Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
This morning, terms are often confused, incorrectly interchanged, or perhaps even misdefined. How many people in the world could properly define hope without incorrectly interchanging it with a wish? How many could adequately describe joy without crossing over into the field of happiness? Just as joy and happiness are different concepts, so also a wish and hope are different concepts. They do share some common ground, such as a wish and hope both being desired, with joy accompanying happiness during a pleasant circumstances, but they are not interchangeable. Looking at the concepts of satisfaction and contentment, they are not interchangeable either. Indeed, they share much common ground, but there is a point to which we cannot compare them.
When looking at the verses above, the Bible clearly teaches the concepts of being satisfied and content. One is ascribed to our condition and position in the resurrection, while the other is learned here on earth as we pass through our days and years. Oftentimes people use these interchangeably, but consider that no matter how much we learn on earth and no matter what we have or will go through, we cannot possibly hope to attain this side of heaven the level that we will have in heaven (being satisfied). The closest we can come is feeling the earnest of our inheritance being lifted up and feeling His presence under the sound of the gospel preaching. (Ephesians 1:12-14) That earnest is the closest we can come, but the fulness of our inheritance in heaven merits satisfaction, while our attitude of contentment should resonate in all seasons here on earth. Hence, they cannot be the same.
Let us deal with contentment first. The word contentment could literally be rendered as “sufficiency” or “sufficient.” Paul learned that no matter his place in life, he had enough. To have one’s sufficiency is to have enough to meet the specified need. One of my father’s expressions that it took me years to realize what he was saying was “I have had my sufficiency” when at the table being offered more food. After going through a very portly stage myself, I had to learn how to say that when seated at mealtime. Dad was not implying that he could not eat another bite, but rather was stating that he had eaten enough to meet the needs of his body. He was content with that.
Notice that Paul specifically mentions in the context of Philippians 4 that whether hungry or full (from natural food), he was content and understood that he had sufficient to meet his needs. Whether up (abounding) or down (abased), he still was sufficient and learned to be content. Paul’s reasoning of contentment in all seasons no matter the state is that he understood his sufficiency was of God. (II Corinthians 3:5) Likewise for us today, He is still our sufficiency; therefore, we can be content in all seasons. Contentment will not just be handed to us, but if we keep in frame that our unchanging God is with us and our sufficiency, we can learn to be content no matter our circumstance.
Sometimes learning contentment comes from putting aside things we enjoy. I learned contentment in food by pushing away from the table. We learn contentment in spiritual service by pushing away from spiritual distractions and detriments. This journey extends to the fulness of our natural course as the distractions never quit, just as my desire to eat as much as I ever did has never receded. But, by understanding that He is ever near us, we can be content.
On the other hand, David speaks of satisfaction that stems from a position of being glorified with the likeness of Christ, standing in His presence. Satisfaction does not mean sufficiency. Rather, satisfaction or being satisfied references being full to the highest degree. We might call that not only full but running over, brimming full, etc. What David fully expected to realize in the resurrection is something we can never experience here. To show that, let us consider our highest moments in this life both naturally and spiritually.
From a natural standpoint, what pleases us the most? Neglecting carnal desires, what good natural pleasures are highest on our list? Spending time with family, vacationing or otherwise? Eating our favourite foods? Whatever the highest things are on our list, have we ever experienced the point of complete and total satisfaction where we just brimmed over moments without end? As creatures of insatiability, none of these things fully complete and satisfy the natural pleasure for any conceivable period of time. The running story my family likes to tell of me as a ravenous teenage boy (as my father termed it with “two hollow legs”) was, “Philip never gets full. He just quits eating cause he’s tired of chewing.”
On a much higher level, what spiritually pleases us the most? Ministers feeling complete release and liberty during preaching so that the sheep are fed and God’s name is glorified? Feeling that the song is ringing the arches of heaven itself? Experiencing heaven on earth with the Spirit “so thick you could cut it with a knife?” Have any of these things given us satisfaction – fulness in a brimming capacity? No matter how blessed we have been, has any minister ever felt satisfied with a single sermon? Have our efforts – no matter how wonderfully met with God’s presence – ever been at the 100% mark during the service? Indeed, the answer is that we have not put forth the fullest effort that we could, and even if we did, there would still be something else lacking.
Paul equates the hope of the new man/new creature to a longing and waiting for the resurrection. (Romans 8:19-23) No matter how rich the service, the new man desires to see all of God’s family glorified and with Him in the resurrection forever. However powerful the sermon, the new man still longs for home. Those things will never be satisfied short of the ultimate glorification that God’s family will experience at the end of time. However, our highest spiritual points – while not met with satisfaction – should be met with contentment. Have I ever been satisfied with a single sermon of mine? No, but I should be content when the sheep are fed. Have I ever been satisfied with any effort of mine in God’s kingdom? No, but I should be content when He is pleased to dwell with us and enrich our service with Him and one another.
Not having the right language to describe heaven, we will attempt to utilize the closest description of satisfaction that we can. Being satisfied in the Lord’s presence in glory will be the highest resonance and sensation of peace and tranquility that never ceases. Love flowing like a river will overwhelm and utterly immerse us. Joy in the Light as nothing on earth compares will redound forever and ever. Righteousness will emanate upon everything in sight without a single blotch, blemish, or imperfection in any place. Holiness will permeate out from everything so that it engulfs the entire scene. Praise that never gets old, is never to short, too long, too loud, too quiet, but infinitely beyond compare will resound throughout the halls of glory world without end. In all of this and more, satisfaction is enjoyed, for all of these are full and brimming over. There is not sufficiency, but infinity beyond description and imagination!