"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11).
Are you a contented Christian? The Bible tells how to be contented. The word "contentment" has a surprising meaning. It comes from a word like the word "automobile" which is a car someone drives "himself" "Contentment" means "sufficient" or 'independent." This was surprising to me. Is a Christian supposed to be independent? The answer is yes and no. Someone has said, 'to character and success, two things contradictory as they may seem, must go together humble dependence and manly independence - humble dependence on CHRIST and manly reliance on self" This statement illustrates the answer to this yes and no question.
Paul was saying just that in our text: "for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." I wonder if today we do not have many Christians who have not developed into strong independent Christians who can stand for Christ. I have served the Lord as a preacher for a number of years. As I recall these years, I realize there are many "spiritual babies" who have NEVER grown into mature Christians. This is a tragedy because so much talent is wasted, so much energy lost that should be used to strengthen the Church. To further illustrate, if you take a child and do all his school lessons for him, he himself will never learn. So as Christians we need to learn for ourselves at the feet of Jesus.
In I Timothy 6:6-8 Paul tells us that "godliness with contentment is great gain." Basically, there are only two things we need to be content food and raiment! Hebrews 13: 5 tells us to be content with such things as we have. The Lord Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. What more should we want?
Jeremiah Burroughs, in his beautiful book, THE RARE JEWEL OF CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT, brings out that this contentment for the Christian is inward and has to do with a quiet heart - a frame of spirit. It is a graciousness opposed to this murmuring, fretting, unsettled and unstable world. Through the Lord Jesus, it takes the Christian above the distractions, discouragements, sinful shiftings and shirkings of the carnal heart (Phil. 4:13).
Paul knew how to live "on easy street," so to speak, and he knew how to live on poor man's row. Yet in it all he was happy whether abased or abounding (Phil. 4:14). Brother and sister, this is contentment at its best. Earlier in Chapter 4 of Philippians we are reminded that Euodias and Syntyche were not doing this. Proverbs 14: 14 tells us that a good man shall be satisfied. The good Christian is satisfied because he drinks deeply of Christ.
As to the practical application of this lovely text, I wonder, dear Christian, has your Christian life been one of conflict instead of contentment? Are you kicking against the pricks? Read Acts 9: 5. How much trouble could be traced to this one thing: discontentment! Christians should be happy, adjusted and contented, wherever the Lord places them. May all of us as Christians learn to be content in whatsoever state we are. If we will do this, I believe you will agree with me that we will have everything we could ever want.
Tommy Steele, Jr.