Friday, March 30, 2012

Keys To Unlock Contentment

Bible Reading: Phil. 4:10-13, 19; 2Cor.4:18, 12:9-10; 1Tim.6:10; Matt.6:31-33; John 10:10; 
1. Introduction:
An American dad wrote, “When our children go to McDonald’s Restaurant, they always want the same thing. They don’t want food, but the prize. The prize may be worth only 10 cents, but getting it is all that matters. MacDonald’s calls it the ‘Happy Meal.’

You are not just buying French fries, McNuggets, and a dinosaur stamp, you’re buying happiness. Their advertisements convince children that their hearts are restless till they find their rest in a ‘Happy Meal!’ But the ‘happy’ in a ‘Happy Meal’ wears off. It’s an illusion. You would think a child would catch on, but it doesn’t happen. When the excitement wears off, they need a new fix another ‘Happy Meal” (John Ortberg, Christianity Today, May 17, 1993).

When we get older, our “Happy Meal” simply gets more expensive. We forget that contentment is not instant. People say, “If you could only win the lottery!”  But winners and wealthy alike tell you that winning – be it money or a job or a spouse – doesn’t bring contentment. Contentment is a learned attitude (v.11), not fulfilling our desires. For desires, once fed, tend to grow on us. Contentment is learning independence from circumstances versus finding ideal circumstances. In Philippians, Paul learned this, and now he shares his “keys” to contentment.

2. Avoid Comparisons:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances,”(v.11). Our tendency is to look around and compare our circumstances to others. Comparing self to others always brings discontent. Why? Have you ever gone to a “Street of Dreams” where they have model homes, and then gone home to your suddenly terrible “shack”? Have you ever spent $ 500 fixing up your car, only to see a new one in your neighbor’s drive? Have you been treated respectfully at work, only to come home to a spouse who puts you down? Have you worked hard all week, and then had sick children, and Sunday morning finds you, “frazzled and frumpy” sitting next to “Miss Beauty Queen” with perfect hair and a happy mood?

The comparison game is the pits, for you can always find someone who makes more money, who has greater opportunities, who has fewer problems, and who gets more breaks. If you are “learning to be content regardless” that should not affect your happiness. Paul says, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor.4:18). Paul looks up, not around; he refuses to waste energy making comparisons. There are 3 misconceptions about happiness:-

2.1. You Must Have What Others Have, To Be Happy: Children say, “But, Mom, everybody has one of these.” This is the myth behind all fads and fashions.

2.2. I Must Be Liked By Everyone, To Be Happy: Not so people who march to a different beat are often more content. It is not the number of people who like you that is the key issue. Rather, does God like what you are doing and do you like yourself?

2.3. Having More Will Make Me Happy: if this were true, the billionaires would be the happiest people in the world. In fact, statistics show that the wealthiest people have as many more problems and brokenness than poorer people, not fewer.

Someone asked Billionaire Howard Hughes, “How much money does it take to make you happy?” He answered, “Just a little bit more.” Paul taught that, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1Tim.6:10). Comparison to others makes us want what others have. It is always counterproductive. Stop comparing!

3. Adjust To Change:
I know what is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…, well fed or hungry… in plenty or in want” (v.12). Life is often a series of shifts from one situation to its opposite – a movement from being up to being down- physically, emotionally, financially, relationally, and mentally. Dealing with the swing – adjusting to change – brings contentment. Learning to adapt and flex makes life relatively content. Paul wrote during his house arrest, “I am acquainted with all circumstances” (v.12, NBV), and he had learned to be independent of them. Paul’s attitude was, “I choose not to be a victim. No matter what people do to me, they are not going to control my life.”

A boy was kidnapped in California as a four-year-old and raised by the woman who did it. She taught him, “I am your mother.” Upon finding his real family at 18, he said, “I am choosing not to think about the negatives of the past. I am being positive and moving on. I am not going to let my past cripple me now.” People ask, “How are you?” We commonly say, “Pretty well, under the circumstances.”

Someone wisely retorted, “What are you doing under them? Christians should resist getting ‘under’ the circumstances.” Absolutely true!  There are 3 kinds of circumstances :- (1). Ones I can control and do, (i.e. If I’m hungry, I eat; if I am cold, I put on sweater); (2). Ones I can control and do not (perhaps because of complacency or laziness); and (3). Ones I cannot control (when things are out of our hands). We need contentment to relax and trust God.

4. Draw on Christ’s Power:
“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength”(v.13). The contented person has learned to draw on Christ’s power. This is not automatic. With Christ’s help, you can learn to handle life. If you are depending on your own strength, you get tired. Life wears you out.

What is it that you need to control in your life? Time? Mouth? Temper? A bad habit? “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength” (v.13, JB). By faith and by prayer, Jesus brings self-control that allows you to stand up to life. Adjust to the unexpected changes that life throws at us through the power of Christ at work in us; this is contentment.

5. Trust God To Meet Your Needs:
“God will meet all your needs according to his… richess”(v.19). God is willing to do much. Learn the biblical promises and appropriate them by faith. Rest in them. Do you remember Matt.6:31-33? “Do not worry... What shall we eat… drink… wear?... pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus says, “If you are unhappy and unsatisfied, it is because you are not seeking the Kingdom as a first priority.”

We often seek fulfillment in all the wrong places, running from this to that, looking for something to satisfy. We run from relationship to relationship, looking for love and security. We run from job to job and from hobby to sport to recreation, looking in fads, in therapy, in seminars, looking for the “key.”

God has laid it out clearly. You are made with a vacuum in your life, and nothing will fill that void except God. None of these commonly pursued things fill the void: possessions, people, pleasures, prestige, popularity. They don’t last. So, if you are discontented, it most likely means that Jesus Christ is not the center of your life. When you are not contented, it means you are probably looking to something else to satisfy. Jesus came to provide life, and life that is abundant (cf. John 10:10 KJV). But you have to learn to trust to become a contented person.

6. Summary & Conclusion:
What key do you need to learn? Avoiding Comparisons? Remember that it only makes you jealous, envies, prideful, miserable. It is faith in God that allows you to accept the difficult circumstances that come your way. Remember: difficulty does not mean you have been abandoned by God. In fact, it could mean that God is hard at work chiseling you into Christ’s image.

Adjusting to Change? Circumstances will be rarely perfect. Paul calls us to learn to be independent of circumstances. This means that when the low times come, our spirit will keep steady because we are anchored to the Lord. Life means change. Our task is not to resist change, but to put our hand in Christ’s and walk forcefully through it.

Drawing on Christ’s Power? By faith and prayer, we may rise above the hurts and losses of life. Face life through Christ, who is at work in us. It is a privilege of the redeemed. If we fall short of appropriating the resources, that’s our fault. When God says, “I have a spiritual warehouse full of ‘capability’ and ‘cope-ability,” we cannot blame Him if it sits there unused.

Trusting God to Meet Your Needs? Are you tired emotionally and spiritually? It probably is a sign that you need to quit trying to do all in your own power. Thus, God can infuse you with His power. Remember Paul’s insight that, “{His} power is perfected in {our} weakness” (2Cor.12:9, NASB, Weymouth). Let us confess our weakness so that, in Christ, we can become strong (12:10).

Contentment is our privilege. Contentment is only four basic steps away. These spiritual principles can be implemented by any Christian. Since this is the case, let us delay no longer.


Popular Posts