How Many Contented People Do You Know? 2/7/99

How Many Contented People Do You Know?
Do People Who Know You Know One?

Philippians 4:11-13
(Page 1718 Come Alive Bible)

JESUS CHRIST spoke often of qualities that produce contentment in life. He typified by His very life this desirable quality of contentment.

“WANT” is the word he used in the King James. It meant “need” or even “destitution” or “privation.” This need is described as being found in every circumstance possible. Paul described it as:

ABASED – ranked below another or to be brought low. Meager existence, humbling circumstances, or even abuse. Do you think it is hard to be content in such circumstances? Consider the other extreme.

ABOUND – to have more than abundance, to overflow. Some think it evil to have POSSESSION, POSITION, OR POWER. Some even suggest such assets should be given up or forsaken. It is much more challenging and demanding to have such, use it properly, and maintain a Christlike spirit than to give it up. In things GRAND and GRIEVOUS, Paul had contentment. These things often come in swift succession and thus further challenge contentment.

That is, those who have much and suddenly lose it are shocked. Those who suddenly obtain great wealth find themselves bewildered over how to control it without it controlling them.

In PROSPERITY and PRIVATION we can be content.

Our Lord may be laying at the door of the Christian community one of the greatest witnessing opportunities of our generation. Few things have caused broader concern and near panic than rumors circulating regarding the Y2K scare.

Attitudinal extremes exist regarding Y2K.
What is it?
I am sick and tired of hearing about it.
It will result in starvation, riots, anarchy, and martial law. It is God’s forthcoming judgement of America.

Can you be content in either case?

Members of the Christian community need at all times to be practical. It is always good to be prepared but never panicky. It is good to have reserves but not hoard. It is always good to have your house in order but not frightened.

Every household at all times should have an orderly file of hard copies of vital documents, such as, birth and marriage certificates, title deeds, bank balance, and inventory of items in a safety deposit box, etc.

Most folks keep a few days supply of food in the house. I say most because I went to the home of a former staff member who was having a party. He had misplaced something and asked me to look in the refrigerator to see if it was there. Upon opening the fridge I was amazed he didn’t know it wasn’t there. There was one item in the fridge —- a can of lighter fluid. Why lighter fluid?

With the approach of Y2K it would not be impractical to have a few extra days food on hand in the event there is a glitch that impacts for a few days.

There was a day when Y2K panic might have had a basis. About two years ago when the public first became aware of it things were far behind and looking gloomy. The concern expressed at that time was appropriate. Most of the panic of today is being fanned by data that is two or more years old. Much has been done to rectify that cause for concern. That extreme concern has motivated action to minimize the inconvenience.

Don’t pull yesterday’s clouds over today’s sun.

Paul said he had “learned” to be content. Have we? Do we evidence our discontent? Have you noticed a variety of bumper stickers stating, “I’d rather be…”. We evidence that we believe contentment is found in these things and circumstances.

Incidentally, be careful what bumper sticker you use. A car stopped at a traffic light was rear ended. The two drivers got out and a heated argument resulted. One driver said, “I really felt like running into someone today to vent my frustrations, and your bumper sticker has given me the right to crash into your car.”

It read: “If it feels good, do it!”

The “I’d rather be…” bumper stickers indicate a desire to change our status.

There once was a canary and a goldfish who were very good friends. They lived close to each other. One hot summer day as they talked the goldfish heard the canary singing and said, “I wish I lived in such a nice open cage and could sing like you.” The canary said, “I wish I lived in such a nice bowl filled with cool water.” Suddenly, they were transposed – the fish to the cage and the canary to the bowl of water. That which they each thought would bring contentment immediately became life threatening.

There once was a boy who wanted a marble. When he got it he desired a ball. Upon receiving it he wished for a top. He then craved a kite. With none or all, was he content?

There once was an adult who wanted money. Upon getting it there was an immediate desire for a sports car. When it was obtained, a desire for land developed. Next a craving for a house became prominent. With none, came contentment.

Trying to find contentment through external things is like trying to carry water in a sieve. It does not come from externals. Can your thirst be satisfied more from drinking from a silver chalice or a paper cup?

What are the potential reactions to repressive circumstances?

A. BITTERNESS – Martha became bitter toward Mary because she sat the feet of Jesus and learned while she served.

B. DEPRESSION – The Psalmist (102:7) spoke of himself as being like “a sparrow upon the house top.” He felt isolated and depressed because of circumstances.

C. SELFISHNESS – Elijah has a victory over the 450 prophets of Balaal. He became selfish and complained he was the only one serving the Lord. The Lord had 7,000 other faithful servants.

A fourth response is possible. It is —

D. CONTENTMENT – The Greek word translated “content” is AUTARKES. It was a word meaning “to be entirely self-sufficient.”

Our self-sufficiency is to be found only in Christ’s sufficiency. Ancient Greek writers shared secular ways of having it.

One was to eliminate all desires. That is difficult. Contentment doesn’t come from possessing much but from controlling our desires.

A second way the ancients suggested of gaining contentment was to eliminate all emotions. Not a good idea.

For such persons love was rooted out of life and caring forbidden.

They suggested starting with a cup. Break it and say, “I don’t care!” Then move to a more valuable item and destroy it and say, “I don’t care!” Continue this process until you don’t care about anything. Then you are content. Not so. At that stage you are far from content you are indifferent and of all people most miserable. You have nothing of value, nothing for which to care.

It means self-sufficiency or self-sufficing, actually contained. It was a word used to describe a city needing no imports. In this light, contentment is seen to be an internal quality not dependent upon externals. Artificial pride, inordinate ambition, and gluttony rob us of contentment.

Critically some may think contentment robs us of ambition. NO, actually contentment enables us to struggle and achieve with composure. It is not intended to restrict our horizons. It is intended to enable us to live without our boundaries. The scripture speaks of some strong elements which rob us of contentment and gives advice how to respond.

Luke 3:14 – “…be content with your wages.”

I Tim. 6-10 (READ) “having food and raiment…”

Heb. 13:5 – “Be content with such things as ye have…”

Contentment comes from commitment to Christ and letting Him take away the cause of discontentment.

If you do not have Christ, the inward source and resource for contentment, you will never find it in people, places or things. There are only 5 senses, just 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour. Sooner or later you will get to the end of your sensory and social pleasure. What then?

Christ knew this and therefore opened to us an entire world of spiritual challenges. It is an unlimited and fulfilling sphere.

NOTE: It has to be learned. Paul said, “I have learned…”

II Cor. 11: 24 – 27 (READ) describes the circumstances in which he learned contentment.

His tutor was the “God of peace.”

Contentment comes from commitment to Christ and letting Him take away the source of discontentment.
He then develops within us a sense of:

AWARENESS: “I know whom I have believed…”

I recently shared the assurance contained in Hebrews 13:5 which literally means: “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you.” I did it in relating a frightening flight experience.

Incidentally, as we prayed those ninety minutes on our way back to Honolulu I kept my face to the window looking out. By the light of the moon I could see the clouds and watched as they either got higher or we got lower. I was hoping it was because we were lower remembering Christ said, “Low I am with you always…”

Flying is one of the greatest thrills known to humanity, but it comes in a far second to the thrill of landing.

A white knuckled friend said after that, “We are about to go on a long flight and I thought ‘I don’t need to hear about a frightening flight.’” Then she said, “Yes, that is exactly what I need to hear. Even in times of fright we can rejoice in the fact He said, “‘I will never, no not ever, no never leave you.’”

That gives contentment.

CONFIDENCE: “Cast your burden upon the Lord.”

Job records this encouragement: “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace” (Job 22:21).

DILIGENCE: “Be diligent in business” (I Cor. 7:21).

SUBMISSION: “Thy will be done”
“Everywhere and in all things.”

With confidence born out of experience the Psalmist encourages us to “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him, fret not…”

The Scottish people are often heard to say of a person who does not have contentment, “E’s a blooming fret…”

HOW and WHY did he have contentment?
A. He could accept all things (vs. 11),
“I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.
“I have learned to make ends meet regardless of what situation I am in.”
We are independent upon external circumstances because of being dependent on Christ in all circumstances.

B. He could do all things (vs. 13),
“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ.”
The word translated “content” was used to describe a city needing no imports. With Christ we are all sufficient. We have stored the resource for all circumstances.

C. He had all things (vs. 18), “I have all, and abound.”