The Secret of Contentment

Please take a few minutes to meditate on  the words of our passage of Scripture for this morning….

“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know hot to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13)

Contentment is a LEARNED behavior. Look at what Paul says…“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” When you learn to be content in whatever circumstance you encounter, you will then be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I like the way the Phillips translation puts verse 13. It says, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One who lives within me.” Contentment is a gift from God Himself. You don’t achieve it through hard work, willpower or psychological therapy. Contentment comes through Christ. You and I are “ready for anything” because the Christ who lives within us is constantly providing supernatural strength. I’m not content in my circumstances…I am content in my position in Christ!

There is an old “preacher story” that I have used many times to illustrate this point. There was a wealthy man from England who lost his only son in World War II. The son was a pilot in the RAF and he was shot down during the Battle of Britain. Years later, the old man died. He had lost his wife and his only child so he had no heirs. He instructed his attorney that his estate should be auctioned off and the proceeds given to various charities.

As a part of that estate, the old man had a priceless art collection. The auction was arranged and announced. People from all over England came to bid on this priceless collection. On the day of the sale, the auctioneer began by placing a portrait of a young man on the easel. It was explained that the man’s will said that before any of the other pieces of art could be sold…this picture…a portrait of the man’s only son…must be sold first. The crowd was disappointed. The artist who painted the portrait was unknown and certainly nobody there knew the old man’s son. As far as they were concerned…this portrait was of no value.

The crowd was quiet…nobody made a bid.

There happened to be in the audience that day, a man who had worked as a servant for the now deceased man. He actually had known the son from birth. He had watched him grow up and he remembered vividly the day word was brought to his father that the boy had been killed in action.

He thought that it would be nice to have the portrait, and since no one else was interested, he could probably get it pretty cheap. So he offered a bid. Since nobody else wanted the portrait, and since they were eager to get on to the more important pieces in the collection, nobody bid against the servant. The picture was his.

At that moment the auctioneer said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the auction is ended.” The people gathered there were stunned with disbelief!

The auctioneer explained, “The old man’s will further stipulated that whoever got the picture of the son got the whole lot.”

Whoever has the SON has the whole thing! Contentment provided by our relationship with Jesus Christ enables us to say, “I’m ready for ANYTHING because my strength comes from Christ.”

 

Just a Little Laugh

Some days, you just need a little laugh. Today’s that day for me. Enjoy this story I came across this morning.

A passenger on a dining car of a train many years ago looked over the lunch menu. The list included both a chicken salad sandwich and a chicken sandwich. He decided on the chicken salad, but mistakenly wrote chicken sandwich on the order slip.

When the waiter brought the chicken sandwich, the customer angrily protested. Most waiters (me included) would have immediately picked up the order slip and showed the customer that the mistake was his. This waiter didn’t.

Instead, the waiter apologized for the error, picked up the chicken sandwich and quickly returned with a chicken salad sandwich.

While eating his sandwich, the customer picked up the order slip and saw that indeed HE was the one who made the mistake. When it came time to pay the check the man apologized to the waiter and offered to pay for both sandwiches.

The waiter looked at the customer and said, “No sir. That’s not necessary and it’s perfectly all right. I’m just happy that you have forgiven me for being RIGHT.”

I’m pretty sure that I have needed forgiveness many times in my life and most often it was NOT because I was right, but because I was wrong. Think about that the next time you are tempted to inform the world of how RIGHT you are.

Talking to Yourself

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)

Does your self ever talk to you?

My self often makes suggestions to me. It sounds something like this…”Keith, you need to look out for number 1 cause nobody else will.” “Keith, you aren’t going to let them get away with that are you?” “Keith, who do they think they are? They can’t tell you what to do.”

I’ve learned over my 40 plus years of serving the Lord, that it is so important to rely on the Holy Spirit to help me say no to the suggestions of my flesh and yes to Christ. Jesus said, “The man who loves his life will lose it” (John 12:25).  The word translated “life” here is the word psyche — the self — the part of you and me where decisions are decided and choices are made.

The world I live in today operates under the idea of MY WAY OR NO WAY. We love our own way. We want to make our own choices and follow our own will. Jesus said the person who lives that way will ultimately lose his/her life.

Are you familiar with the Intuit people of Greenland? The Intuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous people who live not only in Greenland, but also in Canada and in Alaska. These people have adapted to the culture of the Arctic region of the globe. Their hunting practices are quite interesting.

For example, when they go to hunt bears, they take a piece of wolf bone, sharpen both ends to a very sharp point and freeze it in blubber. They place the blubber in the path where a bear will find it…then they wait.

Eventually, a bear finds the blubber and swallows it. The minute he swallows it, he has killed himself. Every step he takes causes that sharpened bone to slash and cut his stomach. The Intuit people follow the bear and when he finally collapses from internal bleeding, they pounce on him.

The person who insists on living by the MY WAY OR NO WAY philosophy is slowing destroying himself with every step he takes. I think about King Saul in the Old Testament. I Samuel tells the story of God instructing Saul to destroy the Amalekites. Instead of following God’s commands, Saul decided he would spare the life of the king and keep the best of the livestock. When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul with his sin, Saul tried to cover up his disobedience.

Saul lost his crown, his kingdom, his son and ultimately his life — all because he didn’t want to follow God’s way.

Our verse today (Luke 9:23) reminds us that one of the basic principles of living the Christian life is to die to self. That means when my self starts talking to me and tries to convince me to be disobedient to God and His Word, I need to say NO in the power of the Holy Spirit to self. To follow Jesus means I will be obedient to Jesus. Instead of MY way or no way, I want to live HIS WAY.

Stop destroying yourself by living according to your own will and way. Ask God to speak to you and guide you by His Spirit so you can die to self and follow Christ.