As the aftermath of Hurricane Irene continues, thousands of Marylanders are still without power. How you and I deal with hard and inconvenient times, such as not having electricity for an extended period of time, can tell a lot about our level of contentment. What does it mean to be content, and how can you and I become more so?
Contentment is learned from the LORD. Despite probably being the person who has suffered most for his identification with Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11, English Standard Version). Contentment does not come naturally to any of us; we must learn it because we are by nature self-centered and want our way. Since the apostle Paul needed a course in contentment, so will you and me. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul lists the trials he faced and through which he was able to persevere. These included imprisonments, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks, constant dangers all around, sleepless nights, hungering, thirsting, etc. Regardless of his sufferings, he was content because he learned that the Lord’s grace was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:9), and he was able to declare, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV).
Contentment is given by the Lord. Upon declaring the LORD as his shepherd, David says, “I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1, ESV). No matter what he faced—even the valley of the shadow of death—he would be content in being a man under the LORD’s care. This contentment is graciously given by the Lord to His own even when they are facing imminent danger. While His fearful disciples were struggling to understand what Jesus’ departure from them would mean, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27, ESV). That peace the Lord Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit to each of His own is a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), and it will help you and me persevere through any difficult situation or circumstance.
Contentment is abiding in the Lord. After Jesus spent His final hours with His beloved friends teaching and preparing them for His death, He said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33, ESV, italics added). Through faith, you and I can come to rest in how Jesus has overcome the world by going to the cross to take away our sins, to being resurrected to give us the gift of eternal life, and to abide within us forever through the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we can declare with the same surety of the apostle Paul, when he said, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, ESV, italics added). As we abide in God’s love in Christ, you and I can overcome anything—even days without electricity or running water—because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37, ESV).