Contentedness, the Seemingly Impossible Goal of the Christian faith
The apostle Paul was a living example of life as a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. His life was full of miracles from start to finish and he regularly used words to lift his readers’ hearts to seemingly impossible places. One such example is Philippians 4:11–13:
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.
Paul was speaking of a lesson he had learned. This was not some special, spiritual provision given to Him supernaturally but something he learned through the trials of life. He had learned to be content. The word “content” carries the idea of being able to stand where God has put us in the midst of a storm and be able to say, “God is enough.” The context of this passage is about finances but it applies to any need we face. In verse 12 he says, “I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (v. 12). A secret in the New Testament is a lesson that comes from God through teaching or revelation. It is not something automatic to our lives but must be learned through spiritual diligence.
Paul applied this contentedness to “whatever circumstances” he faced. That statement looms even larger when we consider the challenges Paul endured in the process of his ministry: beatings, imprisonment, stoning, shipwreck, and much more (2 Cor. 12:24–28). He definitely would agree with brother James who wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2, 3). He endured more than we can imagine and still could say, “I have learned to be content. I have learned to stand where God has placed me regardless of the storm the world sends.”
The secret he alluded to is given in verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” He had learned that he did not have the ability in himself to be content. It came from the One who endured the cross — Christ Himself, the One who provides His strength to us for doing what He calls us to do.
So, as we consider what our attitude should be in the midst of the world’s invasion of our lives in these crazy times of COVID-19, political folly, financial distress and growing persecution, we are called to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Contentedness does not mean resignation. We do not resign ourselves to a complacent posture that denies the need for prayer, boldness in the Holy Spirit, and inspired exploits in God but determine to learn to stand where God places us in the midst of the storm. We know that the storm will simply produce endurance in our lives so that we can withstand the world’s pressure to finish the course God has assigned to us.
As the Lord calls us to come out of Babylon, the growing world system, we will need to have learned this lesson. James doesn’t say “If you encounter various trials but “when you encounter various trials.” The trials will come! The older we get the more we know that statement to be true. It is a fact of life concreted into the foundation of every life lived. The question isn’t if but how we will respond in the midst of the pressures of the age.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Paul concluded. “All things!” That’s a lot! In the strength of Christ, we can do any and every thing He calls us to do. That is the attitude of the victorious overcomers who are in this spiritual war to win. I want to be in that number because I have learned that there is no alternative for the true followers of Christ.