The Secret of Contentment

Discovering Contentment

Phil. 4:10-15

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.


In his classic work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “If I become content by having my desires satisfied, that is only self-love; but when I am contented with the hand of God and am willing to be at His disposal, that comes from my love to God.” Of all the virtues, contentment is perhaps the most difficult to possess. We can show love for others, rejoice in God’s blessings, and forgive others when they wrong us, but to be content in every circumstance is like trying to catch the wind. The closer we come to attaining it, the more elusive it becomes. Daily, we are bombarded with carefully orchestrated advertisements to drive the point home that we are not content. Advertisements do not sell products; they sell a pipe dream. They sell the promise that if we buy their product, we will find contentment. In the 80s and 90s (I am showing my age here), the tagline for Toyota was “I love what you do for me!” They sold the illusion that you would be happy and content if you bought a Toyota car. However, in the end, what did the car do for us?---nothing, except give us more bills to pay.

As Paul closes his letter, he expresses his appreciation for the financial support and the concern the church at Philippi had for him. When Epaphroditus arrived, he brought a gift of financial support to Paul (2:25). Through their financial support, they were partners with him in his ministry. But even more than their financial support, Paul was thankful for their encouragement and desire to support Paul’s missionary work. However, even as he expresses his appreciation, Paul wants to clarify that he is not begging them for more money. In contrast to many today who use the gospel to line their pocketbook, Paul desires to explain that he is fully content and that his economic problems were fully met. In his response, we see a profound truth that is so difficult for us to grasp. For Paul, the solution to his economic worries and needs was not new resources or more financial support; it was a change in his attitude and perspective. Paul realized that it was not his circumstances and financial portfolio that satisfied all his needs and wants; it was Christ. 

In verse 13, Paul gives us the foundation for genuine contentment. Instead of looking, always wanting more and thinking, "If only I had…then I would be content,” Paul learned that apart from Christ, he needed nothing more. Christ does more than give us eternal life; he gives us everything we need to accomplish His purpose and to fulfill His will. When we start thinking that we need more, the problem is our perspective and focus. The reason we need more is because we are looking for a source of happiness and contentment that we will never be able to deliver. At the peak of his wealth, John D. Rockefeller had a net worth of about 1% of the US economy, which would be an incalculable amount today. Some once asked him, “How much money is enough?” He answered, “Just a little bit more.” With all his wealth, he was still not content. His problem was not a lack of money but a lack of perspective. The perspective and basis for contentment come from our understanding of Christ and what He has given us. He promises to give us all the strength and resources we need to accomplish His purpose for our life. Nothing more is needed. Period!

If you find yourself lacking contentment, always wanting something more, always thinking, “If I only had…then…” you will never be content because your focus is in the wrong place. There is nothing wrong with wealth, our careers, and the material things God has given us. We just cannot make it our obsession and basis for happiness. Instead, we need to rest in Christ, knowing He will always give us everything we need to fulfill His will. When the pursuit of Christ and His purpose becomes our sole objective, we discover genuine contentment.



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