“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
Joshua Becker, a leading spokesman for what has come to be known as the Minimalist Movement, once wrote, “If you are not content today, there is nothing you can buy this weekend to change that.”
In these days of pandemic, Christians are asking the Lord what He is trying to teach us. I believe the simple answer is “lots of things.” But one of the key lessons I believe the Lord is wanting us to learn is one of the foundational principles of the Kingdom of God – to be content with what we have.
This is more than just being content with what we have materially, although that is certainly part of it. At the heart of this Biblical principle is something much deeper. The apostle Paul describes it this way in Philippians 4:11-13: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul was set up to have a wonderful life. Well educated, intelligent, from a comfortable family, a Roman citizen. He could have been a leader among his people. But then Jesus grabbed his heart and he gave it all up to take the Gospel to the world.
There were lots of blessings in doing so, but there were also shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment. Talk about social distancing!
What Paul learned from Jesus was that contentment does not come from material things, or freedom of movement or freedom from illness and pain. If it could, we wouldn’t keep reading about the latest heartbreaking suicide from among the Hollywood or Wall Street elite.
The result of lack of contentment is obvious. James 4:1-2 says this: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”
What Paul learned is what God wants to teach us through these COVID-19 days – to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. This is only possible as we bring our lives daily to the Lord and find our contentment in Him alone. As James says, we lack contentment because we do not ask God.
Our leaders are struggling to find the balance between protecting people from illness and opening our society again. We need to pray for them that they would seek God’s wisdom in it all. In the meantime, we who know Christ can be at peace, testifying as Paul did, that we can do all things, including experiencing His contentment, through Christ who gives us His strength.