by Jon Walker
“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content]—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Philippians 4:11–12 (HCSB)
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The Apostle Paul, who was blessed with great privileges – but also beaten and stripped of everything he had – taught that true contentment must be learned: “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, NIV)
He teaches that God gives us strength to be content. This is an important spiritual truth to learn because if wealth, good looks, or the seemingly perfect spouse brought lasting contentment, then Hollywood would be filled with some of the most content and happy people on earth. But it’s not.
What does this mean?
Don’t compare yourself to others – When you compare your life with someone else’s, the only place it can lead is discontent. There will always be people who appear to be better off than you, but you don’t know their real circumstances.
I recall counseling a husband many years ago, who said he wished his wife could be more like so-and-so, and he named a woman in our congregation. What he didn’t know was that the woman was an alcoholic who was causing awful heartache and stress for her family and her husband. That’s why the Bible says it is unwise to compare ourselves with others or even with ourselves! (2 Corinthians 10:12)
Be grateful for who you are and what you have – Learning to be content requires that you stop any “when and then” thinking – “When I am ___________, then I’ll be happy.” (You fill in the blank.) You may actually be content for a little while but then someone else or something else will come along and drain the contentment from your life.
But listen – you are unique. God created you to be like nobody else, so why would you want to be anyone else? God is perfect, and you were his perfect choice to be you! Understanding that is a huge step toward being content with your life.
And then look at all the things God has given you. So often we allow what we don’t have to dominate our focus to the point we forget the many, wonderful things we already have – not only material things, but far more important blessings, such as family and friends.
Give yourself to others – If you will begin giving yourself to others, sharing what things you do have, sharing your time and your talents, you will find yourself learning to be content. Helping others will give you an appreciation for what you have and who you are but, more importantly, you will find yourself growing in contentment. Why? Because God designed us to serve and share with others and until we do that, we will feel great discontent.
Focus on things with eternal value – The real secret to becoming content is to focus on the things that have eternal value. It may be a familiar teaching to you, but Jesus said we should store up our treasures in heaven, and not on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–21, NIV)
Think about the things in your life – What will last forever? What will last at least for your lifetime? What will last only a few short years, or months, or days? Based on eternal value, what things are most important in your life? Where – and with whom – should you invest your most time and energy?
By reorganizing your life around eternal priorities, you will find yourself growing in contentment, as you live according to God’s design and purpose.
© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.
Jon Walker is a pastor and writer for www.GraceCreates.com.