“...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
Here is the sentiment of a man who knows Christ and has walked with Him. Paul did not write these words as he wrote from a beach home in the Carribean while sipping iced tea. He was writing this letter from house-arrest in Rome, not knowing if his impending trial would mean a death sentence or more time to live. As Christians, we often stand in admiration of such a spirit, but struggle to live it out. What are some Biblical principles that can help us:
Contentment is not based on circumstances. “When I finally get that car or live in that neighborhood, or things just start going more like I want...then I'll find contentment.” This sentiment is an elusive deception. Our human natures are always craving something else! Covetous desire won't die off when we get one thing we've craved. We have to be honest with ourselves, and remind ourselves of this truth over and over. It can save us a lot of heartache. Contentment is not based on positive circumstances, but on a Person.
The contented heart is focused on Christ. In this same chapter, Paul speaks of rejoicing always in the Lord. In chapter 1 of the same book, Paul said his life was Christ (1:21). In chapter 2, Paul exhorted the saints to live like Christ, focused on serving God and others, rather than being self-absorbed. In chapter 3, Paul spoke of valuing Christ far above anything else. The more our hearts are dominated by Christ like this, the more uncomfortable discontentment will be in our hearts. Are you focused on Christ? Is He your joy and treasure? Do you think and live like Christ, seeking to serve others?
Contentment is possible even when times are hard. This is easy to say, but hard to live. But, here is a good question when facing a disappointment or challenge: Can I still have joy in Christ even though...?(Fill in the blank with whatever challenge you're facing). This should be freeing to the believer. You can still rejoice in the love and grace of Christ even when your work week has been chaotic, stressful and draining. You can still rejoice in God's faithfulness even when you're sick. You can thank God for the eternal riches He has given you in Christ, even when you can't afford to buy that thing you've really been wanting. The contented soul can even rejoice when there is great tribulation (Rom. 5:3-5), because there is knowledge that God is using these trials to purify us and develop our Christian character.
That this is not easy, we readily admit. But, in this context of contentment, Paul uttered those famous and encouraging words in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me.” Rely on Him for help. Ask Him to give you a contented spirit, and as you ask, seek to live out these principles. May our prayer be, “Father, give me more of Christ.”