Philippians: Day 12

The Secret of Contentment

by

Today's Text: Philippians 4:10-23, 1 Timothy 6:3-8, Proverbs 11:24-25, Acts 20:32-35

I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.

- Philippians 4:12 -

Imagine you wrote a book about your life—let’s say it’s a spiritual memoir since those are my favorite and, obviously, I’ll want to read it. What would the title be? Would it be something dramatic and decisive, like “Tales of Triumph” or “Leap of Faith”? Or maybe it would follow more along the lines of “Carefully Calculated Efforts” or “Fully Vetted, Risk Averse, Partially Trusting Hop.” (I call dibs on that last one.)

I’ve never been much of a leaper myself. I’m actually more of an all-out leap avoider. I like to know where I’m going before I get there. If I sense God calling me to something, my ideal scenario would be to send someone ahead to see what I’m really in for. A faith scout, if you will. Someone to take a look at what’s on the other side and send a postcard back with a full report. Then, I could make a properly educated decision: is it worth the leap or not?

If you, too, are a partially-trusting hopper, I have good news! Philippians is essentially that postcard. Paul has gone to that most faithful, gospel-believing, Christ-trusting place where so many of us long to go, and he has sent back a letter to describe his panoramic view from the other side of the journey.

The end of Philippians is the close of what could, for all Paul knows, be his life’s last letter. He has witnessed firsthand the life-changing power of the gospel and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. He has endured sacrifice, struggle, and suffering. And, as he says in verse 12, he knows how to have a little, and he knows how to have a lot. Sitting in prison at the potential end of it all, Paul delivers his final sentiments with profound joy and certainty:

In Christ I have all I need. And, friends, so do you.

At the end of a life of audacious faith, the great apostle has two simple goals: to give glory to Christ, and to encourage his brothers and sisters in the gospel.

Tucked inside Paul’s beautiful litany of faith is the very verse we Christians like to use and misuse to talk ourselves out of those faith slumps we’ll likely write about in our book: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Rather than tossing that single line out today and ending this study with a with a “Go get ‘em, Tiger” pat on the back, let’s follow Paul’s lead and zoom out a little. Read verses 10-14 again, focusing on the context of verse 13.

Notice: Christ’s strength in Paul produces something far richer than achievement; it produces contentment. Christ’s strength in me fuels something far more significant than my best efforts; it fuels my faith.

Like Paul, we will know what it is to have a little and what it is to have a lot. Like Paul, our story will include sacrifice, struggle, and suffering. And like him, we have been given profound joy and unending riches in the gospel and glory of Jesus Christ. The God who provided for Paul—and for the church at Philippi, as well as for generation after generation of believers who have come before us—also supplies all our needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

May His strength be our contentment. May His grace fuel our faith. And may the message of our story be simply this: 

In Christ I have all I need. And, friends, so do you.

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  • This came in perfect timing as I pray through my finances and how I spend my money. I want to use my money to not only pay off things I have to, but to be generous. I’ve began to think of ways I can cut down on my spending because really all I need to buy consistently is food and gas. The rest is not of highest importance at the time while I try to start saving up and paying off debt. This was such a great reminder of how I need to be content with what I do have and strive to be wise with my money so I can bless other people for God’s glory!

  • Kasey Summers

    Godliness with contentment is great gain!

  • Cassidy F

    A perfect message in a time of my husbands joblessness and a dwindling bank account. Resting in His faithfulness inspires me to stay faithful to him as well and remain content and unshaken during the times of having less.

  • How awe inspiring – contentment!!!! I am at a road in my life that I can either swallow in misery or be content with where I am. I chose the latter only because of God. I have plenty of reasons to be bitter and resentful and unforgiving and believe I can go there in a nano second but this is not what God meant for me. He has been tugging at my heart since I was very little. I am originally from Nicaragua and at that time, it was predominantly a Catholic country. Yet, my grandmother would ask me to read the bible for her. To this day, I don't know how I got my hands into books that spoke of God's mercy, grace and love. I have had a heart breaking life and pulled away from God a few times, yet, he is always waiting for me to come back to him.

    Yes, God has made the choice easy for me – to be content is definitely a gain!!!!

  • Kelly_Smith

    That book is the Bloggers Handbook, in my opinion! Mike and I visit every week ;) He talks to me while I get ready in the morning!

  • Kelly_Smith

    You just stop by any day and pour that encouragement on me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, sharijune! I heard Andy Andrews talk about that on Michael Hyatt's summit this past week. It is encouraging to know the greats take time to grow.

  • Thank you so much for writing these!
    You give me lots of inspiration.

  • We live in a world of materialism and I know there are times I think I need this or that but in reality we have everything we could possibly need in Christ. Today’s lesson really spoke to me!

  • Simply love this!! This is incredibly encouraging!

  • sharijune

    Hello Amanda,
    Would you (pretty please) share your list of favorite spiritual memoirs?
    Oh, that would be a delightful list for sure!
    Smiles and Blessings to you!

    • Kelly_Smith

      My most recent memoir read was Amber Haines' Wild in the Hollow. Very poetic and rich.

    • Kylee

      YES! Amanda I was thinking the same — I’ve never even HEARD the term “spiritual memoirs” so I would kind to know what you’re reading! Xo

  • I love that you put that famous verse in context. It's so easy to say – okay, God – you said I can do all things . . . let's lift this basket of laundry together! Honestly? God CAN help us do anything. But when we find ourselves in jail, or chronically sick, or without the child of our heart . . . HOW do we get through that? Would God actually as us to be content in those situations? Well, Paul was in jail, he had a chronic health issue, and he lost people he loved. So yes-He might. And THAT's when we need to pull out this famous verse. I can be strong enough to live in a prison because of my faith in Jesus. I can endure hardship through Christ who strengthens me. I can make it to the end of this difficult day through Christ who strengthens me to be content in every situation. And don't forget! He strengthens us for the good days too! Contentment is resting in Jesus so much, that what's going on around us does not affect us as much as Jesus does.

    • Kylee

      “Contentment is resting in Jesus so much, that what’s going on around us does not affect us as much as Jesus does” — YES AND AMEN! I love seeing the full context of this verse. Let’s soak in Him this weekend!

  • Caroline

    Amen! So thankful for His supernatural contentment during our trial! http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Yesterday, I realized how often I look outward, and not upward, when feeling that lack of contentment. I realized that I easily fall prey to "the grass is always greener" syndrome.

    Today's devotional reminds me to look upward; to ask that I be content in whatever circumstances I am in. I'm so thankful for this gentle reminder.

    • Kylee

      Me too, Amy, me TOO. Just last night I was petting and grooming that greener grass but then this morning I read yesterday’s entry, this one….the secret of contentment. Perfect timing for a heart check! ❤️

  • Education never stops if I want to grow in Christ. "I have learned (I must be teachable) to be conent in whatever circumstance I am in." How encouraging that it is a process, and I get better at contentment in my circumstances the longer I am learning what it truly means to be an imitator of Christ.

  • Today's text reminds me of a song we sang with the kids last sunday. "What should I do for others? Everything you want! Everything you want them to do to you"
    While explaining that song to my kids, I realised that if I would be sitting next tot the shop begging for money, I wouldn't like to be ignored.. (Like I mostly do) or getting money without people watching me in the eyes. If I really sat there, I would like to be treated as any other person, wanting someone to say nice stuff to me.
    Phil 4:14 says that they did well sharing in his troubles. And verse 18 says it is a fragrant offering, la sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
    So for me, today this text learns me about helping others who are hungry or in need (verse 12) because what we have, is also only ours because we recieved it from God..
    I hope I will still remember this next time I see someone begging for money..

  • I am currently doing the Beth Moore Living Free Bible Study with some friends. Last night we discussed how Jesus is the only source of true satisfaction, not in things or activities of this world, and then I wake up to this wonderful devotion that also reminds us to be content in Christ. I just love it when God uses different resources for confirmation! Jesus is all we have, and Jesus is ALL we need.

  • Morgan♥

    Sometimes, contentment can be extremely hard, if you have than others of you KNOW you need provision. But sisters, my advice is to trust in the Lord, press into Him. I know it's easier said than done, but try it, you won't regret it. Ask God for the things you need. Humble yourself enough to admit you NEED help. Friends might offer help, but the best help you can get is from your Heavenly Father. Seek His help in every situation, because through Him you can do all things!

    – Morgan Elizabeth
    @shestudiestruth

  • In Christ I'm Found

    God gave me that verse a week ago. And now I see why. He won’t change my circumstances. But He knows I have what I need to be content while they don’t change. Jesus. And his presence in me and with me.

  • jillianeh

    "Christ’s strength in me fuels something far more significant than my best efforts; it fuels my faith."

    And we need faith, all the time! I'd like to think I am content right now. I don't make much but I make enough. I am blessed with a community of friends, believers and those who aren't quite there yet. Only very recently have a felt a tug at my heart to change careers but I keep checking in with God on that one to see where He leads.

    My point being in all this, is how often do I live fairly content and then forget about putting my faith in God. Paul wrote he knew how to be brought low and abound. He found the secret to live in plenty and hunger and in abundance and need. How do we live in plenty and abundance? Sounds easy, right? But speaking for myself, I think that these "good" times can easily lead me away. It's when all is well that I start to think I can do it on my own. Or it's when the enemy tempts me to desire more than what I have or deceives me into believing I have been successful by my strength and not the Father's! That's scarier than Halloween right there!

    In abundance and plenty, Paul's secret to contentment was gratitude. Well, and that was his secret in need as well. To thank God for the things He provides knowing that in every situation, God is more than enough. By His strength, and with gratitude, I find contentment. How sweet!

  • HelenWalksinAwe

    Great devotional today!

    This idea is so encouraging:
    At the end of a life of audacious faith, the great apostle has two simple goals: to give glory to Christ, and to encourage his brothers and sisters in the gospel.

    We don't even need a life of audacious faith to do this. We can be tentative hoppers and weaklings and still give glory to Christ and encourage each other. Thank goodness! Because there are plenty of tentative, weak moments in this little life of mine. I've got that part nailed. =)

    And that brings to life the Psalm: "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." We can water other people and that will bring encouragement to us. Hey, that sounds familiar (#buildingothersup #philippians2v3).

    In terms of being content, in my experience, staying in the moment is the easiest way to remain content. It's when I zoom out that things get overwhelming, but when I zoom in, focus on what my five senses are experiencing right in the moment, that's when I get overwhelmed by God's presence, creativity, and goodness. This is especially true when I try to zoom in when I'm with my four (how are there four already!?!?) kids. They're all talking to me at once, they're all needing something, there's so much to do, and it just feels too big sometimes. Zzzzzzzzrm (that's the zoom in sound). All of a sudden it's skin and hair and sweet baby smells and my heart rate slows and the corners of my mouth lift and my heart is suddenly singing gratitude and contentment again. Before kids, it was easiest to get in touch with this zoomed-in living when I was out walking or in my garden. God's presence sometimes seems even more palpable in the little details than in the big stuff.

    I hope you all have a very contented day, resting your hearts in Christ and I love reading and praying alongside all of you as we encourage each other here and as I read stories of how you encourage the other people in your lives.

    • Amy J

      I, too, often find God in the little things.

    • Kelly_Smith

      I wonder what role taking a Sabbath would play in helping us understand a deeper contentment. In all of the busy, we stay zoomed in. Your words—garden, contentment, resting—they have echos of holy Sabbath in them. Pondering, praying, seeking wisdom on that one. Thank you for sharing!

      • Helen

        Taking a Sabbath is a great idea! And in a way, even taking those small moments of being in God’s presence in gratitude are like mini Sabbaths we can take any day. It’s not as powerful as a “real” Sabbath, perhaps, but it’s a start!

  • Yesterday at the park my 2 year old made an interesting declaration as she climbed onto the slide, "Thanks for the slide, God". I wasn´t sure I heard her so I asked what she said and she repeated for me "God gave me the slide." She slid down, climbed back up the rope net about 12 more times before sitting down with her cranberries for a snack. Mercifully, toddlers take about an eon to eat anything, so I had time to mull over what she had said.

    What she had in that moment was more than enough. A safe, functioning piece of playground to climb all over to her heart´s content. She could have just kept going, but she stopped to give thanks. Something she hasn´t experienced yet, is when that net is broken. Or the slide isn´t in working order. Do we still give thanks? Plug in your own analogy here, but I´m noting bellissimanh´s words above, trusting that whatever we have is enough.

    “This gift for this day; God still owns tomorrow.” (Elizabeth, Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman)

  • bellissimanh

    Contentment. In today’s hustle and bustle world, this is a state of mind that is often lacking, isn’t it? Whether we have a little or a lot, it’s not easy to find ourselves in a place of peace. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself feeling pulled in a hundred different directions, by a hundred different things, and the idea of being completely satisfied seems foreign… a mystery, if you will.

    “ …for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

    The Greek word for “I have learned” is “mueo”, and it means to learn the secret of something through personal experience or as the result of initiation. It’s a word that signifies the learning of something with preparatory toil and discipline. Jesus didn’t just zap Paul with a healthy dose of contentment and say, “Here you go, Paul… *poof* – now you’ll be satisfied, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.” On the contrary, Paul learned contentment through experience. Trials became teachers, and plenty a professor. As he submitted himself to the Lord – regardless of whether he was sitting around a campfire with friends or holed up in a dungeon – he came to understand that the things of this life are temporal, but what matters is eternal. Through faith, Paul was initiated into the mystery of Christ in him, the hope of glory.

    We have a choice when it comes to contentment. We can choose joy. The secret to being satisfied is not a secret at all… it’s trusting that whatever we have – it is enough. CHRIST is enough. The path is sometimes smooth and flat, but sometimes it’s rocky and steep. I pray that wherever you find yourself today, you will be able to keep your eyes on the One who is walking before you… and that when you feel inadequate and overwhelmed, you will remember that He is enough. He is everything. <3

    • tabitha_n

      Amen!

      I also feel that there is a major connection between contentment and gratitude. If you continue on for a few more verses, Paul begins to give thanks for all that they did for him (Phillipians 4:14-19). Offering thanks to God for all that he bestows…personally, that has has been the key to my contentment…which is honestly, still a work in progress. However, I find it difficult to yearn for what others do have if I am solely focused on what He has provided me with. Who am I to ask for more when He already gave me all that I need? His sacrifice should be enough, but the flesh that I am yearns for more. If I devote more time and energy giving thanks instead of asking for what I think that I need, joy increases. And as our joy and contentment increases, our messages then becomes more desirable for others to hear.

      • DebBlack1

        I love what you wrote — 'if I devote more time and energy giving thanks instead of asking for what I think that I need, joy increases.'

        I know this is true, but boy is it hard! Thanks for the reminder and the challenge! It's so easy to focus on what I think I need… But that really is the heart of it, isn't it? True faith is trusting Him to provide what I really need.

    • Lyle

      Thank you so much for these words of encouragement today, bellisimanh! Our family is in the midst of transition, and I really needed to hear that contentment is “trusting that whatever we have is enough. Christ is enough.” Keeping my eyes on Him today and not the constantly changing circumstances.

    • Brandi

      Amen! Just what I needed to hear today! Father, please help me to keep my focus on you and have a heart of gratitude for Who You are and Who I am in You! Knowing that You Father are always in control and that Your love for me never ends! You are All-Sufficient and all I need!

  • Kelly_Smith

    I am so glad we zoomed out this morning. It is easy to hold on to Philippians 4:13 as a power verse like a college student clings to those super-caffeinated drinks during finals week. We use it to give us rocket fuel to cross a finish line but find ourselves feeling drained and empty on the other side. If we cling to the strength of Christ as our fuel for contentment, that power verse has staying power. This line: "Christ’s strength in Paul produces something far richer than achievement; it produces contentment." YES! That is what I want!!

    Let's drop down to real life. I will use my life as an example. I write. When I have a deadline, I pray for words and sike myself up to get a post written. I power through it, pounding out those 500-800 words. I hit send or publish and sigh, "ahh, now that's done." And I wait. I watch numbers and comments to see if anyone responds to those words. What I consider awesomeness sometimes hovers limply like a helium balloon on its last day. If I only focus on verse 13, I am now deflated. However, if I take this passage as a whole, I can be content with plenty and scarcity. I know I am doing things through Christ's strength and for "the fruit that increases" (vs 17).

    • Sylvia Reeve

      That is so true Helen, I often fail to zoom in and just live in the moment. Heart and mind is leaping to the next thing, but this 60 something grandma ( Oma ) of 8 is learning to slow down and live in those moments. It is in those moments when we can truly see that God is more than enough. :)

    • sharijune

      Hi Kelly,
      One more thought (since I would love for your writing to have more exposure)…
      Have you been on Michael Hyatt's site http://www.michaelhyatt.com? He has a blog and podcast you might enjoy. He has also written a book titled Platform Get Noticed in a Noisy World that is wonderful.

      Blessings to you!

    • shereadstruth

      So thankful for this example, Kelly! Thanks for sharing your heart with us today!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Brittney

    This devotion today hits really close to home. My dad is currently in jail (has been since April & will be until Jan). Growing up my dad was the bread winner. Very present, a wonderful father. However, over the past 11 years, I am the only one of my siblings who has kept a relationship with him as his addiction (which we knew nothing of before) spiraled out of control. My dad recently wrote a letter to my siblings saying I want to mend our relationship but I can’t do it on my own. My brother, the oldest, the only boy, the one who holds a lottttt of resentment actually wrote him back. My brother’s letter was brutally honest. I thought my dad would be jumping for joy regardless of the content. Nope, he said well he doesn’t clearly understand what depression means (not with quite as much sass as it sounds) and he didn’t share with me anything that’s going on in his life, how am I supposed to write him back? I said dad, he about you thank him? Thank him for putting his heart out there. I explained just as difficult as it was for YOU to get the courage to write, it took him just as much courage. I explained this is what you asked for. You said I can’t mend our relationship on my own. He (my brother) can’t just start telling you about his life like long lost friends, he has 11 years worth of anger, fear & confusion on his heart. The other day as we had our weekly phone call we were talking about the trading that goes on in jail. I said, does anyone ever say “oh that’s fine I don’t need anything just take the extra bag of coffee.”? I had to explain myself twice. He has been so far removed from his old life that he doesn’t even understand a simple kind gesture. If you’ve made it to the end of my novel. I’d just like to ask for prayers for my dad’s heart. That God would show him yes you went through a lot, but so did your children. And honestly I’m so perplexed by his thought process I don’t even know what to pray. Thank you for reading & praying <3

    • Katie

      As the daughter of an addict as well, who is not in touch with my mother, I give you so many kudos for having the strength to remain in contact. He is very lucky to have someone like you. I am more in the boat of your brother. Taking the easy way out to avoid the effort. I will pray for you, your brother, and your father – that all of you may find contentment as a family and see Gods glory in jail or in the world. Please pray for me that I may have your strength and your initiative to reestablish a connection with my own mother. God bless!

    • Melissa

      Just prayed for you Brittney and your family's situation. Hugs!!

    • Kelly_Smith

      Brittney, you show incredible strength and compassion. Apart from a heart transplant, it will be difficult for your dad to enter into a place of forgiveness—both for himself and your brother. Before we can be filled with the unconditional love of Christ, the old stuff (bitterness, depression, idolatry) must be removed. You are demonstrating that kind of Jesus-loving to your dad and your brother. Keep showing love; keep going back in the name of Jesus. Praying Ezekiel 36:25-27 for your dad this morning.

      "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."

      • ~ B ~

        Seconding Kelly here Brittney. Perfect verse for your father. Also prayerful that your brother feels a peace over his decision to write your father back. Prayerful that the two can come together and there is growth between them. Prayerful over you as you work to speak Christ to your father, that God strengthen you daily and give you the words to share. ~ B

    • Janie

      Pray for healing. His addiction. Your brother’s wounds. Jesus heals. You are doing God’s work but keep in mind it’s not all on you. Hand it over to God.

    • BFinch

      Praying for you Brittney! Addiction is such a tough one. Thankfully your dad and your siblings have the opportunity to work things out if they want to. Some people with addictions and their family members are not as fortunate. I often say I wish I could punch addiction in its face I hate it so much. It robs the addict and their family of so much. But God is faithful and your family has the opportunity to rebuild. (Praise Him) I pray for eyes to be opened, your dad’s and your siblings, and that forgiveness will flow. Right now I know you are feeling like you are in an impossible place, trapped between them. please please please continue to seek the Lord, continue to reach out to your sisters in Christ for prayer and encouragement. Do not lose sight of God and the good that can still come. It may seem off topic right now but it seems to be sticking with me: remember, love covers a multitude of sins. Be blessed sister!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      lifting you and your family up Brittney (((hugs)))

  • Amy Coleman

    Love this! It’s reminded me that no one can find contentment in this world. True contentment can only be found in Jesus.

    • shereadstruth

      YES. So grateful for this truth, Amy! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • I was left my grand mothers 12 bedroom house, built for her by my grandfather in the early days of their marriage….it was the most beautiful house ,back in the day… what an honour to be gifted this house, which is situated not far from the main family home by the sea…every thing about this house, was to me, when growing up in Ghana, long ago, was amazing….i might have even imagined or dreamt of doing so …one day….But here's the thing….it has never and will never now be my home, this great gift, is now the home of some of my cousins, and their families…I could no more envisage it as a holiday home, all packed up and covered up and only opened and aired when I visited, than I can it stand empty….the house was gifted me …yes, but for me the blessing is that I can share it with others…in the family…who also will treasure the house and love it as I have…
    I live now, in a 3/4 bed house, in a village….I work for the church…..and not much savings in the bank, enough each month for the bills to be paid…but here is the hand on heart truth….I AM content….I love beautiful things and shoes are a passion I am working on….I know, I know…a girl can never have enough shoes….but when a girl has only 2 feet…how many shoes can she wear at any given time…lol..but I am in my heart content, because my walk with God has truly allowed me to see the importance of holding fast to Him, trusting and keeping a line of communication with him….I lived as a princess before, as a child( thank you Daddy)…and how wonderful my life was…but the person I am today is not defined by what I had, h. ave…..or count as gain…the person I am today, has learnt through suffering, pain, betrayal and whatever else that through it all ONE THING AND ONE THING ONLY REMAINED….AND THAT WAS GOD…He was still in the picture when all seemed lost, he was still in the picture when there seemed to be no hope, He is still in the picture…as I write…guiding and directing my life, providing what I need, NOT what I want( two different things) and I am so very very thankful for His faithfulness to me…each and every day of this life He has afforded me…

    I AM content…..absolutely….

    Thank you Amanda for this round up of Philippians…beautifully written and said as always…Sending you a hug and some love and praying all is well with you….and yours..Thank you…

    Love and blessings to all and a happy peace and Grace filled weekend tooo..xxx

    • Kelly_Smith

      "But when a girl has only 2 feet." Lines like this make me so very sure we would be friends in real life if it weren't for that darn ocean between us! I will settle for SRT meet-ups each morning. Hugs to you!

    • MNmomma (heather)

      love and hugs my dear! Can I just say, your love light is shinning bright this morning :)

  • it is so reassuring to look back over the last year and see how far God has brought me however I know at the same time I can’t live constantly looking back but need to keep moving forward trusting God has me in the palm of his hand. Great memory verse to end on!

  • Stephanie Hibbert

    Amen! ♥

  • Alyssa C.

    This is beautifully written Amanda. These verses in Philippians have encouraged me deeply to find my satisfaction and contentment in who Christ is in the past, and are such a sweet reminder to continue in that today. So blessed by what you wrote sweet woman!

    • shereadstruth

      Thanks for joining us today, Alysssa! We love having you in our community!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  • Amen! ♥

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