Summary: Sermon describes the difficulty of being content, even in the best of circumstances. Believers are then admonished to be content, even in the worst of circumstances--through faith in Jesus.
I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT
Have you ever suffered terribly, and somebody said to you, “I know how you feel?” Perhaps you wanted to slap them and say, “You’ve never been where I am–you do NOT know how I feel.” Today, we will read of the Apostle Paul’s admonition to be content in all things. Perhaps you will feel that he does not understand your circumstances. We will see that Paul offers unique qualifications and authority to say what he says.
Please read Philippians 4:11-12. Contentedness is not a product of circumstances. Paul explains what circumstances we can be content in. The explanations he offers are, of course, offered under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Also encouraging, is that he speaks from experience.
Paul says You can be content in good times. In other words, you can be content when life is easy. For example, you can be satisfied when you are well-fed. “Of course!” you exclaim. “It is easy to be content when the stomach is filled to capacity.” However, even the full get sick. America is probably one of the fattest countries on earth. As a result, heart disease is rampant. Tums, Mylanta, and other antacids sell well because of indigestion. Liver disease, caused by alcohol abuse, is also all too common. Speaking of which, alcohol is probably the most dangerous of all drugs. Surprisingly, there has also been a explosion in the number of ailments for which doctors are prescribing dietary changes. In other words, we are full to the point of gluttony, and yet we are poorly nourished! In the midst of such wealth, there is such culinary and gastrointestinal misery.
It is not only excess food that can create problems for us. Paul says it is possible to be content when we have plenty of possessions. Again, you might protest that it should be easy for the rich to be satisfied. However, how much is enough? Money is never enough if you count on it to bring you happiness. After all, there is insurance to buy. We need car, life, health, and home insurance. Now, the companies are telling us that regular insurance is not enough–we need supplemental policies as well! Then there are all the savings accounts. We need them for retirement, for our children’s college tuition, for weddings, and that great miscellaneous fund–the rainy day account. Additionally, as we become established our needs grow. We come to require second car. Over time we have to get a better car, then a mini van, and finally an SUV. About the time we achieve the second SUV, we outgrow our home, and need a bigger house in a better neighborhood. Then there is jewelry for our wives to make up for what we could not afford early in the marriage. I guess diamonds (at least little ones) are not really forever after all! How are we to measure our success at building our family kingdoms? We must keep up with the neighbors. Of course, as we move in to bigger houses in better neighborhoods, we have more keeping up to do.
In the Parable of the Sower Jesus says that concerns of this world choke the life out of us just as weeds destroy the harvest. Instead of using the goods this world has to offer as tools, we allow them to become our masters. We proceed diligently, slavishly and blindly through life, in order to acquire and maintain objects of security and happiness. At the end of our days we realize that we may have garnered well, but we had no time to enjoy neither our possessions nor the families we worked so hard to provide for.
Throughout history cunning men have used class envy to rally the poor against the rich. In the end, it is not the poor, but those politicians who supposedly represent the poor, who gain the most. The truth is that the rich get sick, get divorced, become psychological troubled, and they ultimately die, the same as us all. Perhaps they are best able to realize that life is meaningless without God. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon–the richest, wisest man who ever lived. In searching for the meaning of life, he found that neither power, riches, nor even education held much value. The only conclusion is that we should serve our Creator.
While the previous information may make logical sense, it is hard too stir up sympathy for the well-to-do. Those of us who are not wealthy claim to endure greater difficulties. The Apostle Paul tells us that it is also possible to be content when life is hard. For example, we can be satisfied when we are hungry. It is often said that you cannot feed a man’s soul until you fill his belly. Yet, when we need God for our “daily bread,” we realize that He is all we need. The discipline of fasting teaches us the powerful truth that God is our nutrition–our strength. Beyond providing sustenance when we lack food, God brings gratification when we are poor. So many pastors and missionaries have testified to praying to God for their family’s next meal–and God provided. The gospel seems to spread faster and stronger in areas that are economically struggling. Jesus says that it is the rich that have a hard time finding God and heaven, because they are deceived by their possessions. They actually believe they are self-sufficient. This is Satan’s original lie to Adam and Eve in the Garden. So, whether rich or poor, hungry or full, God can bring true contentment. The key is not our circumstances, but our openness to embrace his love and provision.