Learning to be Content (8/21/16)

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Contentment in life is a wonderful thing. Everyone wants it but many people never find it. We’re usually content when things are going the way we want them to go and when our expectations are being met. We usually aren’t content when things don’t go our way and our expectations are not being met.

Overall, are you a content person? Perhaps at this point, it would helpful to know the definition of “content.” OxfordDictionaries defines it as “a state of satisfaction.” To help see if you are a content person, please prayerfully and thoughtfully answer the following questions. Let’s start off on a positive note. The first question is – The areas in my life where I’m content are….?

So, in what areas of life are you satisfied? They might include your job, marriage, family, health, finances or some other area.

After you’ve taken time to ponder this question, please answer one more. The second question is – The areas in my life where I’m not content are…?

In what areas of life are you not satisfied? They might include your job, marriage, family, health, finances or some other area.

The things which bring us contentment vary with each person. Many people try to find it within themselves. After all, we live in America. We’re rugged individualists who pride ourselves in earning what we have. When we fall, we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. We don’t want charity from anyone. This can bring satisfaction.

Perhaps you find satisfaction in your circumstances. Your job is going well and you’re making good money. Your spouse is loving and the two of you make a good team. The children God blessed you with bring real joy to you as you watch them go through the various stages of life.

Many people find contentment in their possessions. Life has blessed them with land, cars, a nice home, boats, side-by-sides, time shares, campers or some wealth. These things bring us comfort and allow us to take much needed breaks from the stress of life and work.

Unfortunately, one area where some men and women try to find contentment is with sin. Life has knocked them down to a point where they try to find something that helps kill the pain, even if it’s only for a short period of time. They might use drugs, alcohol, food, tobacco, pornography, work, sports, sex or something else as an escape from reality.

Other than trying to find contentment through sin, all of the other areas we looked at are in themselves good. We should enjoy them. We thank God for all of these wonderful blessings. However, they can’t be our true source of contentment for two reasons.

First of all, they are temporary. Heath can fail us. Jobs, possessions, wealth and even businesses can be lost. Children grow up and move away. Spouses go to be with the Lord and leave loved ones behind. Inflation increases and affects our spending power. To sum it up, life and everything in it is passing. The danger of putting our contentment in these areas is that our level of contentment changes when the circumstances that we actually have little control over also change.

The second problem with looking to these areas for contentment is our human nature tells us we should have more. We never have quite enough. As much as we love our spouses, we would be more satisfied in our marriages if he or she would change those bad habits that annoy us. Our children could listen to us just a little better. The car is nice, but not as nice as the model that came out last year. Just a little bit more money in my accounts would be nice in case emergencies arise.

“Once a rich industrialist, disturbed to find a fisherman sitting idly by his boat, asked, “Why aren’t you out there fishing?”

“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” was the reply.

“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?” asked the rich man.

“What would I do with them?”

“You could earn more money and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”

“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.

“You could sit down and enjoy life.”

“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied.

When it comes to having true contentment, which one of these individuals do you relate to the most? The rich industrialist who wanted more and more or the fisherman who had enough to be content. Most of us would look at the fisherman and think, “You’re not preparing for a rainy day. You should be out fishing now.” But, the truth is we could learn something from him.

Contentment isn’t something we’re born with. The Apostle Paul understood this. He wasn’t born with it either. Let’s see how he handled it by looking at Philippians 4:10-13 – “10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Paul tells us he had to learn how to be content.

Earlier in the week, I requested that everyone read the book of Philippians before we came to church this morning. I did this because I wanted us to understand the circumstances Paul was facing.

When Paul wrote about finding contentment, he was thankful the Philippian Christians had met his needs (4:10-19). Knowing this forces us to then ask, “Why was he in need?”

It was because he was in prison, which was most likely house arrest, for preaching about Jesus (1:7).

Paul was actually glad about this because being incarcerated as a Christians did three things:

1) It advanced the gospel (1:12).

2) The people guarding him heard about Jesus (1:13).

3) It encouraged other Christians to also be bold and fearless (1:14).

Not only was Paul content with being in prison, he actually desired death over life (1:22-26) because death would allow him to go and be with Jesus.

Since God was choosing to leave him alive, Paul was striving to put the needs of others above his own (2:1-11). He was also still working out his salvation with fear and trembling (2:12) as well as working to attain the resurrection from the dead (3:11).

These last statements from Paul show us that salvation and walking with Jesus is an active process that continues until we die. We must never think that praying to accept Jesus into our hearts is all we need to do in our relationship with him. Remember, salvation is free but it costs us everything.

When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he wasn’t living in a nice home where he was surrounded by loved ones. If he had plenty of money and possessions, he wouldn’t have been needy. He didn’t even have the freedom to come and go as he wished. So, how could he be content?

He answers this question in Verse 13 – “I can do all through him who gives me strength.” According to modern scholar N.T. Wright, this could also be translated to say, “I have strength for everything in the one who gives me power.”

Simply put, Jesus was more important to Paul than anything else. All Paul needed was enough to live and it was OK with him if he didn’t even have that. He wasn’t looking for riches, power, possessions or titles. He was content even though he was nothing but a poor prisoner.

Earlier I asked you to think about the areas in your life where you’re not content. In the areas of your life where you’re not content, is Jesus more important to you than these areas are?

It’s OK to answer this question honestly. Go ahead and say, “No.” This is why you’re discontent in those areas.

How do we too learn to be content in all things? We do the same thing Paul did. We make walking with Jesus the most important thing in our lives.

Our sinful nature fights against this. We need help. Let’s be active in our relationship with Jesus and ask him to help us put him first. Pray for God to help you make Jesus more important to you than the areas of your life where you’re not content. Then allow the Holy Spirit to change you in those areas.