“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 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. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-13 NKJV
When is the last time you saw a commercial on the television? Maybe it was an advertisement on a billboard, or a popup on your computer? Ads on your i-phone? It would appear to me that we live in a world seemingly driven by discontentment. What exactly do I mean by that? Consider the effort and expense taken by the world to convince us that we need something we do not have, and that our life is somehow incomplete unless we do whatever we can to fill that need. The result is a world where everyone is consumed by the desire to acquire whatever it is that we feel can make our life complete, rather than being content with what we have.
Have you ever had occasion to meet or know someone you would characterize as discontented? If so, think for a minute about why exactly you came to that conclusion. Are there certain characteristics about them that cause you to believe they fall into that category? As I studied this passage, and the subject of contentment, it occurred to me that there are at least three evidences of a discontented life which I believe are a common denominator which we can look for when describing a life without contentment. These would be unhappiness, fearfulness, and contentiousness. Unhappy because the focus is on what they do not have, fearful because they are afraid of losing what they already have, and contentious because their focus is on this life and all that they feel they must have.
As I looked at these verses from Philippians, it also occurred to me that if anyone had justification to be discontented with their own situation, it was Paul. He is sitting in prison with nothing but the clothes on his back, and a very uncertain future staring him in the face. Yet in spite of sitting in a prison cell, chained up, poorly fed, and wondering if he is going to live or die, rather than complaining he shares the secret of a contented life which all of us should strive to adopt. In just three short verses Paul shares with the church at Philippi, and us as well, three ways he and all other believers in the body of Christ can be content with the life we have been given.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.”
Paul had a connection with the body of Christ. He was in touch with the church at Philippi and they were doing what they could to support him. Although there had been a period of time where they could not, he knew they still cared and wanted to help and support him. The result was that Paul was in his own words, “rejoicing”. Paul was happy! He knew that rather than being alone in his suffering, he was part of the body of Christ and his relationship with the believers in the church was producing happiness. Do you want to live a life of contentment and joy? Be sure you have a connection with God’s people.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 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.”
As a believer, Paul was well aware that God was in charge of the circumstances of his life. Although appreciative of the support he was receiving, he makes the point that he really didn’t need anything. I think it very important to note that he says he has “learned” to be content. Paul had lived a very eventful life up to this point, and had experienced highs and lows that we can only imagine. Yet as he looks back, he acknowledges that God has always been with him and provided for his needs. Are you content with what God has chosen to give you? Have you ever considered that as believers, if we have the idea we need something we don’t already have, we are in effect saying God is falling down on the job? Paul is telling us to learn to be content with what God has provided.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Have you ever really thought long and hard about this verse? How different would the body of Christ be, how powerful would the Church be, if every believer claimed and lived this statement Paul makes? No matter what our shortcomings, failures, or mistakes may be, our confidence should be in God’s power and not our own. Rather than basing contentment on what we are able to do by our own efforts, Paul tells us that the real secret to living a life of contentment is relying on God to provide all that we need knowing that by His strength there is nothing that can stand in our way. Our focus in life should always be to seek out what God would have us to do by His power and might rather than seeking to fulfill our own desires by our own efforts.
Discontented people are unhappy, fearful, and contentious. All because they believe that the life they have is a result of their own efforts, and their focus is always on protecting what they have and the desire to have more. I think the real question Paul asks us all in these verses is this; is Christ just a part of your life, or is He the center of your life?
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV
A life of contentment is one of joy and peace, and it only comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Connect with other believers, be happy with what God chooses to provide, and rely on God’s strength to see you through.