“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Paul turned to how he coped with the extremities of his life. He knew how to be “abased,” and he knew how to “abound.” He was prepared for any circumstance that might come his way.
“I know how to be abased”
There are two “I know” phrases. Paul learned how to live in extremities. He adjusted to either with equal composure. This composure came through knowledge—“know.” He knew God’s mind on how to handle adversity. He knew how to cope with setbacks. The word “abased” means to run low as a falling river in a draught. Paul knew what it was like to be without food or clothing. He knew what it was like to go bankrupt. He knew plenty of adversity. This is abasement caused by want. He understood what it was like to be financially disgraced.
“Abased” is in the present tense, which means he knew what it was like to be in a state of degradation.
“and I know how to abound”
The word “abound” means overflow. At times it conveyed the idea of extreme wealth or abundance. It means to be highly successful. It requires as much spiritual maturity to handle abundance as to handle poverty. It takes a steady hand to carry a full cup. When we are rich, we don’t need anything. When we are rich, we pray very little.
Paul learned maturity in prosperity. He knew what it was like to be extremely successful. Yet he handled it well. When others express their admiration for you, does your ego pick this up? When others recognize your accomplishments, can you put yourself in balance? Can you keep your mind focused on the Lord?
David was an example of a person who did not handle prosperity very well. At the zenith of his success, he came crashing down to defeat. At the pinnacle of his military victories, he fell into adultery (2 Sam 11-13).
Knowledge is a prerequisite to properly handling both adversity and prosperity.
Very few of us know how to “abound.” When we have a success, do we parade it? Do we laud our promotion to a person who has just lost his job?