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Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

Discontentment may be the greatest trap in our culture. It may be greater than lust, greed, and even lying, because discontentment leads to all these other sins. It tends to be a well-spring of iniquity. I have yet to meet an individual who engaged in an affair without first suffering from discontentment. I have yet to speak with a drunkard, gossiper, liar, or idolater of body or rest or recreation without them alluding to discontentment. And it feels like the entire world is colluding to stir up discontentment within us. Every billboard, every commercial, every brochure tends to communicate, “You deserve and need more.”

Contentment is a slippery thing. As soon as we think we are content it wiggles away, due to something we see on television, some stray thought, or a small comment another person makes. Is contentment even possible?

Paul asserts that it is. In fact, he says that he has learned to be content in whatever situation (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell us the secret to contentment: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Paul isn’t saying he can do all things in Christ as a kind of blanket statement. He doesn’t think he can fly, become Emperor of Rome, or create a rainbow in the sky. Too many yank this verse out of context. Rather, Paul is asserting that in all circumstances he can be content in Christ who strengthens him. This is the secret! It is not ignoring circumstances, it is not rising above them, and it is not resigning one’s self to them--it is rather living in them in Christ.

Paul's statement is an echo of an earlier statement in the book where he comments, "For to me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). How is this helpful? Because he knows that in Christ he possesses everything. This allows him to be content. The Christian finds Christ to be sufficient. We are the richest and most secure people in the universe; so the storms may beat the walls of our lives and yet contentment can lie safe within. It isn’t touched, because it is wrapped up in Him, who is our All in all.

Name it Christian and you have it in Christ. Whatever it is you desire; the answer is found in Christ. The boat you long for, what is it but a desire for freedom and rest? Which is ultimately found in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 8:2). That promotion? At its root, it is simply security and respect (Psalm 62:6-8). Ultimately, these are found in Christ. Friendship? What a friend we have in Jesus, one who never abandons or forsakes (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20). Family? We have an older brother who leads the way (Hebrews 2:11) and unites us to a Father, who ever loves us (Galatians 4:4-7). Justice? He is a Judge who forever upholds righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). Comfort? We have a priest who forever intercedes (Hebrews 7:25). Wisdom? We have a prophet who always proclaims (Hebrews 3:3), a counselor who is ever ready with comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), a provider who ever supplies (Philippians 4:19), a Savior who pays the price for our sins (Hebrews 10:12), a defender who will guard and keep us (Psalm 23).

If we desire love, it is found in His spread arms on the cross (Romans 8; Ephesians 3). If we want hope, it is found in his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we seek peace, it is found in his blood shed for us (Colossians 1:20). If we seek joy, it is given in His Spirit (Galatians 5). Happiness? It is found in knowing what awaits us (Revelation 21). Power? You will rule with Him forever (Revelation 3:20-21).

Are you hungry? He is the bread of life (John 6:3). Thirsty? He is the living water (John 7:37). Naked? He covers you with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Health? He is the Great Physician (Psalm 147:3). Wisdom? He is the fount (Colossians 2:3). Knowledge? He holds it in His hand (Colossians 2:3). Rest? He says come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give your rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Compassion? It flows from Him (James 5:11). Comfort? He never crushes a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). Riches? We are made co-heirs with Him (Galatians 3:29).

We can be content, because life’s circumstances do not dictate to us. We live in Him. Christian contentment is based upon dependence not independence. Paul is no Stoic. He is not acting as though he is above his circumstances which have no effect upon him. Rather, in the midst of the difficult circumstances, he is trusting in God and looking to Christ in whom He has all things. He is not independent; he is Christ-dependent. For me to live is Christ. It is not being self-satisfied or self-fulfilled; it is being Christ-satisfied and Christ-fulfilled. And this makes contentment possible.


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5 thoughts on “Contentment in a Discontented World”

  1. Dr. Richard Zeile says:

    Thank you for this meditation, Biblical and comforting, centered on Christ rather than the cravings of our own hearts! It is in the best conservative Christian tradition, integrating Divine truth with life as we know it, directing us to Christ in us by faith, rather than to Christ manifest to our senses through miraculous signs., to Christ in the continuities rather than in the discontinuities of life.

  2. neville briggs says:

    Perhaps we should be clear on the line between contented and blasé, contentment and apathy.

    It seems that Jesus was at times discontented. ” I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled. But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed.” Luke 12.

    Likewise, the apostle Paul was not contented with the condition of Israel, he wrote ” I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I wish I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race ” Rom 9.

    It seems that we should be discontented about some things.

  3. Stevan says:

    Our western society is structured to generate discontentment – and we tend to jump right in.

    During an extended period of unemployment my wife and I stopped our practice of Friday night dinner at the local mall’s food court.

    We both noticed that over the next few months that we wanted fewer things. We realized that strolling through the mall to get to the food court and then leaving via a slightly different path exposed us to a focused barrage of “here is some great stuff you would truly enjoy owning.”

    Once we stopped the mall strolls we stopped the barrage and we found ourselves wanting less.

    We Christians need to be careful not to cultivate dissatisfaction – knowingly or innocently. Every TV commercial, every web site, every magazine and catalog are all vehicles that can cultivate dissatisfaction.

    Just a thought.

  4. Alex Hawker says:

    I think you’ve touched on a tender nerve within our society. Thanks for the article.

  5. Olivier says:

    The problem is have with Jesus is that all this contentment seems to be just a mind game. Like constantly convincing yourself you’re content. If I don’t have friends and I’m seeking to have one, sure I can say Jesus is my friend and try to be happy with that. But the reality is I still don’t have a friend I can have a real face to face conversation, with whom I can play videogames with or hang out in a park. If I want to be comfortable because I have no money to buy a house and just try to be content knowing God gives me what I need… I still don’t have what would make me actually comfortable and I’m only setting my mind on some concepts outside of reality. And I so wish it wasn’t the case, but I’m tired of pretending to be content while I’m truly just not.

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