“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 4:12-13 (NIV)
At times we desire to have something that is new or state of the art. We think about a new job, a better car, or a bigger and better house. The urge might arise to move to another city or town. We think that by changing our environment, it will change the way we feel. This can happen out of frustration. In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul speaks of learning to be content despite your situation.
Consider the context of Paul’s words. He was writing this from a prison. The temptation for Paul (or anyone) is to complain. Yet, in the middle of a tremendous trial where he is chained and malnourished, he is still focused on God. So often, we focus on our outward environment. We believe that if we could just change this or move away from that, then we would have contentment. The new environment will satisfy us for a season, but we will still be frustrated.
The key is to have an inward change. When these inward changes occur, our outward environment will not matter. This involves two steps. First, we must turn our focus away from the appearance of our outward environment. Our thoughts must be focused upward. Ask God for wisdom and understanding about your situation. Sometimes our natural discontentment is because of spiritual discontentment. God designed us to need contact with Him. No amount of physical things will satisfy that need. Ask God to fill you up and show you where your spiritual life needs adjusting.
Secondly, acknowledge where you are now. This is not a lack of faith or denying where God can take you. Five times in Philippians Chapter 1, Paul acknowledged that he was in chains. God is in control of everything. He knows what you are going through now. He is aware of it. Learn to see God in your situation with the inner hope that He directs your future. For instance, learning to love your work will help you find contentment in life. That can apply to any situation. Your situation is a revelation of what He is doing right now and what He will do in the future. He always prepares us for the next phase of His plan right now. Consider Noah and the flood. In the process of wiping out the world with a flood, God was preparing it for a fresh start. God is preparing you for the next phase of His plan for your life. If Paul can be content in prison, then we can be content in our situation. It just takes a change of perception. These simple steps will help us learn to be content.