Summary: Contentment is a statement of faith. It demonstrates that God is truly caring for us.
Philippians 4:11-13 “Contentment”
Contentment is rare and fleeting in the United States. Look around. Do you see many people, who would say they are content, if you asked them? Oh, we may have experienced contentment occasionally such as the contentment we feel after a superb meal, sitting quietly and holding the hand of someone you love, or completing an assignment and knowing that you’ve done a great job. Contentment is not an everyday experience in most of our lives.
Certainly we don’t experience contentment like Paul did. While writing to the Philippians from a prison cell in Rome, Paul states that he has learned to be content—in any and all circumstances. Contentment was an essential part of Paul’s life, and it was an adjective that he would use to describe himself. Paul’s contentment didn’t come naturally, though. Paul writes that he “learned” to be content. This begs the question that if we think contentment is important in our lives, then how do we learn to be content?
We are a discontent people. Our discontent sours us on life. It makes us critical, impatient and unsatisfied. When we are discontent life is not what we want it to be. Certainly our discontent shapes our view of God; it causes us to view God as a God of scarcity rather than a God of abundance, and as an indifferent God rather than a God of love.
There are reasons why we do not have contentment in our lives.
1. Our society breeds discontent. Discontent fuels our economy and drives our politics.
2. We don’t consider it important. It is not one of the six pillars of good citizenship that is taught in schools. It is not high on our priority list of things we need to teach our children in order for them to have a full, abundant life.
3. We don’t see contentment as a necessary part of faith. When we talk about faith, we usually talk about courage, faithfulness when confronted by persecution, sacrificial service.
Contentment, however, is an important part of one’s walk of faith. An important part of faith is trust and contentment is a byproduct of trust. Discontent hinders our ability to experience an abundant life, and if we are not content it is impossible for us to be generous.
Usually we are discontent about the wrong things. Rarely are we discontent with the amount of time we spend in prayer or devotionally reading the Bible. We aren’t discontent about suddenly being quiet when the topic of religion comes up at work, with neighbors, or at family gatherings. But, we are discontent with the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the house that we live in, and the amount of money we earn.
We can make some practical steps toward learning to be content about the things of our lives.
1. We can rehearse the mantra, “It could be worse.” I don’t know what could be much worse than being jailed in a Roman prison, but Paul somehow didn’t see that as the worst thing that could happen to him. Instead of looking up at what people have that we don’t have, we look down at how many people have it worse than we do.
2. We can ask ourselves, “How long will this make me happy?” We like the car until it gets dirty, dinged or a new model comes out. It’s the same way with technology. We switch the focus from things making us happy to other areas of our lives—relationships that make us happy.
3. We develop a grateful heart. An attitude of gratitude is an essential part of the abundant Christian life. We can develop a grateful heart by disciplining ourselves to look for blessings and to give thanks.
By far the greatest path to contentment is to focus on Jesus. Paul writes that “He [Paul] can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. We can trust in Jesus and his love and grace for us. We can see the world through his eyes rather than through the eyes of advertisements. We can rest in Jesus not only for our salvation, but for the provisions for our daily lives.
In a culture that proclaims more is better, we can be countercultural and decide that less is better. We can try it out and see if it works. We can see if we are happier and more content with more things or less things.
We can simplify our calendars, our possessions, our needs/wants lists.
We can quit competing with the Jones—they probably think we have more than they do. We can give thanks for what we have and be satisfied with it—after all it could be worse.
We are God’s people; we are people of faith. We live our faith in trust and contentment, and we witness to our faith as people see our trust and faith. God is a gracious God, who has blessed us abundantly. We can rest contented in God’s hands.