Contentment Realities

by Francie Taylor

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Contentment Realities

by Francie Taylor

Northern joke by a northerner: “When the apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatsoever state, he had never lived in Minnesota in January.” End of northern humor.

What did Paul really say? Let’s look at the verse:

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)

In this portion of the letter to the Philippians, Paul was making it clear that he wasn’t writing to them from a spirit of discontentment (“Not that I speak in respect of want”), because Paul had learned how to accept life’s events as delivered. This was an example of depending on God.

Bible commentator Matthew Henry made this statement about Philippians 4:11: “This is a special act of grace, to accommodate ourselves to every condition of life, and carry an equal temper of mind through all the varieties of our state.”

Paul said that he had learned to live in plenty or in poverty, because he was rich with the gracious gift of contentment. These were not just mere words. Paul meant what he said, and it showed, as he was in prison at the time of the letter to the Philippians.

Contentment is not the perfect life.

Sometimes I think we’re guilty of speed-reading and even speed-memorizing, while failing to grasp the lesson within the text. For instance, we know the verse, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6), but do we understand that contentment is less about us having our own way and more about God having His way?

Godliness makes it possible for us to live in genuine contentment. The more like Christ we become, the less we view our lives through selfish lenses.

Paul unpacked a lot in Philippians 4:11, and we don’t want to miss any of it!

Paul attended the University of Adversity.

The statement, “I have learned” tells us that God placed Paul in a series of life-classes designed for training in godliness, which increased Paul’s contentment. These lessons were allowed by God, and used to transform Paul from Saul the Christian-hater to Paul the gospel proclaimer. But this took time. Just as we don’t earn a college degree in a week, we’re not going to learn contentment overnight.

Paul started his journey into the Christian life as Saul the blind man (Acts 9:17), both spiritually and physically. Once God restored his sight, the apostle Paul began to learn even harder lessons, growing more like Christ with each challenging event. We all have rotations of hard seasons, but look at Paul’s list:

“Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)

Beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, constantly in perils, weary, in pain, hungry, thirsty, fasting, cold, and naked. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a season like that. Have you? Most of us can’t related to having so many things pile up on us at once.

All of the events in Paul’s life served as contentment training. God has contentment training classes for us, too. And unlike college where you can do a “drop/add”, these are classes that no one gets to skip.

Contentment is embracing life as it is.

Somehow, in the midst of that exhausting list of near-death experiences in Paul’s life, he found contentment. Paul was human, so we can learn contentment in our own versions of “whatsoever state.”

Contentment with less income.

Contentment in a difficult marriage.

Contentment with changes on the job.

Contentment with changes in the ministry.

Contentment while enduring family problems.

Contentment after receiving a life-altering diagnosis.

Contentment after a miscarriage.

Contentment after the death of a spouse.

This is just a starter list, but within every trial is an opportunity to learn a new level of contentment. This requires a yielded spirit and a heart that really means it when praying, “Thy will be done.”

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Take an inventory of your life. Ignore what’s missing, and don’t think about what you would rather have, or rather look like, or what you’d rather be doing. Where are you now? Contentment lives in the now, knowing that we don’t have the next moment yet.

Contentment also remembers that if you stripped everything away and left us with nothing in the earthly sense, we would still have God. He’s not leaving us. He promised. This makes us profoundly rich.

Have you been confused about contentment, thinking that you were supposed to like everything that’s happening in order to possess this gift? Contentment doesn’t mean that life is perfect. It means that we’re okay with whatever God wants to do in our lives.

Published: September 2023
By Francie Taylor

Francie Taylor is a Bible application teacher who is passionate about helping women learn what to do with what they learn. For more from Francie, browse this website. You’ll also find great Bible studies and books in the Shop at Keep the Heart

© Francie Taylor

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