I have learned to be content
I have learned to be content in any circumstance. – Philippians 4:11
10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me.
11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
We’ve all been there at one time or another. Our consumer-driven society encourages the acquisition of things, activities, gadgets, the latest and greatest in ever-increasing amounts. Consequently, we experience a nagging feeling that what we have is not quite enough. If only we had just a little bit more. We have so much to be thankful for, yet it is never enough.
But more externals do not provide lasting contentment.
Of course, we can experience greater satisfaction by making some life changes, but the easiest way to be content with our life is to modify our perspective and transform our reactions. We can learn to appreciate what we have.
Reflect upon the times when you have felt truly satisfied. What caused you to feel that way? Often, a sense of well-being comes when your environment is just the way you want it. But that was not the case with Paul. He learned to be content in every circumstance, good or bad.
None of us can avoid every difficult situation. Paul certainly did not. He did however discover how to face hardship and difficulty with a tranquil and settled spirit. He overcame his natural propensity to be frustrated and anxious. Here are some key lessons.
Contentment is not governed by external circumstances. Changing the situation may bring temporary relief, but satisfaction based on circumstances will always be sporadic and fleeting. It is a matter of how you think, not what you have.
Contentment flows from an inward attitude. The apostle’s inner calm came from a mind set on the Lord Jesus Christ. Choosing to trust the Savior no matter what, Paul allowed the Holy Spirit within him to rule his emotions and shape his responses.
Contentment is learned experientially. This is not something you can acquire from a book or sermon, because it’s a process that must be lived out. Paul learned contentment in persecution, suffering, and prison. The Father used every difficulty to transform him (Stanley).
Many situations in life can easily cause irritation, disappointment, and anxiety. Ironically, these are the very things that the Father uses to develop contentment in us. Discontentment is like a lawnmower, eventually, it runs out of gas. Sooner or later we finally become fed up with grumbling, discontent, and dissatisfaction. At that point, we are ready to let the Father teach us His new way of living “in joyous trust” (Stanley).
REFLECT & PRAY
Contentment flows from an inward attitude. It is not based on outward circumstances.
Father grant me the wisdom to learn to respond with tranquility and calmness to the vagaries of life. Teach me the secret of undergoing life’s difficulties entrusting myself to You for the inner strength, peace, and contentment that only You provide.
What is contentment and how do we acquire it?
Contentment is not automatic. It does not just happen. It is a skill for living that is learned. It begins with our response to the vicissitudes of life. We choose to accept and be satisfied with whatever comes our way.
The Greek word translated content is autarkes. Autarkes means to be satisfied or to show satisfaction with things just as they are. It means to find contentment independent of external circumstances. For Paul contentment comes from complete readiness to accept whatever the Father gives without complaining, becoming upset or angry (NIDNTT).
When we start a new job or project, various skills, techniques, activities, and procedures have to be learned. Once we master the basics, we learn how to apply them effectively across a wide spectrum of circumstances. The more circumstances we face, the more proficient we become and our skill set grows. Contentment develops in much the same way. It is our “on-the-job” reactions to the ebb and flow of everyday life.
Oh, how difficult it is to truly be content no matter what. Yet, that is exactly what Paul had achieved.
“Paul had learned to be content and to rejoice regardless of his physical circumstances. Such contentment is not a natural gift” (Constable).
An excellent illustration of contentment is the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer. “A thermometer doesn’t change anything around it – it just registers the temperature. It’s always going up and down. But a thermostat regulates the surroundings and changes them when they need to be changed.”
“The Apostle Paul was a thermostat. Instead of having spiritual ups and downs as the situation changed, he went right on, steadily doing his work and serving . . .. he was not the victim of circumstances but the victor over circumstances” (Wiersbe).
What a remarkable attitude Paul developed. Paul found his contentment in the spiritual resources abundantly provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. He had learned the secret of allowing the Father to energize and empower him from within. As a result, Paul’s remarkable attitude was I can accept all things, I can do all things, I have all things (Philippians 4:11, 13, 18) (Wiersbe).