Summary: We can cultivate contentment by giving thanks, by realizing that God withholds no good thing from us, and by seeking that which is eternal.
Joy is a deep, abiding sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is the birthright of every Christian, something purchased for us by Christ, something we all desire and which God desires for us. And yet joy is something which we don’t always experience. Too often, instead of joy, we feel restless, unhappy, vaguely dissatisfied.
Why? What’s the problem? If it’s true that we are to "rejoice in the Lord always," as Paul writes in Philippians chapter 4, what’s getting in the way? The answer is joy-killers. Joy-killers are attitudes that prevent us from experiencing the full, abundant, joy-filled life in Christ that God intended.
This morning I’m going to expose one of those joy-killers. We’ll examine what it looks like, why we fall prey to it, what we can do to overcome it; and in the process we’ll discover how we can reclaim some of that joy.
What is Discontent?
The name of this joy-killer is "discontentment." What is discontentment? Well, it’s easier to describe than define. It tends to manifest itself as grumbling and complaining. Where the seed of discontent is present, the focus is always on the negative - on problems, difficulties, disappointments.
"For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water . . . . I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil." - Job 3:24, 26 (NIV)
"I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul." - Job 10:1 (NIV)
Job is extremely discontented; really, he’s borderline despairing. Discontentment is often below the surface, hidden, covert. It tends to take the form of murmuring or whispering, while Job’s complaints are very loud and vocal. But you get the idea. Groaning, complaining, restlessness, lack of peace - these are all characteristics of discontentment. [Also characteristics of most teenagers]
So what does God think of grumbling and complaining? Not surprisingly, He’s really not much in favor of it. In fact, He hates it. It drives Him up a wall. And in the case of the ancient Israelites, it just about got them exterminated.
"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food."
- from Numbers 11
"But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ’Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’ Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died."
- Numbers 21:5-6 (NIV)
"We should not test the Lord, as some of them did-and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did-and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us."
- 1 Corinthians 10:10-12 (NIV)
As you can see from these examples, grumbling and complaining really ticks God off. In the case of the Israelites, he showed His displeasure through fire, plague, and poisonous snakes. Obviously, this is something He takes very seriously. Why? Why does God respond so strongly to this kind of discontent?
* Because it shows a heart attitude of rebellion against God. It denies that God is good; it rejects the sufficiency of His provision for our needs.
* A discontented spirit betrays a lack of trust, a lack of faith, an unwillingness to submit to God’s management of our lives. It says, in effect, "God, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re blowing it. I can run this show better than you can."
* Discontentment also reveals a deep ingratitude for God’s blessings [Example: how God had blessed the Israelites by delivering them from slavery and Pharaoh’s army; giving cloud and fire cover; providing manna to eat every morning]. [Example: children grumbling over the wrong breakfast cereal.]