The Apostle Paul’s Secret Of Contentment

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How could Paul still be content after he’d been beaten, flogged, and imprisoned? He lets us in on a little secret…his secret of contentment.

The Ransomed of God

When we speak of believers, we generally don’t use the word, the “ransomed,” but that’s exactly who believers are. The Apostle Peter writes, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet 1:1-19), and more than that, “You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men” (1 Cor7:23). That means, we are not our own because it says, “you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). From these few verses, we can conclude that we are not our own, or in other words, we don’t own us…God does. That’s because we were bought with a most precious price…by the precious blood of the Lamb of God. God paid an infinitely expensive price for us, so we should glorify God in the way that we live. And, that might actually help us live more contentedly, knowing that, at one time, we were headed swiftly down the path of destruction, but God intervened, and sent Christ to die for us, and even while we were wicked, ungodly sinners, who were His enemy (Rom 5:6-10). Shouldn’t that make you feel more contented? Thankfully, many believers don’t base their joy on circumstances…they base their joy upon Christ.


When John the Baptist was baptizing and preaching about the need for repentance, it must have been very convicting because even some of the soldiers came up to John and asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). There’s the first clue to contentment…be content with what you have, including your wages. It may be true that you’re not getting paid for what you’re worth, but at least you (and I) have a job. Most Roman soldiers were hundreds of miles away from home, but John the Baptist knew a bit about human nature, because he ties contentment in with being satisfied with our possessions, or being content with what we have. The Apostle Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6). Besides, “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim 6:7). The author of Hebrews writes about the sufficiency of our satisfaction in God, writing, “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’” (Heb 13:5). If we’re free from the love of money, we’re more likely to be content, since “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim 6:10). This is why Jesus said we should “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt 6:19), but rather “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:20).

Paul’s Secret

Paul had a secret about contentedness, but he shared it with us, so what was his secret? To begin with, a world without Christ can never be content. There is a discontentedness that lies in the heart of every human being, and that vacuum of discontent can only be filled by God’s Spirit. When the Spirit of God enters into a person, He regenerates them into a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and they move from being dead in their sins, to being alive through Christ (Eph 2:1-2). It was all because of “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5). For Paul, it was “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” (2 Cor 12:10). Paul was treated very harshly, perhaps worse than any of the other apostles. He was beaten, stoned, flogged, deprived of water and bread, and suffered heat and cold, and for much of his time on earth, was bound in chains to Roman guards in prison, and these prisons must have been miserable, but even in this state of deprivation, Paul could say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil 4:11-12), and how did he learn contentment? He had lots and lots of practice in less than contented places! His secret was not positive thinking. No, Paul’s secret of contentment was the knowledge that he “can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). He could endure the beatings, the hunger, the cold, and the time in prison, because Christ would strengthen him when he needed it. Near the end of Paul’s life on earth, many of his former friends abandoned him.   He wrote, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia” (2 Tim 4:10), and even more heartbreaking, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them” (2 Tim 4:16), however Paul still had Someone – He said that “the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth” (2 Tim 4:17).


I hear from a lot of people around the world who have trusted in Christ for the very first time, and they are absolutely ecstatic. Some of these believers have lost their jobs, lost their families, lost their homes, and some have lost everything, but their joy is not based upon people or possessions. Their joy is found in Christ, so even when they have nothing at all, they have all they need in Christ. He is more than enough. They are contented in Christ. It seems they have discovered Paul’s secret of contentment; that contentedness with godliness is great gain, and they can be content, knowing they can do all things through Christ. This also means they can do nothing without Christ (John 15:5), and nothing, is not a little something.

Read more in this topic here: How To Live a Life Of Contentment

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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