Philippians 4:10–13 (NASB95)
10 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. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Contentment. We seem to all want it, but we also know few people who truly have it. It seems almost impossible to be satisfied with who we are, what we have achieved, and how we spend our days. There always seems to be something standing in the way. We never seem to make quite enough money. There is always the next promotion or landing the bigger sale. Our houses seem too small or under-furnished. Our kids are going through “that phase” but then unfortunately they grow into “that phase”.
Growing up watching basketball, there was no one greater than Michael Jordan. He seemed to regularly be doing things that defied what the human body could do. He was so dominant that at times teams would triple team him, and he would still find a way to get to the basket. What was worse is that they put so much focus on Jordan that he could simply dump it off to one of many open teammates to assist in their scoring. He led every other professional player in the NBA in average points per game ten times. You talk to anyone who knows anything about basketball history and ask who the greatest player of all time was, and they will almost certainly tell you Michael Jordan. He was so dominant for so long that there is not even really a discussion to be had. He was the leader of the “Dream Team” that crushed each and every opponent on their way to winning Olympic Gold in 1992 and led the Chicago Bulls to the first three-peat of the NBA championships ever.
Yet after that very season, while he was still in his prime, he decided to retire. He claimed that he had lost a desire for the game. In short, he wasn’t content. In an attempt to find it, he decided to become a professional baseball player. For all who know this history, you already know that this was a terrible move. He became a below average double-A player who could barely bat .200. The great athlete was greatly humbled. Not finding what he needed in baseball, he signed again with the Bulls and ended up leading them to an unthinkable second three-peat of the NBA championship. Then, after seemingly coming to the end of his career, Jordan retired once again. Yet, like many great athletes past their prime, Jordan wasn’t content with his retirement, and two years later he signed with the Washington Wizards. Not performing as he did before, he would openly criticize his teammates for their lack of help. Jordan retired for the last time after only two years. If the greatest basketball player of all time, who was still making more than $80 million a year ten years after his retirement, can’t find contentment, how can anyone hope to? Why is it that you and I can’t just be happy with exactly what God has given to us today?
The problem is that we are looking in the wrong places for contentment. Getting rid of financial worries will not bring us contentment. Retiring to a home overlooking the peaceful scenes and sounds of the ocean will not bring us contentment. God taught Paul a secret that we need to know: our circumstances can never, nor will ever, bring us long term contentment. And any short-term contentment we find just brings us greater discontentment later when the fix doesn’t last.
The secret is to place our trust and hope in our Lord. He is the only one who can bring us inner strength and peace. This is not trust that He will change our circumstances but trusting that what He has provided is enough. It is trusting that He is in control of our current circumstances, knows what’s best for us better than we know ourselves, and loves us with a love that is beyond our ability to understand. If that God has brought us here, why do we need things to change to be content with where He has us?
May we choose today to trust in the One who supplies all that we need and choose to be forgetful of the things that we wish He would bring. May we find Paul’s secret to contentment.