Being Content In Plenty

Published on November 30, 2010 by CT in Blog, Thoughts


Have you ever read a passage in the Bible a hundred times and realize you missed half the point? This happened to me, again, this morning.  I’ve read and quoted Philippians 4:11-13 hundreds of times in my life.  Here’s the passage if you’re not immediately familiar with it:

“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

I’ve always focused on two things in this passage.  First, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  Second, we should be content when we’re in need—particularly since Paul wrote this passage from prison.

And that was it.  Basically I thought that poor people should learn to be content.  If I were to lose my job, I should be content.  If I were to end up in jail, I should be content.  All because Christ would give me the strength to be content.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may know I have struggled a bit with the blessings (or prosperity) I see in my own life.  I’ve so often equated spirituality with poverty—or spirituality with having wealth and sacrificing it to become poor.  And I intellectually know that’s not the case, that God calls us all to be generous and only some to give all they have, but the struggle has remained in my heart.

But this morning, God showed me in this passage that contentment doesn’t relate to possessions.  Contentment relates to a heart attitude in spite of possessions, or in spite of a lack of possessions.  Pastor Mike said it this way:  “Contentment is the desire for nothing [more].”  It’s holding something, or nothing, in an open hand, and being satisfied with that.

Paul says something important for me, and maybe for you as well.  He says he has learned to be content—in any situation.  So if you’re wealthy, and we basically all are in the US, then we must learn to be content.  And if we find ourselves without, we must learn to be content.

I know God is the one who helps us learn.  And I know that we should strive for contentment, just as we work our salvation, all the while knowing it is God who is at work in us.  And I know that contentment, at its core, is a heart attitude relating to our ability to be satisfied with our circumstances.  But above all, being content is about what Christ does for us, and in us.

I can abound because Christ gives me strength.  I can do without because Christ gives me strength.  Either way, it is my weakness, in both blessing and loss, that needs the strength of Christ.

Question:  In what areas do you find it hard to be content?

  • Scott (Part 1)

    Through much prayer, meditation, and sanctification I have become very content in the material things that my wife and I have been given (or not). God has equipped me with all the material tools that I need to glorify Him through my career, discussions with others, and actions in the daily grind of life. That being said, I struggle regularly with being content on the attributes that God has given me. Just to be clear, this does not mean physical limitations like wishing I were three inches taller, could finish ahead of the pack in a 10K, or had a different shade of hair. Rather, I often wonder why He has made me as I am internally.

    • Elizabeth

      Wow. Totally wonder about that sometimes, too. I sometimes feel like my personality was a mistake or something. Or like I need to "fix" it. Of course God doesn't make mistakes, so the onus is on me. But how much of it can I really change? My mom used to tell me, "God doesn't make junk." So, Scott, that's what I'm telling you today!

  • Scott (Part 2)

    Questions that often run about rampant my psyche include:
    - Doesn't being a perfectionist and compulsive make it MORE difficult for me to draw closer to God?
    - Why does pride often get in the way when fully submitting myself to His plan for me?
    - How can I be forgiving of others and so hard on myself in even the most minor issues?

    I find all of this ironic, but also beautiful, that God created us so imperfectly by cultural standards. Although it sometimes makes daily struggles more difficult, it gives me yet another reason to know God more intimately and attaining peace about His eternal plan for me and all of us.

    • Chris_Tomlinson

      Well put. I imagine we all have all our own questions. Although, you know what, I spent many years without the questions. Which in hindsight seems like I wasn't being honest with myself, or I wasn't open to God showing me sinful or weak areas in my life. I know that this kind of digging into the soul is dangerous but good.