The Content Life: Content in All Things

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastor’s here and it’s a pleasure to be able to speak with you today about Jesus.  We say that Journey is a church for people who are starting or restarting their spiritual Journey – and so wherever you might be in your faith Journey we are glad you are here.

We are committed to helping you discover the real Jesus, because we truly believe with all our heart that once you discover the real Jesus you will find him irresistible.  Because He is good and loving and present in your life.

Now sometimes people will hear me say something like that and they think – Phil – you better not oversell this Jesus thing.  I mean – life can get pretty hard.  Do you really want to say that God is good all the time?

Or every once in a while I will quote my favorite author who likes to say, That with Jesus as our shepherd – this world we live in is a perfectly safe world.  And the initial reaction to that statement is almost always an internal gasp – reflective response is to say – well how can that be – since bad things happen to good people all the time.  How can this world be a perfectly safe place to be, if we live in such a dangerous world?

Well, I want to talk about that very thing today.  Today is our third and last Sunday where we are devoting time to speak about how we might become the kind of people who live the content life.

Contentment – is something God desires for each of us – and always has.  From Moses and the ten commandments – the tenth commandment is – don’t be the kind of person who covets – don’t be the grass is greener on the other side of the fence type of person.

It is interesting when you look at the Ten Commandments – it speaks really about relationships.  And you can read them in Exodus 20 – the first four deal with having a healthy relationship with God.  Don’t worship anyone or anything above him.  Remember to take a day off once a week to and reflect on your spiritual life with God.

The next five deal with having a healthy relationship with other people.  Don’t steal, don’t murder, honor your fat her and mother, don’t commit adultery,  don’t tell lies about your neighbor.

But that tenth one is really about how we can have a healthy relationship with ourselves.  It’s the invisible one of the ten.

A ring doorbell will capture you stealing.  Shooting a mountain lion out of season on your front porch.   It will not capture an image of you coveting something.  Over-desiring something.  But learning to live a content life, is learning how to live at peace in this kind of world.

And that means being able to live at peace with yourself, even when things are going badly.  Even when circumstances are their worst.

Did you know you can live a content life, even when your world is falling apart all around you?  Did you know that you don’t have to give circumstances power over you – to dictate your inner peace?

Circumstances don’t necessarily have the power to drain you of the ability to live at peace, when the world around you is blowing up?

This is what we learn from the apostle Paul.  Paul was one of the most important leaders in the early church.  He was a man who had devoted his life to persecuting followers of Jesus, to becoming one of the first missionaries in the church – he met Jesus – had his life completely transformed, became a follower of Jesus, ended up starting churches all over places like Turkey and Greece and Rome, he ended up writing about 13 of the letters that became part of the New Testament.

But it wasn’t easy – in fact – by the time Paul writes what we are going to read in the book of Philippians – can I tell you some of the things Paul has had to live through?

He has been flogged – at least five times whipped with 39 lashes.  Three times beaten with rods by angry crowds.  Three times he was shipwrecked.  He was pelted with stones.  He writes that he has gone without food, without sleep, without proper clothing, without water.

He was imprisoned multiple times- in fact – what we are about to read was written while Paul was in prison awaiting a trial before Nero.

I mean – you would think that after all Paul has been to that this letter would be depressing.  A Letter from the Apostle Eeyore.  Hey everybody.  More bad news.  I’m in prison.  Ain’t got no friends. 

I don’t know man, the hundred acre woods – it’s kind of a messed up place.  Everyone there has got problems.  They are all messed up.  Winnie has an eating disorder.  Piglet has self esteem issues.  Tigger is a narcissist.   Christopher Robin thinks he can talk to animals.  Everyone has their issues – and maybe that’s the point.

How can we live a content life in the midst of our issues?  And here – though one might think Paul would be sad or depressed or sullen – instead Paul writes one of the most joyful books in the bible.  The letter to the Philippians is known as the book of Joy.

And as he closes his letter – he writes a note of thanks to the church in Philippi for caring for him while he was in prison- and let’s read what he writes, keeping in mind all of the garbage that Paul has had to live through.

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 

Now this last verse is often found on sports peoples eye black – Tim Tebow used to paint this verse on his eyeblack deal.  And sportsy people like to use this verse as motivation!  I can do this!  We can prevail we can win!  Go team Go!

But in the context – what Paul is saying is – I’ve learned to be content even when my team loses.  And even everything goes wrong – and I don’t appear victorious, I have learned how to be content.

So – what I’d like to try to do this morning is crack Paul’s secret.  Paul says he has learned the secret of being in content in every situation. 

First – thankfulness is a key to unlocking the secret of contentment.

The book of Philippians is a thank you letter.  Paul is thankful that the church has cared enough about him to send him some money – in those days you were in prison but you had to buy your own food and supplies.  The church is caring for Paul.

So Paul writes – just a few verses before what we’ve already read, Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.

Paul says – are you worried or anxious?  By the way – worry and anxiety about something is the opposite of contentment.  It’s the absence of peace.  And so Paul says – listen – there will come times in our lives that naturally will make us anxious – what are we to do then?

In situations that would naturally lead us to worry, Paul says, start with prayer.  Prayer is an intelligent conversation with God about matters of Mutual concern.

So pray about the situation to God – but notice that Paul instructs us to include an important element – he wants is to remember to be thankful.

Peace will more easily make its home in a heart that has been prepared by thankfulness.

Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden – they have literally – the world at their fingertips.  It’s all theirs.  Except – the fruit of this tree.  Don’t eat it.

I wonder if Adam and Eve had encouraged one another to step back a bit – survey their situation – and to challenge one another a bit to say, let’s take ten minutes to note what we are thankful for…  I wonder if that would have curbed their discontented hearts.  Curbed that hunger in their heart that said – I wish I could have that.  I wish I had more or I wish I had different.

An unthankful heart will be much more susceptible to fantasy – I wonder how much better my life would be if I only had a different house, or a different car, or a different spouse, or a different fruit.

Gratitude is an important and unsung spiritual discipline – if we were to cultivate a thankful heart – how many of our marriages would be better.  How many of our financial situations would be better.

We know for sure, don’t we – that if we were to begin to be thankful for what we have will curb our desire for the thing that will replace it.

Go ahead and if after the service your car starts – give it a hug and be thankful for it.  If it doesn’t start – be thankful there is a warm school and free donuts just yards away – filled with people who have jumper cables.

I wonder how many percentage points we could cut out of stress causing situations if we were more thankful.  If we could become ten percent more thankful, would we be ten percent less worried?  I wonder…

There’s no doubt though that Paul is teaching – that when we are in situations that cause worry and stress, pray a lot and remember to include words of thankfulness as you pray.  See what it does for your anxiety level.

As a mater of fact – let’s take a minute right now and let’s do this.  This is a spiritual exercise.  Spiritual training moment here.   I will give you a minute of silence or so and I’d encourage you to – if you are in stressful situation – bring it before the Lord and ask for Him what you need and include in your prayer something that you are thankful for or about.

Paul has gone through the worst possible situations and tells us that he has learned that no situation, good or bad, can affect his contentment of his heart.  It’s not dependent on good times.  It’s something much more solid.  And one way that Paul has learned how to become this kind of person is by cultivating thankfulness.

Secondly – Paul teaches us the importance of “thinkfulness.

Now – this is not a world in real life – but today it is.  Again – Paul writes this in Philippians 4.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise

Peace will come to a person who cultivates right thinking.

Now – Every once in a while I meet with people to talk about how to grow in faith – and I always begin by asking people to memorize Psalm 23 and to pray through it at least once a day.  Why?

Because Psalm 23 reminds my brain of what is true.  I start every day by reminding my mind – which is part of my soul, by the way, that the Lord is my Shepherd.  I lack nothing.

Now sometimes I don’t get much further because my soul wants to argue a little with that- it makes me begin each day by asking myself if this statement is true.  If the Lord is my shepherd, then I lack nothing.  I fear nothing.  Why?  Because thou art with me.

I’m reminding myself of what is reality.  This is true.  It’s right.  The Lord is my shepherd.  No matter what path I walk down – sometimes it’s quiet waters and sometimes its dark valleys, but either time – no fear.  God is with me.

See – this is one piece of scripture that I have committed to memory in order that I might begin each day by remembering what is true and what is reality.  And the truth is that there is no circumstance – including death itself, that can get between me and God’s loving leadership of my life.

Although we might wish otherwise, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exclude us from tough times in life.  Faith is not a lucky charm.  God is not a magic spell to ward off difficult seasons of life.

Following Jesus does not immunize us from job layoffs, or cancer, or betrayal by friends or sometimes spouses.  We are in fact guaranteed to go through these things as fellow participants in this broken world that one day will be made right.

We will go through difficult circumstances but what makes us different is that we know what reality is – and the truth is that since God is our good shepherd, we live under the care of someone else.  I’ve given God permission to guide my life and I know he is trustworthy and loves me enough to die in my place.  Indeed he already has.  And that we serve a God who is able to take garbage in our life and turn it into gold.

Of course, all of this is true only for the person who wants God to guide and direct their life.  It only comes to the person who thinks highly enough of Jesus to trust Him with every aspect of their lives.

When we unconditionally surrender our lives to His, then reality itself changes.  What is true – changes.  And what is true is that I am adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus, and God himself becomes my good shepherd.

Thankfulness and Thinkfulness are important elements to learning the secret of contentment.

Can we take a minute right here and I’ll give you one more minute to interact with God.  And simply state what the bible says to be reality and talk with God about it.  Think about The Lord is my shepherd and I have nothing to fear because I lack nothing with you in command of my life.

Finally…

When we think of the love he displayed on the cross and all it accomplished for us – we become thankful kinds of people – which lastly – will result in thoughtful people. 

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

The entire letter to the Philippians is a thank you note from Paul.  Thank you for thoughtfully caring for me in my time of distress.

And being thinkful and thankful people, will result in us becoming the kinds of people who are thoughtful of others in their time of distress.  We become the kinds of people who love others and care for them.

I think that it’s natural and even understandable – that when we are enduring difficult circumstances – we have a tendency to get wrapped up in our own situation and we tend to think of others and how we might care for others.

Let’s endeavor to look outward, at how even in the midst of our own difficult season, we might be able to serve others in need.

Paul is in prison.  Yet he is not thinking of himself.  He is ministering to others.  In fact – if he isn’t in prison the guy probably never slows down enough to write to these churches – and instruct and care for them – which mens we don’t get these letters that make up half the new testament.

SO let’s do one more spiritual training time.  I will give you a moment of quiet and I’d like to ask you to ask God if he has someone in mind for you to encourage.  Just ask God – who should I be praying for, Father?  Who would you like to bring to mind that I might be thoughtful of?

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