Wise Living: Content

This morning, we’re continuing our message series on wise living where we’ll be taking the wisdom of God found in scripture and practically applying it to issues that we face every day.  We’ve learned what wisdom itself is and how to receive it.
We know that wisdom is taking accurate information and applying it effectively to our lives.  It’s not just knowing information, but it’s living it out.
Last week, we learned how to be wise with our anger.  This week, we’re going to take a look at being content.
It’s the product that you just can’t live without!  Thought that was enough, but wait, there’s more!  Act now and we’ll double your order!  It’s guaranteed or your money back!  This offer won’t last long, so call now!
High energy, highly convincing infomercials.  These marketing techniques create a false sense of need that leverage a weakness within our sinful selves and cause us to eagerly desire what we do not need and usually should not have and they often make promises that they do not keep.  That product that you just could not live without?  Well, it’s been sitting in your closet for months now untouched.  Many life issues and foolish decisions that we make are grown from a root of discontentment in our lives.
Contentment is one of those root issues that reveals itself in many different ways.  Being discontent can cause us to do all sorts of foolish things and ensnare us in so many different ways.
To start out this morning, let’s take a look at two extremes with being content.  We find in the tenth commandment, God gave us this command.  Now, for every ‘shall not’ commandment, we understand the ‘shall’ counterpart to it, which is true for this commandment as well.
Exodus 20:17
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
We’re being told here not to covet.
To covet is to desire earnestly what belongs to another.
What is implied as the counterpart throughout scripture is to be content.
To be content is to have satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.
So, we see these two extremes of being content.  We either can choose to be satisfied with what we have and where we are at in life, or can choose to be always earnestly desiring what we do not have.  We either can choose to covet or be content.
This applies in so many areas of life.  For example, we see that coveting and not being content can cause:
Adultery and sexual immorality
Jealousy and envy
Pride and arrogance
Overspending and debt
Hoarding and greed
Religious works toward godliness
Fighting and resentment
Addictions to:
     Drugs
     Alcohol
     Work
     Pornography
     Sex
     Food
     Relationships
     Gambling
     Fame
     Praise
These can all be caused by a root of discontentment as we always need just a little more or something else to satisfy.  This cycle of addiction is very easily caused in just about any area when we choose not to be content.
The truth is that nothing good comes from coveting.   Even things that appear to be good on the outside like doing good works for others, when motivated by coveting such as for praise, are highly destructive.  We cannot simultaneously desire the things of this world and also desire what God has purposed for our lives.  Marketing firms spend billions of dollars to have leverage over our longing and desire within us for something more to satisfy and in having this leverage, that they have control of our spending and lifestyles.  They create a false sense of need within us.
James 4:1-6
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Coveting and pride are close brothers who love to tag team us and cause fights and quarrels and divisions amongst us.  After all, we commonly covet because we’re worth it, because we deserve better.  In fact, we deserve nothing less than the best.  And after all, don’t we know better than that other person?  Isn’t our way or our ideas so much better than theirs?
God cannot bless pride because when we covet in pride, we are standing in direct opposition to Him.  However, when we choose to take on an attitude of humility and contentment, God is able to bless us and cooperate with us.  God is able to give abundantly to us because we ask Him with a generous and giving motive instead of a covetous, selfish, greedy motive.  He can bless us when our motive is to use it to bless others instead of using it on our own pleasures.
How much more satisfied and peaceful would our lives be if we chose to be content and humble?  How many foolish decisions and pitfalls could we avoid if we chose to be content?  How powerfully could the Holy Spirit move through us if we were just obedient to God in this matter and to remain humble even as Christ did?
One of the most influential and blessed men to walk this earth was King David.  He wasn’t one that would likely be chosen as a leader as we see when Samuel came to select him.  However, God knew best.

1 Samuel 16:7

The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Even at a young age, David had found the keys to unlocking the blessings and power of God through contentment as he revealed in a Psalm that he had written.
Psalm 131
1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

This weaning process is not an easy one, but a necessary one.  Before Christ, we lived our lives by means of our flesh.  Whatever we wanted and desired, whatever we thought best, whatever satisfied us at the time, we chased after.  However, in Christ, we are a new creation and we no longer live our lives by the flesh, but by the Spirit.  This is a life-long process, but one that is critical to living a wise, blessed, and content life.
Galatians 5:16-17
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
David likened this process of becoming content like that of a child being weaned off of its mother.  We also must wean ourselves off from living our lives coveting by our flesh and to mature by living our lives content by the Spirit.
The apostle Paul was also another great man of God who had learned to do just this and found the keys to contentment.
Philippians 4:11-13
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul found the secret to being content in any and every situation.  He could endure any situation through Christ to gave him strength.  We also can have this same contentment regardless of our situation in life!  I believe that the keys to unlocking this secret in our lives and making Christ our strength are found in scripture in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
These keys to contentment found in this letter are worship, prayer, and thankfulness.
Before digging into these keys in detail, let’s first take a look at how coveting and discontentment begin.
Discontentment starts first in our hearts.  It’s usually brought on by seeing or hearing of something that someone has that we do not.  It could be a material possession, a relationship, a certain status in life, or even actions of others, how they handle things.  It can be anything that others have that we do not.
Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Discontentment within our hearts usually reveals itself first with our mouth.
Luke 6:45
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
When we become discontent and covetous, we usually begin grumbling and complaining about ourselves, our belongings, or our life circumstances.  Once we’ve become discontent in one area of our lives, it is highly contagious and tends to quickly spread into other areas of our lives as well.
Philippians 2:14-15
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
So, do we ever have justification or reason before the Lord to grumble, complain, and argue?  NO!
Let’s look now at the keys to contentment found in 1 Thessalonians 5.
First, we’re called to rejoice or to be joyful always.  Now we cannot both rejoice and praise God always and grumble and complain at the same time.  The first key to gaining contentment within our hearts is to begin rejoicing and praising God through worship with our mouths.  The next time that we start to complain or grumble about something, stop and begin to praise God for something.  Praising God is worship and is one of the first keys to unlocking contentment in our lives.
To begin overcoming grumbling and complaining, let’s start by using our ‘buts’.  For example, we may normally complain and say something like, ‘I get so tired of this car always breaking down!’  When we notice ourselves complaining like this, start using the word ‘but’ afterward and turn the complaint into praise.  For example, ‘I get so tired of this car always breaking down, but praise God that I have transportation!’
Second, we’re called to pray continually.  Grumbling and complaining about things never change the circumstances, so why do we do it?  Who has ever been able to get a better job, a nicer house, more time with our families, more money, a better spouse, a kinder relative, etc. by complaining about them?  However, when we choose to take our needs before the Lord in prayer, He is able to make things happen!  The next time that we begin to grumble or complain about something, along with praising God, also submit your request in prayer and trust in Him.
For example, ‘I get so tired of this car always breaking down, but praise God that I have transportation and thank you Jesus for helping me in this time of need.  I’m trusting that you’re either going to send me the provision to get this car repaired or send me a replacement soon.’
Lastly, we’re called to give thanks in all circumstances.  No matter what our circumstances are, there is always something that we can be thankful for.  Offering thanksgiving despite difficult circumstances is a powerful thing that opens the heavens to us.  This isn’t an easy thing to do, but as we do so, our perspective begins to shift.  Instead of grumbling about what we do not have, we are thankful for what we do have.  Instead of complaining about what we have, we see His purpose and reason for what we do have.  This paradigm shift unlocks the kingdom principle of being a good steward of what we have been given so that the Lord is able to entrust us with more and even greater things.
To be content in life is to lean on the Lord and not on our own understanding.  We need to completely trust in Him and seek after Him and not the things of this world.
Proverbs 19:23
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
1 Timothy 6:6-10

6 Godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
6 So we say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

As we apply God’s word to our lives, we’ll become wise people fully grasping the secret in being content and will find ourselves avoiding foolish decisions and snares as we stop coveting what others have and learn to be satisfied and content with whatever the Lord has given us.  Through our trust and contentment, the Lord will be able to richly bless us and meet all of our need and use us to bless others as well.