Contentment

Last week, struck down by the dreaded virus, I was sick, snotty, miserable and uncomfortable… And bored. But the Lord challenged me in my sick, miserable state, about how thankful I wasn’t. Often when we are sick we tend to focus on our sickness or pain, and we forget to be thankful for the many blessings God has given us.  The Lord reminded me that Paul wrote Philippians, known as the book of joy, while he was in prison awaiting execution.

 

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

We live in an age of great discontent, despite the fact that we are probably the most blessed generation in history. There’s a whole marketing industry set up to exploit your discontent.  You have a car, but you need a newer one. You have a computer, but you need a faster one. You have a phone, but you need a 5G one. You have a husband or wife, but you need a younger one, a more shapely one, a less naggy one.

 

We have so much blessing in this modern world, but we are so discontent! I was watching a TV show last week set in the 1940s, and people were always looking for a phone booth.  Now we have cell phones, and they have more computing power in one phone that that which sent men to the moon. To call from overseas you use to have to find a post office, book a call, wait until the attendant got through and then you had a prescribed time. Now we video call from anywhere in the world over a free wifi at Maccas.

 

Strangely, you’d think we would be more satisfied with a better life, as our technology, our wealth, our comfort has risen, but we actually experience more discontent. Here’s a verse modern man can bearly comprehend…

 

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (ESV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

 

WHINING AND DINING

 

In today’s society we are whining and dining. We are dining in so many blessings and are so well fed, but we are whining about everything. I fear that we as Aussies are becoming a nation of whingers.

 

Think about it… in times past if someone went to a restaurant and got bad service, they didn’t go back. Nowadays, they want to get on google or yelp and leave a one star, scathing review. We try to ruin their reputation online, such is the level of our discontentment!

 

And churches suffer from this as well. We have become Christian consumers, not committed family members. Listen, if you find the perfect church, don’t join it, you’ll spoil it! Even as God’s people, if we’re honest, we Christians are tarnished by this whining, complaining attitude that permeates the world. But Paul wrote,

 

Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

In this twisted generation, the people of God aren’t really shining, we are complaining and criticising the same as everybody else.

 

HAS GOD LET YOU DOWN?

 

Let me ask you, have you got something to complain about? Has God let you down? I hear so many, both Christians and unbelievers, saying God has disappointed them, failed them, abandoned them.

 

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

If we are discontent, we feel like God has left us, we feel like He has let us down. Discontentment sees many of us angry at God, despite the minor detail that the situations we face is usually of our own or someone else’s doing, not His.

 

Proverbs 19:3 (ESV)

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.

 

There are 2 ways to not be disappointed in life… Have no expectations at all, or have total expectation and trust in God and His will for your life. This morning I want to explore these 2.

 

THE ILLUSION OF CONTENTMENT… What we are being sold

Many people think, and the world will tell you, that the cure for discontentment is to have more. The more I have, the more content I will be. But that’s an illusion. The reality is the more you get the less satisfied you actually become. Why? Because the more you get, the more you want.

Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Wealth is like seawater… The more you drink, the thirstier you become.”

It’s human nature. It’s sinful nature. But it’s not God’s nature.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (ESV)

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

John D. Rockefeller, often regarded as the richest person in history, was asked, ‘How much money is enough? He answered, “Just a little bit more.” Charles Spurgeon said, “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

And there it is. The illusion of contentment is in thinking if you only had more you will be content. But the truth is, for a person who’s not content, having more will just add to and fuel your discontent, not help it. Many people who seem to have it all, but are actually miserable.

DISAPPOINTMENT OR HIS APPOINTMENT?

 

But try as we might, at some point we grow anxious, discontent and we feel disappointed with God. Disappointment with God is real, I’ve experienced this too, but when we change just one letter, we can see the truth. Our level of disappointment depends on our level of expectation.  The higher our expectations, the greater our potential disappointment. We are discontent because, in our eyes, we are getting a raw deal, and unfairly treated.

 

Dennis Wholey, an American TV host said this: “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”

 

So you can either lower your expectations to zero, and thereby never be disappointed in God… But you get to have minimal faith and a lousy life, or you can go the other way.

 

If you totally depend on God, if you totally trust Him no matter what happens, then too you will never be disappointed. If you totally trust in Him and live for Him, you will learn the incredible secret of being content.

 

GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN

 

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

 

True contentment is never having everything you want. It’s never getting more money, things or relationships. It is also never not having any problems. Godly contentment is outside of everything that happens around you, because it is based inside of you, and true contentment is in God.

Contentment doesn’t come and go; it’s not something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Contentment is constant; like joy. Joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances, it’s continual. Joy is a state of being, not an emotion. It’s not up and down. It’s dependent on a relationship with Jesus, not circumstances. And joy and contentment are intertwined. And

Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

If you have no strength in your Christian life, chances are you have no joy, and chances are this is tied to Discontentment with your lot.

I have always been intrigued by a verse in Proverbs, which seems to cut against everything we live and work for in the 21st century

Proverbs 30:7-9 (ESV)

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Being content is not about having stuff, it’s not about achieving stuff. It’s not about being trouble free or stress free. Contentment is built on trust, and trust depends on how well you know God. Lord, give me enough to live, but not too much. Do you pray that? I don’t. What he is actually saying is, Lord, whatever you choose to give me, I’ll leave it up to you, and be content whatever happens.

LEARNING THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT

 

Paul wrote…

Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

One of my issues with the so called prosperity gospel is that it implies that, if you are truly godly, you will be made wealthy. This is a dangerous heresy, one I believe is not supported by the Bible, nor life experiences. In fact, Paul speaks against it by saying godliness with contentment is great gain. He wants us to realise that our financial status is not a reflection of our godliness. In fact, the reality is the more I reflect on heavenly treasures, not earthly ones, the more godly I become.

 

Contentment cannot be achieved in the physical. Mick Jagger said, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” But  Job, under intense suffering, wrote

 

Job 1:21 (ESV)

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

 

If you are going through hard times right now, that’s a prayer of faith right there. God gives, God takes, it’s totally over to You, Lord, and I will be content with whatever You decide for me. If you are down or flat or miserable, lonely, in despair, that doesn’t mean God is mad at you, or that He had abandoned you, it is your opportunity to shine!

 

Two kids were watching the funeral of a wealthy businessman, and one asked, “How much money did he leave.” The friend answered,”All of it!”

BLURRED LINES

In football nowadays they have VAR, video assisted referees. They draw lines on the screen to see if a player is offside. Some goals have been disallowed, because the player’s toenail is offside, and people find that frustrating. The official’s answer, to give some wiggle room, was to make the lines wider. They are affectively blurring the lines in order to not see something.

Discontentment blurs the line between needs and wants. We need to know the difference. A 65 inch TV is not a necessity. Having the latest Phone is not a necessity.

Not that having material things is wrong, but the question I should ask myself is, would I still be content if I didn’t have them?

I heard a Quote, “The itch for things is a virus draining the soul of contentment.”  COVID is not the only virus in play here. And the thing is, our desire for more is not relieved by 7 days quarantine or a jab. It afflicts us, even the best of us, for most of our lives. Alfluenza causes more damage than COVID.

But it’s a choice… we do not have to become discontent… It is a choice. We don’t have to be miserable because we can’t travel or go to restaurants or we have to wear a mask in Woollies. We could still choose to be content, despite being deprived of a few things. Why? Because the losses we experience here are actually luxuries, not necessities. If we could be content with basic necessities, we could be able to say, that stinks, but I’m still content because I have what I need. The endemic discontent and complaining in our society is because we don’t get our way, not because we can’t survive!

We can choose to be content. It’s a choice.

2 kids were each locked in separate rooms for 2 hours as an experiment, one an optimist, one a pessimist. The pessimist boy had everything he wanted, video games, TV, ice-cream, pizza. The optimist had a big pile of horse manure. After 2 hours they opened the doors to find the pessimist crying because the ice-cream had melted and his character got killed in the video game, but the optimist was madly throwing poo around the room squeezing, with all this poo, there has to be a pony in here somewhere. Contentment is a choice.

TRUE CONTENTMENT

 

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Ben Franklin said, ‘Contentment makes the poor man rich. Discontentment makes the rich man poor.’

Discontentment is never satisfied; never fulfilled. Contentment, on the other hand, is always satisfied and fulfilled.

And Paul says when we combine godliness with contentment there’s great gain. I’m at peace when I don’t get what I want. I’m okay when a non-necessity gets lost or broken.

When I’m content with the basics then I will appreciate it more when I’m blessed with more. When I’m content I’ll thank God more, whether He provides more or not. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Contentment gives us a gratitude attitude.

Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Learning to be content in our COVID world is a key to great godliness, and it makes us shine like stars because everyone around us is so vocally discontent. You’ll either let external circumstances mould your attitude, or your attitude will rise above the external circumstances.”

Paul, sitting in a Roman jail, wrote to the Philippians that he had learned the secret of contentment. Not by freeing himself from earthly struggles or burdens, not by getting more comfortable, or getting the latest stuff, but by experiencing the power of Christ’s presence in both his times of plenty and times of want. He embraced Christ’s goodness in the midst of life’s hardness. He was physically in pain, mentally in anguish, lonely, fearful, unjustly persecuted, but in Christ he was always content. He had unspeakable joy.

THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT

The secret of contentment isn’t pretending everything is okay; it’s accepting that even though everything is not okay, I will be okay, because I have Jesus.

What and who we chose to focus on will determine our attitude in dealing with our less than admirable circumstances.

Last winter I Sat on my verandah one cold morning last winter, and there was a little willy wagtail, whistling and singing his heart out. Next day was warmer, and there he was again. Then it rained, but little willy whistled just the same. He sounded content! Regardless of his circumstances.

Can we “sing” despite the pandemic, despite the illness, despite the setbacks, despite the loss? Can we be the only ones in this world who are actually and truly content?

Yes we can. How? Because we can do anything through him who strengthens us. Look at the context of that verse..

Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

True Biblical contentment is a conviction that Christ’s power, purpose and provision is sufficient for every circumstance. We, like Paul, can learn to be content in any and every situation. The secret to being content is focussing on Christ, it’s godly trust, appreciation, humility, joy and love. The secret is out. Fix your eyes in Jesus,

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

Anxiousness is not contentment, and it’s not faith. If you are feeling down and flat this morning, if you are feeling anxious, discontent, facing big decisions and uneasy, it’s a normal response, but that doesn’t make it right.

 

I’m going to ask you to respond, to come to the front and let us pray and believe with you for these big things.

 

Sometimes I’m like the father of the demonised boy

 

Mark 9:24 (ESV)

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

 

I believe that this morning God is calling us to a gratitude attitude. To have godliness with contentment.

 

If your faith is struggling we can stand with you. If your heart is weary or discouraged, we can believe with you. Together we can Learn the secret of contentment… A thankful Spirit, a faithful heart and a God who will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

WHAT CAUSES DISCONTENT IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?

 

WHAT IS THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT AND GODLINESS? (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

 

HOW CAN YOU BECOME MORE CONTENT THIS WEEK?

Image by 11417994 from Pixabay

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