“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” – Philippians 3:10-13
In this passage, Apostle Paul writes to the church which he planted in Philippi and thanks them for their support. He then lets them in on his secret for contentment whether he has little or more. He says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Here we notice that contentment is a quality that we learn. None of us is naturally born a contented person. Sin has caused our hearts to be dissatisfied all the time. However, the more we grow in our knowledge Christ the more we become contented. Second, notice also that contentment does not always corelate with how much we have. When we have less, we should guard against the discontented spirit which tells us that we will be happy only when we have more. When we have more, we should guard against discontentment which never says “enough” but “more is better.”
Paul further brings us to the secret of contentment in verse 13, “I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me.” Sadly, this is one of the most abused or misunderstood verses in the Bible. I have seen athletes using this verse to mean that they can excel in sports through Christ. I have heard students who are about to write exams quoting this verse and assuring themselves that they will do well in the exams through Christ. Now it is true that without Christ we are nothing (John 15:5). It is also true that athletes and students can do well only if the Lord grants them success. However, the context of this verse has to do with facing plenty or hunger; having things in abundance or lacking things. Paul says he can thrive in any of these situations through Christ who strengthens him. The secret of contentment is Jesus Christ.
All of us will pass through seasons in which we have more and other seasons in which we have less. How do we remain contented? It is through Christ alone. When we have little, we can be contented by reminding ourselves that even though we might not have some things we want we have the greatest treasure in Jesus Christ. And when we have more, we can also be contented by reminding ourselves that whatever we have in this life cannot be compared to our greatest treasure, Jesus Christ. Christ reminds us in Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Life consists in Christ and not in possessions of this life.
In addition to knowing that Christ is our greatest treasure, we can also be contented in every situation by learning to differentiate between needs and wants. Sadly, many of us confuse the two. We often tend to view our wants as needs. But needs are those you cannot live without while wants are those you can live without. Food is a need because we cannot live without it. But dining at that fancy restaurant in town is a want. We can live without ever eating at the fancy restaurant. Charles Spurgeon put it well, “True contentment consists not in the largeness of our possessions, but in the fewness of our wants” The fewer wants we have the more likely we are to be contented in Christ.