Contented in Christ
We live in a society permeated by discontent. Commercials condition us to be envious. The real issue, though, is not so much the society we live in but the state of our own hearts and minds. We’re drawn away from contentment by so much which clamors for our attention: titles, possessions, influence, or fame. Yet all of these and more seek to rob us of any sense of joy in what God has given us, persuading us that it will never be enough. The chase is never-ending.
Paul, though, could say not only that he was content but that he could be content “in whatever situation I am.” This is what everyone is searching for! What was the secret, then? It was to ground his sense of self and his outlook on life in the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul didn’t champion a stiff upper lip in the face of hardship or offer a false gospel of self-sufficiency. No, his contentment was the result of bowing his heart and mind to God’s will, no matter what conditions he faced.
Not everyone has lived on both sides of the street. Not everyone knows how the other half lives. But Paul did. He knew what it was to be warm and fed, and he knew what it was to be cold and naked. If he had derived contentment from his circumstances, his life would have been a constant roller-coaster ride, leaving him intoxicated by wonderful luxuries one minute and overwhelmed by their absence the next. Such a fickle spirit would have neutralized Paul, making him unable to serve Christ.
Paul was a normal man with normal needs. In a letter to Timothy from a dungeon in Rome, Paul wrote, “Do your best to come to me soon … Bring the cloak … the books, and above all the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:9, 13). He had been deserted by others and lacked certain possessions. Yes, Paul wanted things like clothing, books, and company—but he knew he would be fine without them, for his peace rested in something greater.
Like Paul, your contentment can and should ultimately be grounded in your union with Jesus. Refuse any ambition other than belonging to Him and remaining entirely at His disposal. When you know Christ and how wonderful He is—that He is your all in all, more precious than silver, more costly than gold, more beautiful than diamonds, and that nothing you have compares to Him—the way you view your circumstances and the measure of your contentment will be completely transformed.
God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
A Psalm of Asaph.
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.1
11And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength2 of my heart and my portion forever.
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
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