Summary: In an age of commercialism that breeds discontent we are challenged by Scripture to live a contented life. Paul explains how we can be content in any and every situation.
GROWING A CONTENTED SPIRIT
On a scale of one to ten (one being discontent and ten being very content) how content are you overall with your life? Think about that for a moment.
Contentment is an illusive quality today. Much of the business world works hard to breed discontent so that we will buy products and keep the economy vibrant. If a commercial tells us that something is new and improved we are supposed to feel that we have less than the best and must go out and buy the next thing. When Playstation came out it was the greatest gaming console yet, until PS2 and PS3 came out. And do you ever feel like you have enough gigabytes on your computer? Casinos air commercials that portray life as boring so that you will come and be entertained at their establishment and maybe win some money. What would you do with a million dollars a year for 25 years? Beat the winter blahs and take a Mexican holiday.
We are constantly bombarded with commercials and promotions that make us yearn for more. It is difficult to be content in a society that thrives on our discontent.
And it’s not just about stuff. We are told that our bodies are out of shape and we believe it. Then we tell ourselves that we must climb the ladder of success ever higher to more important positions, and that we must gain more degrees to be smart enough to gain those positions. Even in our marriages we feel that our spouses are lacking something and we go looking for more.
Yet last week we read Romans 12:2 which challenged us to “…not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…” The pattern of this world is to never be content; the transformation of the Christian mind is to be content in any situation. Why would you need to learn contentment? To be content is a spiritual virtue that Jesus lived and Paul taught. They exemplified contentment. Contentment is the true mark of a mature believer and an objective to be cultivated by all believers who want to grow in Christ.
If you are interested in growing a contented spirit, I want to share some thoughts from Philippians 4:10-13.
1. Appreciate the concern others show
Our lesson on contentment begins with our attitude towards other people. Paul, having received some kind of gift from the Philippian church, said, “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it” (4:10).
It sounds like this church was a little slack in showing Paul support. That is not the case. Having planted this church a dozen years prior, the Philippian church had gone through some hard times. They were now in a position to help Paul and Paul is happy for them that they could send this help. So he is not saying “finally, it took you long enough” but is truly grateful that they are strong enough to help.
Evidence of a contented spirit comes through in situations like this. How we respond to the care and concern, whether it be a little or a lot, shows how content we are. Those who are discontent will tend to blame others for their trouble. They will complain that they are never cared for and will grumble about their lack. There is even a bit of the “victim” mentality in them that they are helpless and put upon. They even expect their friends to read their minds and know instinctively what they need.
All of us feel that way sometimes. When care is shown to us can we acknowledge it cheerfully or do we moan that it is not enough? Can we rejoice when our spouse or friend takes the time to love us? Can I show grace when no one comes and cares for me?
Christian love compels us to care for each other. Paul said to the Galatians, “Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). But two verses later he writes, “…each one should carry his own load” (6:5), which teaches us that while we need to care for one another we still need to care for ourselves.
2. Be satisfied in what you have
The question of attitude quickly turns to need. Paul makes an odd comment: “I am not saying this because I am in need…” (4:11). You have heard repeatedly how Paul is in prison and in chains. He possesses very little in earthly goods and is not climbing any social or career ladders. But the odd statement he makes is “I don’t need anything.”
What is it that we truly need? That is a difficult, and perhaps painful, question to ask ourselves. We live in a fiercely cold climate in winter requiring that we possess a decent house. Apart from this, as Paul told Timothy, “…if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1Ti 6:8). Those are the basics of necessity.