A friend commented that there was a period where I had exhibited a critical streak online, complaining about various things under the sun. Her comment disturbed me, because I didn’t want to come across as a grumbler with a lack of gratitude for the things that I have. Indeed, I have much to thank God for, and he has certainly blessed my life greatly. But does being a grateful Christian mean that I must always feel a sense of satisfaction? Will being content mean that I don’t want to change or allow status quo to perpetuate? Will contentment breed complacency? I didn’t have easy answers, and I’m thankful that I found some answers through a recent exhortation in Philippians 4:10-13:
10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Paul was in need when he wrote to the Philippians, yet he didn’t demand the Philippians to give to him for his work with them. Yes, there was some rhetoric about the Philippians’ response in verses 10 and 11, which didn’t seem very prompt, but I’m quite sure that he wasn’t using some passive-aggressive tactic. He was able to rejoice greatly because it was in the Lord. It was through relating with God that he was able to find joy even in dire circumstances. When the speaker pointed out that the original Greek phrase ‘I have learned’ points to a progressive growth, from apprentice to master, I was rather struck that it wasn’t a natural response for Paul. He learnt contentment through the years. Perhaps for every one of us, we can learn contentment like Paul did. God does not coerce us to be content, but shows us how to by revealing Himself to us.
Being content is found in relation to Jesus Christ. It is not found simply in circumstances or possessions. Perhaps only testing will show if our contentment is in the temporal or the eternal. Contentment doesn’t mean complacency. When He reveals a need for me to change, I should change. Or perhaps, it’s a revelation for me to be an agent of change in the different contexts in life. Whatever it is, I realise that I can be content yet change, all in Jesus Christ.