The Cost of Contentment

“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. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4: 11 – 13)

Contentment isn’t an instinct or a reflex. It is learned. Like Paul, to have it we must learn it.

Some skeptics might say, “That’s OK for a person to say who has it easy, one who’s got it made.”

To understand how he got it, explore the text and see how the precept applies to all persons in all types of circumstances.

Paul was a human being with appetites, interest, and glands just like each of us. Twice Paul speaks of “need” in his life. He refers to two extremes that cover all alternatives in between.  He said, I know how to be – – – 

Abased, meaning “I know how to live with humble means under humble circumstances when things are difficult.”

A description of the varied adverse circumstances is chronicled: 
“…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”  (II Cor 11:23 – 27)

Does it seem it would be hard to be content and productive under such circumstances? Consider the other extreme.

To “abound” means to have more than abundance, to overflow. Literally, I know how to face prosperity.

Some persons think it is wrong to have possessions, position, or power. Some even suggest wealth should be given away and position and power avoided. Not so! Possessions should not be given away, but managed for the Lord. For those who haven’t had the challenge they should know that those who once were “abased” financially and later became stewards of much causing them to “abound,” say it is much more challenging to maintain a Christlike spirit when abounding than when abased. The two extremes are noted so as to let it be known contentment can be enjoyed in either state and all in between. Learning that lesson can bring contentment. It is not in things, but in a person, Jesus.