Often, we think that contentment comes from what we have. We might even say, “If I just had this, then I would be content.” Or “If I were a bit more intelligent,” or “If I were a bit better looking,” or “If I were a little more successful,” or “If I had a bit more money, then . . .” It’s a never-ending pursuit of something that is always just beyond our grasp.
Yet in Philippians 4, the apostle Paul revealed the secret of contentment. He said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (verses 12–13 NIV).
Paul was in prison when he made that statement. He didn’t receive his contentment from a theory in a classroom; it was from the school of life. He had experienced pleasure and pain, health and sickness, strength and weakness, wealth and poverty. To some, he was a hero, and to others, he was a villain. But he was someone who had found complete contentment.
Interestingly, Paul used the word “learned.” He had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” In the original language, it was a word the pagans generally used at the time to refer to some special attainment or an initiation into some hidden truth.
He used their word to essentially say, “I’ve found the hidden truth. I’ve found the secret of contentment.”
What’s more, the word Paul used for “content” means “self-sufficient.” Therefore, in the context of this epistle, Paul was speaking of sufficiency in Christ. He was saying, “It doesn’t matter where I am. I am content. I can be at the bottom of the bottom and be content there because it is all about my relationship with God.”
Contentment isn’t based on what we have; it is based on who we know. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you’ ” (NLT).
We often will quote the latter part of that verse, but let’s also consider the entire statement. God is saying, “Be satisfied with what you have because I never will fail you or abandon you.”
God will be with us no matter what we face in life. That is a great assurance. That is where we find our contentment.
As the psalmist David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (Psalm 23:1 NLT). If the Lord really is your Shepherd, then you will find satisfaction and fulfillment in Him. Therefore, if God blesses you with a lot, thank Him. And if you don’t have as much as you would like, recognize that your contentment comes from a relationship with Him.
Paul’s contentment came because of his close and intimate fellowship with Jesus. This lifted him above his circumstances and gave him the strength to deal with whatever came his way.
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