Are You Reaching for the Things Money Can’t Buy?

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

What if everything you’d worked your whole life to attain was suddenly taken away? What if everything of material value was stolen, burned up, or somehow destroyed? How would you feel? Think of people to whom that has happened – because of storms, floods, or other natural disasters. What’s the lesson?

Notice in the above verses, Paul says two times  “I have learned.” In verse 11 the term used means “to learn as in the sense of increasing one’s knowledge of something.” But in verse 12 it’s a different Greek word which means: “to initiate into the mysteries; to accustom one to a thing; to give one an intimate acquaintance with a thing.” (Strong’s) What are the implications?

We can learn a lot of things by reading or studying books, articles, etc., but there are some things we can only learn through experience. When Paul says he’s “learned the secret of living in every situation,” he’s revealing his heart. He’s dipping into the vastness of lessons learned on the road some have called “hard knocks.”

These are lessons no one can teach you. They’re the gems of truth you glean through suffering and heartache – the kinds of lessons no one would request, but would take nothing for the value of them once they’re learned.


Obviously, as you may have guessed by now, these are the lessons money can’t buy. These lessons are the ones Paul credits Christ for giving him the strength to endure. We too often tend to believe that the things I can do in the strength of Christ are defeating the “giants” with which we deal or overcoming a difficult habit or addiction. But while the Lord certainly will give us strength in those circumstances, the ones of which Paul speaks are the daily battles for our physical sustenance.

Going through my divorce, being literally penniless, wondering from day to day if I would eat at all, these are the “instructors” who taught me humility, appreciation, generosity, kindness, gratitude, and many more “lessons” I thought I’d learned, but didn’t have a clue. I’d had life handed to me on the proverbial “silver platter,” but didn’t realize it until my folks were gone and it was too late to express to them how much their sacrifices meant to me.

When I was maybe 11 or so, my dad took me squirrel hunting. I use those terms very loosely, because neither of us even saw a squirrel while we were “hunting,” but after hanging out in the woods for a few hours we headed back to the park where we started. My dad had brought breakfast food to make on the grill – eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.

While my dad was getting things together and fixing the food, I’d found another kid about my age, who came back with me to where my dad was fixing breakfast. Being the man my dad was, he asked my friend if he’d like to join us for breakfast, which he did. Then, after we’d eaten everything on our plates, my dad asked if we’d like some more. Which, of course, we did.

It never dawned on me for years, until I was an adult, that the reason my dad didn’t join us for breakfast was because he’d given us his share. He’d gone hungry so we could have more than enough. These are the lessons of which Paul was speaking. These are the lessons money can’t buy. These are the lessons that exhibit the character of Christ in concrete ways, in ways that will illustrate most vividly the Christ who gives us strength.

Blessings, Ed 😊

2 thoughts on “Are You Reaching for the Things Money Can’t Buy?

  1. Brother Ed, thank you for the beautiful yet challenging picture of teaching and learning (or not) what God allows for our lives, that we might garner a greater resemblance and character of Whose image we were created. I pray we would have favor from experiencing trials, yet I pray more that when we do have them, we would sit with the understanding of these verses, and the One who is beside us, whose strength we can submit to in those moments.


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