As he starts to draw his letter to the Philippians to a close, Paul used an opportunity to emphasize the value of contentment in whatsoever circumstances we may find ourselves. And what an encouragement and example this short passage has been to many believers down through the centuries, who have found themselves in times of financial hardship, dire need or severe persecution.
We began this chapter with Paul imploring two of the women who helped to form this church to come together in unity (Phil 4:2-3), and we can do that under Christ. What we can’t do is be in unity with those in the world, because they are in enmity with the Lord. We are told to rejoice in the Lord always, be gentle with others, and be anxious for nothing because we are to seek Him first in prayer, supplication with thanksgiving, so that the God of peace will guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:4-7).
Sometimes that includes letting go of things, wants, dreams, friendships — anything the Lord shows us is not good for our thoughts. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9)
Paul didn’t ask or beg for any financial assistance during his ministry, not even from behind prison bars… But in this passage we discover that it was laid on the heart of the Philippians believers to send some financial assistance to Paul, for which this faithful servant of God was most grateful; but he also pointed out that he himself regarded their gift as coming from the Lord – and that those who has so generously provided for him.. were in reality giving their gift to God (Phil 4:10).
Paul had discovered the joy of the Lord was his strength and that His grace is sufficient in all things. He had learned that whether he had much or very little he was content with his lot.. for he knew that God was in control. Paul discovered that there is no greater contentment than abiding in Christ, submitting to His Holy Spirit and trusting God in all things. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11).
One dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are”. Today it’s rare to find anyone who is truly content with his or her condition in life. The Bible has a great deal to say about contentment—being satisfied with what we have, who we are, and where we’re going. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matt 6:25).
In essence, Jesus is telling us to be content with what we have. Moreover, He has given us a direct command not to worry about the things of this world. Then He adds, “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:32–33).
We are to appreciate everything the Lord gives us — for all good things come from Him (Jam 1:17). To not be thankful puts us in the same category as those who do not know God and are on the broad road that leads to hell. We are commanded “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).
Instead, as believers we are to be content with what we have. Being content means that we put our trust and confidence in God, knowing that He is the Giver of all good things, and that He uses even the hard times for our benefit, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7). We know assuredly that God will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
To worry means we do not trust God. The key to overcoming our discontentment and lack of faith is to find out who God really is and how He has been faithful to supply the needs of His people in the past. Such study will grow our confidence and trust for the future, so that we can truly be content in what the Lord gives, so that we don’t look for contentment in the world, because we will never find it there. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:6-7)