October 15 – Content or Discontent?

Philippians 4: 10 – 14   (NLT)

“ How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.”

The first phrase that jumps out at me is, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have”.  Wouldn’t that be great if we all could say that?  Are you content with the house you currently live in?  Are you content with your weight, your height, your appearance?  Are you content with the money you have available?  Are you generally happy with the life you are living now – especially right now in the fall of 2021?  Sometimes I wonder if we lived in some remote Third World area, would we be content there?  Or is discontent part of the human condition?  

Contentment or discontentment?  Those two ideas both have their place in life.  Discontentment is sometimes the motive for improving things.  Complete contentment might lead to a very complacent life with little accomplished. I think there has to be a balance between the two with contentment taking the majority place. If you look at Paul’s life, he certainly never sat still for long. He was eager to spread the Gospel to the known world, and he went through incredible difficulties doing that.  He certainly wasn’t a person to sit back and say, “This is getting too hard so I’ll be content with what we’ve accomplished and quit”.  

Reread those words that Paul wrote.  

“ How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.”

I think he was talking about being content with having things, or not having things.  He had a mission in life, and the things around him took second place.  He was very grateful for the help the Philippians sent.  He’s not trying to live a life without things.  There are some groups that think living an austere life is what God wants.  Paul said he was quite happy to have lots of good things if that is what came his way.  

If I apply that to my life, I start to think about what motivates me? What is my passion in life at this point?  (I think our goals can change at various times in our lives.) Goals/passions that are God-inspired are what should concern us the most, not the things we own.  And that is “the rub” in our culture, because what we own dominates us so much.  Advertising is in our faces constantly reminding us of what we need – oops, what we would like. 

There is another verse that jumps out at me as well.   “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength”.  I think that verse is sometimes misused.  On a North Point video, Andy Stanley talks about the misuse of this verse as a picture of a school marching band and a football team with that verse on a banner held by cheerleaders is being waved in the background.  This verse isn’t about the fact that God is going to help us win at whatever we are trying to do.  Paul uses this verse as the reason he can live with whatever comes his way.  And that I think is the real meaning in this verse.  It’s hard to live without things, to experience financial stress.  It can even be hard to live with too much. (really?)  Jesus mentioned that when he was talking to the rich young ruler who decided he couldn’t follow Christ because he would have to leave his stuff behind.  Too much can ruin our purpose in life if we get too focused on that.   

Our real challenge is to ask God what He wants us to do, what He wants us to focus on right now.  And then to ask Him for the strength to keep that focus and not get sidetracked by all the things we wish we had.  Ahh, “to be content with whatever I have”.

Our song for today is One Day by Matt Redman.

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