The Secret to Contentment

Recently my family decided to get rid of cable completely and watch only what is available on the antenna – which has saved us some money – but the only problem is that since it’s cheap kind of TV there are plenty of stations that carry infomercials. And there is one infomercial that has really gotten my attention lately.

The Copper Chef – anyone else see this guy on TV? This guy is the chef and the woman standing next to him is the person who says, “Wow, that’s incredible!” every 10 seconds or so.

Of course, if you’ve seen this infomercial you know that he is selling the Copper Chef, which is a 6-in-1 non-stick, no cleanup pan that works as a roasting pan, rice cooker, steamer, stock pot, wok, and baking dish.

And with its rivited handles, extra deep sides, Cerami-Tech technology, copper infused coating that’s heat resistant up to 850 degrees, you’ll be able to take your Copper Chef from stove top, to oven, to table in a breeze.

I can’t do that with the pan I own now – I can tell you that much! Here’s what my pan looks like! I should say that’s what my pan feels like to me after watching a couple of episodes of the Copper Chef on tv. I binge watch a season at a time.

When will I learn? You cannot watch these tv salespeople. They will eat you up! I mean, ever watch QVC? At their height they sold 7 Billion Dollars worth of stuff a year. I mean, they sold Perfume on TV!

Think about that. You know you are a salesperson when you can sell Perfume on TV. Oh, it smells like the nectar of happiness mixed with just a splash of being wanted and loved.

How do these people get us to buy this stuff? I will tell you how – you make someone unhappy with what they currently have. You just have to tap into that vein of discontent that courses through most people’s lives.

And let’s be honest – it doesn’t take much digging in a person to discover a spring of discontentedness. Today we are going to fight against the well-spring of discontent and instead ask God to help us learn the secret to being content in every circumstance.

Today we’re in our next to last week in our summer series on Philippians. This morning we’re going to see the Apostle Paul, who was a very important leader in the early church and who actually started this church in Philippi, use a teachable moment to pastor his church.

He is going to pass along a secret that He knows would be a blessing to his friends there. What is this secret? It is the secret of how to be content. Paul is going to teach about how to live a contented life.

So let’s read together Philippians 4:10-13
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. 

As Paul begins to wrap up his letter, he wants to make sure that his friends know he received their gift to him. The church in Philippi took up an offering to send to Paul, who was in prison, because in those days, if you were in jail, you needed to pay for your own way – you relied on family and friends providing money for food for you. So Paul is thanking them for the offering they sent to him. They had a chance and they responded by sending help, and Paul is genuinely thankful.

It’s great to be part of a church here at Journey who would do the same thing. What we see in reading about the New Testament church was that if someone had a need the church family often came together to help.

And so when we say at the end of the service, that if you need help paying a bill, we will help without question, we really mean it. Where did that idea come from? It came from the Bible and it came from 2000 years of churches caring for people who are in need.

Allow me to commend you for showing your concern for people in need in our church and community. So far this year you all have helped people out by providing more than $15,000 in assistance so far this year. So as Paul thanked the church he pastored, I thank the church I pastor. Thank you for loving people – as this church loved and cared for Paul.

Paul continues – 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 

Now at first glance it seems Paul is ungrateful – thanks for the gift, not that I needed it. But of course he’s grateful. He just wants them to understand he is praising the Lord for them, not the money. He is praising the Lord that the church he started in Philippi is generous and caring and loving.

Furthermore, he is using their gift to set up an important lesson that Pastor Paul wants to preach to his church. It’s a teachable moment to Paul – he wants them to understand that it is possible to learn how to live a contented life.

And the first thing I want you to notice is that contentment is something that can be learned. Paul says it two times – he has learned how to be content.

Is this something you are interested in learning?

And I would say – contentment is something to be learned – but it is also something to be reminded about… reinforced. Part of me feels this message should be a twice a year message – because I forget it so quickly. But we can learn, as Paul writes..

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. 

So let’s jump into this a bit and discover Paul’s secret to contentment. What must we learn to be content?

The first secret to being content is to understand where contentment CANNOT be found. 1. Contentment cannot be found in STUFF.

Paul tells them he has learned how to be content with whatever he had – whether it be almost nothing, or everything! Paul’s level of contentment is completely unfixed to stuff, to money.

Now this, by the way, is a big secret to understand, and a hard one to believe.

Americans have more stuff than ever in the history of the world. Do you think we are contented people? I’ll read you some facts and you tell me…

In an interesting report done by US News and World report a number of years ago, they surveyed Americans and what they found out was that regardless of how much people made – all of them thought that they could truly be happy if only they made about twice as much. SO the person who made 30K a year thought true contentment would be making 60k. The person who made 100 k thought that true happiness was if only they made 200k.

The magazine summed it up by saying, in other words, the American Dream lies nearly twice the distance away from where they presently sit.

The average American household has almost $16,000 in credit card debt. (Some people are internally high fiving right now because you are average, or near average, right?) The average family spends 10percent more than they make every year.

That said, if money would account for contentedness you’d think Americans would be happy, content people. And yet a recent poll that reported 2/3’s of Americans are not “very happy”.

The secret to being a content person starts with understanding that it’s not about your paycheck, your bank account, or the car you are driving, or the car you wish you were driving.

And that’s because money itself is amoral. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s not money – it’s the love of money – that the bible says is the root of all kinds of evil.

There isn’t anything spiritual or unspiritual about either being poor or having riches. Paul says that there were times when he lived through both – times he had money, and times he was broke – and neither of those circumstances affected his soul – which found contentment in Jesus – not his bank account.

Contentment can be yours today – regardless of what you own or wish you owned. Because Contentment is a state of your spirit, of your soul. And stuff is made of, stuff. And our spirit, is made of, not stuff. Stuff cannot satiate the spirit. Material cannot satisfy the immaterial of our soul and spirit.

Now here is an exercise that is a good exercise for us to do today. In order to remind ourselves that new stuff will not make a long range dent in our contentment factor – let’s spend some time mentally thanking God for what we already have.

Take a tour of where you live right now and I want you to go into each room and I want you to thank God for what you already have.

Verbally express our thankfulness to what God has already given us.

Thank you Father for that couch. That couch that has some rips in it, and is kind of broken and sagging. Thank you Lord for the way the cushions reach up and hug me every time I sit on them. Like an old scratchy leathery hand reaching up to suck me into the cushions.

Babe, we have got to get a new couch. I’m trying here! Lord Help me!

Thank you Lord for my gulp, minivan. It’s usually dependable and hasn’t caught fire, recently. And thank you for the fact that I have reliable transportation.

Lord thank you for my job. Thank you for my pay. (Interesting point here to make – when John the Baptist – who was Jesus’ cousin and the one who came before jesus to get people ready t hear his message – one time he was preaching and a group of people – happened to be soldiers, asked John – what should we do to show that our lives are different – that we have turned from our old ways and now follow God? John’s response included – Be content with your pay.” Luke 3

What must we learn to be content? We must learn to be thankful for what God has already given us.

Stuff cannot make my soul happy. That’s Paul’s first secret to living a contented life.

Paul’s Second Secret to contentment,

2. It’s not about circumstances. I have learned the secret of living in every situation,

Just a reminder that Paul is not in desirable circumstances. He’s sitting in jail. Yet whether he is in jail or on the beach, it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t allow his circumstances to bump into his contentment.

Now I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s easier for me to agree that stuff can’t buy us contentment. I think it’s easier to believe that money isn’t going to bring me contentment.

But this one is harder to believe. Especially when life delivers the worst to us.

It’s much harder for me. I can’t help but think that, were I out of work, getting a job would drastically change my contentment in my life. And, were I sick, that being healthy would dramatically change the contentment level in my life. And were my marriage hurting and in trouble, that a healthy marriage would bring me great contentment.

I think it would be silly to dismiss the positive effect they would have on my state of being – but I think it would be even more foolish to BANK on the change as having a lasting effect on my soul.

I think it’s worth hearing Paul out. He understands a thing or two about fluxuating circumstances of life. Check out some of Paul’s back story here. He writes some pages of his autobiography in the 2nd letter he write to the Corinthian church…

2 Cor 6: In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.5 We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food.

2 Cor 11: Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

The bottom line, I think we can all agree, is that you don’t want to be a travel companion with Paul.

But you know what you do want? You want Paul to be the one who can teach you how to live a contented life. Because if he could do it in light of these circumstances, then so can we.

I don’t know what all you are going through right now. Maybe it’s life and death stuff… So, is it okay to pray for relief? Absolutely. Sometimes God brings relief in a change of adverse conditions.

Ultimately, we find our contentment, we find our satisfaction knowing that even in seasons of stress – there is a God who loves us, and has a plan he is working out on cosmic scale as he redeems and restores this messed up world.

We are part of His plan. He knows our days. He sees and understands and strengthens and supports. And we can trust him to govern our life.

And maybe you are skeptical about God’s existence, and you feel like these kinds of circumstances might add to your argument that there is no God –

I would simply say that if there is no God than all of us are subject to circumstances, we’re like rudderless ships on a sea of random circumstances.

You know I never look down on someone who says there is no God for the way they chose to live. If I thought there was no God then I personally would see no reason not to put myself first, and to survive with the least amount of pain and most amount of what I think will deliver happiness.

But how long does it take for people to realize that contentment doesn’t come from the accumulation of stuff and living life in a bubble of favorable circumstances.

So where does contentment come from? It comes from a thorough understanding of your status with God.

Contentment is knowing that you belong to Him. That he Loves you. That he Likes you. That He is all powerful and that he knows you and your situation and promises that we can trust him.

Our status changes when we place our faith in Jesus – we move into a world of being forgiven – a friend – family – God is our Father.

Contentment comes from knowing that God our Father- is able to turn the garbage of life into God in the Kingdom of Heaven. He is able to weave the events of my life into a tapestry that is beautiful and perfect.

He knows what he is doing with my life. And I can trust him with all of it.

It is in Jesus where my soul finds rest. My soul finds comfort, protection, purpose, hope, a future, a family.

It’s all there in Jesus. I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength.

The word “strengthens” here means to infuse with power. The Lord infuses us with the power we need to live our lives above the slingshot of stuff and circumstances.

True contentment is God strengthening us to be satisfied in any situation, and content in the midst of the toughest problems.

I want to close with a story about a friend of mine named Danielle. And about the day she began to learn the secret that Paul had learned.

Danielle was a student in my youth group that I took on a missions trip a few years back. During Vacation Bible School that week, Danielle became fast friends with a young Mexican school girl, about 9 years old. This young girl showed up each day with what was surely her prettiest white shirt, and a huge broad smile. The colonia we were working in was poor, but that did not seem to phase this young girl. She was a bundle of joy.

Danielle was sensitive to the fact that this girl obviously took extra measure to wear her prettiest shirt to church each day, and each day Danielle made sure to complement her new friend on how beautiful she looked in her shirt.

Friday came, and as we said our goodbyes, who should come around the corner but Danielle’s friend, and in her hands, was wrapped a present. Danielle was surprised, and even more so when she opened up the gift.

It was the pretty white shirt, cleaned and carefully folded. That little girl realized a secret about contentment that those in our group had a hard time learning. The secret of contentment is not found in stuff.

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