ˇ°HAPPINESS IS CONTENTMENTˇ± By Pastor Yau
Text: Philippians 4:10-13 January 26, 2014.
1) The feeling of discontentment: Many people, if not most, feel unhappy with their lives. They are unhappy with their environment, their life, their jobs. Many people are not happy with their financial condition, their boss and colleagues. Students are not happy with their schools, teachers, some class-mates. Some are unhappy with their house, their neighbors or friends. Many of them want better living condition, better job and higher pay, more opportunity to advance their dreams. Some of these people want better cars, more money, bigger house, brighter future. These people live in constant unhappy feeling of discontentment. They feel stressful, irritating, cranky and even angry. Life is a burden if not a mess to them.
2) The definition of discontentment: The root word of discontentment is ˇ°contentˇ± which means: ˇ°to carry on, to fulfill, to satisfy.ˇ± When ˇ°disˇ± is added as a ˇ°prefixˇ±, it means: ˇ°not to carry on, not fulfilled, not satisfied.ˇ± There are two major aspects in discontentment: the quantitative and the qualitative. The quantitative demands ˇ°moreˇ± while the qualitative demands ˇ°better.ˇ± Most of the quantitative side related to material aspects from the most basic needs to the luxury. Qualitative side is closely related to emotion and feelings. It is a little easier to satisfy the quantitative than the qualitative. Usually the human heart or feeling is hard to define, measure or fill to the brim. Most people have a better idea on their quantitative or material needs, but they are unsure of their emotional needs.
GETTING TO KNOW CONTENTMENT:
1) Contentment is about feeling: Most people can't pinpoint what or how much it takes to make them content. The problem is when they get what they at first think will make them happy, they won't be happy or content any more. This is so because contentment is in the heart, the feeling, it has little to do with things on the outside. That is why few people are truly content with what they have. Even they don't tell you how they feel about what they have, there is always room in their hearts they can have more or better. Feeling of content is from the heart, not from anything or anyone on the outside. That is why we see most people crave for more without end.
2) Contentment is not born: ˇ°For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.ˇ± (4:11) Most theologians agree that greed or discontentment is a sin of the fallen human nature all the way to Eve in Genesis 3:6. We were born with that corrupted nature in our life and we express it since our child-hood in the nursery. This sinful nature is the root of many human tragedy and social problems in family, at work and in the society. Many people learn contentment in difficult times like Paul said here in Philippians. Rich people, particularly kids from rich family, never learn to be content with what they have. So you need to be thankful if you are from a background of having less because that background may help you learn contentment better.
3) Contentment is never final: Contentment is something relative in degrees and or in different things at different times. No human heart is totally content in all things at all times. Contentment is not about what we have or need, it is about what we want, so, it is never final. What we need is easier to meet, but no one may meet what we want, not even in our own hearts. We may be content in one thing, but not in all things. A human heart is a black hole that no one knows how much it takes to fill it up. This is a sin in our life we need to fight all the times.
IT HURTS TO BE DISCONTENT:
1) Stops you from enjoy life: No one may have all he wants, no one. So, if you are unhappy with what you have feeling discontent, chances are you can't enjoy fully what you already have. It is a terrible life to live when you are unable to have all you want and can't enjoy what you have. If life is like a trip to somewhere, what a waste of time if you can't enjoy the journey by being impatient of the ride, can't wait to get to the destination.
2) Encourages the blame game: Most of those who are unhappy of their life fall into blaming others for their misfortune. They start blaming God, others and then themselves. They will blame God and others of being unfair or unhelpful to their pursuit, unloving or even becoming stumbling blocks to their goals of life. An unhappy heart can only further hurting relationships with others at home, at school or in work place, then the church.
3) It short-circuits your output: Most people who are unhappy with their life can't or won't do their best to improve the situation. All they think or want is a new way to get out, get change. This is true in jobs and marriage. People who are unhappy with their job won't put in their utmost efforts in their work. If you are unhappy with your marriage, chances are you are thinking more on how to get out instead of how to improve and make things work. This certainly will hasten things to the exit door to end the marriage.
4) It hampers your intelligence: We all were born with certain degrees of intelligence which is necessary to make sound judgment and decision. But when we are unhappy with our present condition, we lose the edge of that God-given ability to make sound decisions to improve our conditions. Steps we take are mostly either irrelevant, negative or outright damaging. When we are feeling bad about life, we mostly act on emotion, not on intelligence.
5) It may endanger your life: Some of these discontent people may take steps to change their life that could endanger their life in the future. People who are discontent with their job may do dumb thing at work. Those who wants more money may steal, rob, gamble or do something illegal to make money. Those who are unhappy with their marriages may engage in illicit relationships that eventually will ruin their family. There is always danger in the mind of those who are discontent with their present situation. Many lives were destroyed, laws were broken, families and children suffer the consequences in the hands of those who are never happy with what they have.
LIVING IN REAL CONTENTMENT:
1) Setting correct life perspective: ˇ°But whatever to my profit (before) I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things.ˇ± (Phil 3:7-8) How things or people are measured as important or unimportant depends largely on the perspective we set on them. When we change our perspective on things or people, their value change as well. If we set our perspective from this world, we will see things in this world as important; if we set our perspective in Jesus, we will see things from that of Jesus. True contentment comes from knowing the love of God and the joy in Christ as Paul did. Christians suppose to have perspective of life from God, not from this world.
2) Trusting God with all our needs: ˇ°Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will bed giving to you as well.ˇ± (Matthew 6:33) This is about committing our needs to God and trusting his good will and power to provide. We need to trust God's goodness that he will provide us all our needs. We also need to trust God knows our needs and is willing and happy to meet them. How much do we trust ourselves than trust God is the key to life in contentment. If we can trust God with our souls, why can't we trust him with our needs.
3) Doing our best here and now: ˇ°Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.ˇ± (Matt 6:34) Jesus suggests that we let God worry about our needs for tomorrow and concentrate on doing our duties the best we know how today. Many people spend so much time and energy worrying about tomorrow and feel bad about what they have today. No one knows what God may do for us tomorrow, so, it is unwise to feel sad and bad today. Instead, we should do all we can today on whatever God allows us to have, then sit back, relax have confidence on what God can do for us tomorrow.
4) Never compare with others: ˇ°When Peter saw him (John) he asked: Lord what about him? Jesus answered: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.ˇ± (John 21:21-22) After Peter heard what Jesus told him of his future life, he wanted to know about the future life of John, but Jesus stopped him from making any comparison. What the Lord may do with the lives of others is none of our business: whether it is more or less, higher or lower, richer or poorer, is not for us to know. Big part of feeling discontent is when we compare what we have, who we are with others and what they have. Particularly when we compare to those who are higher, have more, that certainly makes us feel so bad. Compare with others can only make us jealous, complain and unhappy.
5) We can do all things through him: ˇ°I can do all things through him who gives me strength.ˇ± (Phil 4:13) First we need to acknowledge that God is the source of all strength we ever need for our life. So often, we are not that sure if ˇ°I plus Godˇ± is enough for our life. The power of a content life doesn't come from us or others, but from the Lord. The things that may make life content is all in the Lord. All people and things in this world will change or disappear. Only God and his power is forever. When we place our contentment in the Lord, nothing may bring us down to make us unhappy.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) Seeking the great gain: ˇ°But godliness with contentment is great gain.ˇ± (1 Timothy 6:6) Many people look for great gain in this world to feel content in life, but God wants us to know that there is more than things in this world to consider as great gain and that is ˇ°godliness.ˇ± Godliness, or like God should be the primary goal for the lives of God's children. We are to live our lives as God loves to see in us. We are to grow spiritual character as God's children so we may show others to know God and be saved in his grace. To all Christians life isn't all about what we want or have, it should be about what God wants us to do or to be.
2) Beware of death traps: ˇ°People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many harmful and foolish desires that plunge then into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.ˇ± (1 Timothy 6:9-10) The Bible is very clear on the danger of greed of money or material riches. Both in the Bible and in the real world, we see read and know many sad stories of Christians falling away from their faith in God and suffer terrible consequences in their lives. I want all of you to see the danger of being discontent and the temptation of trying to covet things that God doesn't plan to give you.