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Learning to be Content 

Posted on August 1, 2023

Contentment is one of the most difficult attributes to have in life. After all, if you live in the United States, you have more than most the world. We live in an affluent society in which people accumulate so much stuff that within just a few years they sell a lot of said stuff in yard sales. We have more than we know what to do with! It would be good if we would just stop getting all that stuff and simply be content with what we have. 


In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul talks about being content. But this kind of contentment is not about being content with what you have—it is being content with where you are at in life. Notice what he says: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He is content with the “state” that he is in. Do you know what kind of state Paul was in when he penned these words? He was in prison! And yet he was content to be there! 


But that’s not all. You might have missed something else Paul said: “for I have learned.” That’s right, contentment didn’t come naturally to Paul. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us! He said that he learned to be content. Make no mistake: if you can learn to be content, then you have learned one of the most valuable attributes of the Christian life. “…godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Tim. 6:6). 


Paul expounds on this contentment: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:12-13). Paul is saying that he has experienced the highs and lows of the Christian life. He knows what it’s like to come to a city, preach in a church, and to be treated like royalty by the Christians there. But he also knows what it is like to suffer for the Lord, to have nothing, to sit alone in a prison. He was grateful for the highs, but he also accepted the lows. That’s contentment! 


Look at your life right now. Are you where you want to be? Perhaps not. Does that frustrate you? I’m sure that it does. It could be that God is trying to teach you to be content. He wants to instruct you. He doesn’t want you reaching for things that you don’t need. Perhaps you’re single, and very lonely. Perhaps you’re a single parent, and you desperately need a partner. Perhaps your dream—your heart’s greatest desire—has fallen into a deep pit. Or it could be constant health problems, or financial struggles. Whatever it is, God wants you to be content with where you’re at right now. I know that’s hard. Impossible, even. 


But wait—it’s not impossible. Philippians 4:13 is often quoted to cover just about any problem, but actually, it’s in the context of contentment. You might be saying, “I want to be content, but it’s so hard!” God wants to teach you to be content, and He can! You can do it through the power of Christ. Christ can enable you to be content with your circumstances or situation. He can give you peace. He can give you strength. 


Understand something: being content with your situation doesn’t mean that you will never get what you want. Often God simply wants to make you wait before He blesses you. Abraham had to wait to have a child of his own. David had to wait to become the king of Israel. And that’s probably true for you too. God doesn’t withhold anything from us without a good reason. He only ever does that which is good for us (Rom. 8:28). 


So do the hard thing: ask God to teach you to be content. Don’t chase after every desire in your heart—let God sort it all out. And in the end, you’ll realize that the contentment was worth it. 

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