Philippians 4:10b-13 - 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 be in plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in 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.
Contentment is not something to which we naturally excel. The Best Buy "Buy Back" commercial brilliantly illustrates the point. We cannot be happy with one piece of technology before something else becomes available and then we simply MUST HAVE IT! For those of us who are not technologically savvy, it applies in many other cases: clothes, purses, shoes, houses, jobs, etc. The "dream job" that you once had now seems like a prison. The "prince charming" you married has turned into the repulsive frog. And you wonder, who is doing all of this transforming?!? A lot of the responsibility might belong to you.
The Apostle Paul knew a lot about living in the not most welcome situations. 2 Corinthians 11:23b-28 gives a list of his perils:
1. Has Been in prison
2. Has Been flogged
3. Has Been exposed to death again and again
4. Five times he received the forty lashes minus one (what Christ received before the crucifixion)
5. Three times beaten with rods
6. Once stoned
7. Three times shipwreck, spending one night in the open sea
8. Constantly on the move
9. Danger from rivers
10. Danger from bandits
11. Danger from fellow Jews
12. Danger from Gentiles
13. Danger in the city
14. Danger in the country
15. Danger at sea
16. Danger from false believers
17. Has Labored and Toiled
18. Has Often Gone without Sleep
19. Has known Hunger and Thirst
20. Has Gone without Food
21. Has Been Cold and Naked
22. Pressure of His Concern for the Churches
While these calamities would crush most people, Paul remained steadfast. He recognized that it was through his human weakness that Christ was able to be seen. The word used for "content" was a word used to describe someone who, through personal discipline, did not rely on circumstances for their comfort, but used personal resources in order to survive whatever situations they encountered (Hawthorne, Philippians, 266). However, Paul declares that it is not self-sufficiency that brings him contentment. Verse 13 gives the sources of his resolve. He states, "I am able to accomplish all things through the one who empowers me." (Cortney Standard Version). The means in which Paul is able to endure the bad and stay humble in the good is Christ. Therefore Christ is the source of ability and ultimately the source of contentment.
Throughout the next several posts, we are going to look at contentment. The Challenge today is to look at where you are at as far as being content. Are you relying on your circumstances to feed how comfortable you feel about life, or does your satisfaction depend on your relationship with Christ? Paul stated that he learned to be content, recognizing that it was a process. We will take some time to examine what that process might look like. Begin to pray that God will continue to stretch you as you trust him more.