Contentment

I am pondering a great lesson the apostle Paul learned – how to be content.

I find myself wanting more – more things, more experiences, more influence, more recognition.

This desire for more can be good and bad. It has fueled ground-breaking explorations and science. But it can poison lives, too, leading to disappointments and bitterness.

I believe Paul teaches best how to pursue more good things while being content with what you have.

“I have learned to be content with whatever I have,” he says in Philippians 4:11-12. “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.”

This contentment did not come from passive surrender to the world around him. He did not retreat into a shell and stop striving.

No, he says in Philippians 3:14 that “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which, God through Christ, is calling us.” God has given him a task and he is focused on carrying it out, come what may.

How is he able to strive and yet be content?

One key is that “for me, living means living for Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

He is not living for his own comforts or prestige or gain. He is living for Christ.

Then, he says in Philippians 3:19 that many people “think only about this life here on earth”. But believers are “citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus lives”. Our focus must be on loving Jesus and pleasing him – not on the passing pleasures of earth. After all, it won’t be long before we are with him in heaven where we will be filled with incredible joy.

That, I admit, is a tough call for us as we live here on earth. It’s a tough call for me.

But David’s words in Psalm 24:1 strike a gong in my mind and heart: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.”

What I have – my material possessions and my natural gifts and talents – are not mine. They are what God has given me. It’s the same with everyone else.

There is no room here for jealousy or bitterness. What I have been given is to be used for the glory of God.

That is the foundation of true contentment.

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