Contentment in Christ
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‘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
What does it mean to be content?
Being content is not the same as being comfortable. Paul speaks of being content when he was hungry or in need, which are hardly comfortable situations. It is not being at ease, but a way of facing unease in such a way that we are not crushed by circumstances.
The contentment that Paul experienced, and all followers are able to experience, is God given, ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength’. Paul is not speaking of human strength which will carry him through, but human weakness which is transfigured by the sufficiency of God.
The root of such contentment is faith. It is resting on God, acknowledging our need and desperation and throwing ourselves upon God with shear abandon, trusting his promises, embracing his mercy. The trust we exercise is in God’s providence, the fact that God orders our lives and indeed the whole of creation to glory, their true goal which is to come under the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The nature of life is that there are tough times, disappointments as well as joys, heartaches as well as heartthrobs. Christians aren’t called to ignore these disappointments; contentment is not the same as complacency. Rather the Christian is called to see things differently. Faith is a way of seeing things. Paul was able to see that whatever happened to him was not ‘bad luck’ or ‘good fortune’, but God at work weaving all things to his glory - being made more like Christ. To see ‘set-backs’ in this light means we can see them differently and respond properly. Yes, we can share our griefs with God who understands. We can seek his wisdom and courage to find a way through. But whatever happens is never pointless or a set-back for God. They are instruments in his hand for our refining and the extension of his kingdom.
Teach us, our heavenly Father, in whatever state we find ourselves, to be content, that we might know how to be in need and how to abound; that in prosperity we may bless you who gives us richly all things to enjoy, and in adversity may not allow our faith in your love to fail; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.