Philippians 4:11, 12
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.
I. CONTENTMENT IS A RARE AND PRECIOUS CHRISTIAN GRACE. It must be distinguished from spiritual self-satisfaction, which is sinful and fatal, and is concerned with our own inner condition, while true contentment has regard to our external circumstances. It must also be distinguished from the recklessness of folly and from the apathy of despair. It is a quiet restfulness in the midst of all kinds of changing events.
1. It is rare and difficult of attainment, because
(1) outside events are frequently untoward;
(2) our own hearts are unhealthily restless; and
(3) we live too much in dependence on this world and its fortunes.
2. Contentment is most desirable. For without it the most propitious circumstances can minister little pleasure, and with it the hardest privations can produce little distress. The important question in regard to our happiness is not - What things do we possess? but - What kind of thoughts and feelings do we experience?
3. Contentment is requisite in every condition of life. It is not only the virtue of the poor and the solace of the disappointed. Rich and prosperous people are too often also discontented people. It is harder for some to know how to abound than to know how to suffer want. Wealth brings the thirst for more wealth. Pleasure palls. Prosperity wearies. It is a grand attainment to be able to pass up and down the whole gamut of social change and to behave one's self with equanimity and contentment in every stage up from abasement to abundance and then down again from fullness to need.
II. THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT IS TO BE LEARNED FROM CHRIST. There is a secret. Some have not yet found it out. But it exists and it is well worth seeking. To be fully understood and enjoyed it must be learned as a long, difficult, painful lesson. St. Paul had learnt it, and his example should win fresh pupils to study the same great lesson.
1. Christ gives us strength to bear varying fortunes. St. Paul could speak of his contentment because he could also say, "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." If we know and feel nothing beyond this, there is a certain satisfaction to be got from the mere sense of new power given to bear that which before seemed to be unbearable.
2. Christ enables us to live in faith. Thus believing that even now all things are ordered wisely and kindly by our heavenly Father, that they are working together for good not yet seen, working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, we learn to bear the present mystery of trial in hope of the future revelation of blessedness.
3. Christ leads us to live in the spiritual. This is the real secret. External circumstances are constantly changing. At best they will not satisfy the soul's deep hunger. While we live in them we are necessarily often disappointed and discontented. In the inner world of spiritual things we must find our best experience, and when this opens up to the higher world of Divine and heavenly things we have a source of unfailing peace. Resting in God we shall be content in every variety of earthly affairs. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.