Contentment was a huge test in Paul’s life. After all, God said he would use him mightily: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). When Paul first received this commission, “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (9:20).
Paul was in no hurry to see everything fulfilled in his lifetime. He knew he had an ironclad promise from God, and he clung to it. For the present moment, he was content to minister wherever he was: witnessing to a jailer, to a sailor, to a few women on a riverbank. This man had a worldwide commission, yet he was faithful to testify one-on-one.
Nor was Paul jealous of younger men who seemed to pass him by. While they traveled the world winning Jews and Gentiles to Christ, Paul sat in prison. He had to listen to reports of great crowds being converted by men he’d battled with over the gospel of grace. Yet Paul didn’t envy those men. He knew that a Christ-surrendered man knows how to abase as well as abound: “Godliness with contentment is great gain…and having food and raiment [clothing] let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).
The world today might say to Paul, “You are at the end of your life now. Yet you have no savings, no investments. All you have is a change of clothes.” I know what Paul’s answer would be: “Oh, but I’ve won Christ. I tell you, I’m the winner. I’ve found the pearl of great price. Jesus granted me the power to lay down everything, and take it up again myself. Well, I laid it all down, and now a crown awaits me. I have only one goal in this life: to see my Jesus, face to face. All the sufferings of this present time can’t be compared with the joy that awaits me.”