Learned Contentment

March 14, 2019

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13

The last verse, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength,” is one of the most popular in the Bible. Bible Gateway says it is the fourth most popular verse in their history, meaning it is the fourth most searched in all the Bible. That’s an impressive ranking, considering there are 23,145 verses in God’s Word.

The verse loses much of its power, however, if you don’t understand this is not a pep talk. The circumstances surrounding Paul’s affirmation and statement of faith are incredible. He is in a Roman prison, awaiting likely death. Most of the time in prison you didn’t have clothing except what was on your back, and most of the time, if you didn’t have friends visit you and bring you food, you didn’t have any. There was no medical care. Any writing supplies, etc., had to be minimal and brought by friends.

Paul leads up to saying this by thanking his Philippians friends for “renewing their concern for him.” He very politely acknowledges that it has been a long time since he has heard from any of them, and he is grateful that they have “at last renewed their concern for him.” But then he tells them where his focus was—he was not in self-pity or anger. He said that he had learned through his focus on Christ to be content in any—yes, ANY—situation. He is okay with plenty or almost nothing. He can be hungry or full. He can live on plenty or little. WHY? Because of his power source. He can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING as Christ gives him strength.

We trivialize that verse when we make it simply our motivational motto for losing weight, working out, getting the cleaning done, owning a sports car, or any of the other things that consume our focus. Paul is saying, “Whatever my challenge, I can handle it through the strength of Christ when I realize that everything comes from Him. I can refuse to be moody and upset when things are hard, because I have a Source of contentment who is my greatest Resource.”

  • Where do I need the strength of Jesus to be content?
  • Where do I make others feel my discontent? Talk to Jesus about it.