By Chris Martin
When I was a freshman in college, the Lord used a series of events to bring me to my knees before Him. I had been a Christian for a few years at that point, but it’s fair to say I hadn’t truly made God the true “Lord of my life.” What I mean is, I believed in my heart and my head that the work of Christ saved me from my sin into eternal life with God, but this belief hadn’t yet changed my affections and motivations.
In short, I was pursuing a relationship with a girl, and through one of my attempts to communicate my commitment to that girl, I lost her trust and the relationship of a dear friend in the process. I was not content with the love of Christ; I needed the love and attention of someone else. The Lord showed me my sin. I was searching for contentment in others, but true contentment can only be found in Him. When I came to understand this—really understand it in my heart—I found myself being drawn closer to God.
Throughout his ministry, Paul found himself in much more dire circumstances than losing the attention of a girl he liked. He faced countless acts of persecution and attempted execution. He was shipwrecked. He was bitten by a snake. He was imprisoned. Despite all of that, Paul is able to write: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself” (Philippians 4:11).
Now, it’s important to remember that Paul was not given some sort of enhanced version of the Holy Spirit in order to face all the difficult situations he faced in his life. Paul received the same Holy Spirit Christians receive today when they repent and believe that Christ has saved them from their sins. Paul is not some sort of super-Christian, allowing him to be content amidst trials in a way that we cannot match. But Paul does say something curious in verse 12: “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.”
We may be tempted to think, Uh-huh. See! God has given Paul something “extra.” He’s told him some “secret” that He hasn’t shared with us—that’s the real reason he’s able to be content in all things. We may be tempted to believe true contentment is impossible, that there’s a “secret something” we need to get or earn or do to be at peace. But that’s just not the case. In verse 13, Paul lays it out plainly: “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.”
That’s. It. That’s the secret.
The secret to living with true contentment is that we are given the ability to do so by His Spirit. Verse 13 is not a promise from God that we will somehow be able to conquer any mountain or accomplish any task we want just because we are Christians. When we read within the context of the rest of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see that verse 13 reveals the secret to living a life of contentment no matter what our circumstances are. God wants us to find our contentment in Him because He knows we cannot find true contentment anywhere else.
Written by Chris Martin