It doesn't take long in this life for people to learn the fine art of being discontent. We have more material things than ever before, but we're also more discontented than ever before. The grass is greener in the next lawn. The traffic is faster in the next lane. Life will be better with the next person.
But Paul wrote in Philippians 4, "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (vv. 11-12).
Notice a few things about contentment. First of all, contentment is not related to necessity. Paul was saying that if others helped meet his needs, great. But if not, God would provide. It's like what Psalm 23:1 says: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." In other words, "I have everything I need because God is my shepherd." Contentment doesn't come from what you have but whom you have.
Second, contentment doesn't depend on quantity. It's not a matter of having more creature comforts or more disposable income. Paul knew this—he had lived on both sides of the equation. Jesus said, "One's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (Luke 12:15).
Third, contentment is a learned ability. So before you say, "I wish I was blessed with the gift of contentment," it's not a gift—it must be learned. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
- Avoid comparison; it promotes covetousness (see 2 Corinthians 10:12).
- Lower expectations. Don't live an entitled life (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8).
- Adjust to alterations. Abounding is great, but you need to know that you could also be abased and learn to adjust accordingly.
- Develop convictions. Contentment is directly proportional to whether you believe God is in control (see Job 1:21).
There's another component to learning contentment: being confident in God's power. Paul went on to say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (v. 13). Jesus was all Paul had, and Paul said, "That's enough. I'm content. I'm good to go. I can do all things through Him."
And the Christ that Paul had is the same Christ you have. That means you can say exactly the same thing. I pray that no matter what comes your way, you would look to the Lord, knowing that because you are in Jesus and He is the sum and substance of your life, you can do all things—including learning the fine art of being content.