Today’s word is content:
Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.
I came across that word – content – as I was preparing to lead the Christ Church-La Vergne Bible study a couple of weeks ago. This is the verse where I first found it:
Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
2 Corinthians 12:10 (New Living Translation)
The apostle Paul wrote those words. While this was not a key point for my Bible study lesson, it was an intriguing statement to me – the idea of being content with weaknesses, insults, etc. That’s a pretty foreign concept for most of us. Some Bible translations render that phrase as “I take pleasure.” That seems even more absurd. But for some reason, it was this wording in the New Living Translation that made an impression on me.
As the days went by following the Bible study, this word, content, kept popping into my mind. The reason? Because contentment was not something I felt at that moment. It was not something I had felt for a few weeks. Restless would be a better word to describe my state of being. So as I thought about the idea of being content, I realized that was exactly what was missing in my life at the moment.
But so what if I realized I was not content… could I do anything about it? Can we just create contentment at any given moment? Don’t we just have to go with the flow of life, and sometimes we find ourselves content, sometimes discontent?
And back to Paul… so what if he’s content with his problems. By the definition of content, it would seem that the requirement to reach the state of contentment varies per person – as in, it may take “more” to make one person content than it takes for another. So maybe Paul was born with the ability to be content with hardships, persecutions, and so on. What does that matter to you or me?
Paul wrote again about contentment in Philippians 4:12-13, which is the key passage for this installment of Peace in the Storm, and it is where we find answers to these questions. First, verse 12:
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 4:12 (New International Version)
The key word: learned. Paul says he learned the secret of being content in all situations. He wasn’t just born with the ability to shrug off everything that came his way, always being satisfied. Can you imagine what it would feel like to go through life being content in "any and every situation?" Well, if Paul was able to learn the secret, then so can we. What is this secret? Paul shared it in verse 13:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 (New King James Version)
Paul learned that his satisfaction, or fulfillment, or sufficiency, could not be consistently found in the material things around him. But in Christ, he could enjoy peace and purpose at all times. That’s because Christ is constant. If our contentment is anchored to money, jobs, cars, health, relationships, and on and on – anything except Christ – we are in for a rough ride. Jesus said:
“In this world you will have tribulation [pressure, oppression, stress, adversity, affliction], but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 (New King James Version)
Wherever you are in life right now, I’m sure there are things around you that give you reason to be discontent. According to the ways of this world, that’s just a natural feeling and you just need to "do what you have to do" to make yourself happy. Change this, get more of that. That chase will wear you out, though (I know). God has a better plan.
He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to bring us peace – not just for eternity, but for right now. He has overcome the world. We just have to learn this same challenging lesson that Paul learned: to get our eyes off of ourselves and our external circumstances, and instead look to Christ. In Him, we can do all things. In Him, we will find contentment. Forever. He will never let us down.