“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The apostle Paul went through a lot in his life. As a young man, he was both a Roman citizen (a coveted title) and a Pharisee. He was among the best of the best both as a Jew and as a Roman. He likely had plenty and wanted for very little. When Jesus entered his life, things changed. He began a much more difficult journey that ultimately ended with his death for the sake of the gospel. Along the way, he planted hundreds of churches, made thousands of disciples, made dear friends, and undoubtedly had many blessed and happy times. But he also spent quite a lot of time in prison. He was beaten several times. He was shipwrecked. He was stoned. Finally he was killed.
And despite this drastic range of circumstances, he says he learned the secret to being content in all of them. Hint: the answer is Jesus.
This is truly the question that humanity has been searching out for ages…how to have contentment in life. It’s even in the Declaration of Independence of the United States as an unalienable right – “the pursuit of happiness.” For as long as humans have walked the earth, they’ve looked for this secret that Paul has found. But Paul didn’t keep it a secret.
The truth is, we’ve been told the secret but we think to ourselves, “oh, it’s not that simple,” and keep on looking. We look in vain. The secret, plain and simple, is to live life for Christ. It really is that simple. We overcomplicate things because the truth of the matter is that when Jesus doesn’t seem like enough, we don’t actually know Jesus.
Paul knows Jesus. He met him on the road to Damascus. The apostles knew Jesus. They walked alongside him day after day, watched him die, and saw him come back to life. There’s a reason that they were able to endure so many things and remain content. They knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life. They saw a dead man come back to life with their own eyes and touched him with their own hands. Nothing could change that, it was simply the truth. They knew that when their end came, they would be raised just as he was to spend eternity in heaven. There was no doubt. That was the key. That was, and still is, the only thing that we need.
If heaven is waiting for us, what on this earth could possibly matter in comparison. There’s a line in an old hymn that says, “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” Nothing, no wealth or poverty or hunger or fill or sickness or health compares with the glory of God in heaven. When you have that perspective, it’s impossible not to be content. Heaven is coming, and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Help me to set my eyes on you and learn the secret to contentment. Help me to focus on the truth of Christ and the salvation that awaits me. Give me faith and confidence, and help me in my unbelief.
In Jesus’ Name,