Are we CULTIVATING a LIFESTYLE of CONTENTMENT? “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.” (Phil. 4:11-13)
When Apostle Paul was penning this epistle to the Philippian believers, he was incarcerated in a Roman prison awaiting trial, and possibly a death sentence. In fact, he was literally in chains - being attached to a Roman soldier, and confined in a dingy cell. He was restricted by the four walls and a closed metal door. He was also afflicted by some malicious activities of other believers (1:15-16) and conflicted by danger all around (1:21). However, the scriptural passage for today reveals that Paul had learned to be content in whatever situation that he was in - one step at a time - until he could be satisfied even in the most uncomfortable environments (v. 11). He had learned to accept whatever came his way (v. 12), to receive them with thanks whatever assistance he received (vv. 14-18), and to recognize that it was God who supplied all that he needed (v. 19). Paul had truly learnt to trust God and be content!
Paul had known first-hand the privileges of prominence in the Jewish community and due to the fact that he was a Roman citizen (3:4–6; Acts 22:3–5, 25–29; 26:4–5). On the other hand, he had suffered extraordinary hardships in his work compounded by both emotional and spiritual disappointments and setbacks (2 Cor. 11:23–33). However, Paul looked to Christ to satisfy his needs. His sufficiency was in Christ, whose peace and purpose he enjoyed regardless of life’s circumstances (2 Cor. 3:5; 9:9; 12:9). Paul was totally independent of people because he was totally dependent upon the strength of Christ (v. 13). He was a victor over every circumstance as he had adjusted so well to God’s will in his life. Thus, relying on Christ’s power and following His example (2:5; 3:10), Paul was able to face all circumstances with contentment (vv. 6, 7, 19).
Contentment is not possessing everything but giving thanks for everything we possess. In this materialistic world that we live today, we can see the sign of discontentment everywhere. A good place to check this out is by visiting the shopping outlets especially on a day when items go on sale (e.g. black Friday - the day after thanksgiving – in the United States). The mad scramble of shoppers to pick up goods (that they may or may not need) shows the level of discontentment everywhere. People everywhere are running this rat race with no end in sight just motivated by the sheer greed of having more than what they need and do not yet possess.
True contentment is not dependent on anything in this world; rather, we can be content when we have more of Christ in our lives. Many times we look around for more as what we have is never enough. We need the power of Christ to break this cycle (v. 11). It requires a lot of practice to learn how to be content, but Christ is the answer to our ultimate satisfaction from the deepest level of the soul (v. 13). Christ will strengthen us to endure lean times and avoid the pitfalls of abundance and over-indulgence in luxury (see Luke 12:16–21). On the other hand, failures and disappointments can draw us away from trusting in the God who cares (Luke 12:22–34). We should allow Christ to supply our every need, and not fret, fume or be anxious for the earthly things that can never truly satisfy us.
Let us be convinced today that we can only find godly contentment in Jesus Christ! Let us choose to be content in all circumstances since our contentment should be based solely upon our relationship with Christ. Let us know and believe that Christ will enable us to do anything He asks of us, for nothing is impossible for him/her who believes! Charles W. Koller has remarked that through Christ we can be what we ought to be (Phil. 4:11), do what we ought to do (v. 13), and have what we ought to have (v. 19), all to the glory of God!
As our relationship with Christ develops over time and through life experiences, we can learn to trust God more and ourselves less. We can then give thanks to God in everything for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us (1 Thess. 5:18). Let us cultivate a lifestyle of contentment as we move forward in our life’s journey!