Before delving into verses 11-13 of Philippians 4, notice the temperament of this epistle. This can suitably be labeled an epistle of joy. Music wrote,
The word translated joy is found seven times in three chapters (Philippians 1:4, 25; 2:2, 17, 18, 29; 4:1), and the word translated rejoice is found nine times in four chapters (Philippians 1:18; 2:17-18,28; 3:1; 4:4,10). Therefore, in this book of four chapters, the words joy and rejoice are found a total of sixteen times. These sixteen times refer both to the joy of Paul, as well as to the joy that he would inspirit and inspire in the hearts and souls of his readers (Goebel Music, “PAUL'S THANKSGIVING FOR THEIR SUPPORT” in STUDIES IN PHILIPPIANS AND COLOSSIANS, ed. Dub McClish, (Denton, TX: Valid Publications, Inc., 2000), 105).
There is an undeniable emphasis upon joy, and there is hardly any rebuke contained within this letter. Paul knew the source of joy, and being in bonds did not rob him of his joy (Philippians 1:7, 13, 16). With the previous thoughts in mind, contemplate verses 11-13.
DECLARATION (v. 11)
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 (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Earlier in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Paul said “light affliction!” Why would he say “light affliction” in light of what he endured? Keep that question in mind. Can a man who endured such really be content? Think about that.
SITUATION (v. 12).
The verb is memuemai, the perfect tense, passive voice form of mueo. This term has an interesting background. Many scholars believe it has a pagan history, being used of the initiation rites into the ancient “mystery religions.” It thus may suggest that which is not commonly known (how few know real contentment); possibly it implies that a difficult process has been endured. Hendriksen notes, however, that it is not necessary to suppose that Paul borrowed the word from the “mystery cults.” To the apostle “a mystery is truth which, had it not been for special divine revelation, would not have been known. The passive voice of the verb would suggest that the “learning” or “instruction” came from a source outside of Paul (namely the Providential events that had shaped his ministry) (Jackson, 152).
The secret is revealed in the following verse.