By Royce Frederick

“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12-13).

The apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he penned those words. If a prisoner living under the Roman government could find contentment in the first century, why do many of us fail to find contentment in the twentieth century?

Some people confuse contentment with satisfaction of all their desires. They think they will be content when all their desires have been fulfilled, so they proceed to chase the wind. They fail to notice a common phenomenon: instead of decreasing, our desires often increase as we desperately attempt to fulfill them. In the words of one land-owner, “Actually, my desires are very simple. All I want is the land which borders mine.” At best, the person who aims to satisfy his desires will only find brief moments of satisfaction along the way. That is not the contentment of which Paul wrote.

Some people confuse contentment with total indifference toward life’s events. The Stoic philosophers of ancient Greece believed that a truly mature person never allows himself to be affected by pleasures or sorrows. Paul did not have that kind of attitude. He freely mentions his tears and joys (2 Cor. 2:3-4). It is not a sign of maturity to be stone-hearted. Sin and sorrow, righteousness and joy touch the heart of a Christian. Contentment is not the same as indifference.

Biblical contentment is an humble, undisturbed dependence upon Christ, regardless of what may come our way in life. It is an attitude which cannot be swayed by fortune nor misfortune. It is a ready acceptance of whatever God may permit, or cause, in our life.

As one wise person said, “A contented man is one who enjoys the scenery along the detour!”