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by Bill Denton

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. (Philippians 4:11-13 NASB)

So what does it mean to be content? Let’s combine the idea of being inwardly satisfied in the midst of difficult circumstances with the concepts of competence and sufficiency. And we must not forget God’s role in the process. What do we get? A working definition: Christian contentment is the God-given ability to be satisfied with the loving provision of God in any and every situation. (Charles D. Kelley, Discipleship Journal: Issue 42. 1999 (electronic ed.). Colorado Springs: The Navigators/NavPress.)

    I must admit that I’m not satisfied with a lot of things. Neither do I think I’m particularly competent in an ever growing number of areas of life. In fact, if I get to thinking about it very much, I could end up being one of the most dissatisfied people I know. Something is wrong!

    Paul’s words to the Philippians are among the most challenging I’ve ever read, and I’ve read them many times. He had learned one of life’s most important lessons: how to be content whether he was rich or poor, whether he was filled or hungry, or whether he had abundant blessings or suffered need. Now, I want to tell you that I’m nowhere near the apostle Paul with regard to such contentment.

    It’s interesting to hear people talk about how to achieve contentment. There are those who evidently believe that contentment comes by gathering wealth and possessions. These people are always looking to “upgrade.” Whatever they have, or how well it may suit their needs, or perform its purpose, it’s not enough. They may be making a million dollars, but want a raise because they’re convinced that with a higher income, comes contentment. Amazingly, you see an interesting shift in this same mindset in people who suddenly discard the “corporate” life and become beach bums on a south sea island somewhere. They think they’ve given up the idea that possessions and wealth bring contentment, but when you really look at the way they live, they just traded one set of possessions for another — a stock portfolio for a coconut palm.

    History has also presented us with varying groups of ascetics, whose ideas seemed to say that contentment only came with absolute abandonment of wealth and possessions. Contentment, according to these folks, only comes to those who give up everything, live in total poverty, own nothing, have nothing, want nothing — and there have been plenty of people who have pursued this kind of life.

Contentment was based on something entirely different than the measure so often used by the world.
    Paul’s contentment didn’t seem to depend on either way of life. What he said was that he could be content if he was rich, or he could be content if he was poor. He could be content if he had plenty to eat, or he could be content if he was hungry. Give him lots of “things” and he could be content, but take them away and he could be content. Paul’s contentment was impervious to the effects of situations or conditions of life. Contentment was based on something entirely different than the measure so often used by the world.

    Paul’s secret? Jesus!

    Paul said it this way: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Now, perhaps this statement only makes sense if you back up in the book of Philippians and read chapter three. There Paul makes it clear that he found Jesus to be the most valuable thing in the world. He was so valuable, Paul was willing to trade everything in life that previously held value to him, for Jesus.

    Why did Paul come to this conclusion? Because he knew that the cleansing of his soul, a relationship with God, eternal life, resurrection, and everything that comes with it is worth more than anything of earthly value. Give him a lot of money, or take it all away. As long as he had Jesus, he was content. Everything that really mattered was settled in Jesus. I want to be that content.

      © Copyright 2002, Dr. Bill Denton, CrossTies, All Rights Reserved. Articles may not be reprinted in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles.

      Title: "Content"
      Author: Bill Denton
      Publication Date: April 9, 2002

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