Learning to be content

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11–13).

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard Philippians 4:13 quoted. And most of the time, I’ve heard it far outside the context of these verses. 

Confession: I’ve also used it far outside of its context. But the context makes it more powerful — as is the norm when it comes to the word of God. The more I reflect on His word, the more I’m seeing that God knew exactly what He was doing when He led so many, so long ago, to write down these things.

And this passage in Philippians, though written about 2,000 years ago, is amazingly relevant and necessary for us today. In fact, this verse became an object lesson for my family this week as it became clear that we were lacking in contentment. 

To clear the air, Paul makes sure his words aren’t misconstrued as a plea for something. Instead, he takes time to illustrate how content we can be in Christ. And you can almost hear the joy in these words, the freedom from “more.”

The things of this life hold no eternal weight.

Whether brought low or high, having little or abounding, Paul knew things are merely tools of obedience. They don’t in themselves hold eternal weight. And this means we shouldn’t be bound to them nor to the lack of them.

Things are not bad. And nice things are not bad. But things not being used for obedience only get in the way and often anchor our hearts to earth rather than lifting us towards heaven. 

So instead of being bound to the newest electronics or cars or latest book or movie, find contentment in humble living before God first. Then you will see clearly whether those things are best for your stage of life. And being wise about things and content in the Lord actually adds to your enjoyment of the things of life, whether a lot or little. But how dreary is it to never be satisfied with what you have and always chasing after the next thing?! God has more joy for us than that.

Contentment is the key to finding enduring strength.

Verses 11 and 13 are strongly connected to each other. If we are content with what God has seen fit to give us, then we will find our strength in Christ to face situations and circumstances head on in obedience and for the glory of God. We won’t be scraping by — we will be flourishing even through trials. Our joy will be made full in Him. 

Questions for consideration:

  • Are you constantly seeking after the pleasures of this life to the exclusion of God and godly obedience?
  • Do you find more satisfaction in earthly pleasure or God, His word and His people?
  • Do you find yourself affected emotionally when others around you have more than you?
  • Do you lack joy in life in general?

These questions are a good place to start in seeking after the strength and contentment in Christ.

James Hammack is a regular contributor to The Rope. He also is digital services manager for The Alabama Baptist/TAB Media. He also serves as worship pastor at Sovereign Grace Church, Prattville. He and his wife, Alicia, have three children.


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