Make no mistake about it, I expect breakthroughs in 2024. In Isaiah 43:19, God declares:
“. . . I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
Most people can agree that the last three years have been rough. However, for all of those attacks “out of left field,” believers can stand on God’s Word. Hebrews 13:5 says that we can be content (have an inward peace), “because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” In spite of the circumstances, beloved, you can be content and trust in the Lord. It maybe money or something else that has brought you angst. You may have even been and still are preoccupied with an injustice, a health issue, or loss of some kind. Rest assured, you can “be content” because God has your back.
The Meaning of Being Content
Take a look at these biblical definitions of contentment (being content):
Contentment (being content) “is the acceptance of ‘things as they are’ as the wise and loving providence of a God who knows what is good for you, who so loves you as always to seek your good.” (Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible)
Contentment (being content) “is internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
So, being content does not mean settling for unfortunate circumstances. It does not mean that you stop praying for and believing that you have the victory through Christ. It does mean that you have a long-lasting, inward attitude of peace within the circumstances, knowing that the loving God of the universe is looking out for you.
Being Content Is Learned
Let’s just face it—many times when Christians think of being content in the Bible, they think apprehensively of what Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12:
“. . . for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 NKJV, states, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” Some get stuck on those literal words. They do not discern the biblical context, and certainly not their spiritual essence. For one thing, knowing how to be abased does not give that same fussy feeling of joy and excitement derived from some other scriptures that speak of blessings and joy; breakthroughs and victories and healings and deliverances.
But the point is missed when you dwell on the literal words of being abased; the key words here are: learned the secret of being content. Paul is saying that he had experienced being well fed and hungry—having plenty and having nothing. But he learned, that in every circumstance —whether flogging, shipwrecks, imprisonments or dangers—he was not the one in charge. The Almighty, Providential God was in control in every instance. There is never a need to flail, fret, become angry or bitter. Whether good or bad, Paul had an inward peace and trust in the Lord. Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:13:
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” It was Christ who sustained him in all circumstances.
Being Content with the “Thorn of Flesh”
Being content in the “thorn of flesh” circumstance does not follow the same context as Paul’s other hardships. In revisiting 2 Corinthians 12:7, we find that Paul had been given a “thorn of flesh,” a messenger of Satan. He was given the “thorn” to buffet him after he was given inexplicable revelations while “caught up in third heaven.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:1-5.) After asking God to remove the “thorn of flesh” three times, Paul realized that God was not going to remove it. This is the only scripture that I know of in the New Testament where there is a total finality to being content in the circumstances. God admonishes Paul that his grace was sufficient. So, Paul accepted that God was not going to remove the thorn—“lest I (Paul) be exalted above measure (puffed up) by the abundance of the revelations.” The Lord told Paul in verse 9 that his grace would suffice in this situation and that his power was made perfect in (Paul’s) weakness. So, Paul declared:
“. . . I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (verse 9)
Paul demonstrated here the secret of learned contentment that he wrote about in Philippians 4:12. Paul had learned an inward attitude of peace and a trust in God. He did not ask God to remove the thorn again. He learned to be content with the “thorn of flesh.” He realized that in his weakness, God was able to demonstrate his power. The “thorn of flesh” kept him humble, not puffed up and weak, not strong. He goes on to say in verse 10 that he delights in weaknesses, insults, hardships and persecutions. “For when I am weak, then I am strong. . .” It was never about Paul; it was about God’s power being manifested.
Being Content in Other Hardships
Being content in all the other hardships Paul faced were different from the “thorn of flesh” situation. He discussed those hardships extensively in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27:
“I have . . . been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
In these hardships, Paul’s unconquerable trust and peace in God’s love in the midst of the circumstances was the same as in the “thorn of flesh” situation. However, there was a difference—there was no finality to remaining in those hardship circumstances. In all of these circumstances, being content included the spiritual knowing that he, Paul, always had the victory through Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Acts 25-27 reveals one of Paul’s hardships where he remained content when Jewish agitators reported him to the Roman commander because of his preachings. He was arrested unjustly. He appealed to Caesar because he was a Roman citizen. On his way to Rome, the ship that he and the other passengers were on faced a violent storm and was about to be shipwrecked. An angel appeared to Paul the night before the shipwreck and told him that they would all be saved. Paul addressed the people on the ship. (Acts 27:23-25)
“Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar, and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So, keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.’”
Even as the storm raged, Paul urged all those aboard the ship to eat to survive. They hadn’t eaten in fourteen days. Paul demonstrated his being content in the midst of a storm—in this case, a literal storm! He demonstrated his faith and trust in his loving and providential God. Here is what he said next.
“‘. . . Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. . . Altogether there were 276 of us on board.” (Acts 27: 34-35, 37)
The next day, the centurion, with whom Paul had found favor, listened to Paul and ordered the people to abandon the ship and they all got off safely and made it to the nearby island. Being content during that hardship meant that Paul trusted in his loving, providential God and it saved him and the others on that ship.
Now the hardships mentioned in verses 28 and 29 of 2 Corinthians 11 were church-related. Paul felt such an enormous pressure concerning what was going on in the churches and the fact that believers were falling back into sin. Here is what he said:
Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)
Paul’s church-related hardships developed an increased compassion in him for the concerns of the church and for weak Christians. It also instilled in him an intense anger at the enemy who was leading the weak into sin.
Being Content in Other Scriptures
Paul also talks about being content in First Timothy. Here is what he said in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” He is saying being content, added to righteousness, is better than godliness alone. When your life is christ-centered (godly), and you walk in the love, peace and trust in God’s providence (being content), you are not moved by fleshly inclinations. You are not moved by external temptations.
Finally, being content scripturally, brings a liberty and freedom from bondage because you can rest in the Lord. As a believer, you can cast your burdens on the Lord and leave them there because you have trust in the love and peace of a providential God. He will never leave you or forsake them you. (1 Peter 5:7, Hebrews 13:5) And you can give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Being Content Takeaways
So, here are the takeaways found in the Bible for being content. They reflect Paul’s contentment during his hardships as found in the Pauline epistles.
1) Being content is learned. The lesson learned here is that it is through Christ that believers gain the victory. (1 Corinthians 15:57) So, whatever the circumstances, you can have an inward peace and put all your trust in the Lord. (Philippians 4:13)
2) Being content with a “thorn of flesh,” was Paul’s learned acceptance of God’s will to keep him humble after being “caught up” in third heaven. It was an exception to the other hardships in that God declared his grace sufficient for Paul. (My aside opinion: Paul’s being honored with unspeakable visions and revelations of third heaven and God’s sufficient grace may have mitigated some of the “thorn of flesh” suffering.)
3) Being content with the hardship concerning church pressure, no doubt, caused Paul be more in-tuned with the needs of the church. He became a better leader of God’s people. He also gained a more intense degree of anger at the enemy who was leading believers into sin.
4) Being content accompanied by (or along with) godliness brings great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6) Righteousness always prevails over fleshly temptations. Plus, the godly can rest and trust in God’s love and peace. There is also liberty and freed from bondage in knowing that God loves and cares for you in all situations.
Taking a deep-dive into “being content” in the Bible can be rewarding and reap breakthroughs that will enhance your daily lives. It is Christ who sustains believers in all kinds of situations, beloved. You can learn to be content, have an inward peace, in all circumstances because of a loving just God who works all things out for your good. (Romans 8:28) And he always—always has your back!
Scriptures for Meditation:
Romans 8:37 No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”