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Contentment and Joy

By Justin Borger
with assistance from Generous Giving staff

Even in the midst of trials and suffering, Christians can have great joy that may perplex those who don’t know the Lord. Because we know the Creator of the universe loves us, has saved us from our sins, and is preparing the perfect home for us after we leave this world, we can endure temporary suffering now, even with joy and contentment.

One man who exemplifies this joy in Christ during trials is the apostle Paul, and we can see this very clearly in his letter to the Philippians. He wrote this letter while locked in a prison cell (Philippians 1:7), yet his message is bewilderingly jubilant. In fact, this letter he wrote during his time of suffering contains essential teaching on what it means to be happy. The apostle tells his audience that he has discovered the secret of contentment and joy in all things (4:11), and explains that this secret is (1) anchored in union with Christ and his work (1:18-20; 3:10-11) and (2) amplified by his partnership and solidarity with other believers in the work of the gospel (1:3-5, 25; 2:1-2;4:1). These two ingredients of joy and contentment are the bulwarks which support Christian contentment in spite of difficult circumstances, and they are precisely what gave Paul the courage to say “I will rejoice” (1:18) while suffering worldly ruin for Jesus.

A biblically robust understanding of Christian contentment and joy is essential for the practice of true generosity and stewardship. Without such understanding, we will be tempted to despair because Christian generosity is a serious matter that leads to the sacrifices of Christ’s cross. However, Paul’s example in the letter to the Philippians teaches us that the aches and pains of this world can be obliterated by the joy of solidarity we have through union with Christ and fellowship in the labors of kingdom work.

One final point should be emphasized regarding Christian contentment and joy. When Paul speaks about his ability to rejoice in all things, he connects his contentment with his sacrificial labor and work. This should make us ask ourselves a very serious question: “Am I seeking happiness apart from Christ’s work?” If this is the case, there is no chance in the world that we can be happy or content. However, the Scriptures teach us that true joy and gladness can be ours through sacrificial labor and generosity (2 Corinthians 8:2, 9:8; Nehemiah 10:39, 12:44; 2 Chronicles 35:8). When we believe and act upon these beliefs, we will be able to say with Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me” (Philippians 1:21-22).

Related Passages: Exodus 25:2; 2 Chronicles 35:8; Matthew 25:23; John 15:11; 16:20-22; Acts 15:3 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2:3; 7:4; 8:2; 9:8; Philippians 1:3-5; 1:18-20; 1:25; 2:2; 4:1; 4:10-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; 2 Timothy 1:4; Philemon 1:7; Hebrews 12:2; 13:5-6; James 1:2; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:4

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