I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11b-13
“Contentment helps us greatly as we seek to be faithful stewards. It protects us from poor financial decisions like overspending or unnecessary debt, and positions us to give, save, and live faithfully. But the secret of contentment is also hard. By the time Paul writes Philippians, 25-30 years have passed since his conversion. For Paul, growth in contentment took time and perseverance. Same for us. It takes discipline to find contentment in our thoughts and actions.
To learn the secret of contentment I suggest we refocus our thoughts in at least three areas.
1. To what we have instead of what we don’t have — The world teaches us to think about what we want. It bombards us with advertising specifically designed to make us want things we don’t have. But the contentment that Paul talks about is not dependent at all on external circumstances — it reflects trust in God’s provision — whether great or small. God’s Word teaches us to reflect with thankfulness on what we have been given, rather than fearing for the future or desiring what we don’t have…
2. To the least rather than the greatest — Living in Australia, it is easy to compare ourselves to those around us, particularly those who have more than us. The world tells to look ahead and upwards — aspiring to the next salary increase, the next promotion, the next opportunity to climb the material ladder. But the Bible reminds us that we should focus on the least rather than the greatest. When we do, we realise that in a global sense, we are abundantly wealthy. There will always be those who have been blessed with more than us. But there are billions who have less. While we are free to make decisions about which of our wants we will satisfy, many are left unable to satisfy their most basic needs of water, food, safety, clothing, and shelter.
3. To eternity rather than the present — The world teaches us to focus on our present desires, and tells us to seek pleasure now rather than delaying it. But the Scriptures teach us to live for eternity. Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, where Christ is — and to reflect on the boundless riches of Christ (see Ephesians 3:8), and the glorious inheritance that is to come (see Ephesians 1:18). Jesus encourages us to store up earthly treasures in the place of eternal abundance and blessing (see Matthew 6:20).”
Tim Macready, chief investment officer for Christian Super and Brightlight, in his three-page essay “What can we do to foster contentment?” in Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life compiled and edited by Gary G. Hoag and Tim Macready (Rhodes, NSW: Christian Super, 2018) 125-127. Click on the title to download this free ebook today.
In doing research this week, I find that I have to look in the right place to learn what I need to know. That’s how we learn contentment too. We need to look where the Word tells us and not where the world tells us. It’s easier said than done. It took the Apostle Paul nearly three decades to figure it out, so my Aussie mate, Tim Macready is right to say it’s hard!
As we all have room for growth in this area, pick one of these three areas that he beckons to refocus.
If your mind drifts to what you don’t have, pause to give thanks for what you have and see what happens. What happens within you? Does your heart fill with gratitude?
If your attention gets drawn to the greatest, the rich and famous, take a moment to think about who you know may be suffering or going through a difficult time. What happens when you stop to pray for that person or consider ways you could minister to his or her needs?
To put earthly things in the right perspective, spend five minutes in silence and ask God what eternal things should fill your focus. How did the Holy Spirit speak to you?
I don’t know where you are at with regard to contentment, but I know you will find your way if you reflect with thankfulness on what you have, focus your thoughts on the needs of the least around you, and think about things above rather than earthly things, I know you will find your way, because what we think about shapes how we live.
Before we can be generous, we must first learn contentment. That starts with our thought life and not in our wallet or purse.Read more