This morning I want to talk to you on the subject of contentment, and I want to see if I can’t be very practical in talking about that. I am concerned because there are so many things in this world to make us discontent. Just about everything in this world makes us discontent. And discontent can lead to anxiety, and anxiety can lead to fear, and we can readily lose our joy as believers, even if we go down the wrong path, in a world where the ground is not only shifting under our feet, but seems to be opening up sinkholes into which we fall into some kind of unknown darkness. There are plenty of things to frighten us in this world. There are plenty of things that are open-ended in the sense of we don’t know where they’re going, but we know they’re going in a direction that concerns us, and it’s not going to be the way it’s always been for us.
And this is a time we need to get a grip on being content, even in these very difficult times. In fact it seems to me that if there’s one thing that this world manifests, it is discontent. Nobody seems content with anything. The human heart cannot be satisfied ultimately with anything but God, and a godless society will chase satisfaction and never really find it.
So we want to look at the subject of contentment, and it’s something that the Bible says a lot about. Sometimes the word content actually shows up in some English translations of the Bible. Sometimes in its place is the word satisfaction. But let me give you just a few quotes from the Psalms.
In Psalm 36, the psalmist wrote, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the sons of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They are satisfied,” or, “content.” In Psalm 63, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall laud You,” or, “praise You. Thus will I bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul is satisfied.” Psalm 65, “We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house . . . O God of our salvation.” Psalm 107, “For He”—meaning God—“satisfies the thirsty soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” All of this tells us that we should be satisfied with God, that God intends to bring us satisfaction or contentment. The familiar words of Psalm 23 begin this way: “The Lord,” or, “Yahweh is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
A satisfied heart should be the experience of every believer because God promises to satisfy us with everything we need. Contentment is a spiritual virtue. Contentment is a righteous response to the Word of God, and therefore the promises of God. Contentment is a righteous attitude. The satisfied and contented person is saying, “I am satisfied with what God has brought about in my life.” That’s the bottom line. You’re satisfied as a believer, and you’re content when you can say, “I am content with what God has brought about in my life. I don’t want anything different. I don’t want anything more than what He wants to give me.”
I wish all of us were like that. But sadly, Christians are filled with discontent. They’re caught up in the consumption mentality of the culture in which we live, where all advertising is predicated on the fact that they’re going to make you discontent with what you have. It’s plotted and planned, and it’s a form of seduction to get you to go after something you don’t have. The world’s literally diseased with discontent.
In Philippians chapter 4 we find Paul saying he is content, and we find around that statement the reasons why. So turn in your Bible to Philippians 4, and let me read the opening thirteen verses. And we’ll take a look at this chapter, not an exhaustive one, but sort of a selective one, as we consider this virtue of contentment.
Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Paul is telling us he’s content—and his circumstances are disastrous from a human level. He is in prison as he writes, he is chained, and he essentially is headed, ultimately, for execution at the end of his life. All the things that he wanted to do—traveling and preaching and teaching and appointing leaders—were on hold now. There were people who were saying he was in prison because he had somehow sinned and somehow violated God’s intention for his ministry, and this was punishment to him. That there were people who were stepping in where he once preached, and criticizing Paul as if he had done something to cause the Lord to discipline him by putting him in prison. He was being not only persecuted by the world, but he was being persecuted and wrongly accused by other preachers who were jealous of him. He would have had the very minimal care. He would have been in a stinking, foul prison, with nothing but the most meager food and no change of clothes, no sanitation. But he says in verse 11, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.”
So if you’re going to learn contentment and you’re going to demonstrate contentment, this is the place to do it. He is also facing the inevitable conflict that comes when you are preaching the gospel to a crooked and perverse generation. He knows that if he is released it’s not going to be for long; and sure enough, he’ll be back; and ultimately, he’ll be martyred. But what he is saying in verse 11 is, “I’m satisfied, I have enough.” And saying you have enough is saying, “God, I am content with what You’re now doing in my life.” In other words, it’s really an act of worship to be content. You are bowing before the Lord and saying, “Thank You for this current situation, because it comes from Your hand.” Contentment is a matter of being grateful for whatever it is that God has brought about in your life.
Our Lord Jesus gave us reason to be content at the most basic level back in Matthew 6. In the Sermon on the Mount, He says in verse 25, Matthew 6, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles,” or “the nations eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” That’s very foundational, isn’t it? Why are you worrying when you have a God who will supply all your needs? This is righteous contentment.
Now there is sinful contentment, for certain. The Bible gives us some illustrations of that. Some people are content with wickedness. I’m reminded of the wicked brothers of Joseph, you remember, who hated him and threw him in a pit and waited to sell him into slavery. And Genesis 37:27 says, “And his brothers were content.” They were content with their evil.
Some people are content with less than God’s best. Moses, fleeing Egypt because his efforts at leading the people out of bondage by the sword had failed, sulked—you remember—in the desert, taking refuge in the house of Jethro. And in Exodus 2:21 it says, “Moses was content to dwell with the man.” And even later was reluctant to step into leadership. He was content with less than God’s best.
Some people are content with less than complete obedience. Leviticus 10 tells an interesting story of two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, who desecrated the priestly function by offering strange fire to God. And they, violating the law, were then killed. And God said, “I demand complete obedience.” The two remaining sons of Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, were not allowed to leave the Tabernacle even to accompany the burial of their brothers, but were told to stay there. And Moses commanded them to keep doing the priestly work, and in particular to eat the entire sin offering as the Lord commanded, so that they would recognize the sinfulness of sin. However they did not eat it, they burned it, violating the law of sacrifice. Moses was angry with them because the law was clear. But Moses, instead of calling for obedience, became sympathetic for these two disobedient priests; and it says in Leviticus 10:20, “Moses was content.”
You can’t be content with disobedience. You can’t be content with partial obedience. You can’t be content with sin. That’s not the kind of contentment we’re talking about. Even Pilate, you remember—unruly, bloodthirsty Pilate—tried to moderate his bloodthirst with regard to Jesus Christ, whom he couldn’t find guilty of anything. But he decided to hand Jesus over to execution, it says in Mark 15:15, because it would make the people content.
All that is evil contentment. And there is a measure of contentment in evil. But what I want us to focus on is the pure contentment God desires of us. And honestly it is distressing that there is so much discontent in the world, but not at all surprising because ultimate satisfaction’s only found in God. But even among believers, we don’t want to get caught up in the sin of being discontent. I get it; I’m living in the same world you’re living in. I understand that things are looking bleak and bleaker. I understand that we don’t like our circumstances, that we now have epic problems that are new to us in this particular dilemma. We might be guilty of discontent.
If we are discontent, we are discontent with God, OK? Let’s be foundational about it. Because discontent says, “God, I don’t like what You’re doing in my life. I don’t like Your plan, I don’t trust Your provision, and I’m not really sure about Your promises.” So discontent really is an attack on God, on His character, on His Word, on His promise. And that is why the Bible marks sin as such an offense to Him.
On the other hand, listen to 1 Timothy 6:6: “Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Because if we’re walking in obedience to the Lord, the circumstances of our life are His plan. What’s going on in the world is part of His plan. What’s going on in our country is part of His plan. What’s going on in our state and our city, and even in your life, is inside His plan. And discontent says, “I don’t like Your plan. I don’t know that I trust Your promises, or maybe I don’t trust Your power,” and that is an affront to God.
So how can we learn to be like Paul? Paul said in verse 11, “I have learned to be content.” It’s a learning process. He repeats it again in the next verse: “I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need.” There are life lessons that teach us to be content; they’re all those times in our lives when God came through, when providentially He met our need. Providentially He fulfilled His Word and His promise. I hope you’ve learned enough lessons to trust God. But there are some foundational realities that have to be considered so that we draw out of those lessons some absolute principles, and I find them here in chapter 4 of Philippians.
A life of contentment is going to be marked by a number of things, and they’re all in the text here. Number one: an appreciation for the fellowship of love; an appreciation for the fellowship of love, or an embracing of the fellowship of love. Some people don’t think the church is very important. Some people drift in and drift out like spectators. They don’t want to get involved, they don’t want to get friendly, they don’t want to be known or know people; they don’t need that, they don’t think. They’re happy to just attend. In fact they’d be fine to have an everlasting Zoom church where they don’t have to recognize that anybody else even exists. But that is an impossible way to be content because you don’t have enough resources in yourself to find true spiritual contentment. You have to appreciate the fellowship of love. Let me show you this.
Paul has been talking, in the end of chapter 3, about our citizenship being in heaven—we understand that—from which also we wait eagerly for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s true; our citizenship is in heaven. We are members of the kingdom of God, the family of God; heaven is our home. We are strangers and aliens here. We are waiting for the Savior from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re waiting for Him to come and transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. So we’re waiting for perfection. We’re waiting for a glorified body. We’re waiting for the Lord Jesus to come and forever remove all trouble. We’re waiting for that.
But in the meantime, let’s look at life, OK. So chapter 4, verse 1, “Therefore”—in light of what is to come and until the Lord takes us away—“my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown.” And we can say at the end of the verse, “my beloved,” again. What is Paul saying here? He is embracing the reality of the fellowship of love. He is not able to live his life in isolation; he needs people, he longs to see them. They are his joy. They’re the source of life’s most joyful reality. They are his crown—that is to say they are the ultimate reward of everything he does. It’s relationships. They are twice called “beloved” with the most profound level of love.
Look, we live as strangers in the earth; we get that. We are foreigners and we’re citizens of heaven, and we’re waiting for the Lord to come and take us. But until then, we deeply need each other. You can’t live and you don’t need to live alone. Hebrews 10 says, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. Come together to stimulate one another to love and good works.”
“My beloved, my beloved.” Twice he expresses how much he loves the people of Philippi and longs to be with them, and out of the isolation of imprisonment. Open communion of love and support is the key to being content. When all goes wrong, I need to know I’m not alone; you need to know you’re not alone. You need the church. You need the people who love you and love Christ, and serve you and pray for you and speak into your life and minister their spiritual gifts mutually. We can’t make it on our own. And you see that here because he starts mentioning people: “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.” There are two women who are forever immortalized as two ladies that couldn’t get along with each other. Not exactly all that would be known about them in human history in a favorable way. But he names these women.
And then in verse 3 he says to his “true companion,” another person, “I ask you,” specifically, “my true companion”—making reference to some individual—“to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” This is just an incredible thing. Here is this man isolated by himself in a prison, and he’s reaching out to express love and naming people that matter in his life. They do matter, because we are never intended to live alone. Go to verse 18, “I’ve received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus”—that’s another person in his life. Paul does this a lot, he does it a lot.
Maybe it’s my age, but people are asking me to reminisce about ministry. They’re trying to download me before I’m gone, I think. And one of the questions that I get asked is, “What’s been the most fulfilling part of your ministry?” And it’s an easy question to answer. It’s you, it’s you. It’s people. I can’t put anything above that except the supernatural spiritual work the Lord has done in my life in salvation. The greatest treasure I have is you. People ask me about the joy in ministry; I can’t disconnect that joy from the people. It’s fine to be away, but I can’t wait to get back because I’m not intended to be isolated. Neither are you. We desperately need each other.
I’m not the explanation for Grace Church any more than any one of you sitting out there is the explanation for Grace Church. God gave me a gift and assumed that I would use it, and has empowered me by the Spirit and given me a great opportunity. But that’s just one among thousands of people. And when I think about the ministry of Grace Church and how far it extends to the end of the earth, it’s just stunning—all the relationships, all the people.
The Lord never intends you to live alone, to be isolated; that’s a very dangerous place. And the apostle Paul, even though he can’t enjoy the fellowship, throws his arms around the fellowship even from a distance, and embraces it by expressing love, and by letting people know that he wants the people that he loves to get along with each other better. That’s pastoral, isn’t it? That’s why he said in 2 Corinthians 11, all the things that he had suffered, but the worst of it is the care of the churches because these are the people you love.
And life can be hard for him. Back in chapter 1, verse 12, “My circumstances aren’t good.” Why? Verse 13, “I’m in prison. But it’s all right, because,” verse 14, “because of my imprisonment, brethren have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Because I’m in prison, and the Lord is using me in prison to bring people to salvation, some in Caesar’s household,” as he refers to later. “There’s another level of boldness that’s coming to my brothers who are still free. Some are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, some from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing I’m appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.” It was tough, because there were good men taking up his place, preaching with a pure motive; and then there were evil men who were preachers and were saying, “Paul is in prison because he sinned greatly, and God is disciplining him”; and they were supposing to add affliction to his chains. But he says, “In any case, Christ is being preached.” He’s so aware of people. He’s aware of those who would harm him, he’s aware of those who help him.
This is life for believers. We can’t do it alone. You’re not going to find contentment on its own, inside of you; it doesn’t rise up in isolation. Contentment in large measure is a realization that you are not alone. And I think we realized that, didn’t we, in the last year and a half when everybody was experiencing bizarre isolation. And the forces that be, are still trying to isolate people. And this was like home; this was like family. It is family where we can express our love.
So Paul says, “Stand firm in the Lord; it’s very important. And deal with those women who need to be brought together in harmony.” This is pastoral, this is pastoral. As a pastor myself, I never get away from the people. Honestly, when I’m away I don’t think about sermons, I don’t think about administration; it’s all about people. And the Lord has surrounded me with such incredible people, such an incalculable blessing.
Now contentment does not flow from selfish fulfillment. Say that again: Contentment does not flow up from selfish fulfillment, it flows from serving others, loving others, fellowshipping with others, sharing with others, bearing one another’s burdens, caring for one another, ministering to one another—because then, all of a sudden, bonds of love are strengthened. And when you know you are loved, and you love, you can be content no matter what the struggle. Love, by the way, only grows in the soil of humility, it only grows in the soil of humility. And contentment comes from loving and being loved.
So contentment requires an appreciation of the fellowship of love. Secondly, contentment requires cultivating a spirit of joy, cultivating a spirit of joy. Look at verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” It sounds a little strange to command people to rejoice, but it is a command, it is a command.
That is not a part of the culture in which we live. When is the last time you saw a public demonstration of joy? You’ve never seen one—unless you’re in church, or a family in Christ, or a Bible study. Joy is commanded. It is a fruit of the Spirit, but it is also a command: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”—present active imperative: continual, habitual practice. It’s referred to seventy times in the New Testament, “Rejoice”—incessant, independent of circumstances. And the operative phrase is “in the Lord.” In—the sphere of rejoicing is in what the Lord is doing, right? You can’t rejoice in the government. You can’t rejoice in the education system. You can’t rejoice in anything temporal in this world because it’s all part of the corruption. But you will find your joy in the Lord.
Same thing at the beginning of chapter 3, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord”—“in the Lord,” not in your circumstances. Joy is a choice. Train yourself to rejoice. Train yourself to be joyful. You have to battle sin in your life, battle the sin of being dour, sour, unhappy. Train your heart to rejoice, which means you’ve got to get above the circumstances because they’re never going to be the cause of permanent joy; they fluctuate too much, right? But if you want permanent joy, you’ve got to get up where the Lord is. To borrow the language of Colossians, “Set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth.” You’ll be lost in wonder, love, and praise and joy when your focus is on heaven.
Again, it grows in the soil of humility that says, “I don’t deserve anything that the Lord has given me. Why should I not be joyful all the time? He’s given me the greatest gift, and that is eternal life.” This is a command that every believer should cultivate in his or her life.
In Psalm 63 David is very likely fleeing from his son Absalom, so it’s really heartbreaking. And Psalm 63 he’s out in the wilderness, and he says, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there’s no water. Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” And then at the end of verse 5, “My mouth offers praises with joyful lips.” Boy, there’s a big transition in there, isn’t there? Sorrow and trouble in the wilderness, fleeing from his own son; and he comes to praise, because he should be joyful in the Lord. God is sovereign, God is ruling, God is over all circumstances.
So contentment comes to those people who are fully embracing the fellowship of love with all of the rich relationships that it offers, and who cultivate the habit of rejoicing. Thirdly, contentment also demands learning to accept less, learning to accept less. Look at verse 5, “Let your gentle spirit be made known to all men.” Now that gentle spirit, sometimes it’s translated “moderation,” epieikēs. It means your reasonableness. Some have translated it “sweet reasonableness.” It’s really a humble, patient endurance. No retaliation, no hatred, no bitterness, no anger, no self-justification, no discontent. Your gentle spirit should be known to all men. In other words, you ought to have a reputation of being settled and content. You ought to be known as someone who has a gentle spirit, a gracious spirit, big-heartedness, good will; could embrace kindness. You’re not stomping around demanding anything, but rather that gentle, meek, humble, accepting spirit is your reputation.
Are you known as a complainer, or are you known as someone who’s content? Should be obvious. It’s a lot more effective to show unbelievers a contented life than it is a cantankerous one, don’t you think? Again, it goes back to whether or not you’re willing to let God be God, and accept your circumstance. You’re not to be demanding rights and privileges and possessions and health and wealth and whatever. Contentment belongs to believers who share in the fellowship of love, who cultivate the habit of joy, and never demand anything, but accept whatever God brings.
There’s a fourth truth here: Contentment comes from standing on confident faith in the Lord. Look at verse 5 again, the latter half, “The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing.” That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? And, “The Lord is near,” doesn’t mean the Second Coming is near or the rapture of the church; it’s the presence of the Lord: “The Lord is near.”
Why are you discontent? “The Lord is near.” He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” In fact He has taken up residence in you. The Lord is near. You’ll never be without Him for one split second. He dwells within you, He’s there to supply everything you need, and He’s fully aware of it all, all of it; and He’s looking at it from a very close perspective. He doesn’t look down from heaven at your distress, He looks at your distress from inside of you. Can you trust Him? Can you trust Him in difficult times? Can you say, “The Lord is near. Why am I worrying?”? As Jesus said, what’s worry going to add? Nothing. Nothing.
You know, another question I’m often asked, recently—I guess maybe I’ve been doing a lot of interviews: “How do you handle so much ministry responsibility? Do you ever get burned out or frustrated?” And my answer’s always the same: No, because I’m not in charge of it. I’m really not. I sleep really well. There are plenty of things that need to be different than they are, plenty of things. But the Old Testament says that God neither slumbers nor sleeps; and there’s really no reason for both of us to stay awake. And if it has to be one or the other, let it be Him.
Verse 6 says stop worrying; the Lord is near, and powerful, and it’s all in His plan. I am content to know the Lord is doing His work; all I need to be is faithful. I don’t have to protect myself or the ministry, I just need to be faithful and apply the Word of God and the wisdom of divine truth where the Lord gives me opportunity. But worrying, what’s the point of that? What’s the point of getting frustrated? Everything is in the Lord’s hands, and especially in the church that He is building.
So contentment is the product of living in love among the saints so that you’re enriched by that fellowship; cultivating joy in your heart, being joyful; facing life with a patient, humble, sweet reasonableness that accepts whatever comes along; all built on a confident trust in God, who promises to be sufficient, and will never leave you, and will be there to supply whatever you need.
And there’s a fifth principle: Contentment calls for reacting to your problems with thankful prayer. Verse 6, “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Instead of questioning God, instead of doubting God, instead of the anxiety and discontent that comes from reacting negatively to what’s happening, try this: Pray in everything, in everything. Peter says, “Cast your care on Him, because He cares for you.” Why are you carrying the load? Thankful for God’s purpose, thankful for His plan, thankful for what He’s doing, thankful for His providence which orders all things to fulfill His will, thankful for the promise that He cares more than you do and He has the power to do something about it, thankful that He’s working out His plan. Contentment will come when you just take whatever your burden is and give it to Him.
Notice how completely comprehensive this statement is: “in everything by prayer and supplication.” Supplication means begging. This isn’t just some just brief verbalization. You go before the Lord, and you pour out your heart, and you beg Him to take your burden. He wants to know what’s on your heart. And when you’ve given it all to Him, verse 7 says, “The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” You want peace in your life? Learn to pray, learn to cast all your care on Him. It isn’t that you necessarily get a certain answer, it’s that you offload the responsibility.
“And the peace of God”—we have peace with God in our salvation; we have the peace of God when we deliver to Him the burdens of our heart. This is a kind of peace that is incomprehensible, and it “protects your heart and your mind.” What does it do? It protects you from being discontent or fearful or anxious.
There’s a sixth principle—this is very important—verse 8: Contentment comes from focusing on godly things. You know verse 8, don’t you: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” You’re not going to find that on CNN. You’re not going to find that in any earthly place. You’re going to have to go to the Word of God for those things, right?
“What is true”—start there, just get all the lies out of your life. Find “what is honorable that’s worthy of respect”—lofty, elevated. “Whatever is right”—that literally is “righteous.” “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely”—amiable, attractive, winsome. “Whatever is of pure report,” or, “good report”—praiseworthy; “if you have any virtue”—another way to translate it; “if there is anything virtuous, if there is anything excellent, and if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on that.” I don’t know what you’re exposing yourself to, but if you’re discontent, turn off the television and go where you’re going to find that. Because if you program your mind with the devil’s chaos, it’s going to steal your contentment for sure. You need to make a habit to be positive.
“Think, logizesthe,” which means to evaluate. “These things”—let these things shape your conduct. I can promise you, if you didn’t see the news for an entire week and just read your Bible all week, by the end of the week you’d be thinking very differently. You need to make a habit to be positive. Discontent is the result of negative thinking about self, about suffering, about lack, about mistreatment, about chaos, about trouble, about the way things are going—a bad process to be caught in.
So the contented person, in a sense, lives in a divine sphere where all the joys and all the fulfillment is found in Christ. Contentment then flows from appreciating the fellowship of love, cultivating joy, accepting with humble reasonableness whatever the circumstance you’re in, standing strong in faith on God’s promises, engaging in thankful prayer, and focusing on what is excellent and worthy of praise. And there’s one final word: Contentment comes from following the right example. Verse 9, “The things you’ve learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Find somebody you can follow. Find somebody you can follow, somebody who is content. And that’s Paul. And that is what he said, verse 11: “I am content.” “I’ve learned to be content.” Verse 12, “I learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” He’s saying, “Follow me.”
Over in verse 18, “I have received everything in full. I have an abundance; I am amply supplied”—he’s saying this from prison. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” He is rejoicing in a benediction in the most horrible circumstances: in prison. Find somebody like that, and follow them. That’s the kind of example you need. Those are the attitudes and the realities that produce contentment. And what was available to the apostle Paul is available to all of us, isn’t it?
Our Father, we thank You for Your truth. Thank You for the practical lessons of this wonderful chapter, this testimony from Paul. There’s not a lot of mystery about contentment. First of all, to be content is righteous; to be discontent is sinful. We should be content not only because it’s righteous, but because we’ve lived long enough to learn that You meet every need. We’ve seen Your providence, we’ve seen Your hand. May we live in the richness of all these spiritual realities, which are available to us, that we may be content. And may our contentment be infectious. And may people who see us see the manifestation of transforming power and transforming grace and the transforming gospel in our contentment in a world that is completely discontent. May we shine as lights by being content with Your plan, Your promises, and Your power, for our good and Your glory. Amen.
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