Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment?

Our society breeds discontentment. Think about it. Every day we are bombarded with messages that tell us if we want to be happy we need more things, fewer wrinkles, better vacations, and fewer troubles. The result of being hit with these messages day in and day out is that we find ourselves discontent in our jobs, marriages, churches, homes, friendships, and with our possessions. Our continual discontentment shouldn’t shock us. Being content isn’t something that comes naturally. Instead, contentment is something that is learned. Paul says in Philippians 4:11,

For I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” (Phil. 4:11)

According to Hebrews 13:5, it is a response that all Christians must learn, not just apostles, pastors, or super christians.

Learning contentment is not an easy process. Since we naturally gravitate towards discontentment, it takes work. Even so, we must put in the work. We must do that, first, because we are commanded to do so. I, however, know commands aren’t always the best motivators, so besides the fact that we are commanded to be content, what are some other reasons we should work to learn contentment?

Why Should We Work to Learn Contentment?

(1) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves enslaved

Think about the person who wants to be the head of the office, which in and of itself is not a bad thing. Yet, this person is seeking that position because of the prestige, power, and money it affords. What happens to that guy? Inevitably he is going to start working longer hours and taking on a heavier workload, in order to try and prove he is the man for the job.

The downside, however, to taking on more work and longer hours is that he ends up neglecting his family, his church, and his health. Even though his family is constantly after him for more attention. His church consistently tells him they miss him. And his doctor keeps telling him to cut back on his work and get some exercise, he keeps going.

Why does he keep pushing despite the drawbacks, consequences, and broken relationships? He does it because he is enslaved to the process of getting to the top; of acquiring a certain level of prestige, power, and money he believes will ultimately give him what he desires. His enslavement started because he wasn’t content with what the Lord had given him, nor was he content with waiting on the Lord’s timing.

So we see that when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us we may find ourselves enslaved, which has the very real potential of ruining relationships, our health, and even our life.

(2) When we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves destroyed

Take Bernie Madoff for instance. In 2008, his world of fame and fortune came crashing down when he was arrested for running the biggest Ponzi Scheme in history.

Bernie’s scheme all started because he wasn’t content with what he had. Instead of putting in the time and effort like everyone else, he decided to make sure his investments provided the returns necessary to elevate his lifestyle. Through an elaborately calculated and meticulously controlled Ponzi scheme, he was able to create the life he desired.

Bernie’s scheme worked for almost 20 years. During that time, I am sure he thought he would never be caught, but the law finally caught up with him. When it did, the life and empire he had built through his elaborate deception were destroyed. His empire came crashing down so hard that even one of his own kids was driven to suicide because he couldn’t handle the shame, pressure, and media attention Bernie brought on his family.

So we see when we aren’t content with what the Lord has given us, we may find ourselves, like Madoff, with our world destroyed as it all comes crashing down around us.

(3) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to worship Him

In Genesis 14, after Abraham defeats King Chedorlaomer and his alliance. He brings back his nephew Lot and all that King Chedorlaomer took from Sodom. Before Abraham meets with the King of Sodom, he has an encounter with the King of Salem – Melchizedek.

When Abraham meets with Melchizedek, we see that…

“…he [Melchizedek] blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”” (Ge 14:19-20b)

Through Melchizedek’s blessing Abraham is reminded that God is the One who has given him the victory. God is the reason he won the battle and was able to bring Lot, his family, and all the people of Sodom back.

Realizing God’s hand in the matter, Abraham is driven to worship the Lord, which he does by giving a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God (Ge. 14:20).

“Tithing” is a universal sign of worship. It is a way for us give thanks to God for all He has given us and all He has done for us. As well as it is a way for us to show our trust and dependence on God. When you tithe, then, you aren’t just giving money to the church, you are actually worshipping God.

Sadly, however, tithing is a neglected form of worship. The Barna Group, a research firm, estimates that only 5-20 percent of people tithe in a typical congregation. They found that among non-tithing Christians who struggle to give, 38 percent say it’s because they can’t afford it, 33 percent say they have too much debt [1].

Now, I know that there are a few who are in a season of life where they may want to tithe, but can’t. They are working towards it, but things have happened — maybe they recently lost their job — which has hindered their ability to tithe for a season. The majority of people, however, who don’t tithe aren’t in that season. Instead, the majority of people who don’t tithe fit into the categories the Barna group highlighted. They can’t afford it because they are living outside their means, or they have too much debt because they are trying to keep up with the Jones’. Living outside your means or in ever increasing debt is not only unwise, it also reveals something about your heart. You are discontent with what the Lord had given you, and your discontentment has hinder your ability to worship God.

One of the secrets, then, to being able to consistently worship God by tithing is to be content with what the Lord has given you. Abraham was content, which is why he was able to give a tenth of the spoils of war to Melchizedek as a tithe. He could have kept it back, but he didn’t. Instead, he used it to worship the Lord.

So we see that when we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are set free to worship God through giving, not only of our money but ourselves.

(4) When we are content with what the Lord has given us, we are free to glorify Him.

In 1924, Eric Liddell entered the Olympic games. He was the favorite to win the 100 meter since he broke the British record in 1923. A record that stood for 35 years.

Liddell’s dream, however, of winning Olympic Gold was shattered when it was revealed that the 100m heats would fall on a Sunday. He was a devout Christian, who observed the Sabbath on Sunday, which meant participating in sports, even the Olympic games, was out of the question. Instead of running in a race he was sure to win, he spent the morning preaching in the Scots Church in Paris.

Why was he able to preach instead of run? He was able to give up a chance at the Gold because he was content with what the Lord had given him. His contentment freed him to seek God’s glory instead of his own.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you content? If not, in what areas do you need to learn contentment?
  2. What are some other reasons we should work to learn to contentment?

Resources

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Post adapted from my sermon “Why Should We Seek Contentment?“, which you can listen to here.

[1] http://www.christianpost.com/news/study-christians-who-tithe-have-healthier-finances-than-those-who-dont-95959/

 

 

 

Respectable Sins: Discontentment | Part 3

How do you deal with sinful discontentment? Are you ambivalent, not caring one way or the other? Do you even view it as a sin? Are you willing to seek ways to kill discontentment in your life?

In my last post in this series, we began to deal with sinful discontentment. Today, I will offer a few ways we can kill sinful discontentment in our lives. As well as I will provide you with some specific scriptures to memorize and questions to ask yourself. Let’s get started by asking the question:

How Do We Deal with Sinful Discontentment?

We can deal with sinful discontentment through:

  • Prayer – We have to ask God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to reveal to us areas in which we are discontent. As well as we have to ask Him, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to cause us to trust in His wisdom and sovereign plan.
  • Scripture Meditation and Memory – We need to meditate on and memorize specific scriptures, so that we can educate and remind ourselves that we should not be dissatisfied with our circumstances, finances, and possessions.
  • Acceptance and Trust – We must accept our circumstances, our finances and possessions, trusting that God, in His unerring plan and love, knows what is best for us and has purposed what is best for us. When we trust and accept our position in life, we can then ask God to let us use whatever has happened to us for His glory.
  • Purpose – We have to remember that our purpose in life is not for our glory. Our purpose in life is to bring God glory. Reminding ourselves our life is for God’s glory will help us to view and face even the most adverse circumstances with joy. The apostle Paul had this singular focus in life. It allowed him to rejoice while imprisoned and facing a trial that could lead to his execution (Phil. 1:12-26).

Scripture to Memorize

Hebrews 13:5-6; Luke 3:14; 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Philippians 4:10-13; Psalm 139:16

Questions for Reflection

  1. In the past what have you done when you found yourself discontent? In other words, how did you work through the situation?
  2. How might you handle the situation now?
  3. Do you believe your purpose in life is to bring glory to God? How might viewing this as your purpose in life change how you look at your circumstances?
  4. Can you think of any biblical examples of those whose sole purpose in life was to bring glory to God?

Resources

Post adapted from: Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins71-77.

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Respectable Sins: Discontentment | Part 2

Are you discontent with your possessions and money? Does your current circumstances cause you to be unhappy and unsatisfied? If so, you may be sinning.

In my last post in this series, I defined discontentment and gave a few areas where it is healthy to be discontent. Today, we turn our attention to sinful discontentment.

Why We Need to Deal with Sinful Discontentment

When we are sinfully discontent, we show that we do not believe God to be all wise, nor do we accept God’s sovereign control over our lives.

We also show that our thinking about our purpose in life is flawed. Instead of viewing our purpose in life as to bring glory to God, we believe life is about our glory. When a lack of finances, possessions, or difficult life circumstances do not work to bring us glory, then we become discontent.

These things are major issues. Issues that must be dealt with. For if they are not, they not only result in a rejection of God’s wisdom and sovereignty, along with a continued flawed view of our purpose in life, they also can lead to other sins such as resentment or bitterness.

Areas of Sinful Discontentment

(1) Money and Possessions – When we are unsatisfied or unhappy with our money or possessions, we are sinfully discontent.

The reason we are discontent in this area is because we have a desire for more. A constant desire for more reveals that our money or possessions have taken the place of God in our lives. When this happens, we no longer find our acceptance, comfort, joy, protection, and peace in God. Rather, we find it in our possessions and money, which is a problem and something we need to take action against.

Scripture

When discontentment in our finances and possessions surface, we need to remind ourselves of the truths of Scripture. Here are just a few passages to meditate on:

Hebrews 13:5-6

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

We Learn

We are not to trust in our money or possessions. Rather, we are to trust in the Lord for He alone is our helper.

Luke 3:14

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

We Learn 

We are to be content with our wages, and we are not to extort others by threats or false accusations if we believe our wages are not enough.

Luke 12:15

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

We Learn

There is more to life than the possessions we own. The parable that follows in vs 16-21 teaches us that it is ultimately our soul that we should be concerned about.

1 Timothy 6:6-10

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

We Learn

Contentment is great gain. Knowing that we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing with us, should cause us to look at our possessions and money differently. Paul tells us that food and clothing is all we need, and we should be content with those things. As well as we learn that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.

(2) Circumstances – When our circumstances are not what we expect, we can become discontent.

In his book Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges provides a list of possible circumstances that might cause us discontentment. Here is what he says:

  • An unfulfilling or low-paying job
  • Singleness well into midlife or beyond
  • Inability to bear children
  • An unhappy marriage
  • Physical disabilities
  • Continual poor health [1]

While this list is not exhaustive, it should be enough to get you thinking about the circumstances in your life that could lead to discontent.

When we are not content in our life circumstances, we show that we do not trust in God’s unerring sovereignty. And that is not ok, because we are rejecting God’s rule over our lives.

Scripture

The best way to deal with circumstantial discontentment is to remind ourselves of the truths of Scripture. Here are just a few passages to meditate on:

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

We Learn

Our current circumstances do not occur outside of God’s will and control, which should cause us to give thanks, knowing that somehow He will use even the most difficult circumstances to sanctify us, build our trust in Him, and to bring glory to His name.

Philippians 4:10-13

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

We Learn

The secret to contentment lies in trusting God, knowing He will provide for us and strengthen us to face every situation.

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

We Learn

God has ordained all our days for us, and nothing happens outside of His will, knowing that should provide us with comfort. Even though we may not understand how God is using our current circumstances, we can rest assured that they are apart of His overall plan for our lives.

Commenting on this verse Jerry Bridges says,

God does nothing, or allows nothing, without a purpose. And His purposes, however mysterious and inscrutable they may be to us, are always for His glory and our ultimate good” [2].

So no matter what we are facing, whether it be unhappiness about our looks, or our job, we should find rest in the fact that God is in control. He has knit us together in our mother’s womb, ordaining our days for us.

Looking Forward

In my next post in this series, I will offer a few ways we can deal with sinful discontentment. Until then, meditate on the Scripture above and ask yourselves the questions below.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you currently discontent about your finances, possessions, or life circumstances?
  2. Do you believe the things you are discontent about have taken the place of God in your life?
  3. Do you believe God is all wise and loving?
  4. Do you believe God is completely and unerringly sovereign over your life?

Resources

[1] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, 71-72.
[2] Ibid., 74

Post adapted from: Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins71-77.

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