Philippians 4:11 (NLT) Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.
Paul says “be content.” This is not a word that is viewed positively in the world today – often it is seen as a form of weakness.
But contentment is not a weakness; it is just misunderstood.
Contentment is not apathetic or living without purpose or passion. It is not complacency or even laziness. It is not being content with failure, an unhappy marriage or a mediocre career. That is called fatalism, lacking drive or a poor work ethic.
Contentment is ‘being at rest’ with where I am in life – now. It’s not waiting for something to happen before I can become happy.
The opposite of contentment is coveting.
Coveting is a greedy spirit that desires what others have. Contentment can be just as desiring, but it doesn’t come from an unhealthy ego-driven or lustful appetite. Look what Paul says:
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.
Paul says “I have learned.” That’s important because, in this fallen, corrupt world, contentment doesn’t come naturally, it is a Christ-like quality we have to learn.
Here are three ways to learn contentment:
1. Stop comparing – When we compare ourselves to other people, we have stepped onto the slippery slide towards a covetous spirit. We start comparing everything – jewelry, hair, clothes, status, bank accounts, cars. Proverbs 14:30 says‘a contented heart gives life to the flesh, but envy rots the bones.’
2. Stop thinking to have more will make me happier, important or secure – Value does not come from having things that are valuable. People who think and live this way end up overextending themselves and purchase things on credit. Life then becomes dominated by payments – you spend your entire life working to repay debt!
3. Learn to enjoy without having to own – I don’t need to have everything to enjoy life. I don’t need to have something just because someone else has it. I don’t have to always buy something to enjoy it – maybe hire it. If you like sailing, you don’t have to buy a sailboat – hire one. Get my point? We can often spend so much money on things we rarely use.
The way to live this contented life is in Christ. Paul says“for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”
Paul went through seasons of lack and seasons of abundance – but whatever season it was, he learned how to be contented and thankful in Christ, who was his daily source of strength.