How to be Content

How to be Content

Go to your Bibles to the book of Philippians, if you will. Today we’re going to continue the series that I started a few weeks ago called, “12 Scriptures That Will Set on Fire the Course of Your Life.” And if you remember these scriptures, they are not passages that I randomly picked. They are scriptures that at some point in my life I committed myself to because something happened in my life where I knew I needed some help. I needed God’s direction on that particular thing. Today we’re going to talk about contentment. Contentment. Because of my study of contentment and because I had such a hard time with it, I ended up writing a book on it and you can get it today. If the message today really speaks to you and you know that you’re dealing with discontentment, the book’s on sale, $8. Please get it. I believe it will be a blessing to you. Each chapter is followed by a series of questions to help the truth of that chapter really sink in. Or if you know someone that needs the book you can give it to them.


Now I’ll never forget driving the car all those years ago and my wife confronting me about my discontentment. Basically, about our finances and all that we couldn’t do. And I remember sitting there… I’m just driving and she’s challenging me, and I remember thinking, “Get off your high horse. I mean, I’ve taught on this. I know more what the Bible says about contentment than you can even imagine. You don’t even know as much and you’re lecturing me. Man, someone needs to remind you of the scripture that says you need to get the log out of your own eye.” Now I’m driving with a smile on my face, well not a smile, but I’m driving and anyway, she was right of course. Dagnabit. She was right because I recognized I wasn’t very happy. You see, for years our church had two Pastors and we couldn’t afford to pay two pastors. And then when the church started growing, we had to hire other pastors and we couldn’t give ourselves a raise because we felt responsible for them. Anyways, long short of it is, I remember feeling really sorry for myself and I remember crying out to God, (well, I don’t know if it was a cry), “God, this is one of the reasons I didn’t want to become a pastor in the first place! I told you I didn’t want to do this, and this is one of the reasons. Here we are!” I didn’t want to be poor. I grew up in a pastor’s home and so often we couldn’t have…. anyway… I didn’t want to do this and here I am! I told you! You see, I was just tired of fixing things. The car would break and I’d have to fix it because I couldn’t take it anywhere. I was tired of getting phone calls that something was wrong at the house. I had to come home and fix it because I would try to fix it and then I’d make it worse. That’s what happens. Praise God for YouTube. You know, YouTube will tell you how to fix anything. They make it sound so easy, look so easy. I was tired of not having money to go on the vacations I thought we should be able to do. I wanted to buy a trailer to take my kids camping. I wanted to buy a truck to take my kids camping. Yes, I wanted the trailer more than the truck. Then I started getting sarcastic with God. Don’t do that. I remember specifically, “God, I mean really, if this is the way you treat people who are trying to commit themselves to you, I’m surprised anybody wants to follow you!” That’s what I told Him. Yeah, I wasn’t in a great place. Anyway, my wife’s challenge and my recognizing, I was really discontent. I really felt like God really wasn’t treating me properly. It sent me on a search for contentment because I knew somewhere that I’ve read that the Bible says you could learn contentment. And Paul had learned to be content in whatever circumstance he was in. I thought, “Well, oh my goodness, he was in prison.” So, I went to Philippians 4, what we’re going to look at today, and when I read that passage, I asked myself a question, “I wonder if the book of Philippians has a lot more to say about being content?” And it does, and that’s how that book on contentment came about. It’s all from the book of Philippians. So, let’s look at Philippians 4:10-12.


10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity (to give him an offering). 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

Philippians 4:10-12 NASB


So, Paul is saying here, what I understood from this passage clearly, is that Paul said, you and I can learn to be content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. That our circumstance doesn’t have to dictate our happiness. Now I knew enough to know that if I could live that way, it would set on fire the course of my life. I would experience the rest of my life from there on differently than most people around me because Americans are happiness chasers. I don’t know where I first heard that, but we are. The one thing I hear from people is, “I just want me children to be happy.” I hear that and I just want to go, “No, no, no! You want them to follow Jesus! You want them to fulfill God’s will for their life.” I’m not angry at them, it’s just, we all have been influenced by the dominant philosophy of our culture. Friend, I’d like you to fill in this blank for me, and it‘s just you and God. You and yourself. Fill in this blank for me. “I will be happy when ______.” I will be happy when I get a promotion at work. I will be happy when I get a raise. I will be happy when we get pregnant. I’ll be happy when I get married… a nicer car… a bigger house. You fill in the blank. “I will be happy when _____”. Okay, so what happens if that “blank” never happens? What happens if that never happens? How many times have you and I heard ourselves say, “If only…”? If only I was married. If only we had this. If only we could go there. If only I could go on this cruise to the Caribbean, lay on the sand, have an iced tea or whatever they’re going to give me, I would be happy. If only I had a better job. A different spouse. In 2016, Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets. Seventy billion with a ‘B’, lottery tickets. No wonder states all want to have lotteries. Now why? Because people think that if they win the lottery they’re going to be happy. I challenge you to Google lottery winners and see what you find. It won’t be encouraging. You’ll find one story after another, horrible stories. We’re not going to go through them. Just trust me. More often than not, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to them.


In 1999, U.S. News and World Report… (which was the magazine of my father. My father read that thing cover to cover every single… I think it came out once a week) they did a study in 1999 about the American Dream and they asked people, thousands of people, “What would you need in your life right now to experience the American Dream?” The number one answer was, “To make twice as much money as I make now.” Number one answer. Well, I think we’re all smart enough to recognize that as soon as their salary was doubled, if someone was to ask them that question a few years down the road, they would say, “Double my salary,” because we’re never satisfied. So, what is contentment? What is it? Well, this is how I define it after my study, and I have done… maybe someone has done more, but I have done a lot on this because I had trouble with it. I mean, I deserved these things, for heaven’s sake.


Contentment: The ability to enjoy life, be happy regardless of circumstances.


Where you are, what you don’t have, what you do have… just to enjoy life. Remember, Paul wrote these words when he was in prison. Paul tells us clearly that happiness is independent of circumstances. That’s a radical statement in America. Your happiness is independent of what you have, what you don’t have, of your circumstances. That is anti-American culture thinking. That’s radical stuff, if you really believe it. See, for years I said I believed it. For years I could preach the message on it, but I didn’t really believe it. You understand? I didn’t live it. So, here’s the obvious question. Do you want to be content? Do you want to experience every day to its fullest? Well, the Bible says you can. But just so everybody is clear, I’m not simply saying that you surrender to fate. “This is the wife you’ve given me and I guess this is the best it’s going to be. Okay, fine, I’m content now.” Or the wife, “I’ve done everything I could think of. I have given him books. I have done everything. This is it. Divorce isn’t an option. This is it for the rest of my life. Okay. It is what it is.” That’s not what I’m talking about. “This is the cross, Lord, I guess I will bear it.” I don’t believe being content is being apathetic. I don’t believe it’s lazy. The Bible clearly tells us to always do our best. I drilled that into my children. If you do your best, cream will always rise to the surface. Young people, listen. If you want to make it in this world, if you’re working for somebody, go the extra mile. Work hard. If you see something no one is doing, just do it. Do it as if it was your business and I guarantee that owner will see that. Business owners are looking for people who know how to work. They’re looking for people who aren’t saying, “What can you do for me?” But rather, “What can I do for you?”


If you want to learn to be content, you and I have to begin by mentally rejecting the philosophy of our culture, the dominant philosophy of our culture which says it promises happiness, but it doesn’t. It’s materialism and materialism just kind of feeds into our sinful natures. We always want more. A little baby, first thing, “Mine, mine, mine,” and pretty soon it’s “More. I want more.” I know I felt that way when I first tasted chocolate. “More!” I used to go to my grandparents’ house and they used to think, “He sure has to go to the bathroom a lot.” Well, what I would do is, I would sneak into the kitchen, take the chocolate, run into the bathroom, run out, take more chocolate… We always want more. Materialism is the belief that this world is all that there is. It’s all there is. This is it. And so, materialism emphasizes physical comfort, pleasure, possessions, prestige. Because this is all there is. You might as well get what you can now. It’s all about right now. It’s happiness now. If materialism produces what it says, happiness, that would mean that 95%, maybe higher, of this world’s population is going to be miserable and unhappy, because 95% of the world can’t possibly have the possessions and stuff that you and I have. We all know that’s not true. Just because they don’t have things doesn’t mean they’re not happy. As a matter of fact, if you go on a mission trip… people who go on a mission trip to a third world country, they come back, what’s the number one thing they say? “I can’t believe how happy those people are. They don’t have anything but they are so happy.” That should have been a clue. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. I’ve said it myself. So, Paul says that we can learn how to be content. Well, how do we do that? I’m going to strip this down. You know I like things easy. I’m going to strip this down to 3 steps to learn how to be content.


Three Steps in Learning Contentment


1. Reject materialism


The first one and you’ve got to do it… You have to reject materialism as a philosophy of living. You have to reject it. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions. Jesus is telling you and I, reject materialism. It’s bankrupt. It will not deliver what is promised. I tell you by the Word of God if you want to experience contentment, happiness, you must reject materialism as the core value in your life.


10He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness!

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (Living Bible)

You and I will always want more. Always, because we’re always thinking about ourselves. Jesus told us to seek His kingdom, His value system and He would give us everything. In other words, He would give us the contentment and happiness that we’re all looking for. But know this. Rejecting materialism is not going to be easy. We’re confronted with it every single day of our life. I mean our kids, “Daddy, can I have…? Daddy, can we? Can we, Daddy?” Or Mom. Billboards, advertisements, radio, T.V., friends. Our own sense of entitlement. “I deserve this. I deserve this.” Throw down the credit card. “This is what I need. This will satisfy the discontentment of my heart.” No, it won’t. It may for a period. You know, you get that new car. I noticed something about older people. We don’t buy new cars very often. You know why? It’s a horrible investment. I mean, you get to be older, you know, hey, a two-year-old car is fine. But, you know, you want that car, the new smell. We got a brand-new van, loved it. Went up to the mountains. Kids start throwing up in it. It’s true. Of course, Mary, honey, it was my fault if you remember because I was driving too fast along those roads. The kids just got sick. Threw up everywhere. I still remember, parked along the side of the road. My son is just barfing. He already barfed inside of the car. What do you do in the middle of nowhere and there’s just dirt and you start to throw up? There’s not a whole lot you can do. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “destination sickness”? Have you ever heard that description, destination sickness? I tried to find out where it came from and it’s in a couple of Christian books. But destination sickness is when you’ve worked for years or decades to get what you think will make you happy and instead you find yourself empty, lonely, unhappy, miserable and depressed.


Pete Maravich. Now I don’t know a lot about basketball, but this young man was amazing. Amazing. When he was in junior high, he played on the high school varsity basketball team. When he was in junior high. Best player. When he got to college, LSU, division one, NCAA. He scored 3,667 points, which has never been equaled. Never. Never. But what about…? Nope, sorry. What about…? Nope, sorry. Now this is what is incredible about this. He did it before the 3-point shot. There were no 3-pointers. And when he played basketball in 1968, the late 60s-early 70s, you couldn’t play varsity till your sophomore year. So, he did this in three years. In his college, he averaged 44.5 points a game. Without 3-pointers. Many games he scored over 60 points. Your mind just kind of goes: tilt. How many points could he have scored if there was a 3-pointer? So, he obviously goes to the NBA. Plays for 10 years. 5 time All Star. All kinds of awards. And one of the things… because I heard his testimony… he wanted to be the first professional player to make a million dollars a year. Guess what? He made a million dollars a year. First one. Now, this doesn’t seem like very much, but way back then no one had ever done it. He’d done it all and there he was locked in his bedroom. Curtains closed. Sinking in a black hole of depression. He’d come out once in a while to eat, but not very often. His wife, his family, his former teammates, his doctors, they were all worried about him. And they were really worried about him because his mother had committed suicide a few years earlier. So, there he was. He had everything. You can get a video, it’s called, Pistol Pete, and that’s what they used to call him because he used to shoot the ball like this (hand gesture). He developed that because when he was a little kid, twelve, thirteen years old, he’s playing on varsity with the high school and the ball was so big. I heard his testimony and he said, (paraphrased) “I had everything I ever thought would make me happy. More even. And there I was in my bedroom, just wanting to die. There was no use going on. The only reason I would think to continue living was for my wife and kids. That’s it. Only thing keeping me from doing something radical was that.” And there in his bedroom, depressed, he remembered that a friend of his, years earlier when he went to LSU, had invited him to a campus crusade meeting. And at that meeting, he only went once, but he heard the gospel. So, there on the edge of his bed in his bedroom, he said, “OK, God, if you’re real, Jesus come into my life,” and Jesus powerfully met him. Changed his life. Completely changed his life. I couldn’t help but think, if Pete Maravich wouldn’t have become a Christian, what would have happened to him? I think he probably would have gone to a psychiatrist and they would have given him some pills, right? This is the answer. If you live in a culture that believes in materialism, if you’re not happy, the only way to help you is to sedate you. If you have destination sickness, the only thing they can do to help is, “Get some exercise, do something and here’s some pills.” The point is, destination sickness is real. It’s where materialism gets you. In Matthew 13 we have the parable of the sower. Jesus tells us that the deceitfulness of thinking that gaining wealth is going to make you happy, well, it isn’t and you’re going to miss out on what God has for you. So, how can we separate ourselves from the dominant value system of our culture that we’re attacked with every day? That even our own selves tell us, “I need this to be happy.” Our kids are saying, “I need this to be happy.” And you know, you want to give your kids anything… but that’s the problem… we want to give our kids anything they want. Well, within reason.


So, how can we separate ourselves from this value system? Well, first and foremost, you and I have to embrace what God says about money and possessions. You have to first commit yourself, “I may not feel that way, but this is the truth. It doesn’t matter what other people say, it doesn’t matter what my heart says. The truth. What God says about money and possessions.” Secondly, you never, never, never, never make any decision based on money. You want to live a horrible life? Just start basing all your decisions on, “How can I get more money?” You and I need to make decisions based on God’s Word, His leading, prayer and godly counsel. So often Mark and I have seen especially young couples move somewhere, do something, take a job only because of money and usually it doesn’t work out very good. Often you hear people say, or maybe you’ve heard yourself say, “I can’t live on what I make. I just can’t live.” Let me tell you something, I’ve never made more money in my life and never been so poor. I’ll just tell you right now. Nothing. Well, I do have, five, six, seven… I have eight dollars in my pocket. Wealthy man. I’d have more but I had oatmeal this morning at McDonald’s. Don’t laugh, it’s good. It’s got apples, raisins. It’s good. And the most important ingredient, lots of brown sugar. That’s the thing. “I just can’t live, I can’t live on what I make.” I think a more accurate statement would be, “I just can’t live the lifestyle I think I deserve on what I make.” This is the attitude that gets us in trouble with credit cards. Mary and I, at a certain point in our life, we owed seventeen thousand dollars, not proud of it, seventeen grand on a credit card and you get to that place where you go, “What? How? What did you spend the money on!?” No, you did it together and it’s usually because you think you needed something. You needed that vacation. You needed this and that and the other. And pretty soon you get this credit card statement and you start figuring out, “Good heavens, it will take us fifty years to pay this off.” Because you can’t afford to pay anything but the minimum payment and you start figuring out, “What have we done?” But anyway, praise the Lord, we made some good choices and we got completely out of debt. As a matter of fact, we have a class here to help you get out of debt. A financial class. And so far, he told me, I think the people that have gone to that class, so far, have eliminated $365,000 worth of debt. Praise the Lord. And I know every one of those would say, “Take the class!”


A man checked into a monastery and he was going to stay there for two weeks. He was just going to get down to it and pray and try to get his life back in order. The monk shows him to his room and opens the door and says, “I hope you have a wonderful stay. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask us and we’ll explain to you how to live without it.” You make budgets. Budgets. You pray about purchases. If you find yourself using the phrase, “If only…” stop yourself. If you say, “This is gonna make me happy.” Maybe for a short time. Remind yourself a few months from now, next year, you’ll just want something else. And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try and better your situation financially for your family. That is not what I’m saying. Jesus taught a parable of the talents. You should definitely try to better your financial situation for your family. I’m not saying it’s more spiritual to be poor. I’m not saying that. As a matter of fact, some of the most spiritual people I’ve met in my life and generous, were very, very wealthy. You simply reject the idea that money and possessions, prestige and power, whatever, is going to make you happy. That’s the first step. The first step to being content is rejecting materialism. The second is…


2. Trust God


Now I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on this because I’ve spent a whole Sunday morning on it. It was the first message in this series that if you trust God, you believe Him, you believe His Word, you try to live according to what God has told you, you are not going to be disappointed. I’m completely convinced by God’s Word and experience that if you trust God’s Word and make decisions… aligning those decisions up with the Word of God, ultimately you will not be disappointed. This type of trust involves a surrender to Jesus in all things. It’s a realization that God is sovereign over everything you have. Contentment comes when you and I literally present ourselves and put ourselves on the altar, our wishes, our desires, and say, “God, it’s up to you. I’ll pray. I want to live for you. It’s Your timing, Your purpose, Your plan.” And you know, sometimes you have to wait. And there is nobody… I will put myself to anybody in this room… I hate to wait. I’m a hyper person. I’m hyper! Can you tell? I’m hyper without coffee. When I write a message… I’m so envious of my brother Mark. He’ll sit for hours and read and write. I can’t do that. About an hour-hour and a half, I got to get up and do something. Get up, run around. I got to do something. My legs going like this. I hate waiting. But learning to be content is also learning to wait on God’s timing because He’s faithful. He can be trusted. He knows what’s good for you. This is very important because the enemy is going to tell you that you’re settling for second best. Your heart is going to tell you, “This is what I need to be happy!” No, you don’t. The devil is going to say, “You know, you’re settling for second best here.” That beach in the Bahamas looks really good. When we surrender and embrace God’s leading and provision, this is what trusting God is. Believing that if you follow Him, follow His ways, align ourselves in His Word in our decision making, embrace what He says about our money and our possessions, ultimately, we’re going to give glory to God.


Contentment is never found in laziness. It’s never found in squandering your finances. It’s never found in embracing sin. As a matter of fact, contentment, it comes when you trust God. But how many of you know, you can’t commit yourself to trusting God without pursuing godliness? it’s one and the same. Did you hear what I just said? If you commit yourself to trusting God and His Word, you’re also going to be committing yourself to pursuing godliness. I don’t have time to go into it right now, but in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul makes a connection between godliness and contentment. And for me, godliness is very simple. It’s trusting God enough to get up each day and try to live for Jesus that day, knowing that if you do that, you ultimately aren’t going to be disappointed. It’s understanding that– I’m going to fail and when I fail, I have an advocate with the Father. I just ask the Lord to forgive me. Ask people to forgive me. And I get up the next morning full of grace, forgiveness, it’s a new day. It’s living in humility, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should. Guys, godliness is not that complicated. It’s just simply trying to live for Jesus. That’s godliness. There. You don’t have to read that book that’s on the shelf about godliness. Godliness is simply trying to live for Jesus each day, the best you can. So, first of all you reject materialism. Second of all, you trust God. You trust God and His Word. You try to live how God would want you and that’s pursuing godliness. The third step in learning contentment is to…


Be thankful


This is powerful. Mark and I both preached numerous times on this subject. There are 190 verses in the Bible about being thankful. I know because I personally counted them. I counted them. I may have missed one. I may have counted one twice because it’s really small print. But when we make a daily practice of thanking God, thanking God for His love, His provision, His reliability, His guidance, His peace, our children, our very lives, our spouses, employment… it changes everything. It changes your attitude. It reminds you what’s really important. Every day… I’ve got this long driveway, I’ve got to go down the hill… and I always, it’s just a habit, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I just keep saying that until I get down to about Manzanita. By the time I get to Manzanita, now I’m starting to thank God for everything I can think of. For my wife, even if she’s done something that’s made me angry, because she’s wonderful. Because she is. I start thanking God for all the wonderful things about my wife and all of a sudden… my wife has gotten many phone calls, by the time I get to the office, “I’m sorry.” But anyway, you start to thank the Lord for your children. It completely changes your attitude. And even if you don’t have a bad attitude, if you thank God first thing in the morning, just take some time, it gives you a good attitude. Like I said, it reminds you of the things that are really important. Being thankful has the power to change our attitude from hopelessness, fear and anxiety to hope and expectation of the future.


Acts 28. It’s the last chapter in the book of Acts. So, Paul is finally getting to Rome. If you remember, when he was in Jerusalem, they wanted to kill him. So, he appealed to Caesar and then he went to Caesarea. He was there for a couple years. A prisoner the whole time. He finally gets to go to Rome, shipwrecked, all that stuff. But he finally gets to Rome after years of being a prisoner. Not knowing what’s going to happen to him. I would imagine he’s thinking, “There’s three things that can happen to me. Two things are bad. They could release me, that’s good. Or they could sentence me to breaking rocks on some island the rest of my life. Or they could kill me.” So, he was a human being just thinking about this stuff. Let’s see what happens. Verse 15, and this is written by Luke. Luke was with him. Luke saw. I’ll get to that in a second.


15And the brethren, when they heard about us (the Christians living in Rome), came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us; and when Paul saw them (now remember, Luke must have seen the apprehension that Paul had. Maybe he had even communicated it to him), he thanked God and took courage.

Acts 28:15 NASB

A complete attitude change, and Luke saw it. He took courage. Being thankful is a powerful choice, and it is a choice. It has the power to change your attitude from discontentment to contentment. It is absolutely possible to learn how to be content in any circumstance you are in. It’s not that easy but it’s possible. If I can do it… and I’m not standing up here saying I do it all the time… but if I can do it, you can do it. Because as Mike Roselle says, “I’m always on my mind.” If I can do it, you can do it. It is absolutely possible to learn how to be content. And it’s not easy but you just practice it. You first have to tell yourself that it’s possible. You can learn to live above your situations. Whenever you hear yourself saying, “If only…” remember, if you got what you think you need to be happy, it’s only a matter of time before you want something else. Reject the value system of our culture. It’s bankrupt. Jesus said: I am the way, the truth and the life. Not materialism. You want to know happiness, contentment, and peace… what everybody is seeking? Trust Me, look to Me. You live each day for Jesus. You give thanks. Have a time every day when you give thanks. Most of us have to drive to work or drop off the kids. Just take that time to thank God. Even as I’m saying this I’m thinking of a mother taking her kids and the kids screaming. You know, maybe after you drop them off. Then you can start thanking Jesus. “Thanks for those kids. Thank you. Thanks, Jesus.” But it will change your attitude. But you have to practice it. Each day, live for Jesus. Guys, you’ll not only learn how to be content up here [points to head] you’ll experience it.