn�t look beyond that. This is why he can say the following to Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:6-8
But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
This is a hard statement, especially for those who live in the United States. We are inundated with commercials and other messages of the new things to spend our money on. People keep trying to spend their way to happiness, whether it is by going on numerous trips that they cannot afford or by buying the latest electronic gadget that they really didn't need, but the message was out there that 'everyone needs to have one of these'.
The Apostle Paul states there should be contentment as long as we have two things. If we have clothing and food, there should be some level of contentment the individual has. The other things are extras that should not be having the impact on our lives that they often do. This is where he gets into discussions about the love of money being the root of all evil, as the desire for the extras can lead to things which are not pleasing to God.
It is hard sometimes to grasp the idea of being content in this manner, as this is not the set-up of the world system. The world states someone will only be happy if they have something. The world has changed the idea of want into a need. Paul states something very important about the idea of need:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Everything we need is supplied by God. What we needed was a solution to the problem of sin and a means of salvation for ourselves. This is all provided by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. The gospel for today tells us these things (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and is a source of comfort to us. Once we have put our trust in the gospel, we understand what has been done for us today. We know our need has been met and we can be content in this life.
The question that sometimes comes up is how a person gets the contentment they need in their life. Circumstances in the world can be hard at times and it does not always seem possible for this to occur. One of the things the believer needs to do for this to happen is the following:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
A renewing of the mind needs to occur in the individual. This happens with the intake of the Word of God, which allows the Spirit to communicate with the spirit which is part of man (1 Corinthians 2:13). This is how a believer gains a greater knowledge of what the Word says for the believer in this dispensation, allowing for the believer to get closer and closer to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. The practical sanctification, which is the process being described here, is what gives the believer the ability to understand the doctrine for today, which is what gives us the understanding of how we are to live our lives, which includes the contentment we need (Titus 2:11-13).
It is always important to note when speaking about the intake of the Word of God the importance of right division (2 Timothy 2:15). This gives us the understanding of the doctrine we need for ourselves, as we can see the doctrine which is given to Israel in the past, or future, as well as what the Bible says for us today. This removes the confusion which so many people have today on knowing what the Bible is saying to them and the problems this does cause for them.
The Apostle Paul's knowledge
In verse 12 of the text which started this article, we can see the Apostle Paul knew all of life's circumstances. He knew both the good times and also the bad. Many people always try to focus on the good things of those who follow what God is doing. They feel there should always be blessings for those who are doing exactly what God is intending for them to do. This was a true statement in Israel's program, as Deuteronomy 28:1-15 laid out how there many physical blessings which would come to the individual when they were doing exactly what God intended for them to do.
However, the Apostle Paul did not always have those things going on for him. There were times where he felt abased and also suffered because of whom he was:
1 Corinthians 4:10-16
We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.  Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;  And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:  Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.  I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.  For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.  Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
In verse 11, the Apostle Paul speaks of the conditions he has faced throughout his ministry. He has suffered hunger, thirst, nakedness, and beatings. This truly shows the feelings of abasement he is mentioning in the epistle to the church at Philippi. He experienced periods where things did not go well for him. He mentions in the second epistle to Corinth further problems he had experienced:
2 Corinthians 11:23-28
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.  Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.  Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
This list shows many of the physical things which were suffered by the Apostle Paul. This epistle was written early in his ministry, which means these things more than likely continued throughout his ministry. Just this list would be enough to shut down many individuals. It would be easy to stop, knowing things had been too difficult for them. This is not the thinking of the Apostle Paul and he continued to attempt to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9), even though there would be consequences for him.
After reading these lists it almost seems the Apostle Paul never would have had things going well for him. However, this is not the case. He indicates he also knew of times where things were abounding for him. It would be in these same areas where he would have been experiencing the needs he had. The abounding would have come from a couple of different areas. One of these is he did work while he was carrying out his ministry. He did this in order to not be a burden onto those who he was ministering to. By working, he would have been earning enough money to meet his needs and have these things abounding.
The Apostle Paul also makes mention of times where local assemblies were sending gifts to him. These assemblies were doing things to try to keep the ministry going by supplying the needs of the Apostle Paul. This would have been a tremendous help to him and also demonstrates the care the saints are to have for the fellow members of the Body of Christ. We are to attempt to help meet the needs of the Body of Christ.
One thing which did keep the Apostle Paul going was the knowledge of his need being met:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
It is interesting the way the Apostle Paul states this, as it is all going to be supplied by God and done through the Lord Jesus Christ. While people might think this is speaking of the physical need being spoken of in our text, there is only one thing which man truly needs. Man needs to have the relationship with God restored. There needs to be fellowship again in order to have access to eternal life.
This was accomplished through the cross and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Man is able to receive forgiveness as a present possession because of the blood (Colossians 1:14). There is nothing man could have done to have earned this forgiveness. The issue of sin had to be taken care of and the only way this could have been done was the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Man is able to access this when they put their trust in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). This is why the source of strength for man is the following:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Those who doubt the Word of God have fun with a verse like this. They come up with some physical task which it would be impossible for you to do. An example would be for you to lift your car over your head. When you say you cannot do that, they answer then this means you are not able to do all things.
The focus of man during this dispensation is to be on heavenly places, as shown by this is where our blessings are (Ephesians 1:3). We are living on the earth right now, but we are not being given any physical blessings. This is why we are not being given the physical blessing to do what was said in the previous paragraph. However, we are being given some things to be able to live our life at this time:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The Lord Jesus Christ lives through me when I allow Him to. There are times where we think we can accomplish the task and try to do things on our own. This is when we fail, as we are not able to do these things. This is where the Apostle Paul uses terms such as quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and frustrate the grace of God (Galatians 2:21). This happens when we try to do things ourselves and cause the problems which come for us.
The Lord Jesus Christ wants to be able to live through us in order to give us what we need. The strength comes from our intake of the Word of God and the application of it. The Word always has to be looked at through right division (2 Timothy 2:15), as there would be confusion for the individual if they tried to apply all of the promises in the Word of God to themselves, even the ones which were given to the nation of Israel.
When looking at the life we are to live, it is always God who should get the glory. We are filled with the fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ which are to the praise of God the Father (Philippians 1:11). The life that the members of the body of Christ are to live would not be a life where the individual is getting the glory. If it was, then the individual would be able to brag about the righteous things they have done. We know our righteousness was never good enough.
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
The cross is the only thing the members of the Body of Christ can glory in. This is the source of all the glory as He paid the price for sin and accomplished everything for us. This is why it can be the only source of glory for the Apostle Paul, as well as for us. It is the source of our strength and the motivation for us to do the right things. Paul tells us to do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The strength we need is not a physical strength, but a strength in the inner man (Ephesians 3:16). It is important to note this, as the strength given to us allows for us to be able to get through any of the situations we go through, whether we are in situations where things are abounding, or if we are in situations where we are suffering need.