“Whatever” is often a phrase heard by attitude driven teenage girls who model their lives after a devious mix of Mean Girls and Lady Gaga. When posed with a situation when one of these tweeners must make a decision that demands responsibility or effort, in order to sound more important than the question or situation, she answers with a nasal response such as, “Whaaateverrr.” However, I think this seemingly mindless word “whatever” is quite the opposite from its popular use today. “Whatever” takes on a meaning completely opposite from its current use and the contrast is striking. “Whatever” today implying “nothing matters because I am more important,” as opposed to the Biblical usage of the word “whatever” meaning “nothing matters because Christ is more important.” These definitions are my own and the way I have seen it in the scripture but I think you will see what I mean as I further explain myself.
Paul mentions this idea in Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Again in Philippians 4:11
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Paul shows his contentment with this word “whatever.” He says further on that he has been brought low and yet he knows how to abound but that in any and every situation or circumstance, he has learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger or abundance and need. (4:12)
Paul had learned how to be content. He had learned it is Christ who supplies all his needs. If God cares for the lilies of the field and provides food for the sparrows how much more will he care for Paul and you? However, Paul’s contentment did not cause him to sit around and meditate in a zen-like state humming with a bunch of bald monks. No, on the contrary, he acted using contentment as his support system for what may befall his actions.
You see, contentment supports action. Christ was the most important thing to Paul. Christ was everything to him. Therefore, all other things, however important and sentimental they may be, were by the definition of the word, second. Christ was to come first and therefore whatever difficulty or trial that may arise was “whatever” in comparison to glorifying Christ.
Paul then could write Phil. 4:13 with confidence because Christ was first and he was content serving Him in whatever situation that may be. (This also happens to be the theme verse of Dublin Christian Academy. I recently heard Sam Wulbrandt share a misconception of this verse. This verse is commonly taken out of context and away from its meaning of contentment not necessarily empowerment to attain superhuman strength.)
Paul shows his confidence in this belief Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
How could Paul say that? Really? All things? Does this mean I can pick up a car with one hand and throw it into the ocean if I want to? No. I can do all things (or whatever) because I am content with any state Christ will put me in because He is the MOST IMPORTANT thing in my life. Therefore, whether sickness and storms, whether pain and sorrow, whether success or failure, I can do it all because Christ gives me strength to do so. I may still feel pain but the pain is bearable because I am content in His success. For as Desiring God Ministries says so often and pointedly summarizes Paul’s theme, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
- Righteousness and Religion (hipfellows.wordpress.com)
- Getting into Philippians 1:1-5 (radiqx.com)
- God will supply all your needs (lmurray68.wordpress.com)
- The Story Behind Philippians and Philemon (mgriffinrobert.com)