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The Secret of Contentment
Are you happy? Scale of 1-5 very unhappy, Mostly unhappy, Somewhat happy, Mostly happy – Very happy. What is happiness to you? What makes you happy? When you’re rating yourself what makes you choose a higher or lower number? Maybe its because… The Phillies are in first place, Everybody seems to like you right now- you’re popular- you have friends, Your son won the little league baseball game, You have an event or trip to look forward to, Your internet isn’t working slowly, You bought some new clothes or had treated yourself to a massage and manicure, You were able to pay all your bills this month including estimated taxes, Its sunny outside- you can ride your motorcycle or go to the park, Your still pumped about how awesome the latest Lost episode was, It’s Father’s day and so I get to pick the restauraunt after church, You just got the new Iphone, What makes you happy? If this list is contributing to you happiness, then your defining happiness according to the it contemporary understanding and definition.
The contemporary understanding of happiness and the dominant pursuit of our culture is defined as a feeling of pleasurable satisfaction.
How many of us would be inclined to say something like this: “I would like this year to be the best year ever”
what most Americans are really saying is “I hope this is my happiest year yet.”
And yet we know that our happiest year may not be our best year and our best year may not be our happiest year.
Kaylee and I may have had the best year of our marriage- grow more in wisdom and in character in one of the darkest times of our life together when her brother past away.
If you are here this morning and you are not happy…quite frankly that is ok. There are much more important things in life than being happy.
How was happiness defined before the early 1900’s?
Happiness meant to live a life of wisdom and character- a life of virtue
Moses-proverbs-Plato-Aristotle- Jesus- Augustine- Boethius- Thomas Aquinas- Protestant reformers- Puritans
Coach who’s team is losing bad saying to his team “Let’s just go have fun” VS “Let’s go do our best and if we lose let’s learn to lose well.”
Life is not about having fun- or obtaining and sustaining feelings of pleasurable satisfaction- It is not about pursuing happiness as modern man understands it.
What are some problems with pursuing happiness as a state or feeling of pleasurable satisfaction.
Problem 1– The individual’s pursuit of happiness creates shallow, immature grown up children with an empty self.
Philosopher and Theologian JP Morland “In modern american culture, what psychologists call the empty self has emerged in epidemic proportion. The empty self is consituted by a set of values, motives, and habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that perverts and eliminates the life of the mind and makes maturation in the way of Christ extremely difficult.
Summarize quote- An empty self makes maturing in Christ difficult.
Individualistic– Self focused people do their own thing and seek to create meaning by looking within their own selves.
Martin Seligman warns, ‘…the slef is a very poor site for finding meaning
Infantile- controlled by infantile cravings for food, entertainment, consumer goods, sex, physical appearance
It loves Turkish Delight
Passive– passively approach life and let other people do the living and thinking for them.
Pastor studies the bible for them
News media does the politic thinking for us
Favorite sports teams exercise, stuggle, and win for us
Huried and busy– their life is filled with activities and noise. Why because the empty self is emotionally empty and thirsty and yet it has devised inadequate strategies to fill that emptiness.
Problem 2- The individual pursuit of happiness is only a temporary bandaid or blindfold for life’s problems
“what do you do when life’s circumstances don’t allow for feelings of pleasurable satisfaction in us or in those we love?
What if you lose your job and can’t pay the bills?
What if your spouse leaves you?
What if you get diagnosed with a terminal disease?
What if you are falsely accused and slandered?
What if your child becomes ill?
What if evil is perpetrated against you?
What if you are put in prison.
If the pusuit of happiness is not a worthy pursuit, then what is the alternative?
The pursuit of contentment!
Transition: The passage of Scripture we’re reading this morning was written by the apostle Paul to the Philippians from a Roman prison under some highly unpleaserable circumstances. His point was to remind them about the secret of contentment whether were happy or not; in the midst of unpleasurable feelings and in all circumstances.
Lets look at We read NAU Philippians 4:10-13 But 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. 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. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Summarizing this passage, I’ve put together a short definition of contentment
Contentment is a learned attitude of trust and gratitude, which results in any and all circumstances of life and is rooted in our confidence in God.
Transition: What do we learn from this passage about contentment?
Contentment is learned- it is not natural Paul says Vs11 I have learned to be content
Our sin nature is naturally prone to discontentment, covetousness, greed, and lust of the flesh and eyes- all of which are the opposite of contentment.
We can see this discontentment pressed out in our culture
high rate of consumer debt: discontent w/ possessions
$2.6 trillion dollars
$8,500 in debt for every man, woman and child
Why so much debt?
We are discontent and covet what we don’t have and can’t afford.
the culture (other human beings) encourages us to feed our greed and bombard us with commercials, magazines, billboards and other forms of marketing which are rigged to get you to covet- to be discontented, to be greedy.
American Company in Guatemala
What do you covet? new…
cell phone upgrade?
high rate of depression and suicide cnn.com- Discontent w/ emotion and life
antidepressants = #1 prescribed drug in the US.
in 2005 1 person every 16 minutes killed themselves
High Divorce rate– discontent w/ marriage and spouse
Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.”
50% first marriages, 67% second marriages, 74% 3rd marriages
High Pornography abuse– discontent w/ intimacy and sex
family safe media.com
Every second – $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography
Every second – 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
Every second – 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines
Every 39 minutes: a new pornographic video is being created in the United States
Why such discontent?
At the heart of it…it is because people are
discontent in their sinful nature
thirsty for real contentment
try to remedy their situation through the pursuit of feelings of pleasurable satisfaction not through hope in God.
Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”
He’s calling us this morning to repentance of our sinfulness and to give him your life so he can give you his.
How is the world influencing you to be discontent? Will you come to Jesus Christ- the lover of our souls and be satisfied?
Contentment is possible in all circumstances
Pauls says: 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.
Those who are content know how to get along with the ups and downs of life
Whether with lots of money or none
with good health or bad
in conflict or peace
in grief or in goodtimes
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Steve Phinney- God is in the business of turning lives right side up.
Imagine a sculptor. He begins with a block of marble. To us it seems like nothing. Then the artist who seems to see something that we don’t begins the process of chipping away at the marble. From our perspective the chips are random and meaningless. But soon the marble is beginning to take form. The artist continues to chip away and before long there is a masterpiece that stuns us. Imagine if you were the marble. You would resent the intrusion of the chisel and feel the one who held the chisel was a cruel tyrant. But you would be wrong.
Helen Roseveare: On this day, Saturday, August 15, 1964, a truck-load of soldiers took over the hospital compound at Nobobongo. They occupied it for five months. “They were brutal and coarse, rough and domineering. Their language was threatening and obscene. All of us were cowed. We did exactly what they demanded, mostly without argument.” Tension was terrible. “We heard that the local chief had been caught, bound and beaten; then he was taken to the people’s tribunal at Wamba, found guilty, flayed alive and eaten. No wonder we did not sleep well. No wonder we were not hungry.” Then Helen and others were taken away. “…We were put off at a house in the jungle–nineteen defenseless women and children surrounded by some seventy-five men, soldiers and others, all filled with hatred and evil intentions toward us…And in my heart was an amazing peace, a realization that I was being highly privileged to be identified with [Christ] in a new way, in the way of Calvary.” Although raped and humiliated by the rebels, Helen found that God gave her an even deeper love for the Congo people. In 1965 she returned to pick up her medical mission work. She had learned through her painful experience that participation in Christ’s suffering is necessary to each of us if we are to fulfill his will in this world.
Steven J Cole: If you are walking with God and you find yourself in a desperate situation, you can know that you are not there by chance. The sovereign God has put you there for your training in faith, that you might share His holiness. It may be a small crisis or a major, life-threatening crisis. Submit to and trust the Sovereign God and you will know the contentment that comes from Him.
Are you and I content in all circumstances?
Contentment is in rooted God Paul says vs 12 I have learned the secret.
What is the Real Secret of Contentment?
He says vs 13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
The Secret is God Himself- the God who provides and strengthen’s
Verse often quoted out of context by athletes
This verse does not mean that Christ will give you superhuman physical strength to smash a pile of bricks or accomplish amazing athletic feats!
Real contentment comes from the knowledge that the One true and living God God exists, is good, has purpose, loves me, is using me, and empowers me to serve Him and others through His indwelling Spirit.
God is saying today..“I am, Yahweh, the existent One, I am the source and goal of all goodness, I am in sovereignly in control of all reality, I love you and genuinely care for you, I came to die for you to make a dwelling with you, My Spirit indwells your mortal body… what more do you need to be content?
I am the Alpha and Omega- the first and final cause of all things. I originated everything and I am the end of everything. I am the ultimate purpose of all things.
Any pain, suffering, or evil you experience now has been defeated on the cross and will one day be completely exempt from your experience.
And only because of me, because I exist- can there be future that is good- I am the only hope for you.
Your real contentment is inexrtricable linked with my purposes.
Hope in me brings joy because I am the only Hope
IWithout me or apart from saving faith in my Son jesus- any persuit of happiness or attempt at contentment is failed from the start. It is a bankrupt endeavor.
Malcolm Muggeridge one of England’s most articulate journalists summed up his pursuit of happiness saying, “I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets–that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue–that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions– that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time–that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you — and I beg you to believe me–multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing–less than nothing, a positive impediment–measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. [Malcom Muggeridge JESUS REDISCOVERED (Garden City, NY Doubleday, 1969) p. 77, 78
How can you and I learn to be content? What would that look like for us?
Accept Jesus for salvation- Give your life to Christ and receive His indwelling Spirit and Life for Strength
One Verse: Romans 6:23 for the wages of Sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Trust Jesus in times of need
1Pet 5:7 Cast your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you..
Thank Jesus for your blessings- Count your blessing and be grateful for your possessions and place
top 5% of the world
I read a story about a Jewish man in Hungary who went to his rabbi and complained, “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?” The rabbi answered, “Take your goat into the room with you.” The man was incredulous, but the rabbi insisted, “Do as I say and come back in a week.” A week later the man returned looking more distraught than before. “We can’t stand it,” he told the rabbi. “The goat is filthy.” The rabbi said, “Go home and let the goat out, and come back in a week.” A week later the man returned, radiant, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat–only the nine of us.” (Reader’s Digest [12/81].)
Glorify Jesus with your life-
1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God
Westminstser Confession- “The Chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”
Enjoy Jesus as your pursuit
John 6:35 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Fanny Crosby- Frances Jane Crosby (March 24 1820 – February 12 1915) usually known as Fanny Crosby, was an American lyricist best known for her Christian hymns. A lifelong Christian, she was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 despite becoming blind shortly after birth. Also known for her preaching and speaking, during her lifetime Fanny Crosby was one of the best known women in the United States. To this day, the vast majority of American hymnals contain her work. Some of her best known songs include “Blessed Assurance“, “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home“, “Praise Him, Praise Him“, and “To God Be the Glory“. Since some publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals, Crosby used nearly 100 different pseudonyms during her career. Crosby was never bitter about her disability. At the age of eight she wrote these verses about her condition:
Oh what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
That other people don’t;
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.”
She later remarked:
“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
What an example of contentment!!
Psal. 73:25, 26…Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.