In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul claimed to have learned the secret of contentment. This “secret” is not actually a secret at all, and God also desires us to know satisfaction and joy in this life. He doesn’t hide contentment from us, but it is something that we, like the Apostle Paul, must learn. God is gracious to give us the keys to a life of contentment within His Word.
Let’s start out with the word “Contentment.” We tend to think of the word as meaning satisfaction or being happy with a particular situation.
What comes to your mind when you think of contentment? Would you say that you are a content person? Why or why not?
If we are going to find how to live in contentment, we should probably start with the meaning of the word(s) that we have translated as “content” or “contentment” in our English Bibles. There are two distinct uses of the word, and both are very important to this study.
SOURCE: The following definitions and word meanings have been taken from https://blueletterbible.org and specifically from The Outline of Biblical Usage by Larry Pierce. For more detailed source information visit https://www.blueletterbible.org/help/BLBStrongs.cfm.
To Have SUFFICIENCY
αὐτάρκης autárkēs is the Greek word whose definition comes the closest to what we think of when we hear the word contentment, but it is only used one time in Scripture.
I. sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support
II. independent of external circumstances
III. Contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
Paul is saying that regardless of his circumstances, “I have enough. Or I have sufficient resources to do what I need to do.”
Another form from this same root word is αὐτάρκεια or transliterated as autarkeia. It is found a few more times. Two of those instances are found in 2 Corinthians 9:8 and 1 Timothy 6:6. Similar to the definition above, it means the following:
I. a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed
II. sufficiency of the necessities of life
III. a mind contented with its lot, contentment
Finally, the word ἀρκέω or arkeō has a similar definition and is used eight times through the New Testament.
I. To be possessed of unfailing strength
A. To be strong, to suffice, to be enough
i. To defend, ward off
B. To be satisfied, to be contented
Do you feel sufficient to meet the struggles you face on a daily basis? Do you feel like you have sufficient energy, wisdom, resources, or power to face your daily responsibilities? Who comes to your mind based on the bolded description above?
To Take PLEASURE In
The second word that is sometimes translated as content in our Bibles comes from the Greek word eudokeō.
I. It seems good to one, is one’s good pleasure
A. think it good, choose, determine, decide
B. to do willingly
C. to be ready to, to prefer, choose rather
II. To be well pleased with, take pleasure in, to be favorably inclined towards one
Examples of Contentment
Our contentment is directly connected to what we take pleasure in or desire. This is where we find the root of much of our discontentment. What did some of the Biblical authors take pleasure in or were favorably inclined toward? More importantly, what and who does God take pleasure in? In what were they not content or pleased?
And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
For in him [Jesus Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.
In burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.
But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
I hope you saw that the definition of contentment had within the meaning both the idea of desire as well a choice of the will. Contentment is not something that happens to you because of external circumstances, but it is instead a purposeful direction of your heart. Do you see from the passages given above that contentment has to do with who and what you love? Your contentment in a situation reveals your heart’s deepest desires and affections. Those affections are shaped by your beliefs (or your faith in who God is and what He has said.)
This last passage ties both Biblical concepts of contentment together in a way that helps us understand why we can choose contentment.
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient [arkeō] for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content [eudokeō] with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Did you feel discouraged by the questions relating to your sufficiency of power, energy, wisdom, etc? I certainly do most days. We were never meant to find those things within ourselves because we are NOT sufficient in ourselves to meet those needs. But Christ is more than sufficient to meet all of our needs!
How do we choose contentment? How can we look to Christ to supply our needs and direct our hearts appropriately? More importantly, are we looking for Him to satisfy the wrong desires? Let’s keep studying God’s Word to find our true source of sufficiency and joy. The next post will remind us of the purpose for which we were created and redeemed.
You can find a simple reminder of these truths as printable bookmarks. This set of four bookmarks includes the basic points of the study as well as Scripture memory prompts taken from the key principles of this study. You can find these along with other devotional resources at Etsy.com/shop/BreathingGrace