It is amazing to realise that when Paul wrote, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11), he was in prison in Rome! Indeed, later in the same chapter, he exclaimed “I have all, and abound!

How elusive is contentment in this 21st century! Every piece of junk mail in our letterbox, most advertisements on the television or our computer spam exploit discontent or seek to plant it within us. Sadly, it is ‘normal’ for our sinful natures to be discontented – stemming from the garden of Eden.

Thomas Watson writes:

“Contentment is a divine thing; it becomes ours, not by acquisition, but infusion. It is a slip taken from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul. It is a fruit that grows not in the garden of philosophy but it is of heavenly birth…. Contentment is joined with godliness “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).”[1]Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment

I have sought both personally and in our little family to cultivate contentment – not always successfully! When our children were small, for example, we never allowed them to compare what they received with one another and complain. If one complained that their allotment of lemonade was smaller than another’s, it was taken from them and thrown away. As a result, this happened rarely! I was reminded of this only last night when having a small birthday dinner with an energetic grandchild just turned seven that day. There were certain comments made from that source on portions allocated at the table. Her mother promptly reminded her of that lesson she herself learned at our meal table nearly forty years ago. My daughter also reminded me how annoyed her sister and herself were when their brother always elected to have his mother’s macaroni cheese for his birthday dinner instead of choosing some rare exotic take-away! Discontent starts early and has many faces!

It is so important as Christians for us to demonstrate contentment! We might have some physical imperfection, financial deprivation, troubles within our families, work, studies or church – indeed, like Paul, our circumstances may, for us, be like a prison. But I find that to embrace the difficulty and rest content in it as unto the Lord who makes no mistakes in ordering our lives is, for me, the best way through it. He may choose to change or remove the problem in the future or give us the ability to do so – but, until then, we should strive to be content – even with the weather each day!

Many have been the instances of contentment under the most trying circumstances. One such example was that of Bishop John Ridley in 1555 who was due to be burnt at the stake the following day . After his final meal the night before, Foxe, the martyrologist relates: “When they arose from the table, his brother offered him to watch all night with him. But he said, “No, no, that you shall not. For I mind (God willing) to go to bed, and to sleep as quietly tonight, as ever I did in my life.” This Ridley did – he had to be woken in the morning to be led out to his fate along with faithful Hugh Latimer who used to preach before royalty. Such contentment!

We are, by nature, restless beings. How often, then, I find that I need to remember Isaiah’s wonderful words in 26:3, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.”  There are many amazing lessons in that chapter, but verse 3 is a gem among the gems!

Seek contentment, no matter what the circumstances. Not only does it help to lower your blood pressure – but it helps us to focus on the realities of life in Christ and to focus, not on the things which are seen, for they pass away, but the things which are not seen – for they are eternal and remain in eternity. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18)

May the Lord bless you with such contentment in Him! I am still working on it!

References   [ + ]

1.Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment