“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11
WE STRUGGLE WITH CONTENTMENT
Contentment is something we all struggle with, even believers. We’re always seeking something better. A better place to live, better car, better job, better church, better situation. And it’s not necessarily wrong to desire better circumstances.
But as we reflect back upon our lives, we realize that there was often a feeling that, whatever situation we were in, it was never good enough. Seldom were we content with raw reality.
IDEALISM IS UNREALISTIC
We live with a sense of idealism, of what life should be like. But what we find is that life doesn’t always go as planned or hoped for. We experience disappointments, trials, and aggravations. It’s easy to feel, at times, that life isn’t fair. We may think, “if only such and such happened then this wouldn’t have happened. Life is full of disappointments.
GOD IS WORKING EVERYTHING OUT FOR GOOD
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
True contentment is a strong confidence that God is working everything out in our lives for good. Sometimes the situations we experience are, honestly, not good. But God, in His providence, His sovereignty, is working everything out for good. We might see the good a few years later or we might not see the “good” until we’re in heaven. We must cling to God’s truth in His Word that, no matter what the situation is, He is working ALL things together for good to them that love Him.
COVETOUSNESS IS THE OPPOSITE OF CONTENTMENT
The opposite of contentment is covetousness. Covetousness is a feeling that whatever our current situation (trials, troubles, disappointments, or health problems), must be improved. We tend to always want to be in a better position. God, on the other hand, wants us to be content in whatsoever situation we’re in.
God hates covetousness. He commands us not to covet. This goes all the way back to the Ten Commandments and is reaffirmed in the New Testament;
“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet.” Romans 13:9
WE LIVE IN A FALLEN WORLD
We have to accept that we live in a fallen world. It’s sinfully unrealistic to expect life to be a fulfilled dream. Idealism is a tendency to want things as they might be, could be, or should be instead of how they actually are.
For example, when we drive to church on Sunday morning, we may have seen people out fertilizing their lawns, walking their dogs, raking leaves, pushing baby carriages, turning into packed parking lots at the supermarket. "It’s not the way things used to be," we might say quietly to ourselves. "People should be caring about their eternal souls. They should be lining up at the church door hoping there’ll be a seat left for them to come learn truths from the Word of God." Ideally, that's the way it should be. There should be such a thirst in the land for the Biblical explanation of what life is all about. But that’s not the way it is. What the world is like, ideally, is not what it’s like in reality.
The same is true about most aspects of our lives. Everything is not what it should be. We live in a fallen world. The so-called “dream job” is never as dreamy as we imagined. The long years of healthy and wealthy retirement often don’t match our expectations. We live in a fallen world filled with disappointments.
So we shouldn’t get all bent out of shape when life doesn’t go as we expected. But that doesn’t mean we should be fatalistic about life and say “whatever will be will be.” There is often something we can do to improve our situations. We can go to the doctor if we're sick. We can go to the mechanic when the car breaks. But there are also times when nothing, humanly, can be done.
BEWARE OF ANGER
If we don’t accept that we live in a fallen world then we can easily become angry or bitter. Anger over our situations can dangerously make us raise our fists in defiance to God. But that wasn’t Paul’s example. He learned to be content in every condition.