Paul wrote this from prison. He was there for preaching and healing in Jesus’ name, and the Christians in the city of Philippi had sent gifts to Paul, which her was so grateful for. He was even more happy for the faith and love that caused them to share in his sufferings. But he also wanted to assure them that Jesus was taking good care of him in prison! Though at times he had little and at other times a lot, he was content and happy through God's grace. He told them that he had learned the secret of being content in every situation.
This godly contentment has nothing to do with laziness or a lack of ambition. Instead it is a result of a steady trust in God that if circumstances block us from being able to have more, we can have complete peace, knowing that God will provide our needs. That kind of trust in the face of problems diffuses all the attacks of the devil that stir up anxiety and fear in times of need. Obviously as Paul was in prison, he had no way to work to earn a living and buy his basic necessities. But he chose to trust that God would provide, and because of that contentment and assurance, God really did come through for him with the generosity of the church.
As we have read before in many other passages, God expects us to rise up and fight against evil, against destruction and pain in our lives and families. Being bold and determined in our faith meshes perfectly with this spiritual contentment. As the miracles and answers we seek are being worked out by God’s power, we are to trust in God, so that even before we see our answer, we are certain that He is doing what we cannot. And if there is any way that we can be a part of the fulfillment of our prayers, we should be quick to act. If we are sick, we take action to both pray and consult our doctors, and if we are unemployed, we actively search for a job, while simultaneously trusting, being content, and certain that the answers to our prayers are ours.
Paul had more reason than any of us to be anxious and even to doubt God. Shipwrecked, beaten, arrested, hated, stoned, imprisoned for his faith – none of us have come close to those kinds of problems. But though he was imprisoned, he was still able to joyfully say, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." When we learn to live without anxiety and trust that God will come through for us, we take a short-cut to our miracles, and conserve a lot of energy otherwise wasted on panic and fear. We can’t afford to give away all that energy to the devil any more! Let’s learn to both fight and simultaneously be contented in His supernatural peace.