“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13 NIV).
Webster defines contentment as “the state of being happy and satisfied.” Everyone wants to live in this state. But unfortunately, this kind of contentment is based on favorable circumstances. Happiness is based on something good “happening.” And as we all know, sometimes bad stuff happens. But what if there were a higher level of contentment? One that wasn’t based on happenings?
The apostle Paul spoke of such a higher level of contentment. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote of having “learned the secret of being content” no matter the circumstance. This contentment that Paul had learned was not dependent on the external world of constantly changing circumstances, but on an inner spiritual relationship and dependence on the eternal One, Jesus Christ.
So, how do we learn Paul’s “secret,” especially in this crazy and chaotic world today that constantly seeks to steal our joy and peace? In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he offered…
… three keys to unlocking the secret to true contentment.
- Learn to turn your worries into prayers. Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Worry is self-talk. Prayer is talking to God. Why not take the same energy you’re using to worry and turn it into prayer?
- Learn to refocus your thinking from stressings to blessings. Paul said, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). This is more than positive thinking. This is moving your state of mind from the temporal things of this world to the eternal things of God. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above” (Col.3:2). Decide to rejoice in the Lord. Say, “I’m too blessed to be stressed!” Focus on your blessings in Christ and set your mind on them.
- Learn the practice of depending on God’s power and provision. Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). Paul had learned to depend on Christ for strength. In Christ, he learned that he could “accept all things” (Phil. 4:11), “do all things” (Phil. 4:13), and “have all things” (Phil. 4:18). Therefore, everything he needed, he found in Christ.
Christ was the secret of Paul’s contentment.
Christ was the one who lay sleeping in the bow of the boat while the storm on the Sea of Galilee threatened to sink the disciples. He was the one whom the “winds and the waves” obeyed. Paul learned that when you have Christ in your life, no matter the storms, you can find rest and contentment in him.
Have you yet learned the secret of contentment?