I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Phil. 4:11b).
Writing from prison, where he faces death for the sake of Christ, the Apostle tells how as a believer he has formed the habit of feeling contented. Surely he was not born that way. Even after he had been born again he had to learn this lesson in the school of Christ. So do many of us here today.
I. The Meaning: Glad acceptance of your lot, as the gift of God. An individual matter, contentment not because of heredity, but through learning from God. A. Acceptance of the self with whom you must live. Only to a slight degree can anyone change his temperament. But by the grace of God anyone can make the most of all his God-given powers. B. The place where God puts you to serve. Here again, joy comes through acceptance, not through chafing or rebellion.
C. The people with whom you live, in some cases far from ideal. Indeed, one of them may seem like your cross. D. The conditions amid which God would have you grow. In all of this do you believe that your life is a plan of God, and that by his grace you should find contentment in your lot? For a living example of what this means turn to the life of John Bunyan. While in prison for twelve years, because of loyalty to Christ, Bunyan learned the secret of Christian contentment.
II. The Schooling. Paul had to learn this lesson, and so may you, in much the same fashion. It appears in his three Greek verbs. A. By reading and study of the Bible, in daily prayer. Why not begin with this letter about joy? B. By watching others whom you admire. Who is the happiest person you know, despite hard times? The least happy, amid the most pleasant conditions? Why the difference? Surely because one friend has learned to be Christlike. The other has not. As with Paul, contentment comes to the one who best knows God.
C. Have an inner experience of God’s grace. The third Greek verb means, literally, “to be initiated” into the secret of the Lord. This in turn means that by his grace the Lord comes to live in you, and that by faith you begin to live in him. What else has God a right to expect from every person who has been born again?
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