Philippians 4:11-13 :
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
–Written by the apostle Paul when he was in prison
What does it mean to be content?
Vocabulary.com says “satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are.”
Let’s be honest, it’s easy to be content when we get what we want. When the job promotion comes, when we get the engagement ring, the new baby is born, or when we travel to an amazing destination- these are all great moments in life- which naturally cause us to feel satisfied! But the thing about these moments, is that they are temporary. And just as easily as God blesses us with things, is as easy as He can take it away. The Bible says “He gives and takes away”( paraphrase Job 1:21).
I am not saying that you shouldn’t feel content when things go your way. God created us with human emotions/feelings. I am sure that God delights when we are content, just like a mother delights in seeing a smile on her child’s face. However, the issue comes when we feel we can ONLY be content when we are experiencing positive circumstances in our lives. When we feel that way, it breeds discontentment in the seasons of our lives when we do NOT get what we want. It can even make us feel as though God’s favor is over our lives ONLY when good things are happening.
We can learn from the book of Genesis, that God’s favor was always over Joseph’s life. From a young age, he was the favorite son of his father. Yet Joseph endured tremendous amounts of suffering. Sold by his very own brothers and then later thrown into jail after false accusations, he went through many years of trials before God allowed Him to exit from jail and become second in command over Egypt. Joseph went through many different seasons, but in each one God’s hand was over His life. No matter where Joseph was, he worked hard, he advanced, remained faithful to God, and the Lord elevated him in due time.
I am sure Joseph was not happy all the time going through his trials, but he had to have faith that God was working on something greater in His life than just what his eyes could currently see. He had to have hope that God was going to work it all out for His good. When we begin to hold onto faith, our attitude begins to change. We can be content going through the fires of life because we know that God is faithful and He is with us. It is during times of intense trial that we are called to activate our faith. The Bible teaches us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 to “..walk by faith, not by sight.”
We can also take comfort in the Scripture that says-
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
Where do you find yourself today? Are you at a job you hate? Are people gossiping about you? Perhaps you have been through a recent heartbreak, or a death in the family. You may be discouraged because you didn’t get the promotion you wanted, or you don’t have the husband you wanted or the beautiful house. Maybe you are struggling with your finances, or you are missing something that you believe you really need right now. Or it could even be that you have everything you have ever wanted, yet still feel unsatisfied!
Let me assure you- whatever the situation is, you can be content! Let’s go back to discussing Paul- if he could be content while he was alone in prison, then contentment is not far from you!
What was the secret Paul spoke of? One word: Christ.
It was Christ who was with him in that prison. It was Christ who was inspiring all the letters Paul was writing to encourage others. Can you imagine being in a prison cell and having the strength to inspire others? That is not something natural. Only the power of Christ could compel someone to do that!
You see, Paul lived two lives. During the first part of his life, Paul knew what it was like to be financially well, to have high status and power. Yet when he gave his life to Christ, Paul began to suffer. Paul was beaten, shipwrecked, went hungry, and came to the end of himself. Paul lived his life coinciding the scripture in which Jesus says,
“Anyone who comes after me must deny themselves and follow me. For anyone who desires to save their life will lose it- but anyone who loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Paul lost many things, but gained Christ through it all. I want to encourage you today to to let Christ be your secret in finding contentment! No matter what situation you face, allow me to assure you that God is at work in your life. Through the good days and bad days, through the mountaintop experiences and the valleys, let His presence make you content. When your eyes are on Him and when you choose to trust Him, you will be satisfied. When you realize that He is all you have, you begin to learn that He is all you need.
Whether that boyfriend leaves you, you lose your job, or your children become rebellious and drive you crazy… You can stand and say “I am content in Christ”. Why? Because you have Him. He is constant, stable, never changing. Circumstances may change, your emotions will change, but He never will. Let Him be your rock.
This is a tough lesson to learn, and it is one I have been learning how to practice in my own life. I believe a big part of it is to not let your attitude be dictated by your circumstances and emotions. Of course God gave us emotions and I’m not saying you should be a robot, but learn to submit your emotions to Christ and give Him full reign over your circumstances. Let Him teach you whatever He is trying to teach you through your trials and tribulations. Trust that He is faithful. He is with you in the storm, He is with you when everyone else leaves you, He is there for you and understands you the way nobody else on this earth can.
His help is available for you at this very moment, as He is waiting for you to let him be on the throne of your life so that you can truly experience what I’m writing about today. Let Him be the one you cling to in order to find the contentment your soul so desperately needs and desires.