“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity, in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.”——-Philippians 4:10-14
One of the hardest things to do for each of us is to find contentment. Our culture begs for us to always be wanting more. And when there is so much pressure to be chasing after the next job, more money, and extra stuff, it is difficult to ever get to a place of contentment. What we need to have is a proper focus on the Lord and a Biblical perspective in our lives if we are to truly find fulfillment.
I always find the last few months of the year intriguing. With Thanksgiving and Christmas, times when we should be celebrating all that God has done and provided for us, they have continued to turn into a time of scrambling and chaos. When observing our own propensities toward going along with the crowds, let alone what we see in other people, we often find ourselves fighting to not be distracted and falling into the world’s ways. But it is good for us to recognize these temptations and make sure that we are grounded all the more in the Lord.
It seems that at the heart of all the discontentment in people’s lives is that their identities are not found in Jesus. This is the same pull that also happens to each of us if we aren’t careful. When we begin to lose sight of what is truly important, our priorities begin to shift and we find ourselves caught up in many different things. For some this can be a popular social status, for some this can be relationships, for others this can simply be houses, cars, or any of the other things people place a high value upon. But as we said, at the core, it is a discontentment of not finding our true identity in the Lord throughout each day.
What is disturbing is that in the downward spiral of pursuing the things of this world, people will often go to all sorts lengths to get what they perceive will bring them contentment. This tends to involve spending all the money people may have, but even beyond. It is amazing that when you take a look around, all the things people think they “need”. And most people think they “need” it all. So personal debt, as well as corporate and United States national debt, reflect the deeper issue that anyone and everyone tries to defend having all these things is necessary; even if this means putting it on credit or taking loans well beyond their means.
The problem doesn’t just stop there. People’s self importance is often wrapped up, not just by what they have, but also as a means of trying to impress others. The mindset is that if we can just “fit in”, then people will like us. Take for example some of the different social groups people join. If you run in the right circles, then it can give you access to opportunities you might not have had otherwise. These might be promotions in a career field or events, entertainment, or other special perks. But in order to remain a part of these groups, it usually means paying a certain price or obtaining the right lifestyle. Even the concept of networking has become a means of personal gain and self esteem. But I digress.
In Philippians 4, Paul is writing to explain and exhort in the area of need, fulfillment, and contentment. It is quite humbling to see that in all circumstances, Paul says that he has learned to be content. Paul finds this contentment in being in need as well as in having abundance. What Paul reveals is that the process of finding contentment was found solely in the Lord. And this contentment didn’t just happen overnight, but was something that he had to “learn”. This learning to be content in all circumstances meant that Paul had to look beyond his current situation and keep his faith and trust in the Lord despite his changing physical means.
For us, this is no different. In order to learn contentment ourselves, we must have an eternal perspective and not simply an earthly perspective. In other words, the only way to find true contentment and peace is viewing our lives, jobs, money, houses, cars, and all our stuff, as God would have us see it. And when we see that all these things fail in the light of knowing Christ, the things we pursue in this world become less important and we begin to worry about them far less.
I think all of us have had an experience at some point in life that reminds us that things can change instantly. Health can deteriorate quickly, jobs can be lost, houses and the things we own can be destroyed through various means. But the only constant is our faith and relationship with the Lord. In Him alone is the only way to know lasting contentment.
When we make the Lord our priority each day, we humble ourselves and give ourselves over to working hard to be good stewards of the things God has given to us. We shift our thinking to knowing that everything we have been provided is from the Lord and we intend to use these things as such. It isn’t just for personal gain, but how best we can live for the Lord. This sounds easy, but the reality is that it is not. That is why it takes us learning to be content in all circumstances and trusting that we don’t have to continually pursue the things the world says are important.
So as we continue to enter this busy season and beyond, I hope that this might be a good reminder that we are finding ourselves growing content in all our circumstances. May we evaluate how and what we are pursuing and make sure that we don’t fall into the traps that Satan and the world try to entice us with. Let us be good stewards of all that God has given us and praise Him evermore for all He has done and continues to do in and through our lives.