"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11
Contentment is being satisfied with the sovereign dispensations of God's providence. It is the opposite of murmuring, which is the spirit of rebellion--the clay saying to the Potter, "Why have You made me thus?" Instead of complaining at his circumstances, a contented man is thankful that his condition and circumstances are no worse than they are.
Discontent! Was there ever a time when there was so much discontent and restlessness in the world as there is today? Despite our boasted progress, the vast increase of wealth, the time and money expended daily in pleasure, discontent is everywhere! No class is exempt. Everything is in a state of flux, and almost everybody is dissatisfied. Many even among God's own professing people are affected with the evil spirit of this age.
Contentment! Is such a thing realistic and reachable, or is it nothing more than a beautiful ideal, a mere dream of the poet? Is it attainable on earth or is it restricted to the inhabitants of heaven? If feasible here and now, can it be maintained consistently or are a few brief moments or hours of contentment the most that we may expect in this life?
The force of Paul's statement will be better appreciated if his condition and circumstances at the time he made it, are kept in mind. When the apostle wrote the words, he was not luxuriating in a special suite in the Emperor's palace; he was in prison in chains. The contentment which Paul enjoyed was not the result of congenial and comfortable surroundings. Most people suppose that contentment is impossible, unless one can have the desires of the carnal heart gratified. A prison is the last place to which they would go if they were seeking a contented man. This much, then, is clear--contentment comes from within not without; it must be sought from God, and not in earthly comforts.
Now, there is a vast difference between precept and practice, between the ideal and the realization. But in the case of Paul, contentment was an actual experience! It was something he had learned in the school of Christian experience.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said--Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
- A. W. Pink