But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 NASB)
Some lessons in Scripture are completed right away. For example, once we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our salvation is accomplished. Though we may need assurance occasionally, the issue is settled for all eternity. At other times, a lesson has to be learned over and over. Just when we think we have it down, something comes along to test our understanding. One of those lessons involves being content in all circumstances. To experience contentment is to be free from frustration and worry about unfulfilled desires in our life.
When we look closely at Paul's words in Philippians, we recognize two important principles. First, contentment is not governed by circumstances. If it were, we'd have big problems. We can't flip a switch and make everything right at work, in our home, with our children, or in situations which we cannot control. Most people are discontent because they do not understand this principle. But Paul's secret can also be ours: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
The second principle is that our inner self, or attitude, regulates contentment. Paul did not have "roller coaster faith" that went up and down; instead, he had a calm confidence that nobody could steal something he possessed on the inside—his relationship with God was his source of satisfaction. We all experience anxiety, but if we respond with faith and prayerfully cast cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7) our contentment cannot be stolen.
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