Paul recorded for us how he could be content during all the trials of his life. First let me recap from 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. Here is a list of the things he suffered for the Lord’s sake: labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, imprisoned, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, various perils, weariness, toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, often fasted, cold, nakedness, plus he had a deep concern for the all the churches.
Paul’s key was recorded for us in Philippians 4:11-13. It was not a gift. He learned to be content. In order to learn something we have to practice. It takes diligence to gain a skill. Listen to his words.
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We glean from several of Paul’s writings how he brought his body into subjection. Since he was a man of God’s word, I believe he disciplined his thoughts first.
1 Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
Romans 7:23-25 says, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
In those three verses we see how he fought his flesh through his thoughts. He counseled Timothy to maintain a good conscience. Paul was his example. Acts 24:16 says, “This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
Dialoging with thoughts of discontentment will only intensify the temptation to murmur and complain. Numbers 11:1 says that complaining displeases the Lord.
Hebrews 13:15 is a great verse to help us redirect our thoughts when we are feeling discontent. It says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
When we feel like complaining, that is the signal to break out in praise. It is a sacrifice that sends up a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Praise lifts our thoughts from off our circumstances up to Him who is Lord Over All.