Saturday, June 20, 2009

Learning to be Content

I was reading through some of my favorite verses in Philippians today and read again Paul's statement "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 want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:12-13.

If we look at the life of Paul, we realize that God doesn't always protect his servants from the realities of living in this world. Paul found himself in some pretty miserable conditions; hungry, shipwrecked, abandoned, persecuted, in prison, etc. And yet, he said "I have learned the secret of being content." So what is the secret? And how can we learn it?

If you unpack the verses prior to to his statement you will see two parts to finding contentment. One is what we do, and the other is what God has promised.

Our part of the equation is found in Philippians 4:4-6 "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," and in Philippians 4:8-9a, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice."

God's promises are found in Philippians 4:7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," and Philippians 4:9b "And the God of peace will be with you."
Contentment doesn't come from a life with no trials or a life of having everything we want. It comes from practice, and it comes from surrendering our lives to God. Paul could face any trial with confidence because he had learned, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Check out Philippians 4:6-7 in the Message, "Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

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