The Secret of
Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.
Many of us have some mixed up ideas about contentment. We think that if we can ever have this good thing, our life will be better. If we can avoid that bad thing, then we’ll really be happy. If we thought about it more than a nanosecond, though, we’d realize that we know plenty of people who have this or who have successfully avoided that but still aren’t any happier than we are. There must be a secret we haven’t discovered yet.
There is. Somewhere along the way, Paul learned the secret of contentment. He realized that possessions, fame, beauty, and other earthly things can be pleasant for a while, but they can never produce genuine contentment. That comes from the inside. We experience true contentment when external things lose their grip on our hearts and don’t matter much anymore. Some of us get bent out of shape when we realize our favorite is still at the cleaners or when we can’t find the perfect pair of shoes. Paul’s well of contentment was so deep that he could enjoy life with or without the most the most basic needs. He was content being full or going hungry, having many possessions or little to speak of, living a life of ease or suffering at the hands of evil men.
A poster in a college professor’s office reads, “Happiness isn’t t having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” Jealousy, envy, and greed suck the life- and any sense of contentment- out of us. Replace those joy killers with gratitude for what you have, and listen to your heart sing!
The only ultimate disaster that can befall us is to feel ourselves at home on this earth.
Being content is not the same as having no ambition. Paul would tell us that he had a zeal that all of Israel would know Christ and that his desire was for the lost to come to Christ. When he speaks of contentment he is referring to himself personally. Sometimes it becomes reversed. We spend so much effort trying to find personal contentment that we have no energy left to give to the kingdom of God so we are content to remain as we are. As a matter of fact, many Christians have been so content with their walk with God that they have sat down on the side of the road and ceased to run the race of faith. Many churches have grown content with their programs and rituals and have ceased spending energy, effort or resources toward reaching their community and those who do not know Christ. So in the matters of the kingdom, we dare not be content with us four and no more. Our zeal for reaching the lost so that none perish ought to move us to action. If you yourself do not have a personal assurance of salvation, don’t be content with just hoping so. Instead press to know that you are truly a child of God. If you have family members whose eternity is in question, don’t be content that they may know something about Christ without actually knowing Christ in salvation. If we really believe in the existence of hell and that those who do not know Christ as their Savior then we will never be content until we work so that none perish. We ought not rest and our worship gatherings ought to feel as though something is missing unless we are seeing people coming to know Christ. There ought to be a holy dissatisfaction that our baptisteries remain dry and our membership roster is declining. We ought to be dissatisfied with status quo and maintaining. So you see being content is not having no desire for more especially more of the things of God.
Jesus gave us a great secret of living a contented life. He said, “But seek help first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” That, my friend, is the secret of of contentment. When we want the same things that God wants, we always receive them in due season and we are content with what He supplies. As we focus on seeking the kingdom of God first, making our spiritual need our first priority, then God will also provide every other need we have. To live a contented is to trust God for everything we need, to trust His love and care for us, and to know that if His eye is on the sparrow, then surely we have captured His attention. I’ve learned that God will only allow me to have and enjoy what I can manage. He has no desire to give me something that possesses me. He only wishes to bless me with those things that I possess and enjoy. He loves us too much to allow us to become slaves to things.
The saddest words expressing discontentment were uttered by one of the wealthiest men on earth, John D. Rockefeller. On his death bed he was asked what he would desire if he could have anything. He responded, “One dollar more.” What a sad life it must be to have such discontentment while having so much of the things of this world.
Truth is we can only find true contentment in Christ. He alone can fill our longing heart and soul. No other person, thing, or position can ever fully satisfy us, only Christ alone. That was Paul secret. He had given himself fully to Christ and the work of Christ and in doing so, he found contentment.
May we never be content as long as there is one person who does not know Christ as Savior and may we learn to be content with whatever worldly possessions we may have. May God remind us that we are pilgrims on a journey passing briefly through this world and only what we do for Christ sake will carry through eternity.
Dr. John Thompson