(Living life beyond your circumstances)
It all began in the garden. Satan enticed Eve with the promise of more. She fell to the temptation and here we are, millennia later, still wanting more, more, more. Let’s face it, discontentment is the human condition. Satan knew it back in the garden. Madison Avenue knows it and uses it today. According to Statista.com, in a 2014 report, advertising dollars spent, in the US alone, have grown from $158 Billion in 2011 to an estimated $189 Billion in 2015. The number is projected to climb to more than $220 Billion by 2018. Worldwide, the number is even more astounding – $600 Billion advertising dollars are projected in 2015. Clearly, companies wouldn’t be spending that kind of money if advertising didn’t work.
WORDS TO REMEMBER: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Many of us suffer with the disease of discontentment. How do you know if you have it? Check some of the symptoms.
- Do you want things you don’t need and buy things you can’t afford with money you don’t have?
- Do you focus more on what you don’t have than on what you do have?
- Do you spend more time getting than you do enjoying?
- Do you dwell on what was, what could be or what might have been, rather than living for the present?
- Do you often use the words “I wish”?
How did you score?
Paul tells us what it means to be content.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (Philippians 4:11)
Paul’s contentment wasn’t dependent on his comfort or even his necessities. Paul’s contentment was dependent only on God. Paul trusted that whatever his circumstances, God would provide for his needs. I love what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians
But He (Christ) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Sufficient grace. Wow! I love the way that sounds, I love the way it feels just to say the words. Each time I read this verse I am overwhelmed at the assurance it gives. But, here’s a sad reality. Much of the time we (I) am discontent even with God’s grace! When is the last time in the middle of a storm you (I) trusted God’s grace to be sufficient to get you (me) through? When is the last time you (I) fell on your (my) knees and cried out to God – “thank you Lord that your grace is sufficient, I will not worry or be afraid”?
Jesus said His grace is enough. If we really want the kind joy Christ has apportioned for us, we must learn to lean on Him, to put our trust – all of our trust, in Him.
A thankful heart. My parents came of age during the depression era. Growing up, they knew what it meant to want a little more to eat. They faced uncertainty on a daily basis, they lived through lean years. As adults, they raised four kids on a blue-collar income, they worked long hard hours. And yet, in spite of, or perhaps because of it all, they were content. They were thankful for what they had. A thankful heart produces contentment and with contentment comes joy.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Perhaps our lack of contentment and short supply of thankfulness is a product of our excesses. Some years ago I shared with my husband the idea of how cool it would be to have coffee bags, like a tea bag. He laughed at such the idea, assuring me that if it was possible that it would work, someone would have already done it. Just this morning, somehow the subject came up and I made the comment that if I had pursued the idea, we would be rich! He responded – “we are rich”. Ouch! How right he is. I’ve never been hungry. I’ve never had to sleep out in the elements. I’ve never been cold for lack of clothing. I have a loving family. I have caring friends. I could go on. I AM RICH; but even if all those things were taken from me, I would still be rich. I have a Savior who died for me and who cares for me. God has promised me a hope and a future – these are riches that will never be taken away.
I confess, I catch myself too many times thinking “Remember when…” “If only…” “I wish I had…” These are thought patterns of discontentment. Real contentment is knowing that what God has for us far exceeds anything we could ever hope to gain for ourselves.
Not only does a contented spirit bring joy, it brings perfect peace.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
In this passage Paul exhorts us to not be anxious about anything but rather to pray about everything. Is that what you do? As much as I hate to admit it, most of the time I start out worrying about a thing and only turn to prayer when I realize I can’t find the way. Therein lies the problem. Unless and until we admit we can’t fix anything, we cannot know perfect peace. The last words of Philippians 4:7 are key – Christ will guard your hearts and minds. The peace of Christ is not a onetime thing. As we learn to trust Jesus, as we put our trust in Him, He gives us a continuing, ever-present peace of heart and mind – a peace that is beyond understanding.
Peace takes practice.
For that perfect peace Paul writes about, you will have to make some changes. You will have to change and put into practice your way of thinking.
I want to lose 10 pounds. I’ve wanted to lose 10 pounds for a year now, so why haven’t I? Because, even though I have thought about it and planned it out dozens of times over the past year, I haven’t put any of the steps necessary into action. I’ve just stuck to the same old way of eating and the same old way of (not) exercising and I’ve ended up with the same old overweight body. Until I change not just my thoughts but my way of thinking, that’s where I will stay – or will even get more overweight! If we want to be different, we have to first think differently and then we have to put into practice our new way of thinking.
Paul gives 8 ways to think and practice that will help bring us to a state of perfect peace.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
When we put our mind on Christ – the source and the very essence, of truth, honor, purity, loveliness, honor, excellence, worthiness, the reward will be contentment and with contentment comes peace and with peace comes joy.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The Foundation is Faith
There are more than 3,000 promises in God’s word.
For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
There are more than 400 “I AM” claims.
And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14b)
The fullness of the joy of Christ begins with faith. If we want true joy, we have to believe His promises. We have to believe Hebrews 6:18 – that it is impossible for God to lie. We have to be able to answer without hesitation, without any doubt, with a resounding “YES” the question: “Do I believe God”?
As we’ve studied these 5 Principles, I hope you have recognized that they all work together to bring about that spirit of joy we all long for. When we begin with a thankful heart, our minds will be humbled. And, with a thankful heart and humble mind, we will be able to embrace our sense of purpose and we will know what’s important. Having reached this point we will know contentment and peace. It really is a beautiful thing.
Unlike happiness, joy isn’t something we experience when everything is going great. Joy is a way of life. It is a daily decision that when practiced becomes a part of who we are. We’re so used to living in the moment, allowing our senses to be dictated by our circumstances that growing in joy for most of us will take some time. Just as it is in other areas of our faith walk, there will be days we slip back into our “old man”. Don’t get discouraged; don’t let Satan tempt you to give up on your pursuit of joy. Remember, joy is a gift from God so of course Satan doesn’t want you to have it.
Let Paul’s words encourage you:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
We all have a choice to make. Choose Joy!
Read Philippians 4
- According to verse 6, what is essential to peace?
2. Review the 8 practices that bring peace that passes understanding. Find at least one related scripture for each “thought practice”. (RESOURCE: Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge) and note how you can apply these truths.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:3-10
3. Why was Paul given a thorn in his flesh? (verses 3-7)
4. How is God’s sufficient grace evidenced by our trials? (verse 9b)
5. What does Paul mean when he says in verse 10 “for when I am weak, then I am strong”?
Find and list at least 3 additional scripture references to support your answer.
Finding your joy.
- List the symptoms of the “disease of discontentment” you recognize in your life?
For each “symptom”, note specifically what changes you can make to “cure” your discontentment.
- Name and meditate on at least one area in which you struggle to completely trust the sufficient grace of Christ. Now, what do you want to do about it?
3. Of the 5 Principles we’ve studied – “A Thankful Heart”, “A Humble Mind”, “Awareness of Priorities”, “A Sense of Purpose” and “A Contented Spirit” – which one(s) do you need to focus on in order to attain greater joy?