Hi this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Being Content…With The Content…Or Lack Thereof
Those who know me and or those who have been listening to my podcasts for a while know I love a good pun. I enjoy being able to play one word upon another especially if I believe it strikes the nail on the head and will drive my point home. A little sarcasm here…a little irony there…any clever play on words is fun for me. The title of this episode is no exception, and yet it is a necessary understanding if we are to live lives free of worry.
Contentment is the antidote for worry. If we are content with what we have, we do not worry about what we don’t have. If this is true, and it is, then the reverse truth (another thing I like to consider as often as is applicable) if we are experiencing worry, we need to practice more contentment. The consideration of this reverse truth is especially applicable here because I find most people have learned to be content with some things while other issues make contentedness seemingly elusive.
Paul wrote about his level of contentment to the church at Philippi. Philippians 4:11-12 in the New International Version says; I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Paul clearly said that he had found how to be content in every situation. As I said a moment ago, many of us have learned to be content in some situations…some people however have great difficulty with contentment in almost any situation. We have all met those who have a hard time finding anything good to say about almost anything. My grandpa had a descriptor for those who struggled with contentment. He would say that kind of person “Wouldn’t be happy in a pie shop”. This was the same grandfather who used to say he “Never met a pie he didn’t like” and yet, I heard him be less than content about a few of his own circumstances.
Sometimes through lessons of God’s provisions we learn to have some of the contentedness Paul wrote of. We learn at least in that area to be content with the content…or lack thereof. This is true for me when it comes to things like food or other basic necessities of life. I have seen God provide so many times in my life that I have simply arrived at an understanding that when it comes to those things it doesn’t matter what the contents are…I know God will make it enough. My mother modeled this for me nearly every day growing up in my parent’s home. The amount of food she would extract from the fridge and cupboards each day to make dinner for our family of five, and whoever else may have been showing up to eat with us was often in hindsight enough for one maybe two people. Mom was always thankful however for what she had and would invariably manage to make a meal for the family from it. Mom could stretch food farther than anyone I have ever known. Watching this same scenario play out day after day, year after year, I no longer worry about what is in (or isn’t in) the pantry. It doesn’t mean I don’t stock an ample supply when possible, but it does mean my contentedness does not rise and fall with the inventory. As Paul wrote, I too have learned to be content when living with little or plenty.
As I mentioned however, there are areas I and probably most of us still need to work on to get to a place where we can say we have learned to be content in all circumstances. If contentedness is the antidote to worry, then complaints are anti-contentedness. So if we want to find out where we still need to learn to be content…start with the complaints. Do any of the following situations prompt you to complain?
• The current high price of gasoline.
• The price of food in the grocery stores.
• The rate of inflation in general.
• Which political party is in power at any given time.
• The direction of the Nation.
• Your marriage.
• Your family.
• Your bank account.
• The economy and stock market.
• Your 401k retirement accounts.
• The car you drive.
• The home you live in.
• The job you have.
These and many other things are the source of our complaints. Complaints are an indication we are not content with the content of our lives. Worry is the go-to-response to discontent. In that same letter to the Philippian church Paul wrote how to take worry and complaints and convert them into contentedness. He shared with them the keys to being content with the content…or lack thereof. In verses 4-7 of the same chapter I referenced earlier he penned these instructions. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Paul understood a great truth. We cannot complain and give thanks at the same time. It is a psychological impossibility for our minds to travel in two opposite directions simultaneously. Paul knew that complaints are an indication of fear, and he desired that the Christians in the Philippian church not live in fear but rather in peace. How can we learn to do that in any circumstance so that we can be content with the content…or the lack thereof? First, Paul instructed them to rejoice in the Lord. No matter what else you may have…or not have…if you have Him, you have all you need. Second, Paul said rather than being anxious, we should pray and ask our good, good Father in heaven to meet our needs out of His abundance. Psalm 24 says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” God owns it all, and He loves us tremendously, Paul says we should ask God for what we need instead of worrying about what we think we lack. Make no mistake though, Paul was quite clear, it is only a prayer offered in thanksgiving that prompts God to meet the need. He goes on to say that one of those results will be the peace of God which will blow your mind given the circumstances. Finally, in verse 13 Paul disclosed how it is possible to be content with the content…or the lack thereof. Paul said he discovered that the only way he was able to do those very things he was suggesting the Philippians should do …was to do them in the power of Christ. He said that he found that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.
So now, learning to be content with the content…or lack thereof through the power of Christ in you…Go be Awesome!