How to Development Contentment in My Life
A thermometer doesn’t change anything around it—it just registers the temperature. It’s always going up and down. But a thermostat regulates the surroundings and changes them when they need to be changed. Many people live like a thermometer, living their lives and letting their circumstances let them go up and down. Being content in life is like being a thermostat.
The Apostle Paul was a thermostat. Instead of having spiritual ups and downs as the situation changed, he went right on, steadily doing his work and serving Christ. His personal references at the close of this letter indicate that he was not the victim of circumstances but the victor over circumstances: “I can accept all things” (Philippians 4:11); “I can do all things” (Philippians 4:13); “I have all things” (Philippians 4:18). Paul did not have to be pampered to be content; he found his contentment in the spiritual resources abundantly provided by Christ.1
This contentment can be found by using three wonderful spiritual resources that are available to every Christian.
Trust in the overruling providence of God
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because once again you renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity to show it.” (Philippians 4:10, CSB)
The word “providence” comes from two Latin words: pro, meaning “before,” and video, meaning “to see.” God’s providence simply means that God sees to it beforehand. It does not mean that God simply knows beforehand, because providence involves much more. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes.
God knows your situation. He knows your needs. Trust in the way God provides for you.
Depend upon the unfailing power of God
“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13, CSB)
It doesn’t matter what circumstances a Christian finds themselves in life. It is the same power from God that supplies the needs. A Christian learns contentment by learning to adapt to the seasons of life in which they find themselves and still depend on God’s power to sustain themselves.
It is not what we have that sustains us. It is what God has given us that sustains us.
Jesus said it this way:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5, CSB)
All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the Christian’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life. Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life2
Hope in the unchanging promise of God
“Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship. And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:14–20, CSB)
How is hope on God’s promises related to contentment? God’s promises are for God’s people who trust in God’s resources for God’s solutions. Only Christians can do this. The people of God don’t rely only on themselves and then trust God’s people when they are in trouble. The people of God learn the value of contentment so that when they need to, they rely on God’s help.
We hope in God and spiritual resources, not worldly ideas. You are not going to build contentment in life if you keep having to depend upon the lottery to get you out. Get rich quick schemes won’t build contentment in your life. Like Paul, you are going to have to experience hardships so low that help you see how deep you are in your need for God on a regular basis. Paul shares with us his experience of building contentment in his life. It is directly related to his relationship to the church.
SIX WAYS THAT THE HOPE IN GOD’S PROMISES HELPS ME DEVELOP CONTENTMENT
1. I accept that I am not alone in my circumstances
“Still, you did well by partnering with me in my hardship.” (Philippians 4:14, CSB)
Paul was in a deep hardship. He was in prison with no way to support himself. He trusted on the giving of other people from the church. He reached out to his church in his time of need, when he was unable to provide for himself. God says here that you are not going to provide for your needs outside of the circle of the church. Christians cannot live in isolation. At some point, you are going to get into a situation that requires that you ask for help. It is in that moment, that you trust in the community that God provides for you – the church.
2. I appreciate the way that God provides for my circumstances.
“And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times.” (Philippians 4:15–16, CSB)
In Paul’s case here, he was hoping for help from several churches. Paul had started various churches, but on the church of Philippi helped him in greatest time of need. The only comment Paul posts here is that “no church shared with me.” Paul didn’t list the churches that did not share with him. He didn’t rant on Facebook about the ways that people who should have provided for him didn’t do so. Paul didn’t call out the names of pastors, elders, deacons, and church members who hurt him because they didn’t provide for his needs. He just thanked the Philippians for the way they provided. Paul saw this for what it was: God provided Paul’s needs through the church of Philippi.3. I learn to be a blessing and not a burden to others.
“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account.” (Philippians 4:17, CSB)
Look at the compliment that Paul states at the end: “I seek the profit that is increasing in your account.” This money is going to go a long way for the kingdom and I know that it will bless you. Instead of complaining that they didn’t give him more money, Paul turned it into a blessing to the church who provided for him.
Do you curse your employer? Do you bite the hands that feed you? Do you insult those who are the patrons that provide for you? How do you react to the ways in which God provides? Is it with blessing or cursing?
4. I live on what God gives me
“But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18, CSB)
God doesn’t supply all my “greeds.” He supplies all of my needs. Paul shows us here that I should learn to live on what God gives me. God provides out of His abundance. I am responsible to use that money wisely. Paul didn’t get a loan from the local First Bank of the Roman Empire to assist with his expenses. He didn’t beg for more money than what was given. He didn’t complain about the amount or where the money came from. Instead, Paul lived on what God had given him.
5. I give to God generously
“But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:18–19, CSB)
Epaphroditus shows us that I give to God so that God can provide more than enough for my life. The premise is that I give to God. The promise is that God will supply all of my needs.
We are never more like God than when we give. Giving is a way of growing in the Christian faith. Giving financially helps us to grow contentment in our lives. Because if we are willing to let go to God what we think we need for ourselves, then it means that we trust God more than we trust the money that He gives us.
6. I leave open the opportunity for God to surprise me with hope
“Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you greetings. All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philippians 4:20–23, CSB)
Paul ends with a praise to God and a greeting to the people in the church of Philippi. As the church reads this letter, they are left with a surprise. They say that you should never “put the book down util you have finished reading it.” As this letter is being read, you sense that Paul is just encouraging his church. Then the surprise ending that the church could never expect was read: God works more behind our backs than in front of our face. Paul wrote the book of Philippians near the end of his first Roman imprisonment, probably in 62.3 Paul was in jail, but he writes that the people in Caesar’s house were coming to Jesus Christ.
Earlier, Paul mentioned that his imprisonment actually advanced the Gospel:
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ.” (Philippians 1:12–13, CSB)
At the beginning of the letter, Paul says that the Imperial guards were hearing that Paul was imprisoned because he was a Christian. Here, at the end of the letter, Paul lets the other shoe drop and gives the bombshell that the Gospel has reached the Emperor’s home. This gave the church Philippi much joy and hope because it meant that their giving was not in vain.
What does that have to do with contentment? If my trust, my dependence, my hope, and my giving is able to advance the Gospel like this – in impossible ways, then surely I can be content with God and what He has planned for my future. The reason is because God has provided enough resources to keep me content that all is going to go well in the end. My resources are the providence of God, the power of God, and the promises of God. These resources made Paul sufficient for every demand of life, and they can make me sufficient too.4
1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 96–97.
2 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 98.
3 Sharon Rusten with E. Michael, The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005), 92.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 99.