Contentment (Philippians 4:10-13)

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Contentment is like a rare jewel of great value. It is rare in part because of the sinful inclination in our hearts towards covetousness and our propensity to making comparisons to the lives of others.  

Contentment’s antithesis is discontentment which is sadly all too common. Discontentment is like an ugly mental cancer that spreads and ruins our lives.  

It robs us of our joy, causes us to lose sight of who we have & what we have right in front of us. Discontentment undervalues these people & these things we do have, making us feel that they are not enough or not good enough – how horrible!

Comparison is the thief of joy

– Theodore Roosevelt

More than this, discontentment erodes our gratitude, steals our joy and destroys our worship!  

After all, it is hard to be simultaneously discontent and joyful or grateful. In moments of discontentment, our vision becomes focused on what we don’t have, what we have to endure, and then so we lose sight of WHO Jesus is and what He has DONE for us, what He has GIVEN to us.

As I read these words penned by the apostle Paul in our passage, it is helpful to remember that Paul is writing from prison. If comparisons were justifiable, he would surely have had cause to compare and to grumble.  

Reading between the lines of his words to the Philippian church, it appears as though there were times when their lack of financial support to him meant that he had either very little or nothing at all for his needs in prison (vs10-11).

And yet, Paul had learned to be content ‘in whatever situation’ he finds himself. What Paul learned was a type of contentment that is not restrained by circumstances but rather was free of his circumstances.  

Sadly, my contentment is most often tied to my circumstances and not in spite of them like Paul’s was. Can you identify with this experience of mine?  

I feel humbled and then inspired by Paul’s example of contentment ‘in whatever situation’. His contentment is free from the constraints of the life circumstances he is in at any given time, and therefore his contentment is remarkable and inspiring!  

So what was such contentment’s well-spring or source?

In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12b-13)

So what is the ‘secret’, the key to such contentment that is possible in any and every circumstance? Paul is unequivocal, the secret the key is Jesus Christ. This is how he and we can have contentment in any and all circumstances.  

How does this work? I have considered how Jesus strenghtens us to be content in all circumstances and will just leave the following 5 headings which I think I will expand on this Sun as I’ve decided to preach from this passage on Sun so check it out this Sun on our Reconciliation Road Church YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9sxrhg5kUd44yD6wu1byww  

  1. Worship & Gratitude
  2. New Life Mission
  3. Adjusted Life-Expectations
  4. An Eternal Perspective
  5. Divine Enabling Power

In closing, let’s return to two grace-giving phrases Paul writes; “I have learned in whatever situation” (vs11) & “I have learned the secret” (vs12). 

This is vital information he is sharing with you and I. The fact that learned this type of unrestrained contentment is a huge encouragement. Because he learned it, it wasn’t automatic, instant or necessarily easy. The fact that he learnt it implies that it was a process, a journey – it took time.  

And that breathes grace to you and to me who need to grow in contentment. This is a journey, it takes time, we are to make progress, but we also ought not to berate ourselves that we aren’t more content yet. Rather choose today to start the journey with Jesus towards a more godly and content life that glorifies God.

Gareth is one of the elders at Reconciliation Road Church in Amanzimtoti, South Africa – click the link to get more information about our church.

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