Summary: If we, as the corporate people of God, could authentically say we are content in the midst of our consumer culture, it would have a huge impact on the world around us.
March 6, 2011 Phil. 4:10-23
I must confess that I am feeling a little sad that today we will finish our study of the book of Philippians. I don’t know how much you have gotten out of it, but I have really enjoyed immersing in the book, in Paul’s world, and hearing the Holy Spirit speak through His Word. Today we are going to look at the last half of chapter 4, and in the middle of some personal notes of appreciation is one main thought that ties it all together, and that challenges us in our way of living today. That thought revolves around the idea of contentment. So to get you started thinking about that, are you content?
Author James Emery White (You Can Experience an Authentic Life. Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000, pp. 139-140) wrote,
I sat down and looked through some magazines this past week. I discovered that if I want to feel right, I need to get a NordicTrack. I don’t have a NordicTrack, just a membership down at the gym, so I suddenly realized that I didn’t feel as healthy as I thought I did.
I then read that if I wanted to be stylish, I would need to buy a Toyota Camry. Our family van was in the shop, so I had been driving our old Mercury Sable. That felt bad enough. Real men drive SUVs or bright red sports cars. I’ve got four kids, so I don’t have the luxury of driving what real men drive. So I found out that I couldn’t be stylish with the cars I owned.
Then I saw that if I wanted to really feel the spring season, I had to dress for the spring season, and the only place for that was at Dillard’s. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to go to Dillard’s that week. Suddenly the beautiful weather just didn’t seem that beautiful. I just wasn’t dressed for it.
It didn’t get any better. I learned that I needed to be opening my mail with knife from Oneida. I only had a two-dollar letter opener from Office Depot. Now even my mail was disappointing. On top of that, I discovered that I couldn’t have a good meal if I wasn’t in Texas – at least not a meal that would satisfy me. So much for my Lean Cuisines. Then I read that if I wanted to be a man, at least a manlier man than my neighbor, I had to drive a Yard-Man mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine. At least it was cheaper than a new SUV.
I like my house until I saw the new development’s ad. I thought my family and I were close until I realized we didn’t have season passes to the amusement park. I even thought I loved my wife, but since I hadn’t bought her a diamond necklace from the jewelry store, I was informed that I didn’t. I found out that I can’t even be romantic with my wife unless we use Sylvania light bulbs. Wouldn’t you know, we have GE.
By the time I got finished with those magazines, I wasn’t just depressed – I needed counseling.
Listening to that, I can relate. We do feel a pressure to reject contentment, which is usually coupled with a message that purchasing a particular thing will provide that contentment. Yet we quickly discover it is a lie, first because there is always another message saying that whatever we have just acquired itself must be upgraded to something better (if not now, then certainly in the future…), and if that doesn’t work then there is something else we need to get; but second and more importantly because as soon as we have that thing, and get past the initial excitement, we recognize somewhere deep within us that we still have a gnawing craving for something else – we still aren’t satisfied. So many people listen to the voices around and assume that lack of satisfaction is because we haven’t reached the top yet, haven’t got it all yet, and when we do then we will be satisfied. But I would suggest, instead, that we are looking in the wrong direction. We have filled our minds with the wrong things – with the things we lack. We have not done as we were commanded last week:
“8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:8-9).