Contentment is the opposite of Covetousness. Contentment defined is “what I have now is enough.” Quite simply, contentment means satisfaction without any manipulation. We might define it as “being comfortable in one’s own skin.”
My wife loves to watch the home makeover/home buyer type programs. I often thought that this activity would cause her to covet those “other places” and those “other people.” But the opposite has proven true, at least for her. My wife is very content. She loves her home. She takes what we have and makes the best of it and enjoys calling it our home. Just the other week, she wanted some end tables and a coffee table for our living room area. We threw away 2 tables that we have used in our living room for nearly 20 years. We purchased them for less than $10. The 3 legs screwed into the bottom, and over the years the tables had become unstable, but my wife never based her attitude on what others have or what she did not have.
I do believe that many people look at what others have (including possessions, positions, fame, relationships, etc.) and covetousness is revealed. But covetousness does not just show up, it was present all the time. This is why many people get what they want and still cannot break the cycle of covetousness.
Paul made the observation in Philippians 1 & 4, that contentment is not a matter of affluence, achievement, or acquisition, but a matter of attitude. Today, I want to give us three attitude checks that will help us maintain contentment:
1) Contentment comes from trusting God when life is unfair.
Where did we get the idea that life is always fair? Did any of us leave the hospital after we were born with the guarantee that only good things would happen to us? Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow, blessings and burdens, triumphs and tragedies.
The seed of contentment is planted through trusting God to take care of me when life treats me unfairly. Just consider Paul’s circumstances when he was writing his letter to the Philippian church. He was in jail, probably in Rome: he had no freedom and no idea what would happen to him in the future. He was in prison simply for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. He would eventually be put to death for that preaching in Rome. If anyone could complain that life was unfair, it’s Paul.
It’s okay to admit it: Life can be unfair. We may have received a diagnosis with that dreaded “C” word – cancer. What we thought was going to be the deal of a lifetime could have turned out to be the worst deal we ever made. Our children may have disappointed us. Friends could turn out to be enemies.
When life treats us unfairly, we can choose to become bitter, angry, and depressed, or we can extend our trust in God. Contentment comes from trusting that God will take care of us in every situation, even when life is unfair.
Paul could have turned bitter at life’s unfairness. He was in jail instead of starting churches and spreading the Gospel. But he realized that even in jail he had an opportunity to preach to the prison guards.
God can take our worst difficulties and work them out for good for us and for others. If none of us can escape from an unfair world, then that leaves us with the choice of how we’re going to respond to that reality. What will our attitude be? Unfairness can rob us of our contentment unless we choose to extend our trust in God, even when we can’t make sense of what’s happening. Contentment begins when we realize that we can still trust God even when life isn’t fair.
2) Contentment comes from being certain of God when life is uncertain.
Paul had an even bigger problem than being in jail. Even more threatening was the uncertainty – what would the Romans do with him?, You can hear that uncertainty in Philippians 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
He hopes he will not be put to shame, but he knows he can exalt Christ whether by living or by dying. Sometimes not knowing is worse than knowing. We might be in that in-between time between taking a medical test and waiting for the results. Someone says it’s urgent that they talk to you, but they can’t do it until tomorrow and they won’t tell you what it’s about.
Most of us can live with bad news better than the uncertainty of not knowing. Just imagine what it was like for Paul – in jail for two years and not knowing what was going to happen to him.
We certainly live in uncertain times today. The stock market’s down…then up again. We wonder what will happen in our world next that will be tragic. We wonder if we will be the next in need…
We can let this uncertainty paralyze us, or we can do what Paul did – use uncertain times to let us experience the sufficiency of God. Through everything Paul went through, he discovered that God knows how to take care of His children in uncertain times. God will meet all of our needs, and even let us discover a higher purpose in tragic events.
3) Contentment comes from living for others in the name of Christ. Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
For some people, their motto might be…
· To live is money .. to die is to leave it all behind.
· To live is fame … to die is to be quickly forgotten.
· To live is possessions.. to die is to go empty-handed into eternity.
Logic says that contentment comes from what we gain and get for ourselves. Christ teaches us we find life when we give it away for others. The self-centered life becomes empty and meaningless. True joy comes from serving others. True contentment comes from what I give to others, not what I gain for myself.
My wife learns from those home make over shows and helps others when she has the opportunity, but she lives for others. She lives for those three she calls her children, the ladies in her group, and others she has the opportunity to encourage, bless and spend her life for … including me.
Let’s not focus on what is unfair or uncertain today, but who is within my reach today to whom I may be a blessing…