Learning Contentment

I was challenged this week when I came across this verse in Philippians: “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, NIV)

The verse that follows–Philippians 4:13–is one of the most-quoted in the Bible. Countless athletes have “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” as a banner for their competitve edge on the field or court. After putting these words from the Apostle Paul in context, I realized that I have a long way to go in learning to be content.

The stock market is down more than 50% from its high less than a year and a half ago and if you are reading this, it is more than likely that you have less–a lot less–that you did a year ago.

I have reflected back on this time last year when I had “plenty” relative to today. Was I really content? If our true contentment comes from amassing riches, then we are all in a lot of trouble.  When economies and financial systems falter, it is a good opportunity to take stock of our lives and determine what really matters.

If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do today? Would you spend the day with something or someone? Could it be that that is what God is calling you to do today regardless of your financial situation or needs?

Paul focused on what God was doing not what he felt he should have and by focusing on Christ for power and strength in difficult situations he was able to learn contentment. Yes, I have a long, long way to go here but fortunately God is not finished with me yet.

I have a friend who shared this simple prayer with me a few years ago. Her situation made me appreciate it all that much more and I continue to pray it myself when times get tough and I find myself longing for more: “Lord, help me to want what I have, not have what I want.”

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  1. Satisfaction through tangible “stuff” is often short-lived and potentially self-destructive when taken to an extreme degree. As my wife is fond of saying by way of advice given her, contrary to burial rites in many ancient civilizations, “It’s not like you can take it with you when you die.”

    March 9, 2009
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Learning Contentment

Just about everything we Americans have saved, invested and worked for over the past decade has been wiped out in less than a year. Gone–just like a storm that suddenly wipes out an entire community. Jesus reminds us that we will endure storms in life. Right now, many of us are battling a severe financial storm–debt, insecurity, foreclosure, unemployment–and it doesn’t appear that the storm will end anytime soon. There is a lesson to be learned from the life of the Apostle Paul and his ability to find contentment regardless of his circumstances. Paul’s answer was to draw on Christ’s power for strength. Paul focused on God’s point of view and what he was supposed to do not what he had. Instead of praying for a quick financial turnaround wouldn’t we be better off if we prayed for the type of contentment that Paul had?

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