Learning to be content

Are you content?

Truly content?

Some of you didn’t sleep well last night, or perhaps your back is killing you.

Are you content?

You might have a teenager who’s questioning everything you say and do, and the constant conflict is about to make you lose your mind.

It’s mid-December, and you’re nervous about having enough money to buy the gifts you need to buy and still have enough to pay January’s mortgage . . .

Real contentment is elusive, isn’t it?

How can I relax when I’ve got all this to worry about?

I love the apostle Paul, but sometimes his level of commitment seems almost out of reach.

Here is one of those passages. By the way, as you read this, remember that Paul is writing from a Roman jail—not exactly the best of circumstances. (In comparison, I’m writing this while sitting in a comfortable chair in a climate-controlled room . . .)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, 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 (Philippians 4:10-13).

The church at Philippi had sent Paul a gift, and part of the purpose of this letter is to thank them for it.

But he wants to be clear: he’s fine if he receives gifts, and he’s fine if he doesn’t.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m in prison I’d much prefer receiving gifts over not getting them.

Paul’s faith is incredible.

He had grown so much in his relationship to Christ that his contentment wasn’t tied to how much stuff he had, or if he had any at all.

His happiness wasn’t based on his surroundings—his smile was as big in prison as it was on the outside.

I get the feeling that Paul wouldn’t have been too tolerant of people whining about not having the fastest horse on the street or the coolest sandals on the block.

Which brings me to us.

I’m thankful for our country, but one of the problems about living in a prosperous part of the world is that we come to expect it.

We think we’re entitled.

My house doesn’t have enough bedrooms, or my clothes are a year out of style, or my car doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the latest models.

I wonder how Paul would respond to some of the things I’ve grumbled about?

Here’s a challenge: Pray that God will help you to be content.

Ask him to give you a spirit of happiness that isn’t tied to what’s on the outside—your health, your house, your things.

Ask him to remind you daily that you can smile no matter what’s going on in your life.

If Paul could be content on the inside of a Roman jail, surely the rest of us can learn to focus more consistently on all the good we’ve got.

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