A few years ago I was sitting in a college Human Development class with one of my kids. I was surprised to observe students browsing Facebook and other social media. The gal in front of me spent the time on Pinterest looking at boots. It reminded me of how we as people have a tendency to be always looking for something new or better. We have fallen for the deception that external stuff produces contentment. The Bible reminds us that “contentment” is found in the heart and is independent from stuff and circumstances.
We have been focusing on what the Bible has to teach up over the last several Sundays. The key verse for these messages is Paul saying, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11b) We are reminded that contentment is a process. It is an aspect of our lives that requires growth. So then, what type of practices will help us to grow in contentment?
So how do you know if you are struggling with contentment? One easy test is to complete the following statement. “I would be happy if only (fill in the blank!) It may be that you have dreams of winning the lottery. It could be that you are hoping for a different spouse, or better kids. It might even be that you are dreaming about some vacation to get you away. Or it could be a substance or alcohol to make you feel better. These are all indicators that you are discontent with life. What you have failed to grasp is that what is broken is your heart, not your circumstances. This means that contentment can only be found in a heart that is right with God. The apostle Paul put it this way, “But godliness with contentment is great gain,” (1 Timothy 6:6)
Thomas Watson in his book, “The Art of Divine Contentment” offers 18 rules (or practices) for developing contentment. It is really a recipe for healing our heart. We only have time to look at one, but I address a total of six in my message from Sunday that can be found here. The first and most important rule focuses on our relationship with God. Watson calls it “Advance Faith.” He is speaking on the need for a growing relationship with the Creator. Just like any living organism, a faith that is not growing is dying. If we take the time to look at contentment we learn that it is based upon our trust, or faith, in God. It is that lack of trust, the inability to see God’s hand at work or the inability to hold onto his promises, that tempt us to look for satisfaction elsewhere. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of Faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Now it is this faith that allows us to be confident when life is not meeting our expectations by calling us to trust God. That is why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Philippians 4:11b)
So has your life left you disillusioned, discouraged or unsatisfied? I would not be surprised if your relationship with God is lacking. The solution begins with getting back into God’s Word. You need to start reading your Bible. It continues with making church attendance a priority. This is something special and powerful when God’s people participate in worship together. We have also found that getting involved in a ministry and serving others brings us back to what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson