Beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, starved. These are only a few of the many difficulties that the apostle Paul faced and yet this is the same man who wrote in Philippians that he had learned to be content everywhere and in all things.
Although Paul lived an extremely difficult life, he stated that he was content repeatedly throughout Philippians. Most of us are not content. We live in comparative ease. We have houses, cars, food, clothing, and freedom and yet we are discontented. Why? How is it that the apostle Paul who lived a life of pain and difficulty could be content and we who live lives of ease and comfort are not?
Conventional wisdom would say that contentment comes through having everything that you want but as we look at the life of Paul it becomes clear that that is not the case. How then, do we become content?
I would argue that contentment, at least the kind of contentment that Paul had, contentment that is absolutely independent of circumstances, actually begins with discontentment but it must be the right form of discontentment.
Most of us look to the world and everything in it as our source of contentment. We look to material things for peace, fulfillment, and happiness.
In order for contentment to be constant and unchanging, however, it must be based upon something that is constant and unchanging. The only thing that is constant and unchanging and always will be so, is Christ.
This is why I said that true contentment begins with discontentment. In order to gain the source of true contentment—Jesus, a person must first become discontent with the world and all that it has to offer.
It is only when a person becomes discontent with the world that they will look to Christ.
In order to become truly content a person must be wholly wrapped up in and satisfied with Christ.
Paul was content in every circumstance he faced because his contentment was not based upon circumstances. Paul suffered through extremely difficult circumstances. While writing the book of Philippians, where he speaks of his contentment, he was actually in prison.
No. Paul did not base his contentment upon his circumstances. Paul’s contentment was based upon Christ. While circumstances may change, Jesus does not. Although everything else may be stripped from you no one can separate you from Jesus. Thus because Paul was content in Christ no matter what happened to him he was able to remain content.
So back to the question that I asked at the beginning of this article. How is it that the apostle Paul who lived a life of pain and difficulty could be content and we who live lives of ease and comfort are not?
Paul’s contentment was based upon Christ whereas our contentment or lack thereof is based upon our circumstances. This is why Paul, who lived a far more difficult life than most of us, could be content while we are not.
How can we become content?
We must become discontent with the world counting it all loss and recognizing that it is all truly worthless in light of eternity. Casting all the pursuits of the world aside, we must instead embrace Christ as our all in all.
If Christ is truly everything to you and you are completely and totally satisfied in Him it will not matter what difficulties trial or blessings come your way. If everything you have is stripped away you will have joy, peace, and contentment because you will still have Jesus.
Romans 8:35-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Too many of us call ourselves Christians and yet are not content in Christ. If you are a Christian, Christ should be everything to you. You should be totally wrapped up and content in Him. Paul was. Are you?