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 (NIV)
This passage motivates me to discover for myself the secret to the contentment that the Apostle Paul writes about. How about you? Would you describe yourself as a contented person? Precious few people I have ever known would consistently answer with a definitive “yes.”
Oh, at times throughout my 48-year journey with Jesus, I have experienced contentment, but to claim that I have “arrived” would simply not be true. Going back forty-three years, I can remember the night I sensed God had called me to leave my career as an Army infantry officer to pursue a call as a full-time minister. As I reached each milestone toward making that a reality, I assumed that I would automatically become more holy, more dedicated, and more content in my walk with the Lord. But that has not been the case. As I progressed through levels of ministerial credentialing within my denomination, that contentment still remained elusive.
And now, after being an ordained minister for over 37 years, contentment, many times, still remains a goal yet to be experienced on a consistent basis. But I’m not about to give up. The Bible is God’s Word and the promises contained therein are true. From my study of Scripture as well as what I’ve learned through experience, I believe the answer is simple but takes a lifetime to learn. Trust God. Trust that He loves you, that He’s always present with you, and that His will for your life far exceeds any plans you might make. This holds especially true when circumstances are tough.
When times are tough, I’m trying to reshape my thinking. Instead of asking, “Lord, why is this happening?”, I’m replacing this with “Lord, how do you want me to respond?” In other words, I’m trying to find peace and contentment in doing God’s will rather than always begging God to change the circumstances. So far, this approach is helping me to find greater contentment.
You may want to give this a try. Paul was in prison when he wrote Philippians. I’m reasoning that if he could find contentment in the squalid conditions of a Roman prison, we can learn to find contentment in our circumstances.
Then, along with Paul, we can say this: I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)