In order to exercise the faith lever of contentment, we need to prioritize our lives around that which matters most to God rather than that which matters most to “me.” Focus on self inevitably leads to dissatisfaction and further discontentment.
For Paul, contentment was a spiritual discipline. To be content means to be fulfilled in God and who God made me to be. When we put it into practice it will build our faith and is a sign of spiritual maturity. Without contentment we tend to look at our circumstances instead of Christ. We end up throwing a pity party instead of celebrating the stepping stones that lead to personal growth. We start dwelling on what we don’t have instead of what we do have, ignoring the many blessings God has given us instead of thanking Him for them. Contentment points us in the right direction: Christ.
Here is a crash course on contentment:
#1: Pursue people over possessions.
- “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.” – Philippians 4:10.
- Paul’s relationship with the church at Philippi was deeply personal. They had stood by him and he had given his all to them and for them.
- How many people ruin relationships, lose their family, mess up their kids, under-prioritize their marriage… all in the pursuit of stuff. My caution to you is that you can be so busy making a living that you can cease to make a life.
- There are two things that last forever… God’s Will/Word and people. Pursue people over possessions.
- Take time to evaluate what your desires are. What occupies your mind and dreams? Renew your focus on being a blessing to people.
- Remember Proverbs 16:8 — Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. Live your life and conduct your business with your priority on people, not treating people unjustly just to get ahead.
#2: Desire contributing over accumulating.
- “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” – Philippians 4:11
- Vs. 11 – Contentment is a learned trait that serves us well in all kinds of circumstances. Paul is basically telling us to choose and pursue contentment as a lifestyle/life goal. One way he shows us how to choose contentment is living our life and focusing our life on contributing to others. Life is not about accumulation, it’s about contribution.
- Paul understood life is about contribution. Measure your fulfillment not by what you accumulate, but by what you contribute. Paul shows us that the key to living a content life is to learn that satisfaction comes from giving, not getting.
- Where does your life sit on the giving vs. getting continuum? Are you more about getting or more about giving?
- Contentment is a heart condition, not a money condition. Ponder Hebrews 13:5 — Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Break free from the chains of an accumulation mindset and purpose instead to lead a contributing lifestyle.
#3: Choose Christ over 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.” – Philippians 4:12
- Vs. 12 – Contentment is not a matter of your wallet, but your heart. It is dependent on the conditions of your heart, not the conditions of your circumstances.
- Can we only be content when times are good and my needs are small? No… Paul was on death row, he had been shipwrecked, beaten, left for dead etc. What Paul is telling us is that contentment is not found in our circumstances but in our faith in Jesus.
- Discontentment can be experienced when you are in need or in abundance. Our circumstances are all over the map but Jesus is constant. He is faithful, true, and He will never leave us or forsake us. We need to choose to anchor our life and contentment in Jesus where we will find true joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life.
- Our source is not money or possessions but Christ (2 Corinthians 12:10). The focus of our life is to find fulfillment in God first and foremost. If we get that right, the rest will fall into place.
#4: Celebrate faith over fear.
- “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13
- The secret of contentment is trusting and living in the strength of the Lord. It’s about living a unified life with Christ. Fight off fear with faith because you have everything you need if you have God.
- We can either live below our circumstances or Rise Above them. We rise above our circumstances by being content and confident through Christ in the midst of them.
- Paul uses one of the great words of pagan ethics for contentment (autarkes), which means entirely self-sufficient. Autarkeia, self-sufficiency, was the highest aim of Stoic ethics (Hellenistic philosophy); by it the Stoics meant a state of mind in which a person was absolutely independent of all things and of all people. They proposed to reach that state by a certain pathway of the mind.
- If you go on long enough and try hard enough you will come to a stage where you can watch your nearest and dearest suffer and die and say “I don’t care.” The Stoic aim was to abolish every feeling of the human heart.
- The big difference between the Stoics and Paul is that the Stoics were all about human achievement. By their actions they could make it happen while Paul saw it as God’s gift. It is self-sufficiency vs. God sufficient.
- Our contentment is ultimately found NOT in our strength, but in God’s strength.
#5: Select gratitude over greed.
- “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” – Philippians 4:14-18
- Thankfulness is a key ingredient of contentment. Much like if you want to bake chocolate chip cookies, you need chocolate chips. If you want contentment, you need thanksgiving. Thankfulness focuses my life on all that I have and all that I’m blessed with. The unthankful heart focuses on what I don’t have and what I want. That is fertile soil for greed, despair, and self-centered living.
- Greed is a sign of discontentment. Luke 12:15 – Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Contentment with thanksgiving drives out greed and discontentment.
- It is impossible to develop contentment without gratitude. So what are you thankful for? Take time this week to journal and write out what you are thankful for.
#6: Prioritize trust over worry.
- “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
- What a powerful promise this is. Assurance in the provision of God teaches us contentment. Instead of worrying we need to place our trust and confidence in Him.
- Remember that contentment is spiritual, not financial (Psalm 37:3-4).
- Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
This concludes our 60 days of spiritual growth but we never end our quest to keep growing. For 9 weeks we have walked through the book of Philippians and have been challenged by Paul’s 9 faith levers, that when applied, will lift the level of our faith and the level of our living to RISE ABOVE the daily grind. As we close out this series, let’s celebrate what God has done in our lives and what He will continue to do.