One of the most elusive things in the world is contentment, where is it to be found? The Apostle Paul tells us: (Philippians 4)
11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.
Paul is saying that he is content when in prosperity or when in need. More clearly he is saying that circumstances no longer determine his state of content but now he perseveres by the strength of Christ in all things.
People around the world dream of contentment but contentment is like an elusive dream. It is like chasing rainbows; when you get to where the end of the rainbow seems to settle, it is gone off to another place still within cite but unattainable.
Paul’s formula is quite simple: When you have the same happiness in adversity as well as in prosperity, it means you have passed the test and you will therefore accelerate your spiritual growth and enjoy real contentment.
So what did Paul learn in order to be happy in adversity as well as in prosperity? Keep in mind that Paul did not always know contentment…he learned it…he is now old and gray headed and has come near to the end of his life in a Roman Prison. Because he has learned, he has contentment…yes even though in chains in a Roman Prison. In these verses he tells us how we also can have contentment. Here are the things Paul learned:
- 1. His relationship to God: verse 4, “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Why was Paul able to rejoice in the Lord when suffering adversity? Because he had a close relationship with him. Relationships are developed over time; they don’t spring up and mature overnight. A relationship with God works just like a relationship with anyone else. It is a matter of getting to know the person you desire a relationship with; walking along with them in life we build a relationship. God invites us to walk with him. That is what the scripture means when it refers to abiding in the Spirit or walking in the Spirit. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
Here it is: the closer relationship we have with God the greater our contentment.
- 2. His Lifestyle: verse 5, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand”. Moderation is the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses. Paul choose a simple lifestyle; one that gave priority to his service to the Lord. Lifestyle is very important. If our lifestyle is fashioned after what the rest of the world sees as important, we are bound to extremes which become the focus of our life rather than the things of God. The things that we love and are drawn to in life are the things that get our attention and take up our time.
For the Apostle Paul there was no doubt where his pleasure was and what would occupy his time: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phl 3:14)
- His Trust in God: verse 6, be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. The contemporary English version of the Bible says it this way: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.” Trusting in one’s self will bring worry and discontentment but on the other hand learning to trust God in all things brings a peace that passeth all understanding.
- 4. His Peace with God verse 7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The first step toward peace is when we first place our trust in Jesus as our savior. That peace continues to build as we walk with the Lord on a daily basis. Paul learned to be at peace with God in all circumstances. “Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel”, the contemporary English version of the Bible.
- His attitude: verse 8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Paul learned to have a whole new outlook on life; gone was any murmuring, complaining and negative thinking. The truth is that we can only think one thought at a time and Paul learned to think on the more noble things of life and instead of the troubled mind that needs drugs or therapy he enjoys the contentment that comes from God and God alone.
Contentment, where is it to be found? Only one place and that is in God alone. You, whoever you are, can find this same contentment that Paul experienced if you want it, if you can learn what Paul learned. Take the first step and trust Jesus as you savior
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