Discontentment may be the greatest trap in our culture–greater than lust, greed, and even lying, because discontentment can lead to all these other sins. I have never met an individual who had an affair without first being discontent. I have never spoken with a drunkard, a gossiper, a liar, or an idolater of body or rest or recreation without them alluding to discontentment. And it feels like the entire world is colluding to stir discontentment within us. Every billboard, every commercial, every brochure tends to communicate, “You deserve more” and “You need more.”
Contentment is a slippery thing. As soon as we think we are content it wiggles away, due to something we see on television, some stray thought, or some small comment another person makes. Is contentment even possible?
Paul asserts that it is. In fact, he says that he has learned to be content in whatever situation (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell us the secret to contentment. He says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He isn’t saying he can do all things in Christ as a kind of blanket statement. Paul doesn’t think he can fly, become Emperor of Rome, or create a rainbow in the sky. Too many yank this verse out of context. Rather, Paul is speaking about contentment and that in all circumstances he is able to be content in Christ who strengthens him. The is the secret! It is not ignoring circumstances, it is not rising above them, and it is not resigning one’s self to them–it is rather living in them in Christ.
Paul’s statement is an echo of an earlier statement in the book when he comments, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). How is this helpful? Because he knows that in Christ he has everything. And this allows him to be content. The Christian finds Christ to be sufficient. We are the richest and most secure people in the universe. So the storms may beat the walls of our lives and contentment can lie safe within. It isn’t touched, because it is wrapped up in Him, who is our All in all.
Name it Christian. And you have it in Christ. Whatever it is that you desire, the root of it is found in Christ. The boat you desire, what is it, but a desire for freedom and rest? Which is ultimately found in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 8:2). That promotion? At its root it is simply security and respect (Psalm 62:6-8). Ultimately, these are found in Christ. Friendship? What a friend we have in Jesus. One who never abandons or forsakes (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20). Family? We have a older brother who leads the way (Hebrews 2:11). Who grants to us a Father, who ever loves us (Galatians 4:4-7). Justice? He is a Judge who forever upholds righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Comfort? We have a priest who forever intercedes (Hebrews 7:25). Wisdom? We have a prophet who always proclaims (Hebrews 3:3). A counselor who is ever ready with comfort (Matthew 11:28-30). A provider who ever supplies (Philippians 4:19). A Savior who pays the price for our sins (Hebrews 10:12). A Defender who will guard and keep us (Psalm 23).
If we desire love it is found in His spread arms on the cross (Romans 8; Ephesians 3). If we want hope it is found in his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we seek peace it is found in his blood shed for us (Colossians 1:20). If we seek joy it is given in His Spirit (Galatians 5). Happiness, in knowing what awaits us (Revelation 21). Power, you will rule with Him forever (Revelation 3:20-21).
Are you hungry? He is the bread of life (John 6:3). Thirsty, He is the living water (John 7:37). Naked, he covers you with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Health, He is the Great Physician (Psalm 147:3). Wisdom, He is the fount (Colossians 2:3). Knowledge, He holds it in His hand (Colossians 2:3). Rest? He says come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give your rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Compassion, it flows from Him (James 5:11). Comfort, He never crushes a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). Riches? We are made co-heirs with Him (Galatians 3:29).
We can be content, because our life’s circumstances do not dictate to us. We live in Him. Christian contentment is based upon dependence not independence. Paul is no Stoic. He is not acting as though he is above his circumstances. As if they have no effect upon him. Rather, in the midst of the difficult circumstances, he is trusting in God, he is looking to Christ in whom He has all things. He is not independent, he is Christ-dependent. For me to live is Christ. It is not being self-satisfied, self-fulfilled. It is being Christ-satisfied. Christ-fulfilled.