Elusive Contentment

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 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. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. (Philippians 4:10–14)

We know the contentment Paul is talking about in Philippians 4: salvation through Jesus Christ. How does this help us face today’s challenges?

Paul commended the Philippians for “shar(ing) in my troubles” (4:14). He was glad that they were able to do so (4:10). His joy was not in having his troubles relieved but that they could act to relieve his troubles. They could demonstrate love, and that pleased Paul.

Paul writes that despite his troubles, he was content. It didn’t matter if he was well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. In fact, he went as far as to say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Think about that for a moment.

It was not a question of having just enough, doing just OK, being able to get by with a little, or just not having high ambitions. Paul found contentment in both the best and the worst of times because his standard for contentment was literally “out of this world.” God, in Christ, called Paul heavenward (3:14).

This is a world heavily damaged by sin and heavily influenced by evil. Even the inclinations of our hearts take us down the wrong roads (Genesis 8:21). Yet, whether we bring havoc on ourselves, or it visits us through outside forces, we have in Christ the sole reason to be content, to endure, to survive, to get by. Our sights are set heavenward. It compelled Paul to write:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Now apply this reality to issues in the news stories of today. Why would people insist that God creating life in the womb (Deuteronomy 32:39; Nehemiah 9:6) is something they can terminate through induced abortion or chemicals? Why would people choose to take risks and make physical and hormonal changes to who they are? It is because people seek contentment in a damaged world that can never give them what they want. Contentment will always be just out of reach.

Seeking contentment in this world often comes at a great price and is always short-lived. Unborn children need protection from those things which would kill them. Others need protection from misinformed judgments. Everyone needs to hear the Gospel.


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