Many people want to be content in all circumstances, but they don’t know how. Some people don’t even believe it’s possible.
If you think about it, there are probably people in your life who seem to be on a never-ending search for contentment.
Do you know someone who is always looking for more or searching for inner peace?
This is a popular concept today, but none of the self-help trends seem to get there.
As you read Paul’s letter to the Church of Philippi, it is clear he learned the secret of true contentment, and like Paul, we too can have true contentment and joy in all circumstances.
For this joy-filled series, we are following along with Warren W. Wiersbe’s outstanding commentary of Philippians, Be Joyful: Even When Things Go Wrong, You Can Have Joy. We encourage you to pick up your own copy to study this book with us. This week we are focusing on Philippians 4:10-23.
The Difference Between Contentment and Complacency
First, don’t make the mistake of confusing contentment with complacency. Someone who is complacent is satisfied but often lacks awareness.
As Wiersbe explains, “Contentment is not complacency, nor is it a false peace based on ignorance […] Contentment is not escape from the battle, but rather an abiding peace and confidence in the midst of the battle.”
Contentment is awareness of what is happening and the ability to remain at peace no matter the circumstances.
Wiersbe further explains, “The word content actually means ‘contained.’ It is a description of the man whose resources are within him so that he does not have to depend on substitutes without.”
This is what Paul means when he learned contentment.
He discovered through experience that he has everything needed because Christ lives within him.
Where We Find Contentment
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
– Philippians 4:11-12
How often does someone think “If I only had this, I would be content”? Far too often!
Ask anyone who has ever thought they would be content if they achieved some status or purchased a new toy how long that feeling of contentment lasted, and they will tell you, “Not long.”
Paul, on the other hand, shares with us how he has the secret for being content no matter the circumstances.
It is important to note the following in these verses, “Learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
It did not happen as soon as he became a Christian.
It was something he learned over time, much like how Christians learn God is faithful as they experience His faithfulness repeatedly.
Because Paul had Christ within, he had peace within.
In the conclusion of this letter, Paul identifies some of the reasons our faith in God leads to contentment.
The Providence of God
When we rest in the knowledge of God’s providence, we experience contentment.
Wiersbe says it this way: “God’s providence simply means that God sees to it beforehand […] It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes.”
Paul saw God’s hand in his ministry and the church of Philippi’s involvement in his life when he needed it the most.
By recognizing “Life is not a series of accidents; it is a series of appointments (Wiersbe),” we can experience heavenly contentment.
The Power of God
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
– Philippians 4:13
One of the most popular Bible verses appears in this section of Paul’s discussion of contentment. Paul essentially made this his motto.
Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned. Think about that for a moment – while he was in prison, he was joyful and content.
His life experiences taught him how Christ within gives him all he needs – including strength.
In Wiersbe’s study, he discusses how our relationship with Christ gives us power.
Wiersbe explains, “The most important part of the Christian’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life.”
We must learn to rely on the power of Christ rather than attempting to be self-sufficient.
The Promise of God
“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:18-19
Finally, those who put their faith in Christ can find contentment through believing in His promises.
In this final send-off, Paul discusses how the church of Philippi supported him and how God will meet their needs as well.
Wiersbe summarizes the verses: “You met my need, and God is going to meet your need. You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all your needs. You gave out of your poverty, but God will supply your needs out of His riches in glory.”
By trusting in God’s promises, God’s power, and God’s providence, you, too, can learn to be content whatever the circumstances.