In these days of economic uncertainty and financial hardship for many, have Christians learnt the meaning of “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.”? Philippians 4:12.
What does it mean to abound?
Abound means to be full – to have an ample supply of needs, and yet to observe the laws of temperance and soberness, and to cherish gratitude for the mercies which are enjoyed. Do you find yourself in this situation? Do you know how to abound; or “to excel”; to be in the esteem of men, and to have the things of this world, and how to behave in the midst of plenty; so as not to be lifted up, to be proud and haughty, and injurious to fellow creatures; so as not to abuse the good things of life; and so as to use them to the honour of God, the interest of your faith, and the good of fellow creatures, and fellow Christians everywhere?
What does it mean to abase?
To abase literally means to bring to the base (the base being the lowest part of a column); to bring down low. Biblically, it means to humble or to humiliate. This often includes a lowering in rank, office, and certainly in state of mind. Yes, many are today in that situation because of financial disasters or environmental disasters being victims of earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, fires and other unexpected accidents.
Jesus used abase in the sense of being humiliated; that is, brought down low by an outside source. Those who humble themselves will be exalted, but those who puff themselves will be abased (Matthew 23:12 ; Luke 14:11 18:14 ). Paul learned contentment . because he knew how to be abased and how to abound (Philippians 4:12 ). He paralleled being abased with being hungry and suffering need.
Being abase must be distinguished from “voluntary humility” (Colossians 2:18) and “neglecting of the body” (Colossians 2:23). Voluntary humility refers to an outward humility that demonstrates the person’s strong will connected to the “neglecting of the body” as in the ascetic practices of hermits and monks. This kind of act is rejected by the Apostle Paul.
Scriptural abasement refers to the inner lowering of the mind and heart, the personal recognition of unworthiness and the heart of humility in the believer. It is the spirit that says with John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) Symbolically, it is the act of taking the “lowest level or position” with the confidence that God will exalt in due season (Luke 14:10).
Can we say like Paul, I know both how to be abased,…. Or “humbled”; to be treated with indignity and contempt, to be trampled upon by man, to suffer hardships and distress, to be in a very mean and low condition, to work with our own hands, and minister to our own and the necessities of others in that way; yes, to be in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, and have no certain dwelling place; and knowing how to behave under all this; not to be depressed and cast down, or to fret, repine, and murmur?
It is, no easy lesson to learn not to
- complain at the allotments of Providence;
- not to be envious when others prosper;
- not to repine when our comforts are removed.
The Grace of God
Our personal condition is not always the same. We may pass through great reverses. At one time we may have abundance; then we may be reduced to want; from a state which might be regarded as affluent when all necessities are supplied; then we may be brought down to extreme poverty. It is in these sudden reverses that grace is most needed, and in these rapid changes of life that it is most difficult to learn the lessons of calm contentment. People get accustomed to an even tenor of life, no matter what it is, and learn to shape their temper and their calculations according to it. But these lessons vanish when they pass suddenly from one extreme to another, and find their condition in life suddenly changed. The conditions that were adapted to affluence or poverty, fails to be suited to our needs when these transitions rapidly succeed each other. Such changes are constantly occurring in life and it often happens that the grace which would have been sufficient for either continued prosperity or adversity, would fail in the transition from the one to the other.
It is then new grace is imparted for this new form of trial, and new traits of Christian character are developed in these rapid transitions in life. And so there is many a beautiful trait of character which would never have been known by either continued prosperity or adversity. There might have been always a beautiful exhibition of virtue and piety, but not trial special manifestation which is produced in the transitions from the one to the other, in every season, and in all things; in all circumstances of life.
Have we learnt both to be full, and to be hungry; to know what it was to have plenty and want, to have a full meal and to want one, and be almost starved and famished, and how to conduct under such different circumstances? Paul in Philippians 4:13 attributes all to the power and grace of Christ.
To abound literally means to go over the bounds. Men of God cannot be halfway Christians, going just far enough and then quit. They must overflow. The abundance that comes from God comes in His way and in His time. Are you living the Christian life to its fullest? Is your zeal for the Lord real and consistent?
How is it with you my friend? Are you abounding in your abasement? or remaining humble in your abounding? Are you helping yourself and others in abasement and in abounding? He calls you to His purposes in your abasement and abounding. His is genuine love where and whatever our situation in life.