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A Christian Cure for Discontentment Pt. 1

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:10-13, ESV).

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that he has learned, with God as his instructor, how to be content in whatever situation.

This is quite a statement coming from a man like Paul! A man who ofttimes was in danger, who went without food, had been shipwrecked, imprisoned, and endured countless beatings. Amid all of these trials, Paul had learned to be content.

How is he able to be content? Paul writes, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

God is the one who enables Paul to be content in whatever circumstance he is in.

Contentment is something we all desire. Ultimately, it is God who teaches this contentment. But what is it that the contented person has learned from God?

The contented person learns more and more who God is, the desirability of God’s will, and that God is the source of all blessings. Furthermore, the contented person learns more and more from God what they deserve and what God has given them instead.

To start, it would be prudent to define what Christian contentment is and what it isn’t.

Jeremiah Burroughs gives a helpful definition when he writes, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

Furthermore, it is helpful to understand what Christian contentment is not.

Contentment is not:

- An absence of desire

- An absence of emotions such as sadness, grief, longing

- General apathy

- Satisfied with sin

- Something that we accomplish – It is God’s work in the Christian

With this in mind – what are some things the Christian learns from God in the “school of contentment”?

Who God is: Namely that God is Sovereign, Good, and Wise

At the heart of discontentment is a lie. When I am discontented with the circumstances that God has placed me in, essentially what I believe is either 1) God is not sovereign over what is happening, 2) God is not good, 3) God is not wise, or 4) any number of combination of these things.

The good news is that these lies are lies. They aren’t true. It isn’t reality.

The reality is that God is sovereign – all that happens in the Christian's life is according to God's plan.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV, italics mine).

From every hardship you face, every sin committed against you, every lack, every gain, every health problem, every child temper tantrum you endure, every hair on your head (or lack thereof), all is ordained from the sovereign fatherly hand of God. Like a good father, God, the perfect Father, does what is good for his children. His children are those who are united to Christ through faith.

David in Psalm 31:19 proclaims:

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you…”

God has stored up and is working good for the Christian. Even the evil that happens, God has ordained for good purposes. This good purpose is that God is glorified as he conforms the Christian into the likeness of Christ.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28-29, ESV).

We may not know how every circumstance works ultimately for good, but we can understand that it does because God has told us in his Word. This good is not only for the individual Christian's sake but for the sake of the whole body of Christ.

Not only is every circumstance in the Christian's life dictated by a sovereign good Father but also a wise one, one that knows better than us.

Speaking of God’s ordained judgment of Jerusalem, Isaiah writes, “This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29, ESV)

If a child were left to make their own choices, they would likely eat ice cream for breakfast. However, a wise father does not allow for that. To the child, it seems like the father is withholding something good, but the father has more wisdom than the child.

Likewise, our heavenly Father often does things that do not seem good to us (like the destruction of Jerusalem prophesied by Isaiah), but he is wiser than us, and he loves his children enough to do what is best for us – even if we don’t like it and even if we don’t understand. If the Christian ever struggles to believe in these precious truths, they need only to look to the cross. On the cross at Calvary, God the Father ordained the greatest evil this world has ever known, the murder of the eternal Son of God, in order to bring about the greatest good this world has ever known, the glory of God displayed in his salvation of sinners. God in his sovereignty, goodness, and wisdom foreordained that the Christian's union with Christ would be accomplished by the death of Christ.

The Christian can trust that there is a plan and purpose behind every minute detail of what is going on in their life. God has ordained it, and in his wisdom, he has ordained it for his good purposes.

For many of us, the world seems to be crashing down all around us. There is a certain instability in the air. Our government, which was once a source of comfort and security, is shaky. Our culture, which once largely upheld a moral standard, has degraded into calling good evil and evil good. It is easy to be discontented – to long for a time that has now passed. And in one sense, it is good to desire a change in the world around us and even fight for it. However, let us be wary of being discontent with the hand of God in it.

Here’s the thing – God has ordained for good purposes that you and I should live in such a time as this. He didn’t ordain our great-grandfathers to live through this time; God in his sovereign goodness has determined that you and I live now, and he is wise in doing so.

And so our hearts can find rest, we can be content no matter the circumstances because God is sovereign, good, and wise. God is stable even when the world around us isn’t.


Stephen Duarte (ME, National University; working on MATS, Reformed Baptist Seminary) is a pastor at Parkside Bible Fellowship in Fallon, NV. He is husband to Debbie and father of two. You can follow him on Twitter @stephencduarte.


Note: The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other contributors on this site.

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