“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”
Philippians 4:10-13 MSG
True happiness isn’t found in circumstances (wealth, health, politics, weather, getting along with people, being loved etc.) because circumstances are subject to change without any warning. If you want to be truly, unshakably happy, you need to learn to be content (satisfied) no matter what is going on. Contentment is not something that happens by human default; it’s something that Paul learned (“I have learned the secret of contentment”). If you want to be happy in life, you need to learn to be “quite content whatever [your] circumstances”. You can be happy whether you have more than enough to eat, or whether you’re hungry; whether you have a lot, or nothing. You can go through a rough time with a smile on your face and a song of praise in your heart. You do not have to respond to challenging circumstances by falling apart. But being content in any circumstance isn’t something that happens naturally; society has trained us to focus on lack and think about and meditate on the negative, all of which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. We have to train ourselves to be content; to stop focusing on the negative and what we don’t have, and start focusing on the positive and be thankful for what we do have. Contentment is a choice.
“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
Proverbs 27:20 (KJV)
The problem lies in what we’re focused on – what are your eyes looking at? Your heart will fill up with what your eyes focus on. Just like there is always space for more in hell and in destruction (it can never be full), carnal man’s eyes will never be satisfied. Even carnal Christians are never satisfied always seeking the latest spiritual revelation or experience. Indulging in lust for more (money, power, sex, material possessions) only produces more lust – you will never satisfy your lust for more.
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
Luke 12:15 KJV
We easily judge ourselves and others according to what we have in terms of worldly possessions, but Jesus made it clear that what He values isn’t what the world values. Jesus warned us of the dangers of covetousness, which is greed: having or showing a strong desire for material possessions. Life isn’t about stuff that can burn (material possessions). No, it isn’t wrong to have nice stuff, and yes, God wants you to be blessed and well looked after. But if you don’t value what God values you will be covetous and it will affect the direction of your life and the level of joy you experience.
“…I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation…”
Philippians 4:12b TLB
You can learn to be content, but what is the secret to contentment in every situation? What is the “recipe for being happy” as the Message Bible puts it? The scripture goes on to say,
“For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”
Philippians 4:13 TLB
The secret to contentment, and true happiness, is Jesus and His empowering to be able to endure hardships. What does this mean practically?
We need to accept that Jesus is enough. He is our all-in-all and the answer to every problem we have. If we are not satisfied with Jesus, we will not be satisfied with anything else.
We need to remember that Jesus is eternal while material possessions are temporary. In difficult circumstances we need to keep perspective and focus on the eternal glory and blessing we have in Christ. Christ empowers us not to accept our circumstances but to be content in them. We do not accept attacks from the enemy, we resist them (James 4:7). We don’t passively allow negative circumstances to overcome us, but even if for whatever reason we aren’t seeing the victory that we should, whatever we are experiencing is temporal and one day we will die and go to be with the Lord for all eternity. Having an eternal perspective in situations disarms fear and enables us to walk in faith.
We need to realize that Christ’s power isn’t just available for us to endure hardship but to rise up and be victorious. Jesus paid a great price so that we could live an abundant live and live in victory. Living in victory means living in contentment and joy, but it also means that we can overcome every attack of the devil. We are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37) and the greater One live in us (1 John 4:4). Christ is in us, empowering us to be victorious. We are not victims of our circumstances – we are victors!
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can be content and enjoy life, no matter what I am going through. I can be victorious over every attack of the devil.