“THE ART OF CONTENTMENT” By Pastor YAU
Text: Philippians 4:10-13
1) The words of Job: At the pit of the losses suffered by one of the most righteous men on earth, Job’s wife mocked him, “Are you still holding on your integrity? Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) The answer Job gave to his wife is a wise advice for thousands of people in thousands of years. “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10) Life is a combination of gains and losses. What Job said has been mostly quoted to comfort those who suffer losses. God has a way to bless us with abundance. He also has a way to take away His blessings. In whatever case, we are to be content.
2) The words of John: Not John in the Bible but John MacArthur. In his commentary on Philippians, he said, “Contentment is a highly prized but elusive virtue. Though it comes only from being rightly related to God and trusting His sovereign, loving, purposeful providence, people nevertheless seek it where it cannot be found--in money, possessions, power, prestige, jobs, relationships and freedom from troubles. But by definition, contentment is unattainable, for it is impossible in this fallen world to be completely free from troubles.” (p. 296)
CONTENTMENT IN THE BIBLE: Too many to list.
1) Contentment over debts: “Be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:14) Living within means is a golden principle taught through out history. When a soldier asked Jesus what did he need to do to be saved, the quote above was his answer: be happy to live within your wages. Today, we are being pushed by the culture, merchants and the peer to live way beyond our financial means. People are not happy with what they have and borrow so much to buy things they can’t afford. That’s why so many are in debt for life. It triggered the housing market and economy slum.
2) Contentment over crimes: “Don’t collect any more than you are required to. Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely.” (Luke 3:13-14) Corruption, extortion, false accusation have been used mostly by those who holds power over the common people, the tax collectors and soldiers at the time of Jesus. When people in power are not happy with what they have and want more, they resort in committing crimes to meet their hearts’ desires. We have witnessed high officials in government and business convicted of such crimes because they were not content with what they already have.
3) Contentment over greed: “If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8)Greed is the reason Eve and Adam rebelled against God: they were not happy with what God had provided and wanted more. Food and clothing here refers to daily life needs. The evil nature of greed had caused countless people stumbled into long term agony and even destruction: marriage, family, reputation and even life. As Paul said, “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it” in 1 Timothy 6:7, greed and the results of it never serves any meaningful purpose.
4) Contentment over losses: Paul was even “well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecution, with difficulties, for Christ’s sack (2 Corinthians 12:10), because he knew that the “godliness” produced by those trials “actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (1 Timothy 6:6) This is about being content in difficult times. God allows us to go through many trials for the purpose of giving us the spiritual great gain if we are content in those conditions. This may be the most important contentment of all: no panic, no fear and no complaint but great gain from God.
WAYS TO BUILD CONTENTMENT: (Philippians 4:10-13) How do you know if you are truly contented? Here is an example of a contented man, Paul. A truly contented man . . . .
1) Is confident in God’s providence: “I greatly rejoiced in the Lord that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.” (Philippians 4:10) Ten years had passed since Paul ministered in Philippi had resulted in the founding of the church in that city. Since then, the Philippians had been generous in supporting Paul’s missionary endeavor. For unknown reason, that support had been suspended for a number of years. But when Paul was in desperate time of needs, they resumed their support. God always knows when, where and what our needs are and will provide all our needs in a timely way.
2) Is satisfied in all circumstances: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.” (4:11)Most of us will be content when all our needs and wants are met. We are discontent because some of our wants are not met. A truly content person will not set his own agenda, criteria to measure if he is content. He will be content in whatever situation because of his faith in the providential God: if this is what God has provided, I am going to be happy in it. His basis for contentment is not on the circumstance but on God.
3) Is not focus on material things: “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled or going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering needs. (4:12)All six term describing his circumstances refer to material things of this world, earthly needs of this life. Throughout Paul’s life, he has been in many different circumstances, some are less adequate than others. The secret of his contentment is that he didn’t focus on earthly substance for contentment. The focus of his life is not how to sweep across the world to get whatever he can get. Rather, his focus was to go through the world and bring souls upward to heaven. He said, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
4) Is strengthened by divine power: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (4:13)This is one of the few Bible verses used and quoted millions of time in sermons, testimonies and literature and music. Facing needs, poverty and uncertain circumstances, Paul did not collapse nor stricken down. Instead he grew stronger in his faith and conviction that God is the only one who provides, protects and prospers his servant so he can do all things in all kinds of circumstances. His power was never from earthly abundance, but from the abundance of God. The power to stay contented is not from the nature of man. It is the divine power of God that sustains man to be contented.
1) It is a matter of choice: Although the evil human nature will push men to be discontented and greedy, it is still the decision of the person to control or curb the desires and get him into the pit of sorrow when his wants are not met. Greed is like temptation, we all face it, but we don’t have to submit to it. Exercise our inner power from God to counter the carnal nature and allow God to be the center of your life is the key.
2) This world is not home: We all will leave this world sooner or later. All that we have accumulated will render useless without much value—junk to others. We should not live our lives only for ourselves. Look around your church, community and the world. So many people do not have the basic necessities for survival. They need your help to go through a day. Give to the needs of these people. Feed them, clothe them, shelter them, buy them books, water, food, shoes, etc. Someday you may see one of these people in heaven, calling your name and thank you for what you have given.
3) Adopt a new standard: This world pushes us: more is better. But more of what? Certainly not material possessions. We need more love, more forgiveness, more generosity, more friendship and more sharing. Start to build a new direction and purpose of life today. When you are ready to leave, you won’t regret that.