There is a story of a king who suffered from a painful life condition. His counselors suggested that the only cure they knew of was to find a contented man, get his shirt, and wear it night and day. So, the king sent messengers to find this man, with orders to bring back his shirt. After months of searching the kingdom, they returned empty-handed.

“Did you find a contented man in all my realm?” asked the king.

“Yes, O king, we found only one in all thy realm,” they replied.

“Then why did you not bring back his shirt?” the king demanded.

“Master, the man had no shirt.”

The story’s point is that contentment is a very rare thing in this world, yet something we all desperately want and need. What, then, does it mean to be content? The apostle Paul seemed to have the insider’s scoop: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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” (Philippians 4:11–12).

Paul’s statement, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,” is truly astonishing considering the circumstances he endured and situations he encountered while living a life of service to others. He was beaten, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked, tossed in the open sea, harassed by enemies, and betrayed by false believers. He endured hunger, thirst, and even nakedness, just like the man with no shirt (see 2 Corinthians 11:24–28).

The Greek term Paul used, translated as “content” in English, describes a state of being satisfied or satiated with things as they are. Paul had “learned the secret,” meaning he “learned the mystery” of contentment. This expression implies acquiring special information.

Contentment is learned, and we gain it through experience. The author of Hebrews described contentment as being satisfied with what we have, knowing God will never fail us or leave us (Hebrews 13:5). Paul told Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6–8).

Paul was content in every circumstance because his life was anchored in Christ and focused on eternity.  Have you learned the meaning of contentment for your life?  Are you at peace in your mind and soul today? May God grant that you have the peace that passes all understanding and grounds your soul in that which matters the most.

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