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.
Philippians 4:11-12 (ESV)
Contentment. It’s something many strive for, yet most fail to find. This is where I recently found myself. From outside appearances I had it all: Great wife and kids, my dream job, and a house in the suburbs. On the inside though, I was struggling with desires for more: more opportunities, more influence, more exposure, and more recognition. Because I wasn’t getting these things that I thought I deserved, I became increasingly bitter and discontent. This manifested itself in either outbursts of anger or bouts of depression. Once this was lovingly pointed out to me, I knew I had to do something to figure out what was going on inside my heart. I started doing research on biblical contentment it all seemed to point in the same direction: Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. This is where I started, by reading the text slowly along with a trusted commentary. I also picked up Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond.
It was through Raymond’s book that I learned:
True contentment is possible through a greater understanding of God’s providence.
He defines contentment as, “An inward, gracious, quiet spirit that joyfully rests in God’s providence.” (Pg. 23) God’s providence is then defined this way: “God’s work of upholding, governing, and sustaining all things through his infinite power.” (Pg. 113) God’s providence points to the facts that: 1) God is not disconnected from the world he created; 2) He isn’t disinterested either; 3) Nothing escapes his sovereign control; 4) He is intimately aware of and involved with the seeming minute details of each of our lives.
These definitions lead us a few conclusions. When we are discontent and grumbling we are arguing with God. When this leads to bitterness we are basically saying God has failed us. And when we worry we are afraid God either has or will get it wrong. Once we see and understand that the we are the problem, we are in a better position to chase contentment.
Raymond says the way we find contentment is fourfold. First, we need to look around and see what God is doing. How is he blessing us? How is he at work in and through us? Second, we need to take a look back. How has he demonstrated his faithfulness in the past? Third, we need to look ahead remembering with hope the future to come when Christ returns. This is when circumstances will be perfect, without sin, sickness, and death. Finally, we must look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). It is through these lenses that we will not only see and find contentment, but also actually experience it.
Husband to Cheryl, Father to Kate and Tom, Community Life Pastor at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL, and geek about a great many things.
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