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Finding Contentment in Life.

Finding Contentment in Life.

Read: Phil. 4:4-14

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

Of all the virtues highlighted in scripture, contentment is arguably the most elusive. Just when we think that we are content, something comes appeals to our desires and we become dissatisfied with what we have. There is always one more thing we would like to have, one more achievement we want to accomplish, one more recognition to earn. Give us all the things that we want and the next day we will find something new that we desire. The search for contentment seems to be ever in our reach but always beyond our grasp.

This is what makes Paul’s words so unusual. Paul states that he was learned to be content in every circumstance of life. However, the word that Paul uses to describe his contentment was widely used by Stoic philosophers during this time period. For the Stoics, a person who was content was one who became independent of others and, by his own strength and determination of his own will, being self-sufficient for all things.

This brings us to the critical question: What was Paul’s secret to contentment and is it available for us today? The answer lies in his statement in verses 4-7. For Paul, contentment was not grounded in his own ability, but rather in his complete dependency upon Christ and trust in God’s provision for his life. Paul learned contentment by learning to rest in the providence of God. Anxiety and contentment are opposite responses to circumstances. When we are lacking and feel a sense of unfulfillment, we become anxious about our situation for it serves to be a threat to our happiness. For Paul, the answer to anxiety was prayer. But here it is important to understand that the peace did not come from God answering the prayer in the way we desire, but trust in God’s sovereign working. Jeremiah Burroughs, in his Christian classic, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, writes that “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” This is the outgrowth of prayer, for prayer is placing the issue in God’s hands and trusting that he will respond in the best possible way, even when it does not appear to us to be so. Peace comes, not when God changes the circumstances, but when we have confidence in God’s unseen hand moving to achieve his divine purpose.

For Paul, ultimate contentment was not found in his circumstances or his own self-sufficiency, rather his contentment was found in the life of faith and trust. It came when he no longer trusted in his own wisdom and abilities but in the sufficiency of God’s strength working through him (vs 13). This trust enabled him to accept every circumstance as the work of God, whether it be times of prosperity or times of want, times of hunger or times of satisfaction, times of abundance or times of need. Paul’s contentment was not determined by his circumstances but by his relationship with Christ and submission to his will.

For Paul, ultimate contentment was not found in his circumstances or his own self-sufficiency, rather his contentment was found in the life of faith and trust. It came when he no longer trusted in his own wisdom and abilities but in the sufficiency of God’s strength working through him (vs 13). This trust enabled him to accept every circumstance as the work of God, whether it be times of prosperity or times of want, times of hunger or times of satisfaction, times of abundance, or times of need. Paul’s contentment was not determined by his circumstances but by his relationship with Christ and submission to his will.

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