How To Be Content - In Spite of Everything

Bible Book: 1 Timothy  6 : 5-6
Subject: Contentment; Peace; Calm; Faith

1 Timothy 6:5-6

In writing to his young protege about how to lead the church in Ephesus effectively, the apostle Paul tells Timothy of certain things to watch out for and to avoid. In 1 Timothy 6:5 Paul warns Timothy about “…men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

The context suggests that he is referring to unsaved religious charlatans, who were using their false religious teaching to swindle people. They were religious scam artists, motivated by greed. Warren Wiersbe calls them “religious racketeers, who prey on gullible people, promising to help them while taking away their money.”

In this letter to Timothy, Paul strongly refutes that misguided, ungodly teaching, and declares in verse 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”


Paul is saying that the real value, the real treasure in life, is not material riches, but rather, godliness coupled with contentment. “Godliness” [Greek, eusebeia] refers to the fear and love of God which results in obedience. But this morning I want to “zero in” on the subject of contentment.

There is so much discontent in today’s world. The poet said, “We look before and after, and pine for what is not; and even our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught.”

People seek to find inner fulfillment through sexual immorality, drugs, fame and fortune - and yet none of those things work. Jay Gould, with millions of dollars in the bank, said, “I suppose that I am the most miserable creature in the world.”

Sadly, for many people life is like the purposeless plodding of a treadmill, and they have never found any real meaning in life. In spite of perhaps putting on a good front, mouthing the right cliches, and even going through the right motions, they are nevertheless living what Henry Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation.”

So let’s look together at this profoundly important quality that apparently has eluded multitudes of people in today’s world - let’s look at some Bible basics regarding contentment.

The Greek word for “contentment” [autarkes] in 1 Timothy 6:6 is the same word Paul used in Philippians 4:11-13:

Not that I speak in respect of want [Greek, “destitution”]: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased [Greek, “to be brought low”], and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed [Greek, “I am initiated”] both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need [Greek, “to be deficient”]. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Rick Ezell, a pastor in South Carolina, tells the following about a man who was in the midst of a financial collapse and went to a minister for counseling:

"I've lost everything," he bemoaned. "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that you've lost your faith.” "No," the man corrected him, "I haven't lost my faith.” "Well, then I'm sad to hear that you've lost your character.” "I didn't say that," he corrected. "I still have my character.” "I'm sorry to hear that you've lost your salvation.” "That's not what I said," the man objected. "I haven't lost my salvation.” "You have your faith, your character, your salvation. Seems to me," the minister observed, "that you've lost none of the things that really matter.”

Paul went on to say, in 1 Timothy 6:7-8 (ESV) “for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Ezell quotes John Stott as having written, “…Life, in fact, is a pilgrimage from one moment of nakedness to another. So we should travel light and live simply….”


So, what is this “contentment” that the apostle Paul tells us that we can experience through Jesus Christ?

A. First, let’s understand what contentment is not.

It is not pretending that things are going right for you when they really aren’t or pretending that you’re feeling well when actually you’re sick or in pain. It is not always being treated nicely by others, or always being in the exact place you want to be. Contentment is not having your surroundings just like you want them - nor is contentment the equivalent of complacency or stoicism. Contentment is not the absence of tears or heavy heartedness.

B. Pray tell, then, what is contentment?

Contentment is an “inside job.” Contentment is a deep-down sense of wellbeing that is not dependent on outward circumstances but is based on a right relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not so much a “feeling” as it is a “knowing” - a “knowing” that is based on faith in what God has told us in his Word, the Bible. It is knowing that he is with you, whatever is going on in your life, and that he will never leave you to your own poor resources. It is knowing that, as he has promised in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Contentment is knowing that his grace is sufficient to see you through even the most hurtful, disappointing times of life. Contentment is believing such wonderful promises as Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”


A. Learning Required

However, just because you’re a Christian, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to experience that contentment. No, Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” At the time he wrote those words, he was in a Roman prison, having been incarcerated for preaching the gospel in a hostile, dangerous environment. That was certainly not where he would have chosen to be.

During the course of his life as a believer he experienced trials and tribulations that most of us never come anywhere close to facing. All because he was a bold witness for Jesus Christ, he was severely beaten eight times; once he was stoned to the point of unconsciousness and left for dead; three times he was shipwrecked; for an entire day and night he was adrift in the ocean; he bore insults and false accusations and frequent rejection; at times he went without adequate food, water, clothing, or shelter - all of these things are cataloged in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28; and besides all that, he bore some painful physical affliction that he called his “thorn in the flesh.”

The Greek word for “thorn” refers to a pointed stake for impaling victims. Paul is using the word as a metaphor to say that his affliction was so excruciating that it was like an ongoing crucifixion.

He refers to it as “the messenger of Satan.” He could be saying that God was allowing Satan to afflict him with that thorn, whatever it was, just as God allowed Satan to afflict Job in the Old Testament. Or, he could be saying that, regardless of the origin of the thorn, Satan nevertheless used it to try to throw Paul off-track spiritually and cause him to have a wrong attitude. Paul said that Satan used it to “buffet” him. That Greek word for “buffet” means “to beat, to strike with the fist,” which indicates that the pain was brutal and intense.

Many people can identify with Paul at that point--such as people who were in near-fatal accidents and sustained horrible injuries both internal and external, or people afflicted with some debilitating disease, such as cancer in its worst stages, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, or multiple sclerosis. I have known, and still know, people who live with pain on a daily basis--in some cases, pain that is extreme and almost unbearable.

Many other folks live every day with a different kind of pain: the pain of a crushed spirit, or a broken heart--in some cases because of a relationship being torn asunder, or because of being betrayed by someone they trusted, or because of seeing someone they love throwing their life away, making foolish, God-dishonoring, destructive choices--and the list could go on. Pain and suffering can be mental and emotional, as well as physical.

Perhaps some hearing or reading this message are hurting terribly--maybe physically, or possibly emotionally, or even both ways. If so, don’t forget that God is aware of what we’re going through. An old spiritual contains the words, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” but that’s not right; God knows, and he cares, he loves you, and he wants you and me to “hang in there,” because--on the authority of His Word--help is available.

Yet, in spite of being battered and bruised and bloodied by the storms of life, Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

B. Learning Explained

So, how did Paul learn to be content in spite of his afflictions and suffering, particularly in light of having continually to bear that horrific “thorn in the flesh?” He explains the three essentials for learning contentment in this familiar passage, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (ESV):

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Obviously, one essential part of the learning process was prayer - and his agonizing in prayer resulted in a second step in learning to be content: as he prayed, and as God said “no” to his plea for the thorn to be removed, Paul came to the realization that he might as well quit wishing for his circumstances to change and accept things as they were. The third factor in his learning to be content - closely intertwined with the first two factors - was this: he believed God’s revelation that divine strength is only poured into our lives when we humbly acknowledge our weaknesses and admit our desperate need for God’s help. Someone has expressed it like this: “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”

Paul himself summarized it in Philippians 4:13, which I cited earlier: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Paul was saying, in effect, “Whatever happens to me, I have come to terms with the fact that “it is what it is,” but that Jesus is with me and is going to give me the strength to deal with it, m so I’ll simply accept the hand that life has dealt me and move forward without griping or complaining and without letting these outward circumstances defeat me, knowing that the Lord Jesus will see me through one way or the other.”

Here’s the way the writer of Hebrews 13:5-6 puts it: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”


A preacher told about being on a flight when they encountered a storm - one of those sudden storms that the weather forecasters had not seen coming, so they had no warning. Rain and hail were battering the fuselage. Lightning was flashing, and the strong wind caused the plane to lurch from time to time. Passengers were wide-eyed and fearful for their lives and clutching the armrests tightly. Family members were embracing each other, people were showing all kinds of signs of anxiety. Yet, to that preacher’s astonishment, there was one little girl, seated by herself, seat belt fastened, of course, like everyone else, but just calmly reading a book, apparently utterly unperturbed by all of the chaos. He made his way to her seat and said, “Young lady, I am amazed; everyone else on this flight is upset and fearful, yet you sit here as cool and calm as can be; how are you able to do do that? She said, “My daddy is the pilot of this plane, and I know he’s going to get us safely through the storm.”

That’s a pretty good illustration of what inner peace and contentment is for a Christian. We’re not exempted from the storms of life - outward storms or inner storms - but we know who the Pilot of this universe is, and we know that one way or the other he is going to see us through.

Do you know the Pilot? Have you been saved? God loves you so much that he sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and he will save you right now if you repent of your sins and in faith yield your life to him.

Romans 10:9-13 says: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”