Becoming a Joy-FULL Person
7. The Secret of Contentment
June 12/13, 2004
I have a confession to make. I hate the ice cream man. He takes a nice content moment and turns it into cravings for something my children don’t need and can’t afford – and turns contentment into discontentment.
But there’s an awful lot of ice cream trucks out there, aren’t there? They don’t all go around with children’s music piping out of their speakers – but they can make us feel discontent no matter what we have.
For me they are things like “For sale” signs in front of homes we can’t quite afford.
Want ads for cars that are nicer and newer than what I drive.
Going to people’s homes where they have much nicer furniture or really cool home stereo systems.
And this week, I even started thinking about my toilet. Yes. My toilet. CNN reported this week that…
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A Japanese toilet maker is introducing a high-tech $5,000 toilet to the U.S. market, according to a published report.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Toto has introduced its deluxe Neorest toilet. Features include seats that can be set to rise automatically via sensors on the side, so users don’t have to touch the toilet. The toilet also has a wireless remote to raise or lower the seat. It has deodorizer, a warm-air dryer and water temperature, pressure and massaging options.
The ice cream truck of discontent might not be a high-tech toilet, but I guarantee that there’s something that brings on the feelings of discontent for you.
And just like the worry and anxiety we talked about last week can steal your joy and keep you from becoming a joy-FULL person, discontent can do just the same thing. If we want to be joy-FULL, somehow we’ll have to find a way to find contentment in our present situation.
Want some good news?
No matter what is happening in your life, you can know contentment. God’s word tells us how to do it. And now let’s turn our attention there. In Philippians 4:10-23 we discover the secret to contentment.
CONTENTMENT COMES WHEN YOU…
1. Rely upon Christ for the power to prevail over circumstances. (Phil. 4:10-13)
10 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. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Paul expresses his thanks here to the Philippian believers for the gift they sent with Epaphroditus to Paul to help meet his needs. As he’ll say a little later in this passage of scripture, he is, for the moment, amply supplied – but that is not where his contentment comes from. In fact he says just the opposite – there is a secret to being content when you’re experiencing plenty just as surely as there is a secret to being content when you’re in want.
Actor Alan Alda has been quoted as saying, "It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich."
Contrary to Alan Alda - The secret to contentment is NOT getting everything you want! Fact is, the amount of money you have doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the level of contentment people experience. Consider this…
ILLUS: About 10 years ago, there was a story in U.S. News and World Report. Some of the information in this story is probably just as relevant today, ten years later, as it was then.
The story was about the so-called “American Dream.” I guess that would include owning your own home, and having all your needs met for sure, but also having enough to do all the things you really wanted to do, and have all the things you really wanted to have.
The story said that for Americans with household incomes of under $25,000, polls showed these people believed it would take $54,000 to fulfill the American dream in their lives. The same survey also showed that for those who make $100,000, they’d like to make about $192,000 for their version of the American dream.
In other words, the American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away, at least financially.
So if the secret to being content is not in amassing personal wealth or getting everything you want, how can we know contentment?
What was the secret? It comes in verse 13 where he says “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
NLT says…13 For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.
Paul here is echoing the teaching of Jesus, when he said in John 15:5
John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It doesn’t get much clearer, does it? On the one hand we’re told that apart from Christ we can do nothing of lasting value in our lives. On the other we’re told that we can do everything through Christ who gives us strength. One of those “everythings” is finding contentment in all situations.
Basically, here’s the truth. Whether you are experiencing plenty or want in your life right now – the secret to being content is staying connected to Jesus. It is HIS strength that will provide the contentment you need. It is HIS power that will help you find hope even when the cupboards are bare.
When you are spending time on a regular basis praying to Jesus, studying God’s word, and surrendering your life to the power of the Holy Spirit, you’re going to find that no matter what else is going on in your life – you will feel more content. Why?
Because when you’re living your life connected to Jesus Christ, you’ll begin to understand that nothing happens to your life without His knowledge. Nothing that happens, either good or bad, can take you away from God’s love.
Paul had experienced trials that make our worst days seem easy. Beatings, stonings, jailings, shipwrecks, hunger, desertion, misunderstanding – you name it. But he says, with the confidence that only hard experience can provide, “I can do everything through Him who strengthens me.” In other words, “As long as I’m connected to the power and the strength that Jesus Christ gives – I will be content with whatever circumstances come upon me.”
It was because of this connection to Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul was able to live out so many of the great truths we’ve studied these past 6 weeks:
Things such as “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” AND
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ”
Contentment comes from living a life where you understand your priorities – and everything in your life pales in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus. When this becomes true in your life – all of a sudden having the best material things, and needing to receive everything you desire in life become so much less important.
If you will live your life relying upon the power that God provides – you will find that your daily circumstances will have less and less control over your state of mind – and contentment will begin to be the norm of your life.
Before I go on I think it’s important to say something. Materialism is a sin. Searching for contentment in your life through material goods is idolatry no less than if you were to actively worship an idol. In fact, I think materialism is the main idol worship of Americans. Instead of relying upon God’s strength and living our life with the strength he provides, we buy into the lie that if I had a nicer home, car, bike, toy, you name it – we will be happy. We then pursue those things no mater the cost, amassing large debt along the way. If you can’t say “I can be content in all circumstances – and you know materialism is the cause – repentance is called for.
Heb. 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Want to be free from the love of money and the grip of materialism? Then commit to giving to God first – and then making a discipline of praying a simple prayer whenever you are about to purchase something. “Lord, should I make this purchase?”
TRANS: The first secret to finding contentment, then, is to rely upon Christ for the power to prevail over circumstances. But there’s more. IN the next few verses Paul will continue that thought and teach us that if you want to find contentment in life, you must…
2. TRUST IN GOD’S POWER TO PROVIDE FOR ALL YOUR NEEDS. (Phil. 4:14-20)
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; 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. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul here tells his friends in Philippi of his gratitude for their financial help and support – recognizing that they have given of themselves in sacrificial ways. And he knows that they are probably going without some of the things they might have had if they hadn’t given so generously to his needs.
And so he says with utmost confidence: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
The Message paraphrase puts it this way:
Phil. 4:19 (The Message) You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
PERSONAL ILLUS: Yellow sticky note in my old NIV Student Bible. Simply says “And my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
I wrote it down shortly after hearing Dr David LeShana give a chapel message at the beginning of my first term at seminary. He took that verse word by word and explained how it was a promise for me. Over the next 4 1/2 years I had to come back to that verse time and again. Sleep deprived. Mind on overload. Hectic schedule. Quarter by quarter God provided what I needed.
Friends, I know because I’ve talked to some of you this week – you’ve got needs in your life. Relational needs. Emotional needs. Financial needs. Spiritual needs. You might be wondering if God is there. You might be tempted to lash out at God or to simply give up hope.
I want you to hear the words of the Apostle Paul. Written from house arrest. Chained to a soldier. Unable to leave his home. Awaiting a trial that could end with his execution.
MY GOD WILL MEET ALL YOUR NEEDS.
On another occasion he wrote to a different set of friends the following words:
2 Cor. 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
If you will surrender your life into his hands, you need never worry about having what you need. God gives you his holy spirit’s presence. He promises to never leave you or forsake you. And as the song says “all of you is more than enough for all of me”.
As a rule, man’s a fool
When it’s hot, he wants it cool.
And when it’s cool, he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not.
If this is you, if you feel your life is always chasing after your personal ice cream trucks, let me invite you to pray a simple prayer with me.
“Lord teach me the secret of contentment regarding…
PRAY: Lord I need to learn the secret of contentment in my life. You have me right where I am today for a purpose. I confess the sin of materialism. I confess the sin of discontent. Cleanse my heart. Teach me the secret of contentment regarding this certain situation in my life…