The + sign. This way of thinking says, “Get all you can and can all you get”. It says to take all your wants, needs and desires + the actual getting of them = contentment. Do you know anyone who is living by this philosophy of life? Jesus said that a man’s life did NOT consist in the abundance of the things he possessed. (Luke 12:15)
The – sign. This way of thinking says to take all your wants, needs and desire and – all that is superfluous = contentment. This the reason some live in monasteries. Diogenes, a Greek philosopher, had one old bowl from which he ate. One old cloak which he wore. And one old tub in which he slept. It is said that on one occasion that Socrates told him “I can see your pride through the holes in your cloak”. Diogenes had a pride problem and the way of life had not solved it.
The X sign. This way of thinking says to take all your wants, needs and desires X Christ = contentment. This is why Paul could write whether he was brought low or was abounding, he had learned in whatever state he was in to be content. So you could beat his back until it was a bloody mess or you could send him support for his missionary work, and he would praise God in both.
Notice it was something he had LEARNED. It was not something that happened overnight. He had to go through many difficult experiences in life in order to learn how to be content. He relied on the power of God within. That is why he could write in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Can you and I say this because we have learned the secret to contentment?