I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:11-13
Everything was perfect in Eden. Adam and Eve had more than the “a lot” Paul wrote about in Phil. 4. They had no reason to be discontent. But they were. Or, at the very least, they thought they were.
As for his own experience, it’s enlightening that Paul used the word learned twice and secret once. Contentment wasn’t something that he gained automatically upon conversion. It was something he discovered over time as he followed Christ.
Certainly feelings of dissatisfaction tempted Jesus to sin more than once, but He never did. No matter how great the temptation, how difficult the task set before Him, or how unsettling the sins around Him were, Jesus never chose anything other than God’s plan.
Ultimately, His contentment rested in God’s will. We sin when ours does not.
Sin is always a byproduct of discontentment. Had Paul not learned to find satisfaction by resting in God’s will, he would not have been able to honestly write or live out Phil. 4:11-13. If we do not learn it, we will continue to hold on to things we know we should let go.
You can’t follow Jesus and contentedly do things your own way. It’s impossible. That’s why Jesus told those three guys in Luke 9:57-62 to keep their seats if they weren’t willing to put everything else aside. The invitation to them remained open, but it was also very specific – you follow Jesus on His terms, not yours. Those who try it any other way are either completely deceived (See Matthew 7:21-23), or continually frustrated by the conviction of the Holy Spirit who lives in them.
I think a lot of us are like Adam and Eve. We have been blessed beyond belief, and don’t have anything we can really put our fingers on as a reason for dissatisfaction. But we are. And we try to fix it by reaching out for something that God has already told us not to.
Others times, there are lots of reasons for discontentment. Life is hard, and we struggle under the burden of it.
In both cases, the answer is the same. Contentment is a gift, but it is also a choice. And it is never found anywhere besides the center of God’s will.