Living in Contentment
October 17, 2017

Living in Contentment
Philippians 4:11-13

What I’ve sadly come to realize is that contentment is an elusive commodity in our society, and promoted by the advertisements we’re bombarded with. They seem to think it’s their job to make us feel discontent and dissatisfied with our lives unless we buy their products.

If I want to stay in shape, going out for a walk outdoors and getting some fresh air isn’t good enough. What I need is a NordicTrack treadmill in my living room looking out the window at the great outdoors.

And no ordinary run of the mill car will do. If I want to be green I need a Prius, or if I want to be stylish it’s a Jaguar or Mercedes. And if I want to be a real man I have to have the largest pick up truck on the market with Firestone tires.

What to wear is always a contentment problem. My Hawaiian shirts and casual slacks are so far out of style they’re only found in history books. It’s now all about skinny jeans that we used to call “high water,” which was another way to say we couldn’t afford a new pair. Or if I have new jeans that look new, it means I didn’t pay an extra $100 for someone to put holes in them.

According to these advertisers I’ve come to realize that what I have is not enough, and the only thing that will make me happy is a set of Ginsu Knives, LG appliances, a farmhouse sink, Kohler faucets, Lazy Boy furniture, America Standard toilets, Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels, and eat Angus beef with fresh vegetables, or a Big Mac with “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions – on a sesame seed bun.”

Since I only have a couple of these items, or their generic counterparts, I’m just downright depressed, not to mention I probably need some special counseling, or more money to buy what I am so obviously lacking.

Let me just say that being dissatisfied has become an American epidemic. It is such dissatisfaction that has led to what ails our society. People are looking for satisfaction or contentment in all the wrong places, and it is this feeding frenzy for more and better that has fueled the advertising world that has turned Americans into the most discontented people in the world.

We have to stop trying to find satisfaction and contentment in all this material stuff, even in our relationships, and start finding our contentment in God alone.

Consider Jesus’ fourth Beatitude. The Beatitudes are sayings Jesus gave in His Sermon on the Mount that outlines those attitudes we need to possess if we want to be His followers.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NKJV)

Jesus is saying if we want to be content, then contentment comes through earnestly seeking God and having a right relationship with Him.

The writer of Hebrews says that we must stop trying to get more, but rather learn to be content with what we have because God is always with us.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV)

The Apostle Paul brings this to the forefront in today’s signature verse where he talks about true contentment that only comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

Paul wrote these words while in prison waiting for his death sentence to be pronounced and executed. And yet in such dire circumstance he was the most joyful and content guy on the planet.

Consider all that Paul went through in his life: he was whipped and beaten several times, stoned and left for dead, he suffered shipwrecks, threatened with death by both the Jews and Romans, and was suffering through an incurable disease. And yet was able to content through it all.

Look at Paul’s own words.

“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NKJV)

And he goes on to say that while his body was wasting away, he wasn’t upset because Jesus was being manifested and glorified.

Jesus, along with His sufficient grace and strength, was enough for Paul and was the reason for his joy and contentment.

We see this joy and the source of true satisfaction in the life of a Christian woman who was confined to her room because of illness. She lived in an attic apartment of an old, rundown building.

One day a rather wealthy woman went to visit. She commented on this woman’s living condition saying, “What a dark and filthy place, it must be very difficult for you to live like this?”

The woman replied, “It’s better higher up.”

Remember, she lived in the attic. You don’t get much higher up than that! The only thing that was higher up was the Lord and heaven that waited for her. She was like Abraham who was looking forward to the city whose architect and builder was God, Hebrews 11:10.

Her joy and contentment wasn’t based upon her living conditions, rather it was based upon the eternal, for it was in the Lord that she found the secret of true satisfaction and contentment.

Our deepest and most intimate needs will never be filled with the temporal things of this life, but can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Today I’d like to talk about contentment and those things that cause discontentment.

Webster defines contentment as the ability to rest satisfied, to be positive and well pleased. It’s freedom from care or discomfort. Our English word comes from the Latin meaning to contain and be satisfied, happy, and filled.

Contentment is being satisfied with what we have and that what we have is enough. But when it doesn’t seem to be enough that’s when discontentment sets in.

What Brings Discontentment

1. Coveting

The tenth commandment covers this.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NIV)

There was a man became envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes. So he listed his house and looked to purchase a more impressive home. As he was reading the classified section of the newspaper he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right.

He called the realtor and said, “A house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to see it as soon as possible!”

After asking several questions, the agent replied, “That’s your house!”

Our problem is that we want what other people have. It’s like when we go to a restaurant and once the food is served we realize we like what’s on someone else’s plate.

Coveting, however, takes it a step further, it’s the desire to go and take it from them.

Coveting begins when we believe that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, not realizing the reason it’s green is because it’s sitting over a septic tank.

To counter this spirit of covetousness, we need to be content with what the Lord has provided. This is what Paul goes on to tell us in Philippians 4:19.

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NKJV)

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapter six, verse nine, Paul said, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” (1 Timothy 6:9 NIV)

Paul’s next statement to Timothy, or 1 Timothy 6:10, leads me to the second thing that brings discontentment.

2. Greed

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV)

Before I go on any further it’s important to note that “money” isn’t the root of all evil, rather it’s the love of money which is at the heart of greed’s definition.

Greed is never being satisfied with what we have. It’s always wanting more and living our lives in the pursuit of getting more. It’s trying to live a lifestyle of the rich and famous when all we make is the minimum wage. This is why so many people are in debt.

Greed is being focused upon self instead of God. It’s self-serving rather than serving God by serving others.

What this does is produce within us a lack of gratitude. To counter this we need to realize that every good and perfect gift is from God.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV)

It’s when we become ungrateful with what we have, never learning to be content with the little or much that God has given to us, that we become both dissatisfied and discontent.

But wanting more will never bring contentment. Now, I’m not saying that God won’t give us more, in fact Paul tells us that God wants to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond what we want, but that is only through the power that works within us, Ephesians 3:20, that is, through the power of Jesus Christ, which is what Paul made clear saying that he could do all things through Jesus who gives him the strength, Philippians 4:13.

This reveals that what brings contentment is godliness, that is, living our lives in accordance to God and His word, and this is what Paul tells Timothy as being a source of immense profit.

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV)

This then brings me to the last aspect of why people are discontent.

3. Lack of Faith

In order to have contentment, we have to believe that Jesus can and will meet our needs, which includes when we can’t see them being met. This is the very definition of faith given by the writer of Hebrews.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)

It was such a lack of faith that caused discontentment with God and that kept the children of Israel out of the Promised Land. They were seeing the problems rather than God’s promises.

They failed to trust God. If we want to be content, trusting God is then one of the keys.

Alan Redpath, author, evangelist, and pastor said, “There is nothing- no circumstance, no trouble, no testing- that can ever touch us until first of all it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to us. If it has come this far, it has also come with a great purpose which we might not presently understand.”

It’s when we trust God in whatever happens; that is when we’ll be content, in both the good and bad times.

Jesus wants us to stop desiring the things of life and start desiring Him, who is the author and finisher of our faith.

How To Be Content

The counter to discontentment is to be content with what the Lord has given as Paul said in Philippians 4:19 that God will supply all our needs according to His riches that are in Jesus Christ alone.

Let’s look again at our signature verse

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV)

Notice that Paul said that he had to learn how to be content. Contentment doesn’t come naturally, and that’s because of the sinfulness that lies inside us all. Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)

Because of this Paul said we need God’s grace, and that His grace is sufficient to change these desperately wicked hearts, and it is what teaches us to live godly lives.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12 NKJV)

And so through God’s grace we learn contentment through what it teaches.

Going back to my earlier statement that contentment doesn’t come naturally is the fact that real contentment is contrary to our normal way of thinking. Normally we think the way of peace is to get out of those difficult circumstances that take our peace away. But what we’re told by Paul is he found contentment in both the good and bad times, in both good and bad situations.

We also think that to be content we need bigger and better, or the visa verse, that is we need to strip down to the bare essentials or the necessities of life. Paul, however, said that he learned contentment while he had both a little and a lot.

To be content in the Lord is to be dissatisfied with the world. This was actually Paul’s take when he told the Philippian church about forgetting the past so they could move forward in the will and ways of God.

Earlier on in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul speaks about being discontent with his past worldly life, and that contentment lay through faith in Jesus Christ.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

It is this discontentment, this dissatisfaction with the world that is the driving force behind Christian contentment. It isn’t complacency; rather it’s a holy ambition to get the know Jesus Christ to an even greater extent and the power of His resurrection. It is then that we are given His supernatural power, a power where we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength, Philippians 3:10; 4:13.

The secret of contentment is then to know Jesus Christ to an even greater degree so we can become more like Him, and where we stop seeking our own agenda and start becoming content with His.

This is why Jesus said, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on … (Instead) seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you.” (Luke 12:22, 31)

Now, while I’ve not made these into bullet points in your notes, which is something I generally do, let me give you the secrets of contentment, that is, what are those things that bring contentment to our lives.

These are what we’ve already seen in our time together.

• It’s forgetting the past and moving forward in the things of God.
• It’s having an attitude of gratitude that no matter what we have, we’re grateful for God’s provision.
• It’s having our faith and trust in God alone that He will supply what we need, not our greed, and that our desire isn’t to be for all the stuff, but it’s to be for God.
• It’s having our eyes fixed on the things to come, and not on our present circumstances. In other words, “It’s better higher up.”
• It’s trusting in the all sufficient grace and strength of Jesus to see us through the difficulties of life, and
• It’s living our lives in accordance with God and His word, that is, living godly lives.

Conclusion

Contentment is a gift from God and grows out of having His perspective on life.

Contrary to popular opinion, contentment doesn’t mean to be satisfied with where we are. Rather it’s knowing God’s plan and having the conviction to live it. It believes that God’s peace is greater than whatever we’re facing.

We get so involved in the daily activities of life that we forget the real purpose of life is to love and serve God and one another. What happens is that we become discontented because we’ve bought into the society’s goals of having more, bigger, and the best out there.

The evidence is an overall lack of peace coupled with a growing doubt in God’s ability to provide.

And so contentment isn’t found in our material stuff. Contentment isn’t found in newest and greatest inventions, comforts, technology, or in garnering greater wealth. Rather it’s an attitude of the heart, and once our hearts are changed and given over to Jesus Christ, then we’ll achieve the contentment we so long for, and it will be evident to everyone around us.









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