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Learning Contentment

by Chip Brogden
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
It is rather easy to be content when things are going well. So it is especially interesting to note that the happiest letter Paul ever wrote was penned while he was chained to a Roman solider, waiting for a possible sentence of death.

“Rejoice in the Lord always… and again I say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)! He says he has learned to be content.

All of us face challenging and difficult circumstances. So let us look closely at Paul’s experience and see if we can discover the source of his contentedness.

Contentment does not mean having a passive, laid-back attitude that just accepts whatever happens without a whimper of protest. Contentment does not mean being indifferent as to whether or not your circumstances will ever improve. Contentment does not mean settling for less than you are capable of.

Nor is contentment a spiritual quality reserved for those who have unusually strong faith. Paul was not content just because he was Paul. When he explains his secret he does not reveal anything super-spiritual or super-human about it. That place of happy contentment is achievable by anyone through very ordinary means: “I have learned… to be content.”

No one is naturally content when faced with difficult circumstances. Contentment must be learned, and the only way to learn it is to go through some things that test it. Paul learned to be content. That means I can learn contentment, and so can you.

The Greek word for “content” here is only used once in the entire Bible. It means a sufficiency in one’s self, being strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support. It is the ability to live independently of external circumstances. Elsewhere Paul has confirmed that he is not sufficient in himself, but his sufficiency is of God (2 Cor. 3:5). And he has just told the Philippians that “we rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). So how can we reconcile that with this “self-sufficiency” he now speaks of?

Perhaps it can be explained in this way: there is a sufficiency within us that does not come from us. It is “in me” but it is not “from me.” I am sustained on the inside by something that supplies me from the outside! And this sufficiency is so complete that I can live independently of my circumstances – whether they are good or bad!

That is a powerful position to be in. But that kind of contentment is something that must be learned. We need to learn the kind of spiritual contentment that is completely dependent on Christ – not on Christians! How do we learn this lesson? Paul learned it when “everyone in Asia” deserted him (2 Tim. 1:15). This would be a serious blow to most people, but Paul had learned something! Have we learned it?

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Both! Learning contentment is not just figuring out how to make do with little, it is also making do with a lot. How we respond to having too little says something about us, but how we respond to having too much says something also. “I know both,” says Paul, whether full or hungry, whether abounding or suffering need. He is independent of his circumstances. He is the same, whether he has a lot or whether he has a little.

Regardless of what state you find yourself in today, you too can do “all things through Christ” Who strengthens you. The greater your deficiency, the greater His sufficiency. In your weakness His strength is more clearly revealed. Even in your most difficult moments you will find in Him a rich storehouse of spiritual sufficiency that exceeds all your expectations. There are no quick fixes, easy answers, or instant solutions to all your problems – but there is a Person Who lives in you, One Who has already proven Himself to be Sufficient for Anything and Master of Everything. Let Him be Enough.

7 Comments

  1. Elder Reggie Turner

    Paul learned it when “everyone in Asia” deserted him (2 Tim. 1:15). This would be a serious blow to most people, but Paul had learned something! Have we learned it?

    Wow this truly encouraged me Chip! I’ve been following you since 2002…and have been in divers situations of desertion and I use to reason from the standpoint that something must be “wrong or lacking” in me.
    Hmmm…many times it was the hand of God actually conditioning me and expanding my perspective about him and what is necessary or non productive for my journey!

    Thanks Again

    Much Luv
    Reggie

    Reply
  2. Lizette

    Hello Brother: It is great to know that our happiness do not relay in what is happening around us what we feel in our human nature. Instead, relay in the hope of our Lord Jesus, The Christ which is the gift for our human spirit and the hope for our human nature.

    Rest and get well,
    Love in Jesus
    Lizette

    Reply
  3. Peter J

    Thanks for that Chip. I’d have to say that I wouldn’t mind experiencing contentment with “a lot” for a change! :-))
    One of my challenges is to work this real truth you are sharing into the context where others are also dependent on or close to me. i.e. its one thing to be content for oneself, its another thing to convey that authentically to others close to me. Hope that makes sense?
    Good word though. Thanks again.

    Reply
  4. Cindy

    Thank you for this Word Brother. When I saw your email I knew it was confirmation of what the Lord had been saying to me lately; “Rejoice”! Needless to say, this message was so personal for me. I’m a Bible teacher and conference host and believe me I literally walk through everything I teach.The trials have been more like birth pangs lately …harder, quicker and mounding up! I do find contentment in Christ, however, rejoicing through them has not been easy. Chairo(khiro) in Grk, to rejoice exceedingly and be glad…I am the Clay

    Reply
  5. jacqueline

    i wanted to tell you that i really enjoyed reading the helpful study of contentment. i understand that Jesus is available and there for me at all times. i can say that now, but as i am going thru something, sometimes i feel as if i have lost God, and it’s very hard to get Him back. i struggle with this at all times when hard times hit, and they have been hitting a lot lately. i quickly do a 360 and enter back in, mostly by praising and praying for God’s peace to come and replace the thoughts that are at the moment ruining me. it’s a place where you can’t understand what Jesus is doing, if He cares, and is there a point. a place where you wonder suddenly if it’s all real, is Jesus really there? it’s like a hole almost that feels as if there is no getting out of..why can’t my circumstance change right now, and if it can’t why not? if i have all power right before me in the Son of God. i hold on by praising God, because this is all that makes sense for me to realize that God DOES have a purpose and that He is allowing it for a purpose, and is working it for more good than i could imagine. it’s so hard to go thru pain and things we don’t understand, and it’s such a place of the unknown..i just want to get to the place where i KNOW God is right beside me. i know there is not my problem, and then God..for He is in everything, and i am not without Him..it’s easy to say until you are there. there is so much i understand and i see Him working, and it’s actually hard to even say what im trying to say. the bottom line is that noone likes pain or to have pain, we all want it gone NOW
    and sometimes i think we just don’t understand why God allows it..so its very hard. i guess we really need to realize not all things are for our understanding..we want to understand everything..but we never will. we want control of all things, but that will never happen..so learning to rest in Jesus in hard..when we have learned this lesson perhaps then, Jesus will move on to the next lesson…..

    Reply
  6. Pamela

    Chip – Our LORD has used your articles at just the right time to reach me at just the right place as I continue to struggle with how I am to follow Him (not religion). My husband and I have been outside the institutional church organization for about nine months. We meet with a small group on Sunday nights in our home for the past year and have enjoyed such a wonderful fellowship in the LORD. But, we continue to struggle if we are still doing the right thing. We have both been in organized religion all of our lives – it is a VERY hard habit to break! Your encouragement is a breath of fresh air. Thank you so much! I pray that Father will bless you.
    Your Sister,
    pam

    Reply
  7. der

    Oh God may your grace be upon all your saints. Chip, may His grace be with you.

    Reply

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