"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content." (ASV)
There are few people today who would say that they're truly content in any situation. Often when we read these words, we imagine the author leading a peaceful, serene life, having everything he needs or wants, being surrounded by friends, and generally living on easy street. Of course, that was certainly not the case. The book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul. He was imprisoned by the Romans when he wrote it, as he had been imprisoned many times before. Yet even from his jail cell, he spoke of contentment.
This kind of fulfillment is foreign to our current culture. The world around us tells us to chase after possessions, money, power and sex in order to be content. But none of these things will ever bring true contentment. Even if we are to gain all of the things the world tells us will make us happy, they will not make us content because we will always want bigger, better, more. We will never be satisfied.
The things the world has for us are passing. Millionaires go bankrupt, CEOs find themselves on trial and the hottest celebrity of today will be all but forgotten tomorrow. We're all familiar with the saying "all good things must come to an end." Nothing on this earth is meant to last forever, and the highs we gain from worldly things are matched or exceeded by the lows felt when those things abandon us.
Christ's instructions on this matter are simple: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:" (Matthew 6:19-20 ASV) While earthly gain is fleeting, heavenly treasure is eternal.
So how did Paul remain content despite all the troubles in his life? He worked for a greater purpose than wealth, power or fame. He dedicated his life to God's work, and followed wherever God lead him. This way he knew his treasures would always be secure because his greatest desire was to please his Lord. It didn't matter what circumstances might befall him on earth. He could preach the gospel in shackles just as easily as he could in mansions. And he knew without doubt that God would never abandon him.