Sunday, August 14, 2016

Called to Contentment

Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

On several occasions I have shared the ancient Roman proverb, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”

What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already have. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled or even exceeded.

These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they focus on our circumstances – if I only had more money; a nicer car; a newer phone; a bigger house; a larger budget. Sometimes they focus on our relationships. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us content.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated our circumstances as He sees fit? Has God promised in Christ to sustain me in the midst of every circumstance? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, and since the God we serve is the same God of love who has revealed Himself in Christ, ought we not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given them to us and promises to sustain us in them.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.