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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Contentment - A Prize Worth Pursuing!

"...for I have learned to be content
whatever the circumstances."
Philippians 4:11 NIV

 I am realizing that many of the Christmas cards I receive address a hopeful message of peace. In this world of stress it seems like peace eludes us all. We desire peace for the nations but there are only wars and rumors of more wars. Many crave inner peace but look for it in all the wrong places. The truth is, inner peace is found only in Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and walk in a personal relationship with him we experience inner peace. Our salvation is a free gift and we immediately are at peace regarding where we will spend eternity, but inner peace in our daily life is something believers must position themselves to receive. Unless we abide in our Savior and walk in his ways much of our life will remain stressful and void of inner peace. Lack of personal contentment will suck us dry of our joy and our peace!
It is getting increasingly hard for us to be content in a world that is so full of options. We are always more than ready to trade in the old for the latest and greatest! Downsizing is not attractive unless you are of retirement age. Most of us long for change and our desire for increase keep our minds in a state of always clamoring for more. We are constantly bombarded by ads that promise us different and improved products. It seems impossible to stay ahead of technology. We are tantalized by opportunities to experience more and more pleasure. We are discouraged because a failing economy and the rising cost of living seem to rob us of ever getting ahead.
So how does the Christian balance bettering his or her life and still remain content in the circumstance he or she is living in at the moment? First of all we must realize that God desires for us to be responsible people. We are to have high work ethics and to provide for ourselves through the avenues God has provided as a means for us to earn a living. God has also made us stewards over all he has blessed us with. He wants us to use what we have well and be grateful for all we have been given.
The most effective antidote for discontentment is living in a conscious state of gratitude for our many blessings. Gratitude to God gives us the balance we need in order to practice contentment. When we feel our minds centering too much on feelings of discontentment we must remember that discontentment is a very effective tool of Satan. When our focus is on acquiring more things and we begin to loose our level of happiness without those things, it is time for a step back. Comparing ourselves to others can also be destructive. I don’t know why it is but others always seem to have more, do better, and make more money than we do! This kind of thinking breeds huge amounts of discontentment.
So how are we to live? We are to practice gratitude and help others in need, we are to make our own needs and desires known to God and then we must release the outcome into his capable hands. We must understand that what we want is not always what we need. God alone knows the future and so we trust him to supply our needs and bless us as he chooses. Running ahead of God always causes problems!
It is wonderful to know that if we live our life trusting God to provide all we need, we will experience peace. Discontentment is how Satan worms his way into our lives and steals our peace and joy. It is possible with God’s help to live above discontentment. Remember, our first emotional reaction to something we want does not have to be our last. It is a choice to trust God to help us to be content with what we have.
Having more is not wrong unless we find that we are never satisfied. Sometimes there are things that need to be purchased or replaced, but there are a few questions I must ask myself. How drastically would my life change if I didn’t have________? How would I feel if I lost something that God has allowed me to enjoy for a season? How unhappy would I become without my _________. How crabby, moody, dissatisfied and upset am I because I can’t have _________ or do ________.
The bottom line for me is asking myself a few more important questions. Is my “Jesus joy” in danger because of always wanting more stuff? Has my stress life increased because I am striving to have that which I can’t afford? Does it upset me that I can’t keep up with others? Have I enslaved myself to huge bills because I need instant gratification? Is the source of my happiness centered in stuff or do I know that the things in my life that have no price tag are the things of real importance? Have I allowed Satan to fill my mind with discontentment, steal my peace and squash my joy? How often do I practice gratitude? Have I selfishly stopped giving to God and others?
Contentment also centers on the people in our life. Am I pleased with my spouse? Do I long for someone different? Do I expect too much from my children? Do I always crave more influence, more power, more compliments, more accomplishments, more education, and more attention? Am I ever satisfied or do I selfishly just need more, more, and more?
Have I learned to be happy with my weight or do I always need to be five pounds lighter? Do I despise the way I look? Do I have too much gray hair, not enough curves, too many rolls? Do daily advertisements make us feel we need more muscles and less wrinkles? Am I a victim of always feeling less than beautiful? Do you consider yourself homely instead of handsome? Are you frumpy instead of fabulous? We all love to look good and that is not a bad thing as long as we know that time changes us all. A woman’s real beauty is from within and a man to be praised is a man of integrity and faith.
This year, with God’s help, I am challenged to practice contentment. I must not confuse discouragement and disappointment with discontentment. Discouragement and disappointment happen as a result of something that does or does not happen to us because it is out of our control. However, discontentment is never being satisfied and always craving for more.
Contentment is beautiful! It knows that less is often more, it sees real value in the lives of those we love, it is not ashamed to change with age, it is being grateful for God’s provision and all of our many additional blessings. Contentment is found in all the wonderful “free stuff” that God has provided, such as sunrises and sunsets.  Above all, contentment is being happy in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Contentment frees us from stress, puts a smile on our face and allows us to live a life saturated with inner peace.
  1. Is there something in your life that continues to gnaw at your happiness?
  2. Have you allowed Satan to use the tool of discontentment in your life as a means of stealing your joy and peace?
  3. Do you think that with God’s help, this year might be the beginning of you finding and practicing contentment?
  4. Do you realize that gratitude is the first step in becoming content?

Dear God,
Forgive me when discontentment rules my life. I want to be alert to the red flags that signal to me that I am becoming discontent. God, help me to flee from Satan when he tries to worm his way into my life and plant damaging seeds of discontentment. God I can see that it is the sin of discontentment that steals my joy, robs me of inner peace, and damages my relationship with you. God, I am so in need of your help. Help me to push away all of the influences of materialism in this life. Remind me often of how blessed I am. Remind me that my spouse and children are precious. Help me to know who I am in Christ Jesus and that you will always be more than enough. Help me not to forget that I am loved by you, precious in your sight, and I am your beautiful child. I pray that I will not be dragged down by all of the many options in life that tempt and tantalize me. Teach me to feast on the free things in life and know in my soul that less is indeed more. God, I know that practicing contentment will be a constant struggle in my life. I also know that greater is he that is in me than he that is in this world. Father, please help me this year to be content with whatever circumstance I find myself in. It is easy to be content when I have plenty but help me to also be content when I am in need. I pray Lord that I will always know that I can do all things through you, because you are my source of strength.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.