No one is born contented with life. As babies we cry for our every need. As we grow up we experience the frustrations and struggles of life. Yet through our hardships, we can learn how to gain contentment. Paul told the Philippians, "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" (Philippians 4:12).
Contentment was not a natural skill or talent for Paul—he had to learn about it through experiencing both the highs and lows of life. Paul said, "I have learned…" Learning does not always come easily. It requires time, dedication, and willingness to learn the necessary lessons.
Paul spent years at the pinnacle of prestige and power as a Pharisee, then became a humble servant of Christ. He experienced times of plenty and times of near starvation. He lived in a comfortable home, and he dwelled in a prison cell. Yet he finally figured out how to find joy and contentment in both extremes of life. He realized that contentment is a state of the heart, not of affairs and that contentment is independent of his circumstances.
Paul learned that everything we have belongs to God, including life itself. When we completely trust God to lead our lives in His timing and His ways, He will meet our needs. When our confidence is in the sovereignty of God, we will not panic when we face tough circumstances. But when we try to control our lives and manipulate events and people to our advantage, we will become frustrated and joyless.
Paul trusted the sovereign hand of God and he learned to be content in the ups and in the downs, in the abundance and in the lack, in the sickness and in the health, in the courts of the kings and in the dungeons and the prisons. Paul recognized God as the source of his strength: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).
Whatever God called Paul to do—whether speaking with the powerful or the poor, whether preaching to thousands in a coliseum or to a lone Philippian jailer, whether speaking to King Agrippa or to a lowly soldier in Rome—Paul knew that God would equip him for his tasks. Paul's God-centered focus brought joy and contentment to his life. The psalmist declared, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song" (Psalms 28:7).
God will also provide for us and strengthen us as we seek to follow Him in faithful obedience. "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Whatever needs we have—salvation, comfort, encouragement—Jesus can meet them. He can lift us above the hurts that others have caused. He can give us perseverance when we are in the middle of the valley. He will meet our needs in His perfect timing and in accordance with His glorious, inexhaustible riches.
Are you facing difficulties? Are you facing trying times? Are you panicking about what to do next? God wants you to be faithful to Him; God wants you to trust Him, and He will teach you this incredible lesson of contentment. Commit to Christ today to follow Him first in all circumstances.
"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11
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