We tend to think that contentment comes from what we have. If I just had more money, then I would be content. . . . If I were a bit more intelligent. . . . If I were more good looking. . . . If I were a little more successful. . . . If I had more ministry opportunities. . . . It’s a never-ending pursuit of something that is always just beyond our grasp.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).
Paul was in prison when he made that statement. He didn’t receive his contentment out of a theory in a classroom; it was from the school of life, the school of hard knocks. He had experienced pain and pleasure, health and sickness, weakness and strength, wealth and poverty. He was a hero to some and a villain to others. And he was a man who had found complete contentment.
It’s interesting that Paul used the term learned: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” In the original language, this word for learned was generally used by the pagans at the time to speak of some special attainment or of having been initiated into a hidden truth. Paul was saying, “Check this out! I’ve been initiated. I have found the hidden truth. I have found the secret of contentment.”
The word Paul used for content is important as well. It means self-sufficient. In the context of this epistle, it speaks of a sufficiency in Jesus Christ. Paul was saying, in effect, “It doesn’t matter where I am. I am content.” It was all about his relationship with God.
Our contentment does not come from what we have; it comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.