“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for 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. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” ― Phillippians 4:10-14 (NASB)
Contentment is a hard one for most of us. We can barely wrap our head around what it means, much less commit ourselves to trying to have it. We often hear people refer to Philippians 4:13… I can do anything! Yea-uh! But all that stuff before it ― well… we usually don’t keep verses 10-12 with verse 13, and certainly not verse 14! But there they are. Better yet, here it is. Context. Paul is sitting in prison, writing to the Church at Philippi. He tells them that he knows they are concerned for him but assures them that he is content. Again: He is sitting in prison. He knows what it is like to be on the mountain and in the valley. He knows what it is like to be on top of the world and to be sitting in jail. He knows both, and he is content in both. He can do all things in Christ.
Contentment isn’t happiness, despite the dictionary defining it as happiness and satisfaction. Really, that sells the concept a bit short. It is more than just feeling happy. It is peace for what is. Not in a negative, whatever-will-be-will-be sense, but in a full, resting embrace of what is. It is ceasing to struggle for more, ceasing to grasp for more.
Herein is our modern problem with finding contentment: We choose to go the way of the world; we desire more and more. Instead of taking the approach of focusing our eyes on God and letting the rest fall away, we want. We struggle. We grasp.
We might think that Paul is a little foolish in saying that he can be content with much, but let’s be honest: the more we have, the more we want. It seems that having less helps in our contentment. Oh, the paradox of it! We often find rich men more greedy than poor men. Why? They have enough; why are they not content? Why does the rich man find it harder to give? Prosperity can bring as many spiritual problems as neediness, sometimes even more. The story of the self-made man is that he thinks it is all on his own steam, but he doesn’t realize how much he needs a Savior or other people.
This week, let’s focus on letting go of our desire for more, letting go of our desire for bigger stuff and better things. Let’s fix our eyes on God and let ourselves desire Him.
- Do you have a hard time being content?
- Do you feel like you have enough?
- What could we do as a family to become more content?
- What luxuries could you do without? Would you be benefitted by that sacrifice?
Activities: (You can do all or none. Do them today or sometime this week.)
- Have everyone make a list of what they think they need. Compare lists.
- Create a picture of contentment. What does that word mean to you?
Write, tell, read, or watch a story about someone who got what they wanted, and found they didn’t really want it after all. (Examples: The movie, Home Alone. The book, The Chocolate Touch. The story of King Midas.)
My prayer for you:
Lord, help us as we become content with what we have. Remind us of how blessed we are as people. Help us to not covet. Show us the difference between needs and wants. Help us find peace and contentment in You. Amen.