Finding the Secret to Contentment and Joy

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. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

The Apostle Paul writes from prison these words that show at least that contentment is not dependent upon circumstances. Instead, contentment comes by learning a secret for living in God and also deriving strength from God. Both the secret and the strength come through Christ.

The reference to contentment here supports the driving theme of this letter, which is joy in the Lord, as Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). All through the letter we actually see how adverse circumstances may teach us how to learn contentment and joy. How can this be? How do we discover and learn this?

Paul’s revelation here is that there is another source of contentment and joy that can pervade one’s life. It does not come from within us but through God. By reaching out to God, resting within him, with living faith as our source for living, we can experience a rich strength to rejoice regardless of what may come.

This does not disconnect us from the suffering of life, which is still real, but roots us in the unchanging character and being of God through Christ, enabling us to face real suffering with an entirely different outlook and character. This is not a “pie-in-the-sky” attitude but something more robust that comes from the life of God who Himself has walked through the fullness of human experience in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

God Himself strengthens us amidst real trials and hardships. It is through Him that we can find the secret and strength for living. Only something more durable and meaningful can bring real contentment and joy in adverse situations, and this comes from God.

Lord, teach me that secret and take me into Your strength that I might truly live filled with contentment and joy in You.

A Prayer for Abundant Life in the Lord

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27)

Thank You, Lord, that You are not far from any one of us. Thank You for the promise of Scripture: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Thank You for being available to us.

Come, O God, and meet with us today. We look to You and reach out for You. The ways of this world cannot satisfy us, and even the most promising things do not bring the joy we hope they would. Often, we are left empty and confused by passing pleasures.

We long for a deeper, truer joy that can only be found in You. We resist the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and turn instead to You and Your ways.

Teach us, Lord, the pathway to true joy and abundant life. We long for the abundant life and, even more, we long for You. Meet with us today, Lord, for nothing else will satisfy.

Amidst the activities of this day, please call us close to You. Give us ears to hear, eyes to see, a mind to comprehend, and a heart to fully receive all You are and all You have for us today.

G. K. Chesterton on the Joy of God

G K Chesterton

In his marvelous book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton writes one of the most powerful paragraphs on the joy of God.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

If you have never read anything by Chesterton, then you’re missing out. He was a strong influence on C. S. Lewis and many other well-known writers, such as Graham Greene, Dorothy Sayers, Ernest Hemingway and T. S. Eliot. A good place to start would be either Orthodoxy or The Everlasting Man. If you have a taste for fiction, then you would probably enjoy The Father Brown Mysteries or The Man Who Was Thursday.

A Prayer to Walk God’s Path of Life

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
(Psalm 16:11)

Father, there is so much that wearies me in our world right now. I know I am not alone in this, but am likely one more soul crying out to You for help and change. Help us amidst the pandemic, the tensions between people, and the pains in our world. Preserve us when all else feels unstable. Forgive us for turning aside from Your ways, which has led us into this mess of our own making.

Father, while all this is happening, I pray that You would make known to us the path of life. Reveal what are paths of death and deliver us from them. Give us grace and strength to find life with You and to walk along Your ways toward what promises hope and fullness. Bring us into a filling of joy in Your presence. In the places where depletion, weariness, and confusion arise, please, Lord, lead us into true, unassailable life in You.

What Does It Mean to Live in the Kingdom of God?

Near the end of his magnificent letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls early believers to live fixed on the most important things, not superficial things such as what we eat or don’t eat, what we drink or don’t drink, but true life in the kingdom. This is how Paul describes the Christian life there: 

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

What does it mean to live in the kingdom? According to Paul the Apostle it means at least four things.

Righteousness
As one of the central themes of Romans, righteousness is tied in with the work of Christ that justifies us before God by faith. But in the context of Romans 13 righteousness also has to do with living rightly in relationships within the Christian community. Kingdom living is about righteousness.

Peace
Living in God’s kingdom is living at peace with God through Christ and at peace with others. This is not merely the absence of conflict but the fullness of biblical shalom where all things are right in God’s world as they should be. This is the sort of good life that all human beings truly desire.

Joy
When righteousness and peace are present in our lives we will almost inevitably live with irrepressible joy in our lives. This is a joy that exists regardless of our circumstances, as Paul testifies in his great “epistle of joy,” Philippians, which was written from prison. Kingdom living is joyful living.

In the Holy Spirit
All of these attributes, and kingdom life itself, comes through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enters our life through faith in Christ as both the powerful presence of God and the One who makes the realities of the kingdom real to us personally.

To be made right with God the Father, to live in the peace of Christ, and to walk in the joy of the Holy Spirit—this is what the kingdom life looks like. Doesn’t that sound good?

When we hear Jesus proclaim that “the kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15), He is letting us know that this sort of life is now accessible to us. We can enter it now—not just later when we die—and live in it by learning from Jesus and walking by the power of the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard describes it this way:

By relying on Jesus’ word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God. And that is the eternal kind of life. Caught up in his active rule, our deeds become an element in God’s eternal history.[1] 

So we must say, ‘yes,’ to Jesus and daily yield to the Holy Spirit. Have you done that? Have you surrendered the little realm of you life to the realm of His life? Have you given your ‘kingdom’ to God for His kingdom?


[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1998), 27.