‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’ (Phil. 4:11)
In today’s world, contentment is hard to find and even harder to keep. How did Paul do it? Is it even achievable for us today, where materially so much more is available to us?
Notice that Paul said he had learned to be content. It’s not instantly attainable; this is something that takes time, effort, and patience. He had first-hand experience of ‘living in plenty or in want’, and recognised the potential pitfalls in both (check out Hosea 13:6 and Psalm 77:6-9).
If we’re finding our satisfaction in our relationship with, and identity in, Christ, this will shine out of us to others, impacting our relationships in such a way that others will see Christ in us, and God will be glorified as the source of our contentment.
But how did Paul learn this? What is ‘the secret of being content’? The answer is in v13: ‘I can do all this through [Christ] who gives me strength’. It’s only through a meaningful relationship with Jesus that we can find lasting satisfaction (see John 6:35), and that gives us the strength to face, and be content in, all circumstances. Plus, the more we get to know Christ, the more we’ll align our thinking to his, and the fewer unnecessary and ungodly desires we’ll have.
When discussing faith on a recent work trip, a non-Christian colleague commented that he admired his Christian friends for always seeming to be content with what they had. If we’re finding our satisfaction in our relationship with, and identity in, Christ, this will shine out of us to others, impacting our relationships in such a way that others will see Christ in us, and God will be glorified as the source of our contentment.
We find this in Hebrews 13:5-6: ‘…be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”’ And what is our outward response, our natural, God-glorifying reply to such a wonderful promise? ‘So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.”’
Read more in Philippians 4:11-12
Katie Udoh, The Church of God in Manchester