Christian contentment is very difficult to obtain in our society. Our society and culture do not make it easy to be content. Society is always demanding that we conform to the new image it has established, only to change that image as soon as we get close to achieving it. Unlike the image of Christ, which never changes, the image the world puts forth changes continually. Then there is the constant addition of things we must have if we really want to be happy. Bigger homes with more garages to hold our fancier and more expensive vehicles are a must. Prestigious jobs with impressive titles, corner offices with windows, amazing benefits, and a 100% matching 401-K plan are required for happiness. Now you can add to that the latest large screen television, the newest game system, the iPhone with the biggest screen and most memory, and of course the hottest looking wife. You say these are all worldly things, and you are beyond seeking the things of the world. You are really seeking to serve God and to seek spiritual blessing, not material blessing. Good for you! It would appear you have been listening. But unfortunately, the application of this principle seems as difficult for the church as it does for the world.
Matthew 6:25-34(ESV)25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
This has been named the cure for anxiety. When Xanax hit the U.S. market in 1981, it wasn’t clear it would be a hit. It was a me-too successor to Valium, the anxiety drug that was the most popular drug in America for most of the 1970s. Maker Upjohn figured out a clever way to market its drug: by testing it to treat panic attacks as well as anxiety.
Panic attacks had just been defined as a diagnosis and were assumed to be resistant to Valium-like drugs. But Upjohn ran studies showing Xanax reduced panic attacks; it was the first drug to get an approval for this claim. Xanax sold like hotcakes and became part of the popular lexicon. America is still a Xanax nation. It remains the most popular psychiatric drug, topping more recently introduced medicines like the sleeping pill Ambien (No. 2) and the antidepressant Lexapro (No. 3). Doctors write nearly 50 million prescriptions for Xanax or alprazolam (the cheap, generic equivalent) every year–that’s more than one Xanax prescription every second. Upjohn vanished in a series of mergers–it’s buried somewhere inside Pfizer now–but the decision its executives made still echoes through our culture, and through the bodies of psychiatric patients.
Anxiety creeps in when we fear the unknown or when we can not control a situation Psalm 56:3(ESV) 3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 27!(ESV)The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Be assured, He is with you in whatever you face, in the turmoil and struggles, amidst the anxious thoughts and the worries of life. He is there, strengthening, helping, and He holds you in His hands.
God is greater. He gives us the power to live courageously, boldly, fearlessly in this life, when many things that surround us would tell us to be afraid. His truth whispers strong and sure to the deepest core of our spirits.
Have you stopped to look around at the church lately? If you have, you may notice there is little Christian contentment to be found there. Church members are discontented with their pastors. Pastors are frustrated with their boards. Worship teams are at odds over the style of music in the service. Parents are dissatisfied with the youth programming. The youth are turned off if they are not being entertained. Then, of course, you have those churches of one hundred members that aren’t satisfied until they have two hundred, while those that already have the two hundred members desire to have four hundred. You would think the church that has five thousand members is surely satisfied, but no, plans are underway to grow to ten thousand.
Paul, from prison, shared his experience of the secret with all who would listen:
Philippians 4:4-13(ESV)4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We need to learn to be satisfied with little. Paul had learned to make the choice to be satisfied with little, and he knew it was important for others to learn to make that same choice.
Contentment does not come naturally to the sinful human heart. We need God’s grace to strengthen us and to change our hearts. But we also have the responsibility to learn contentment. It requires effort. The fact that Paul refers to the “secret,” or “mystery,” of contentment, however, indicates not only that contentment does not come naturally, but also that how we pursue contentment is contrary to human ways of thinking. There are also different worldly ways of thinking about contentment and material goods. The “more is better” mentality teaches us that to be satisfied in life, we need this product or that gadget. There is also a worldly “simple living” mentality that says satisfaction comes by getting rid of stuff and living with less. Yet Paul says he has learned to be content in both plenty and hunger, in abundance and need. While there is some biblical truth to the thinking that we should not pursue earthly goods continually, a simple lifestyle alone does not guarantee a contented heart.
The secret to contentment is very simple. And it does not require heroic acts of piety. No, in fact it requires a childlike response from us. The secret is beautifully summed up in this phrase: Proverbs 3:5(ESV)Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.
Trusting God is not easy, but it’s not complex. The knowledge of good and evil is complex. It produces Gordian knots we cannot untie. But we were never meant to. We were meant to trust God with them. And when we do, it is a great relief.
We need to learn to rest in God’s providence. If we truly know God, we know that He is unfolding His agenda and purpose in our lives. He has sovereignly determined each part of His plan for us so that we’ll be benefited and He’ll be glorified.
Romans 8:28(ESV)28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We should not be surprised or ungrateful when we experience trials because we know that God sees perfectly the end result. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
We need to learn to rely on God’s power and provision. A contented Christian is the one who best knows God’s sovereignty and rests in it. A contented Christian trusts God, is pure in heart, and is the one most willing to be used of God—however God sees fit. We live in a world that breeds discontent. We are bombarded with the message that to be happy we need more things, less wrinkles, better vacations, and fewer troubles. But, ultimately, the problem is the sinful human heart. We are often discontented in our jobs, our marriages, our churches, our homes — in most areas of our lives. We can easily despair that we will never be able to attain contentment. Because we are focusing on the wrong things. But the Bible teaches us that we must be content.
Hebrews 13:15(ESV)5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In 1 Timothy 6:6-7(ESV)6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. Paul exhorted a young pastor with these words: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” Paul understood that covetousness and contentment are mutually exclusive.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13(ESV)12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
A self-centered man is a discontented man. But the soul of the generous man, the man who lives for the interests and benefit of others, will find blessing upon blessing in his life.
Philippians 2:3-4(ESV)3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Proverbs 11:24-25(ESV)24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.; Proverbs19:17(ESV)Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7(ESV)6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Understand why contentment is necessary for holiness. As a Christian, you should pursue contentment because: God has commanded it, contentment is a priceless spiritual treasure, a discontented spirit lies at the root of much sin, contentment shows your humble submission to God’s will and allows you to experience God’s peace, and a contented spirit helps you worship God.
Beware of the dangers of a discontented spirit. Discontentment is spiritually dangerous because: it reveals the corruption of sin and rebellion in your soul, it undermines your dignity as a child of God, and it interferes with your Christian witness to seekers.
Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Isaiah 45:6-7 (ESV )That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.
Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.
The concept of the control of God over everything is called the “sovereignty” of God. Nothing gives us strength and confidence like an understanding of the sovereignty of God in our lives. God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total independent control over every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. God is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes. Nothing is random or comes by chance, especially not in the lives of believers. He “purposed” it. That means to deliberately resolve to do something. God has resolved to do what He will do, and nothing and no one stands in His way. Unlimited in power, unrivaled in majesty, and not thwarted by anything outside Himself, our God is in complete control of all circumstances, causing or allowing them for His own good purposes and plans to be fulfilled exactly as He has foreordained. But we can’t trust someone we don’t know, and there is only one way to know God—through His Word. There is no magic formula to make us spiritual giants overnight, no mystical prayer to pray three times a day to mature us, build our faith, and make us towers of strength and confidence. There is only the Bible, the single source of power that will change our lives from the inside out. But it takes effort, diligent, everyday effort, to know the God who controls everything. If we drink deeply of His Word and let it fill our minds and hearts, the sovereignty of God will become clear to us, and we will rejoice in it because we will know intimately and trust completely the God who controls all things for His perfect purpose.