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The Freedom of Contentment

Yesterday I challenged us to get serious about contentment. When I talk about “contentment,” I’m not meaning a passive acceptance, no, I’m talking about developing a heart that is grateful for God’s gracious gifts and is satisfied with what He’s provided, knowing He has our best interest in mind.

Contentment comes from understanding God’s sovereignty, and that is what prevents us from falling into the trap of murmuring and complaining about our circumstances.

How content are you?

One good test is to see how many times a day you verbalize gratitude or thankfulness in comparison to how much you complain. Observing someone like the Apostle Paul, who is obviously content while experiencing difficult circumstances, is helpful and inspiring. The statement below literally blows me away when I realize what was happening when Paul said this:

[box]“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Philippians 4:11)[/box]

Do you know where Paul was when he made this statement?

In a Roman prison awaiting trial.

Think about what he was experiencing when he penned these familiar words. Paul was a godly man, but his ability to walk in contentment was not due to some superior saintliness or mystical endowment.

Paul “learned” contentment, just like I have to learn contentment.

He cultivated a contented heart by viewing his circumstances through the lens of God’s sovereignty.

Paul’s circumstances were hardly comfortable or something he would have chosen! Unless you have a friend or family member in prison, you may not have thought about all the freedoms inmates lose during incarceration. The isolation of prison is not limited to separation from family and friends but it includes giving up simple, every day choices.

Freedom of choice is a distant memory: meals, schedule, room temperature, wall color, clothing preference, environment, activities—these are all chosen for you.

I’ve met inmates who are hard, bitter, and resentful, spending their life in anger over their circumstances. In contrast to those, I’ve met some beautiful women who, although behind bars, radiate a joy and freedom seldom seen in women living on the outside—in the “free world.”

How do you explain such a stark contrast between inmates behind the same prison walls?

Miserable, dark, angry countenances filled with sullen resentment, reveal the fact that these women are discontented with their situation.

Who can blame them?

Who could be content in prison?

Only those who find true freedom in Christ. Only those who live, walk, and breathe gratitude, trusting that God can cause “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

After spending the first portion of his letter in thankfulness and prayer for his fellow believers, Paul expressed his God-centered perspective on his imprisonment:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Philippians 1:12–14).

Do you hear Paul’s perspective?

He was looking beyond the pain, past the difficulty of imprisonment. His view was formed from trust in an almighty, sovereign God. Paul knew that God could use his situation to accomplish a greater work: he was penning Scripture while in prison, he was encouraging others as they watched him experience JOY in difficulty. He was learning to appreciate the lessons he was learning in the school of suffering.

Take Time to Reflect

Have you reached that settled place of contentment? If not, why not?

Do you see a correlation between your contentment level and your trust of God?

Read Philippians 1–2 and notice Paul’s many references to humility, joy, and personal conduct.

What do you need to apply to your life from today’s post?

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2 Comments

  • Debbie Lahman

    I have a friend that I correspond with who is currently in prison. She just began serving her time in April of this year. Her last letter, which I just got on Saturday, was full of discouragement. She is a Christian but her past sin has so overwhelmed her. I hope I can print what you shared today so that I can send it to her. Also, please remember her in your prayers. Her name is Amber. Thank you!!

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Debbie ~

    I am so glad you stopped by to share. I’m thankful that Amber has you for a truth-speaking encourager. I hope you’ll send this post and also remind her (often) of the gracious forgiveness of Christ.

    Just this morning, I was in John 20 thinking about Thomas’ state of unbelief and Jesus’ gracious response to Him. Remind Amber that God knew the choices she would make, but still He pursued her and invites her to enjoy a relationship with Him where she is loved and forgiven of her sins (1 John 1:9). Rahab was a woman who had reason to be very ashamed of her past as a prostitute, but because of her faith in God, and her commitment to follow Him in a life of obedience, she is listed in Hebrews as a hero of the faith (Heb. 11:31; Joshua 2).

    When I think of Rahab, her life as a woman of faith is what stands out, not who she was before God stepped in to work in her life. May that be true of Amber as she presses on in faithfulness to follow God. I hope you’ll pass this message on to her.

    I am pausing to pray for you and Amber. May God continue to use you in Amber’s life as a source of encouragement and a vessel to convey God’s Word to her ~