Summary: (1) Contentment has to be learnt, and (2) it cannot be found in possessions. (3) True contentment can only be found in Christ.
Today we want to talk about contentment. The lack of contentment is one of the reasons why many people, including Christians, do not have joy in life. We feel that we do not have enough. Something is always lacking. And we have to get it in order to feel fulfilled and happy.
A few years ago, Jack Neo made this movie "Money No Enough" 钱不够用 to highlight the typical Singaporean’s lifestyle. We need more - more of everything.
If we keep telling ourselves that we do not have enough, we will eventually develop a craving, a strong desire to get more and more. We want it quick and we want it the easy way. That’s why people gamble. They want to get rich the quick and easy way.
There is another word for this in the Scriptures - it’s GREED. Greed is just the opposite of contentment. The Bible warns us:
1 Tim 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
TV advertisers try to convince us that contentment is not possible without their particular brand of something. Without it, life would not be as good. Suddenly, we feel deprived if we do not have it, so we go out and buy it – even when we do not really need it. We plunge into debt, sometimes into excessive loans and put our selves and our family under unnecessary pressure.
We are living in one of the most prosperous nation in this region, yet we feel that we do not have enough. Will the world ever satisfies us? No. We need to learn from Paul, and understand that only God can fill the longings in our hearts. Things cannot give us fulfilment in life. Jesus told us plainly, abundant life can only be found in Him.
Paul says in 4:11 "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
4:12 "...I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation."
(1) CONTENTMENT HAS TO BE LEARNT
We’ve got to make an effort to learn. In life, almost everything comes through learning.
Contentment is not something that comes to us naturally. It has to be learnt. It was not instantaneous for Paul. Over the years of serving the Lord, he experienced God’s help whenever he has a need. Very often, God provided for him through Christian friends and churches, like the Philippians’ church he mentioned here.
4:16 "for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need."
4:18 "I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God."
Paul has learnt, over the years, to trust God for his daily needs. That is why he was able to tell them in 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." He said this out of his own experience. God did provide for him.
Someone once said, in life you can either be a thermometer or a thermostat. A thermometer cannot influence the surroundings. It is affected by the environment to register its temperature. It’s always going up and down. But a thermostat regulates the surroundings and changes them when they need to be changed.
Paul is more like a thermostat. The circumstances do change him - "in any and every situation" 随 事 随 在 (v.12) - he is content and happy. He has learnt it, and so can we.
Let us learn to be content. Do not allow things to dictate how we feel and how we live. Instead of allowing the circumstances to influence us up and down, we must make a stand for what we’ve come to know as true from the Scriptures. We are not to be victims of the circumstances. It’s a choice we have to make. We can decide how we want to live.
If contentment is something we learn, then we have to work at it every day.
(2) CONTENTMENT IS NOT FOUND IN THINGS
4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Paul says he can be contented, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
That means it really doesn’t matter whether you have more or less, you can be contented and happy.
Contentment has nothing to do with things. It has nothing to do with what you have or what you do not have. It is the condition of the heart!