Paul’s Secret of Contentment
In the time and context that we American Christians find ourselves in, contentment can be a difficult quality to cultivate. This is not due to a lack of material possessions; it is quite the opposite. Christians today, especially those living in 1st world countries, have an abundance of material possessions, technologies, pleasures, comforts, doodads, and thingamajigs. In fact, the average American has 300,000 objects in their home. The unique challenge we find ourselves in is having the ability to say, “no more”, or “I have everything I need”, or “I am content”. It should not be surprising to Christians that the bible presents contentment, or the lack thereof, as a spiritual issue, not a material issue. In the Christian worldview, to be content is to be satisfied with the providence of God. To be discontent, therefore, is not only to make a statement about your possessions or circumstances (i.e.: “I don’t have enough”, or “my life needs to be better”); it is to make a statement about God (i.e.: “God has not given me enough” or “God should make my life better”). When we see contentment in this light, we realize that it truly is a troubling sin. How then can we fight against discontentment? What antidote could possibly be administered to root out our voracious desire for more and more? Hear what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13;
for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul knows the secret. He knows the secret to be content in every circumstance, whether high or low. That secret is his relationship with Christ. Paul is content in spite of all that he lacks and all that he suffers only because it is Jesus who strengthens him. To put it plainly, Paul is content with Christ first. Paul has drunk from the streams of living water. He has been rescued by Christ, joined to Him by faith, and has received all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realm through Christ. Paul can honestly say that because he has Christ he has everything he could ever want.
What about you? Do you struggle with being content? Do you feel overwhelmed by a desire to have more stuff, and better circumstances? We all struggle with this sin to some degree and the secret solution is the same for each one of us. We must first be content with Christ. Christ is not like a Christmas gift that brings only momentary satisfaction but quickly passes. Christ is the everlasting source of satisfaction for his people. Christ calls us to come to him and drink when he says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” (John 4:14)