Contentment. What does it mean? In America, we’ve been taught to believe that contentment is linked to our accomplishments or constantly getting more. Our basic value is that “more is better.” We think, “I’ll be happy when I get married.” Or “I’ll be content when I have a second child.” Or “…when my marriage is functioning on all four cylinders.” Or “…when we remodel the bathroom.”
The problem with this line of thinking is that the horizon is always moving. Since there’s no end to our desire to acquire or do more, we’ll never experience contentment.
The Stoics believed that contentment meant the opposite – the way to have peace and contentment is to have less and less. They would emotionally detach from the things and people they loved, convincing themselves that nothing mattered.
But the truth is getting more and more can never bring contentment, and desiring less and less can’t either. Prosperity doesn’t have the power to give us contentment, nor poverty the power to take it away.
The true meaning of contentment is being satisfied with what you have and with who you are – right now.
But is this truly attainable?
In his letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul shares the secret to being content: “I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me.I know what it’s like not to have what I need. I also know what it’s like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
At the time of writing the letter, Paul was living in a Roman prison. Before that, he’d been beaten within an inch of his life, betrayed, and left for dead. Despite all this, Paul expressed his joy and appreciation for the church and then reassured them that he wasn’t writing because he needed their financial help. He was writing because he was joyful and grateful.
Paul realized that contentment is an attitude we learn and not a thing we achieve. He had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances.
Contentment doesn’t have anything to do with what is external – our circumstances. But it has everything to do with God doing something inside of us.The good news is that we all can learn how to become fully content with who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing. How? Through our supernatural relationship with Jesus Christ, we can learn how to be content by being:Thank God for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Grateful. Thank God for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Teachable. Ask God what He wants you to learn in your present circumstance instead of telling Him what you want Him to change.
Flexible. Knowing what you’re to do and actually doing it are two different things. Being flexible means that you need to be willing to change. Believe it or not, God’s number one priority is not to make you happy or to be fulfilled and have everything go your way. His primary agenda is to make you like His Son. You can practice being flexible by asking God: “What do you want me to change to make me more like your Son?”How is it that you can be teachable and flexible? The key is to be confident in the knowledge you can do all things through Him who gives you strength. This only occurs by faith, moment by moment.
Confident. How is it that you can be teachable and flexible? The key is to be confident in the knowledge you can do all things through Him who gives you strength. This only occurs by faith, moment by moment.
This week, we’re beginning the series Contentment: Discovering God’s Game Plan for Personal Satisfaction. In it, we’ll learn how we can be content – exactly where we’re at today. It’s my prayer that as we journey through God’s word together, that we’ll begin to experience a great and lasting contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip