5 Choices That Teach Us Contentment

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I grew up in the 80s, in one of (if not the) wealthiest generations in all of history.

It was a time when people were buying more and bigger cars, more and bigger televisions and appliances, owning computers, buying and building bigger houses, going on luxury vacations…

The idea of “super-sized” was introduced, and truly defined the desire of that generation.

40 years later, we are now toning it down: we’re minimalizing life, we’re moving into tiny houses, we’re buying compact cars; because in all of the super-sizing, we discovered that we didn’t become more content with what we had.

The truth is, we won’t be any more content with minimizing and shrinking our lives.

Contentment has nothing to do with the size or amount of our things. Contentment is a spiritual discipline and therefore must be built with spiritual tools.

In Philippians 4, Paul talks about how contentment was something he learned. So often, people talk about content as something we find, as if it is something outside of us that we possess.

But the way Paul speaks, it is in fact something inside of us that we build by means of practice and use.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” Philippians 4:11

In the previous verses, he gives us 5 choices that we make that will help us develop, or learn, contentment in whatever state we may be in.

These choices are tools that are very much like exercise equipment that must be used every day, even after we may think our contentment muscle is built, to help us stay in shape spiritually.

They keep us healthy and strong in our soul and spirit, and that strength gives strength to our physical body as well (as we will see in one of my Bible journaling videos for this chapter!)

1. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

As we learned in chapter 1, joy is a choice; and here we see it is a command. Being joyful isn’t a suggestion God gives to us, but a command for how we are supposed to live.

And Paul didn’t just say it once, but twice!

But, lest we think that the word “always” is here incidentally, it’s not. There are no filler words in the Bible. Every word is there for a purpose, and he really does mean “always”.

Now, he doesn’t mean we rejoice for everything, but in everything. Just as we don’t give thanks for everything, but in everything.

We don’t rejoice for terrorist attacks, we don’t rejoice for fatal accidents or terminal diagnoses. But, we can find reason in every situation to rejoice in the Lord for He is good and He will bring good out of every negative situation.

This is a choice, and there are times when we may need to take our own cheeks in our own hands, look at ourselves in the mirror, and instruct our heart….firmly and sternly….until we come into submission to His Word.

This choice to rejoice in all situations, lays the foundation for us to learn and live and life of contentment because our focus is redirected to the Lord and away from our circumstances.

2. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5

As we choose to live a life of rejoicing, despite our circumstances, we will find ourselves growing more gentle in our interactions with people.

Paul is actually saying, “You should be known for being gentle”. Why? Because Jesus is coming back soon, and your gentleness becomes an open door for you to be able to share the gospel with others.

If we’re known for being sarcastic, sharp, and short with people, they won’t be too eager to hear what we have to say, but our gentleness causes people’s hearts to trust us, and trust our message.

And this gentleness comes from rest – a rest that we have when we begin developing contentment in our heart through our choice to rejoice.

When we live a life of discontentment, it causes irritability, anger, and even bitterness toward God for not providing everything we believe we want.

But when we can see His divine hand in every situation: good or bad, in abundance or lack, we are able to rest, and that rest enables us to be gentle with those around us.

3. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Philippians 4:6

Again, we see these words that we tend to want to overlook: “nothing” and “everything”. Also, this verse is yet another command – just as the 10 Commandments are commands.

Do not be anxious…ever. But in every situation let your requests be made known to God through prayer and supplication.

When a need arises, when we receive a bad report from the doctor, when we end up in financial reversal, the right response is to reject the temptation to worry, fear, and anxiety and to instead turn to God in prayer.

God didn’t put us on earth and abandon us to our own devices, He doesn’t expect us to figure it out for ourselves.

He is here, ready, and willing to help us in every situation, and when we build our faith in Him and His willingness and eagerness to answer our needs, we will live a life of contentment knowing that He will come through at the right time and with the right answer.

I will delve more into this verse in my next Bible Journaling With Me video.

4. 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. Philippians 4:8

To be honest, we can’t do the first three things in this list if we haven’t done this one first.

We cannot live a life of rejoicing and gentleness, free from anxiety, if our thought life is not under control. If we allow “stinkin’ thinkin'”, toxic thoughts, negativity, pessimism, worry, fear, anxiety, impure thoughts, bitter and angry thoughts, and drama to reside in our thinking, it will be impossible for us to develop joy, gentleness, faith, and contentment.

Paul urged us to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Scripture.

The initial thought isn’t sin, but if we fail to capture that thought and bring it into submission to God’s Word, it does become sin.

We develop the habit of bringing our thoughts captive when we choose to develop the spiritual discipline of Scripture meditation. I have written a lot about this discipline in these blog posts on Scripture meditation.

I have even developed a free, beautiful printable pack that helps you through each step of Scripture meditation.

5. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9

Do you want the God of peace to be with you?

Do you want a heart of contentment in all things, no matter what state you are in right now?

Paul says, “Then, start obeying!” Obedience to God’s commands is non-negotiable.

We will never find true peace that surpasses all understanding, and we will never truly develop contentment despite our circumstances until we make the choice to obey the things we’ve learned, and received from the Lord through His Word, and we see in the lives of those the Bible talks about.

We need to read the Word. We need to apply the Word. And we need to obey the Word.

That is why I write these Bible studies, and why I choose to study whole portions and books of the Bible, not just individual verses.

We need to know the Word intimately, and then we need to go out and apply it and live it; practice it, and develop it in our lives, so that we live and grow in Christ.

So that we develop those spiritual disciplines in our lives that are so essential for living victoriously!

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