Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Finding Contentment

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but 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 4:10-13

Many people today struggle to find contentment in their lives. They are not content with their job, their marriage, or their singleness. We often think that if things were different for us, that then we would be fulfilled. If we had a bigger house or a better car, life would be more worth living. Or if we just had more money to get by with. However, this certainly cannot be the case as we notice that those who do have a lot never appear to be content with what they have. They continue to desire more and more. Just look at the popular actors and actresses in Hollywood who have the fame and fortune and still lack contentment. Our problem with not being able to find contentment comes from us looking for it in the wrong place. We are looking to be fulfilled in "what" instead of "Who."

At the close of his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul expresses his appreciation for the church in supporting his ministry financially. But he quickly points out that he does not speak from want or lack. This is because he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself in. The Greek word used here means content, self-sufficient, or satisfied. Basically, Paul makes due with whatever circumstance that the Lord may have for him to be in. Whether he has little or much, is full or hungry, he has learned to be satisfied and live within such means. Not to complain or wish for different situations. But to glorify God where He has placed him. Commenting on this text, Jeremiah Burroughs defines Christian contentment as “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 attitude that Paul exhibits here. It is the attitude that all believers should have regardless of what God has ordained for them in their lives. Irrespectively concerning the situations they may face. A look at what we know about Paul's life certainly indicates his rejoicing in the Lord in any and every circumstance that he may have been in. Now, how could someone have such an attitude? Obviously, it must be due to him finding his contentment in something other than his circumstances. In fact, Paul shows us the secret to such a content attitude in v. 13.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. The reason that Paul could be so content when full or hungry and having more than enough or being in need, was due to him finding his contentment in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Him who enabled Paul to keep going in whatever circumstance he might have been in. He was the one who provided him with the strength that he needed to persevere in the most bleak of situations. He is sufficient and He is enough! While circumstances may change, He does not. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (13:8). Paul says that he does not speak from want because he has all that he desires in Christ. He really does not lack anything. If one finds their contentment in Christ, then their circumstances do not matter. They will be able to say with Paul that regardless of what they have or don't have, Jesus is all that they need. That they really lack nothing because they have Him. As John Piper states in his poetic paraphrase of the book of Job, "He is not poor nor much enticed / Who loses everything but Christ.” Jesus fulfills all of our deepest longings and so no matter what you may face in life, you can always be content in Him.

So what should you do if you find yourself longing for better circumstances or lamenting something that you currently don't have in your life? Read about Christ in God's Word. Spend time meditating on Who He is. On how great He is. Remind yourself of His precious love for you. That regardless of what you may think that you might be lacking on this earth, that you have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). That you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). One who will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5; Notice too that this is given as the reason to be content instead of being greedy.) You will find that you will have the contentment that you lack as you redirect your focus from the things that you think will bring fulfillment to the only One who truly does bring contentment. Run to Him now to find the satisfaction which you long and the strength to plod through whatever situation you may be in.

In Christ,
Solus Christus!
Soli Deo Gloria!

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