Contentment

by PastorErick | 3/13/17, 11:58 AM

[11]......for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] 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.

- Philippians 4:11b-12

I so wish I could say the above statement was true about me. But if I'm honest, when I survey my life I don't exude much contentment. I'm not proud of it, I'm just acknowledging it. For example, yesterday on our way to church (we're worshiping at Redeemer Downtown until we start meeting weekly for services) I was the polar opposite of contentment. We were running late and the kids were hard to get out the door. I was getting more and more irritated because I really don't like being late. I'm grumpily raising my voice at them to "hurry up" and "stop messing around!" On our way to church we stop in at Dunkin Donuts to get a little breakfast for the kids. There's a line. I'm standing there with a look of frustration on my face. I'm telling my wife every other second that we're gonna be late! They take forever to get our order out to us. By this time, it is a certainty we are going to be late and so I'm rushing my family around and complaining because we just cannot be late!!!

We end up arriving Right. On. Time.

And I am once again amazed at how easy it is for me to become a real jerk for basically no good reason. Eventually I grabbed Missy and apologized and during the worship service I repented of my sin to the Lord, trusting in His forgiveness won for me on the cross.

So, why do we find ourselves so often discontent?

Paul alludes to some reasons in the text above:

I. We think we have control

This is certainly the case for me and was most definitely the case yesterday. Rather than trusting that my time is ultimately not "my time" but the Lord's time, I try to live my life in control. The reality is we don't have real control over anything. Yes, I know we can make schedules and generally try to plan ahead, but ultimately we don't know what could happen from point A to point B on any given day. What the Scriptures tell us to do is to trust that our heavenly Father knows what we need and He will provide it (even if at the time it doesn't look like it). As James 4:13-15 says,

[13] Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—[14] yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [15] Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

II. We focus on our circumstances

I can't help but think of the story of Peter walking on the water. Jesus shows up yes, actually walking on the water and tells Peter he can do the same. At first, Peter does it! As he focuses his attention on Jesus, he is doing something quite impossible. But then, Peter begins to notice the waves and starts to sink. That is so often the case for us. Instead of looking to Jesus for our hope and peace and ability, we get distracted by the waves around us (our circumstances) and we lose contentment.

III. We believe we're entitled to ease and abundance

Generally speaking, if we find ourselves complaining all the time it's because we have bought into the cultural narrative to expect comfort at all times. But real life is not like this. Real life is messy. Most days there are real challenges and if we don't have an Anchor, a resource for dealing with the challenges than we'll often walk around feeling like victims.

So what does Paul say the secret is that can cause him to have real contentment in the midst of being "brought low" or "abounding"? He goes on in Philippians 4:13 to say this:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Yes I know, you've seen this verse used by everybody to talk about all manner of accomplishments. But in its context, it's really talking about how Paul remains content through challenges. The key is depending on Jesus. The key is recognizing that in it of yourself you're too weak, but your Savior is strong. So the next time you find yourself struggling with contentment, take a moment, acknowledge the problem and ask your Lord for help. He'll give you what you need to face the daily battles of life. And if you blow it (like I did yesterday), just come to your Savior admitting your fault, ask Him for forgiveness and be assured that He will bring contentment as you rest in Him.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Erick

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