“I have learned how to be content no matter what the circumstance.” Philippians 4:11
Paul had received a monetary gift from the believers in Philippi and in expressing his appreciation he writes, “At last you renewed your concern for me.” That sounds a little harsh so he explains that he understands they they were concerned but didn’t have the opportunity do to anything about it (perhaps no one had gone to Rome where he was in prison.) Against this background Paul explains that he is never really in need because “he’s learned how to be content no matter what the circumstance.”
I believe we’ll all agree that contentment is a very satisfying condition. We work our hardest at a task and once completed it gives us a sense of satisfaction. But the desire to have more doesn’t diminish so contentment seems to vanish the more it is fulfilled. It is hard to remain in a state of contentment because it gives way so quickly to the next challenge. It is a goal that keeps moving ahead like the plastic bunny that stays ahead of the dogs in a race no matter how fast the run. Socrates wisely noted, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
Contentment is a state of composure in which the desire to have or be are for the moment fulfilled. It is important to realize that contentment is not a goal but a condition resulting from achieving the goal. It’s a “by-product of a life well lived” says Eleanor Roosevelt. For the believer that means a life lived out successfully in fulfilling God’s intention for each. For the gifted author, contentment may well be the satisfaction of having been the conduit through whom the wisdom of the ancients and his own personal insights were channeled. For the average person, contentment is experienced by watching ones children successfully grow, marry and give birth to the next generation. It is diminished only by the desire to have or do more than God intended. People indwelt by God’s Spirit rejoice in what is, not in what they thought ought to have been.
Paul’s expression, “learned to be content,” suggests that contentment is not a normal human quality. It requires full acceptance of God’s plan for one’s life. Contentment requires that we let go of personal visions of achievement that bring recognition to ourselves. It is what floods our inner being when without hesitation we say, “Lord, I’m delighted to be exactly where I am today – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, If perfection is our goal we will never be content because that is unreachable.
So, thank you Lord for this day in which, regardless of life’s difficulties or rewards our relationship is clear. Thank you for contentment, the glad recognition that leads me to sing, “Nothing between my soul and my Savior.”