Content in All Circumstances
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
As I walked through the aisle at a fabric store with my expecting wife, we searched through different rolls of baby fabric. I picked up a roll that said, “Dream Big, Little One.” At an early age, children are encouraged to ‘dream big’ and ‘shoot for the stars.’ Alongside our big dreams are ideals or suitable situations that we expect will always come to fulfillment. Just one week before that trip to the fabric store, my wife and I realized that the ideals we had set for our pregnancy were shattered. A hiccup in the development of our child turned an ideal pregnancy into a different journey, not ideal.
Earlier this year, dreams were getting bigger and bigger as the goat herd on the Harbel Farm in Liberia grew to about 30 head. It has been a dream of the workers that one day they would raise hundreds of sheep on the hills in Liberia. Things were going well and vaccines were given to the goats to try to continue the good health. A few weeks after, the goats started to suffer, due to something from the vaccine. Losing almost every one of those 30 goats was not ideal nor was it the most desirable outcome. Our dreams get big and we look forward to such great things in this world, like a perfect birth of a baby or rapid growth in a goat herd. When a there is a small shift from our idea plans, we quickly realize we are not in control. It’s difficult to experience heartache and setbacks but Paul – who was writing today’s passage as a prisoner - encourages us to be content in the Lord, no matter what the situation or circumstance.
It’s hard to find contentment in such difficult situations. But being discontent denies the right of God to do with us as he wills. We must realize that our contentment cannot be defined by the kind of circumstances we experience.
Rather, it must be defined by the satisfaction that we have through the gospel of Jesus, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. We are called to trust Jesus, demonstrated by our actions – especially our actions in situations that are not ideal – in a world where people often reject Jesus.
- Can you think of a time where you were not content because of certain circumstances?
- Why did you respond the way you did in that situation? How could have you responded differently, in light of what Paul says in Philippians?
Father, thank you for encouraging us to be content. Why should we fear? Help us to find our contentment in these great truths that we might live lives that demonstrate to the world what a great Savior You are to give such peace and contentment in such a discontented world. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
What are specific situations that Paul was faced with in scripture that would have made it hard for him to find contentment? I encourage you to dig deeper by reading Philippians 1:16-18, Philippians 1:27-30 and Matthew 6:25.