3 Ways to Measure Your ContentmentSeptember 23, 2013
If we had the luxury of interviewing the apostle Paul, and could ask him about his greatest discovery in life and ministry outside of salvation, I believe he would take us to Philippians 4:11. Imagine his response…His face is wrinkled from years of service, his veteran eyes squint ever so slightly as to let us know he is thinking about the question; he then clears his seasoned, authoritative voice and softy proclaims, “This is my greatest discovery; I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
For Paul, the road of contentment was paved with experience, hardship, and time. Yes, it took time for Paul to embrace contentment; he said it was something “learned.” Contentment is indeed a discovery; it cannot and should not be assumed. Although it accompanies salvation in those initial moments of regeneration, it takes years to uncover the subtlety of its grace. And if the truth be known, for most of us, contentment is only realized after periods of excruciating discontent.
Contentment is what we want, but what is it, really? Contentment, in its purest form, is not only the acceptance of God’s will, but the satisfaction of God’s will in any and every situation. Let me ask you a very personal question: is there any area of your life that lacks full and total satisfaction in light of God’s unfolding plan? What about your finances? Your marriage? Your career? Your relationships?
Are you content?
To say “no” does not devalue your faith or diminish your spirituality –c’mon, it was something even the apostle Paul had to learn. But it is something you can discover. Paul gave us three measurements by which we can determine true and lasting contentment.
1. How Do You Approach Your Relationship with God?
In spite of his uncomfortable situation (chained to a Roman soldier, under lock and key, thorn in the side, contentious relationships, etc) Paul approached God with praise and adoration. He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice.” Only a man with a resolved heart for God can exude such elation. He did not approach the Lord with a laundry-list of personal items that needed to be filled. He realized the worthiness of God even in the most tumultuous of situations. We too, will only discover true contentment when our relationship with God is based upon a true sense of His glory. A shallow, one-sided, selfish relationship with the divine will lead to discontent and frustration.
2. How Do You Accept Your Resources from God?
Paul knew what it was like to abound, and he knew what it was like to be abased. Paul experienced hunger and fulfillment, poverty and prosperity, scarcity and abundance throughout the course of his ministry. Through such volatility he learned the sufficiency of grace. He did not give up in the hard times, neither did he gloat in the good times.
Christ Himself told us to seek first the kingdom of God. The promise of such a pursuit is the provision of necessities. Christians in this generation have reversed the order. We pursue the “things” and miss out on the kingdom. Misplaced priorities always lead to misplaced pursuits. Before we realize it we are chasing the proverbial carrot on the string and wondering why we cannot find joy. God’s resources never run dry, and when we accept His provision, regardless of its size, we will be thankful for what we have, not ungrateful for what we lack.
3. How Do You Advance Your Responsibilities for God?
Throughout Paul’s life he sought to fulfill the assignment and task for which he was ordained; I believe this was especially true in his later years. He viewed his life in light of eternity –we should do the same. When we live solely for ourselves, we miss out on the joy of service and surrender. Ironically, many Christians passionately pursue their own dreams and goals without any thought of their God-given calling. They may search for success, treasure, position, and fame but they do so discontented. Paul said, “I can do all through Christ which strengtheneth me.” I believe he could, and I believe he did. The result? Dying and living with contentment.
“Contentment is pursuing God’s daily agenda even it if means walking directly into the storm” –Richard Swenson
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” –Epictetus
“The virtue of contentment is the acquiescence of the mind in the lot God has given” –William Ames
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” –Thomas Watson, Contentment
“Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor” –Ben Franklin
“To be content is to be rich and well off. He is the rich man who has no wants, and requires no more. I ask not what his income may be. A man may be rich in a cottage and poor in a palace” –J.C. Ryle
“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness” William Gladstone
“Let your capital be simplicity and contentment” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible” –Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
“Real contentment is only possible by being much in the presence of the Lord Jesus. It is only by cultivating intimacy with that One who was never discontent, that we shall be delivered from the sin of complaining. It is only by daily fellowship with Him who ever delighted in the Father’s will that we shall learn the secret of contentment” –A.W. Pink
“God’s end in all His cross providences is to bring the heart to submit and be content. And indeed this pleases God much. He loves to see His children satisfied with that portion He carves and allots them. It contents Him to see us content” –Thomas Watson
“The contented person experiences the sufficiency of God’s provision for his needs and the sufficiency of God’s grace for his circumstances.” –Jerry Bridges