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Teaching contentment


So, what is the added value of the Christian life? Are Christians better than those choosing to ignore God? No, Christians are not better than anyone else; they still have the same impulses, leaning towards hurting people and immoral behaviour.

However, Christians are better off. Better off because Christians have a power beyond themselves which enable them to do things, which are extremely tough, if not impossible to do themselves.

One of the qualities which differentiate Christians from others is their capacity to be content in whatever circumstances they find themselves in. This is especially important when circumstances are very bad.

After more than two years of the pandemic many of us feel tired — and for good reason. Many have experienced physical illness, bereavement, unemployment, mental health difficulties or isolation. Now there is the horror of war and economic uncertainty.


Contentment

Can a person enjoy true contentment even when all around you seems to be collapsing? Contentment is an state of being completely at ease, in body, mind and spirit, in whatever situation you find yourself in. Contentment is finding joy in what we already have in our lives, no matter if this is much or little, if the circumstances are favourable or adverse.


I remember taking my daughter to the fairground in town. She immediately pulled me over to the ‘candy floss’ stall, where sugar is spun to a huge, pink cloud on a stick. The vendor asked my daughter, “How is a little girl like you, going to eat such a big candy floss like this. It won’t fit in you!” My daughter replied, “It’s ok. I am much bigger on the inside than on the outside!”


That typifies the Christian. They are much bigger on the inside than the outside. That’s why the apostle Paul could say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need”(Philippians 4:11,12.). I have known want as a boy after my father lost his job, went into debt and then bankruptcy. We had very little tom spend. I have known plenty as a CEO of a spaceflight service business, with a large income.


How can we achieve this state of contentment which is independent of circumstances? The answer was given by Paul (Philippians 4:13). "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I like what Major Ian Thomas, from whom I have learned so much, said: “All you need is what you have; what you have is what He is; you cannot have more; and you do not need to have less.”


I was asked by a friend, “How are you doing?” I answered, “Ok, under the circumstances.” My friend replied, “You are a Christian aren’t you?” I said, “yes!” He reverted, “Then what are you doing under the circumstances? You ought to be above them!”

Christians have Christ living in them, and this makes the difference. This life of Christ in us, enables us to do things which others cannot. Without this external power, trying to lift ourselves up out of tough circumstances can be like trying to lift ourselves using our own shoelaces! It cannot be done.

Discontent

The Rolling Stones were famous for their complaint, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” no matter how hard they tried! Satisfaction is a wonderful thing!


Satisfaction is the fulfilment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this. This depends on the circumstances.


The problem is that we are locked into an economy which runs on dissatisfaction and discontent. Our wishes, expectations, or needs never seem to be fulfilled, except for a very short period, because we are constantly confronted with messages that say we need more, different or better. Is contentment really possible in today’s society? We seem to be constantly bombarded with limitless options in a society where we are constantly told we will never be happy unless we have the latest innovation, the newest technology, the biggest-screen TV. Our culture encourages the accumulation of material wealth as the answer to our misery, but getting more or better, only leads to more discontent, as the novelty soon wears off and we find ourselves wanting again.


Discontentment is dangerous. It is a deadly, powerful, ruthless enemy that wants to destroy your physical life, your emotional life, your family life, your spiritual life, and take your soul!

But discontentment is focussed on our personal circumstances and what we think we deserve.


Discontentment is a problem as old as time. God had created Adam and Eve in perfect relationship with himself and each other. They lived in a beautiful world, free to eat from any tree except one.

But they wanted precisely what they didn’t have. So we are all born discontented.


Finding contentment

I want to get off our cultural merry-go-round and find true contentment; to be satisfied with my circumstances, not complaining, not craving something else, and having a mind at peace.


Are you content with how your life has turned out? Are you happy with the career, spouse, or home you have chosen? Are you enjoying this stage of your life for the blessings you have, or do you compare yourself to others and succumb to envy, self-pity, and depression?


King David wrote in one of his songs the following verse which gives us keys to unlock the secret of contentment. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Psalm 50:23).


Give thanks. Thanks to whom? David says that thankfulness is a sacrifice, especially when things are going against you. He should know. His psalms are full of tough circumstances with enemies all around. Still, he thanked God for being with him in tough times. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) David says this ‘glorifies God, which means that God can reveal Himself as he truly is – saviour, provider, and sustainer. David goes on to say, if you order your way rightly – if you follow Jesus and what He shows us – then God’s salvation will be shown to us. Giving thanks, no matter what, opens the door for God to start working in your life; saved from discontent, dissatisfaction, restlessness and set free to enjoy what we have, to be at peace – no matter what’s going on around us.


Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”( John 14:27) That is the added value of being a Christian compared to what the world can offer.


Peter J. Briscoe

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