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Philippians 4

The Secret of Contentment

This last week has been a sober reminder of how much I am not like Jesus. I wish I could say this realization came at a time of deep introspection and prayer, but it came about from a much less noble moment. Indeed, it all started when I begrudgingly returned a pair of boots because they “weren’t in the budget.” For some reason, this simple exchange swept me into a fit of rage and frustration. I immediately launched into an egocentric diatribe in my head where I listed all the reasons I deserve anything I want, cursed budgets and other life limitations, and complained endlessly about my life circumstances. Not a fine moment. But God used this moment to reveal some deep-seeded discontentment in my life that I otherwise would never have admitted was there. Enter Philippians 4. 

In Philippians 4, Paul thanks the Philippians for sending provisions, but he also writes that he was not in need of their provisions because he has learned how to be content in all circumstances. (v. 11). The “secret of being content in every situation” is not something he, a mere man, can accomplish. (v. 13). No, it is through the power of Jesus Christ that Paul had attained what has evaded so many others. Contentment has been hard sought after by religious leaders, spiritual gurus, and modern day influencers. I would argue nearly every overt act we make throughout our days has an underlying goal of securing our own version of contentment. But Paul teaches that true, enduring contentment in this life can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus. As we grow closer to Jesus, our hearts start to look more like His, and it’s through this radical and supernatural transformation of our hearts that we find contentment.  

Clearly, I was not content in my circumstances. My anger and bitterness evidenced this. If following Jesus is the “secret of being content in any and every situation,” then there was a part of my heart that wasn’t following him. On one hand, it is an incredible thing that Jesus, King of the universe, takes such an active role in my puny life to reveal to me the parts of my heart that are not surrendered to him, much less, to do this in a DSW shoe store. On the other hand, heart-refining is difficult work! I now have to come to terms with my envy, greed, and materialism, and I’m not looking forward to that. But, Paul gives some practical tips to the Philippians to help with this heart transformation: rejoice always, tell God what you’re grateful for, pray and pray again, present your requests to God, and keep your mind focused on the good, noble, lovely, pure, and right things of this world. (v. 4-8). Embedded into these practices is spending intentional time with Jesus, getting to know him more, and growing in love for him. 

God has given us the chance to be content in all circumstances: crushed dreams, unmet desires, difficult relationships, oppression, grief, sorrow—anything. Indeed, he calls us to be content. (v. 4-6). This starts with growing closer to Jesus and letting him refine our hearts. So, I’m still discontent with some of my life circumstances (including the boots), but that lack of contentment is just a warning sign of a heart not fully surrendered to Jesus, and I’m grateful for that! Where are you discontent in life, what part of your heart is Jesus asking to refine and purify? Join me in spending time with our King and asking him to make us more like him. 

Lord, keep revealing the areas of my heart unyeilded to you, and please, deepen my love for you. I want to want you more. Give me desires that are pure and righteous, make me more like you, my King. 

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weekly reflection by

Shelby Burns