In a society that celebrates volume, vanity and rivalry, it is tempting to just think that it’s all up to us, and that when things go well in our lives, that it must be the result of our own strength and unparalleled intelligence.
But Paul models a different attitude. In Philippians 4:13 he writes, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
It’s important to note that this isn’t a blanket statement about Christ’s strength for whatever you happen to be doing. It’s about relying on HIS strength for contentment while serving HIM. Paul is content while serving God. He doesn’t expect that God is going to make him content or give him strength if he’s just working through his own selfish agenda. He clearly lives for God’s glory.
But why is this so hard?
Partly because we live in a consumer culture that says you need to get contentment from outside sources—from having cool stuff, from being successful in the eyes of others, and from always having great weekend experiences that make it appear like you’re having the time of your life on Instagram.
Pastor Jud Wilhite highlights how backward this is: “Contentment isn’t sustained from the outside in, but from the inside out.”*
That’s why your internal life is so important—that’s your personal relationship with God, cultivated with Bible reading, with prayer, with rest, with quieting our minds and giving thanks to God for all the ways he has been working in our lives and providing good things.
When we do the work God wants us to do, and when we focus on him and not the million other lesser distractions, he will give us strength for that work, and we will learn to be content, like Paul.
Never give up relying on Christ’s strength—not yours—for contentment in Christ’s service. Nurture the relationship. “Contentment isn’t sustained from the outside in, but from the inside out.”
By Matthew Ruttan
–“Hope when it hurts.” That’s my latest sermon, crafted for days such as these. Click here to access the YouTube version and the audio-download version.
–*Jud Wilhite, The God of Yes: How Faith Makes All Things New (New York: Faith Words, 2014), 128.
–Bible quotes from the NIV.