UCAN sharing: Enduring contentment
Scripture: Phil. 4:11-13
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
Contentment: happiness and satisfaction, often because you have everything you need.
So often when we look forward to enjoying something the experience leaves us flat and longing. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some pleasure but rather that the overall experience was less than what we expected. As humans, expectation plays a powerful role in motivating us to act. If we believe that an experience will satisfy us we will pursue it wholeheartedly. But in life, expectations have a way of getting larger than the reality of the experience. This creates a sense of disappointment or let down. This is that flat feeling that says there should have been more but I didn’t get it. Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes writes about this feeling as he explored life here on earth without God. He allowed himself whatever he wanted but in the end he expresses his feeling powerfully, “meaningless, meaningless, it is all a chasing of the wind.” But there does exist a way of life where contentment is constant and true as it lifts a person over the ordinary in to the extraordinary. It is a life not defined by circumstances or time. It is higher than all these so that we learn to walk in it free of the disappointments that are so common. Paul knew this life and describes it for us that we too may find it. He tells us that this life can be found in only one way, an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, for only a perfect person can give a life of enduring contentment.
The experience of being disappointed is familiar to all of us. Daily people set their expectations on things that don’t deliver. We look forward to something or someone with hopeful feelings. The mind runs through the experience envisioning how pleasant it will be. Excitement builds up and creates an idea of what it will be like. But so often the image in our minds doesn’t match the reality of the experience. We may have great times but we may also have great disappointments. Regardless of whether it is good or bad the feelings fades because the experience itself is short lived. Consider watching a beautiful sunset, people find this to be a pleasant experience. But after the sun has set it is over. The pleasure of it fades quickly and we must seek the pleasure again another day. This is what Solomon pointed to when he spoke of the meaninglessness of life. No matter what we do we must do it again and again and it ends in an empty longing for more. So when we speak of contentment the pleasures of this world are unable to serve as a way to gain true contentment. Due to the fallen nature of life nothing can really satisfy. Some may find a false contentment in doing something they love but even this will fade or be replaced so it to is meaningless.
The pursuit of life contentment brings many different kinds of responses. Some people are optimistic and see good in the disappointment believing that the next time will be better. The realist embraces the hurt of disappointment as a part of life that must be endure but quietly reserves hope for better. Lastly there is the pessimist who sees no good and has been hurt so many times that they fear hoping less they get hurt again. Regardless of which one of these persons you may relate to what we can see is that they never reach the intended goal of lasting contentment. They are obligated to continue searching for the next experience that might fulfill them. It is this repetitive pursuit that is meaningless. The space in between good experiences is empty and gets filled by our carnal nature. So life becomes a roller coaster of emotions; unstable and not satisfying.
When God created man he put him in perfection. God’s intent was that man would live forever in perfection and total harmony with his God. There was no death or sin to limit us from enjoying life and since we were connected intimately with God we had all our souls longed for and thus true contentment existed. In perfection true contentment can be found. While this condition didn’t last it was not because God didn’t want it to. It was man who chose to sin and thus destroyed his source of life. From that moment onward man has pursued what can’t be found, life without God. Without the source of life actively working in a person there is no life. No life means that there is a lack. Lack leads to discontentment. Man searches on today for a source of contentment from an ever increasing list of perversions that only lead away from peace and joy. But contentment did exist once in God’s presence and it is still available now.
Paul’s life after his conversion was anything but easy. He suffered physically a lot. He labored against much resistance and often faced difficult situations yet Paul came to know contentment that lifted him above circumstances. He experienced a constant, never changing state of being that allowed him to endure amazing hardships like being beaten, ship wreaked and stoned. How can one find contentment in suffering? If investing in the temporary leads to a dead end in life satisfaction then if we gain an eternal hope can this satisfy? Only if the one we hope in is faithful and able to carry us to that place of a better life.
5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Rom. 5:5
When we place all our trust in God it shifts the balance of action from worldly life that is unable to satisfy, to a spiritual life in Christ that can only satisfy. God has stated that when he speaks what he says will be done therefore it can’t fail (Isa 55:11). If we believe this then God says that we can learn to be truly content in Christ because we know that the one who is leading us is faithful and able to do what he says. This is the meaning of faith that we believe what God says and live by it. In doing so we see God act for our good and we can be content in knowing what He gives us is the best. Matt. 7:11
11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
The foundation of this hope is God’s love and his person which is life itself. Paul devoted all his person to seeking to know Christ. In doing so he had to depend totally on God to lead Him through many challenging situations yet Paul says that in doing this he found enduring contentment. No difficulty even death was greater than the power of God’s love. This kind of faith develops only for those who truly pursue God to know him. As they come to know God they see how great He is. They can experience His power and faithfulness as well as forgiveness. It is the vast life experience in Christ changing us to be more like him that develops faith and births enduring contentment. We no longer need to be like waves tossed about by our doubt (James 1:6).
We have come to trust in the one who is life and that life includes joy, peace and righteousness (Rom. 14:17).
Many in the bible made the decision to place all their hope in Christ not man or life here. As a result they could live free of broken expectations of earthly life because they had the far better spiritual hope. Examine your life and prayerfully ask God to show you whether you are enjoying the fullness of what he has for you. Are you living just to get to the next good experience? Does life’s daily little let downs bring you low? Then you are in need of more of Jesus. Why not commit yourself to seeking Him fervently and spending time with him. Pray and ask God to show you your spiritual level according to His eyes. Ask Him to help you live in full contentment by learning to love him more daily. If you do this than one day you will be able to say like Paul you are truly content in all situations.
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. 2 Tim. 1:12