Contentment in a Discontented World

Christian contentment is based upon dependence not independence.

We can be content, because life’s circumstances do not dictate to us. We live in Him. Christian contentment is based upon dependence not independence. Paul is no Stoic. He is not acting as though he is above his circumstances which have no effect upon him. Rather, in the midst of the difficult circumstances, he is trusting in God and looking to Christ in whom He has all things. He is not independent; he is Christ-dependent. For me to live is Christ. It is not being self-satisfied or self-fulfilled; it is being Christ-satisfied and Christ-fulfilled. And this makes contentment possible.

 

Discontentment may be the greatest trap in our culture. It may be greater than lust, greed, and even lying, because discontentment leads to all these other sins. It tends to be a well-spring of iniquity. I have yet to meet an individual who engaged in an affair without first suffering from discontentment. I have yet to speak with a drunkard, gossiper, liar, or idolater of body or rest or recreation without them alluding to discontentment. And it feels like the entire world is colluding to stir up discontentment within us. Every billboard, every commercial, every brochure tends to communicate, “You deserve and need more.”

Contentment is a slippery thing. As soon as we think we are content it wiggles away, due to something we see on television, some stray thought, or a small comment another person makes. Is contentment even possible?

Paul asserts that it is. In fact, he says that he has learned to be content in whatever situation (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell us the secret to contentment: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Paul isn’t saying he can do all things in Christ as a kind of blanket statement. He doesn’t think he can fly, become Emperor of Rome, or create a rainbow in the sky. Too many yank this verse out of context. Rather, Paul is asserting that in all circumstances he can be content in Christ who strengthens him. This is the secret! It is not ignoring circumstances, it is not rising above them, and it is not resigning one’s self to them—it is rather living in them in Christ.

Paul’s statement is an echo of an earlier statement in the book where he comments, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). How is this helpful? Because he knows that in Christ he possesses everything. This allows him to be content. The Christian finds Christ to be sufficient. We are the richest and most secure people in the universe; so the storms may beat the walls of our lives and yet contentment can lie safe within. It isn’t touched, because it is wrapped up in Him, who is our All in all.

Name it Christian and you have it in Christ. Whatever it is you desire; the answer is found in Christ. The boat you long for, what is it but a desire for freedom and rest? Which is ultimately found in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 8:2). That promotion? At its root, it is simply security and respect (Psalm 62:6-8). Ultimately, these are found in Christ. Friendship? What a friend we have in Jesus, one who never abandons or forsakes (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20). Family? We have an older brother who leads the way (Hebrews 2:11) and unites us to a Father, who ever loves us (Galatians 4:4-7). Justice? He is a Judge who forever upholds righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Comfort? We have a priest who forever intercedes (Hebrews 7:25). Wisdom? We have a prophet who always proclaims (Hebrews 3:3), a counselor who is ever ready with comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), a provider who ever supplies (Philippians 4:19), a Savior who pays the price for our sins (Hebrews 10:12), a defender who will guard and keep us (Psalm 23).

If we desire love, it is found in His spread arms on the cross (Romans 8; Ephesians 3). If we want hope, it is found in his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we seek peace, it is found in his blood shed for us (Colossians 1:20). If we seek joy, it is given in His Spirit (Galatians 5). Happiness? It is found in knowing what awaits us (Revelation 21). Power? You will rule with Him forever (Revelation 3:20-21).

Are you hungry? He is the bread of life (John 6:3). Thirsty? He is the living water (John 7:37). Naked? He covers you with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Health? He is the Great Physician (Psalm 147:3). Wisdom? He is the fount (Colossians 2:3). Knowledge? He holds it in His hand (Colossians 2:3). Rest? He says come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give your rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Compassion? It flows from Him (James 5:11). Comfort? He never crushes a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). Riches? We are made co-heirs with Him (Galatians 3:29).

We can be content, because life’s circumstances do not dictate to us. We live in Him. Christian contentment is based upon dependence not independence. Paul is no Stoic. He is not acting as though he is above his circumstances which have no effect upon him. Rather, in the midst of the difficult circumstances, he is trusting in God and looking to Christ in whom He has all things. He is not independent; he is Christ-dependent. For me to live is Christ. It is not being self-satisfied or self-fulfilled; it is being Christ-satisfied and Christ-fulfilled. And this makes contentment possible.

Jason Helopoulos is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and serves on the pastoral staff of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. This article is used with permission.