Key to Contentment
Sir John Templeton, the billionaire investor,
was once asked what is the secret of wealth. He said, "Gratitude. If you're
not grateful, you're not rich--no matter how much you have." The flip side
of that is, "If you're grateful, you are rich--no matter how little you
Paul reveals a frame of mind in the following
verses that will make you rich in every circumstance in life.
I rejoice greatly in the Lord
that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been
concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this
because I am in need, for 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 everything through him who gives me strength.
Yet it was good of you to share
in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of
your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one
church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you
only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again
when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking
for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment
and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus
the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice,
pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious
riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
Too often the depth of our gratitude is determined
and motivated by physical things. We are thankful for our jobs, homes,
cars, bank accounts, health, etc. We may look around our modern society
and be thankful that we live by a higher standard of living than anyone
else on the face of the earth. If I could remove you from this situation
and place you in the poorest country on earth, let's say Afghanistan, let
me place you out there with the refugees who have fled with nothing but
their lives, would you have anything to be grateful for?
How many of us would long for the good old
days? Would we begrudge our lot in life? We just come back from a family
reunion in Hawaii last week. There were fourteen of us that met in Kauai,
Hawaii. I was amazed at how much baggage fourteen people could have, but
the thing that amazed me is that we took too much with us. We all agreed
that we could have gotten by with much less. But as we traveled I wondered
how we would fare if we reduced all of our personal belongings in the world
down to what we took with us on vacation. What would our attitude be if
that were all we had? How grateful would we be? Yet, most of those in third
world countries have much less than what each of us carried with us on
Gratefulness Despite Deprivation
Paul found reason to be thankful while in
dire need. Paul learned to be content in his situation because he was grateful
for God's strength that would enable him to do what ever God wanted him
to do in every circumstance. God's wisdom strengthened and encouraged Paul
as it allowed Paul to see the Philippians' concern from him even though
they had no opportunity to show their concern.
When Paul wrote the Philippian letter, I am
sure that he had much less than what any one person in our family took
on vacation. He was in prison at the time he wrote this letter. Paul knew
what it was to be physically in need. He wrote Timothy making a request
you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls,
especially the parchments" (2 Timothy 4:11-13). I gather from Paul's
writings that this was a cloak that he needed to keep warm; it wasn't one
he left behind because of the hustle and bustle of trying to get to the
airport on time.
Spiritual insight allows us to see the good
and bad in our lives with the realization that God blends them together
for our good. As James wrote to troubled Christians, he reminded them that
every good and perfect gift came from God (James 1:2-4, 17). However, I
believe that their good and perfect gifts from God were spiritual rather
than physical. We have seen over the past couple of months that troubles
have a way of stripping away the superficial as it brings into clear view
the really important things in life. We must realize how all things—good
and bad--fit together to make life what God intends for it to be. It is
then that we discover gratitude that leads to contentment.
There Are No Good Gifts Without God
Ultimately, there can be no good without
God. The trouble with measuring our blessings by our material possessions
is that apart from God there is no good thing. The psalmist writes, "Keep
me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. I said to the LORD, "You are
my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing" (Psalms 16:1-2
NIV). I think the psalmist is saying, "I have no source of good or of any
kind of happiness, hope, life, safety or salvation without God."
"We are here confronted by a pattern of the
unchangeable believing confidence of a friend of God; for the writer of
Psalms 16 is in danger of death, as is to be inferred from the prayer expressed
in v. 1 and the expectation in v. 10. But there is no trace of anything
like bitter complaint, gloomy conflict, or hard struggle: the cry for help
is immediately swallowed up by an overpowering and blessed consciousness
and a bright hope. There reigns in the whole Psalm, a settled calm, an
inward joy, and a joyous confidence, which is certain that everything that
it can desire for the present and for the future it possesses in its God."
(Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition,
Electronic Database. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
The men and women of faith in the long ago
believed that God set the boundary lines of their lives, but they believed
and were thankful that the boundary lines fell in pleasant places. The
psalmist writes, "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant
places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the LORD,
who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me" (Psalms 16:5-7
We can be thankful that God has assigned
us our portion because that makes our lot in life secure. The apostle
Paul puts it this way:
Now I want you to know, brothers,
that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As
a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to
everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most
of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God
more courageously and fearlessly" (NIV).
Thanksgiving Reveals God's Blessings
Thanksgiving opens the door to God's
blessings. A grateful heart changes everything. Having a grateful
heart enables you to recognize God's presence in your life.
"Praise be to the LORD, for
he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my
heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will
give thanks to him in song. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress
of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever" (NIV).
Thanksgiving allows us to see our delightful
inheritance in the Lord. The psalmist writes, "Surely, I have a delightful
inheritance" (Psalms 16:6).
You turned my wailing into
dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart
may sing to you and not be silent. OLORD my God, I will give you thanks
Giving thanks to God in difficult times
is essential because it gives us the ability to see life from an eternal
"I will praise the LORD, who
counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set he LORD always
before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
"Therefore my heart is glad
and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will
not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in
your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (NIV).
David understood that his future held
greater blessings than anything he could hope to enjoy in the present.
David took courage that even though his body may end up in a grave that
this was not the end. God would give him eternal pleasures at his right
If you are not looking forward to the future
as a Christian you can't enjoy the present or be grateful for your past.
Understanding the eternal perspective of life is the only thing that will
allow you to see that the boundaries of your life have fallen in good places.
It is the past and the future that give
us courage in the present. We can see the past with 20/20 hindsight;
we can easily understand the eternal perspective of life. But it is not
always easy to perceive what is going on in the present. The Old Testament
writers often look to the past and the future for the courage to face the
present. The psalmist knew that God would not leave his body in the grave,
but he also knew what God had done for Israel in the past, gave him hope
in the present.
Read Psalms 105
1 Chronicles 16:7-36
2 Chronicles 29:10-15
As you read the psalms notice how the writer
is reminding himself of what God had done for Israel in the past as he
developed the seed of Abraham. It was his understanding of the past that
gave him a proper perspective of his future and courage for the present.
Many would read through Israel's past and see only the suffering and hardship,
but the psalmist sees the past from an eternal perspective, which gives
him courage for the moment as he sees God’s wondrous works.
"Give thanks to the LORD, call
on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him,
sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and
his strength; seek his face always" (NIV).
The pressures of the present are often staggering,
but knowing that the Lord delivers us out of the stress of the moment is
the greatest encouragement for the present.
Others went out on the sea
they were merchants on the
They saw the works of the LORD,
his wonderful deeds in the
For he spoke and stirred up
that lifted high the waves.
They mounted up to the heavens
and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage
They reeled and staggered like
they were at their wits' end.
Then they cried out to the
LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of
He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
They were glad when it grew
and he guided them to their
Let them give thanks to the
LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for
Let them exalt him in the assembly
of the people
and praise him in the council
of the elders" (NIV)
Knowing God's faithfulness to his people in
the past and understanding his eternal blessing to be ours in the future
helps us set a course for our lives in the present.
You are my portion, O LORD;
I have promised to obey your
I have sought your face with
all my heart;
be gracious to me according
to your promise.
I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to
I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
Though the wicked bind me with
I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give
for your righteous laws.
I am a friend to all who fear
to all who follow your precepts.
The earth is filled with your
love, O LORD;
teach me your decrees. (NIV)
Understanding God's purpose in our world allows
us to understand God's purpose for our individual lives, which motivates
us to seek his direction for our lives.
We cannot accept God's purpose for our lives
without accepting his direction for our lives. It is when we accept God's
purpose and direction that we can enter into his gates with thankfulness.
Shout for joy to the LORD,
all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we
we are his people, the sheep
of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise
For the LORD is good and his
love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues
through all generations. (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule
in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.
And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach
and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns
and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever
you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NIV)
Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a
door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for
which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that
you may know how to answer everyone. (NIV)
Therefore, since we are receiving
a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God
acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our "God is a consuming fire."