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Contentment

May 12th, 2011

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11 NIV

“If you do not have what you want, learn to want what you have.”

My thoughts today are about “contentment.”

Contentment is not easy to come by in a world where people always want something more, something else, or something they don’t already have. If it’s small, we want it big. If it’s old, we want it new. If it’s theirs, we want it ours. A man of vast wealth was asked, “How much money does it take to make a wealthy man happy?” His answer? “Just a little more!” And then people wonder why they are not happy! The reality is that most people’s wants far exceed their needs. Contentment is knowing when enough is enough. Why are we not happy with what God provides?

Long ago I heard some simple advice expressed this way, “If you do not have what you want, learn to want what you have.” “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV. Wouldn’t you be happier if you could do that, or maybe it’s more like, if you would do that?  That would suggest to me that covetousness is the seed of discontent. When you strongly want what someone else has even if that would leave them with less, you become discontent with what God gives you. Jesus never taught against wealth; He did, however, teach against greed and ingratitude. See Luke 12:15-21 NKJV.

I confess; I grew up in simpler times. As a child, we didn’t have a lot of things wrongly considered necessities today, but we didn’t seem to know that. Maybe that was because few if any people we knew seemed to have much either. We had enough, not much extra, but certainly plenty. More importantly, my Mom and Dad never talked or acted like that was inadequate. Our family was happy and content.

Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances . . I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance.” Philippians 4:11-12NIV. Notice Paul’s accent? “I have learned . .” Those verses tell me several things about contentment. (1) Contentment is a process. It doesn’t just happen; it isn’t learned overnight. Each day you can learn a little more about how to be content, but along the way there are tests so you can gauge whether or not you are learning.

(2) Contentment is independent of circumstance. Paul wrote some of his most joyous words from the confinement of a prison cell. Settle this once and for all: you don’t have to have more to be happy. “Now 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.” 1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV.

(3) Contentment accepts the rhythms of life. There will be times when you have more and times when you have less. Both are valuable. In times of plenty, you learn to be thankful and share; in times of less, you learn to trust and appreciate.

(4) Contentment is confidence in God’s provision. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength . . and My God will supply all (my) needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:13/19 NIV. With God, you will always have enough; enjoy all God provides and be thankful to Him and others.

My prayer for you today is: let living better, rather than having more, be your goal in life.

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