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. Philippians 4:12, NIV
I sometimes think that if the Apostle Paul was in my Small Group, he'd be the guy that everyone would sigh and roll their eyes at when he began to talk. Really, if you don't have a strong understanding of who he was and all he went through, you might think that he was some self-righteous, religiously prideful, arrogant Christian. Paul says things in his letters that sometimes make me feel downright exasperated and at others an utter failure...because I can't see myself ever attaining all the things told us to pursue.
The above verse is one that still has me feeling both exasperated and defeated, because Paul seems to taunt us with holding this secret but doesn't actually divulge the way to the unlocking of it. Yes he says we can do all thing through Him who gives us strength, but being content in chains? While sitting in the city's sewer system? I'd not be content. I'm not content with my life now...
This is a big thing for me to attain, though, because in my discontentment, I seek happiness in pursuits and ideas that won't work. I know that in Jesus, by Jesus, because of Jesus I can have what Paul said he had...but I thought that contentment was a thing I had to bring myself to on my own.
I found sermon series a couple weeks ago on Ecclesiastes, one preached by Matt Chandler on The Village Church's website. He explained something so profound in the second or third sermon that made me view Paul's seemingly arrogant statement in the clearest way. He expounded on this to make his point:
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, ESV
Matt Chandler explained how Solomon, who had the resources to enjoy every entertainment and pursuit that man could ever think of, found that none of his own efforts could make him happy. To be truly so is a gift, one given to us by Jesus. And then it occurred to me: in all my efforts to be satisfied with my life as it is, my efforts alone could never make me content. Even the strength Paul mentioned I thought was something I had to bring out of me myself. I never grasped the contentment he spoke of was one more of those gifts Jesus gives, like salvation or wisdom.