Driving down here I listened to John MacArthur on contentment. It was a message I needed to here. (What follows is the blend of MacArthur's message and my thoughts. If there is anything profound here, it is probably from MacArthur, directly or indirectly.)
We live in a culture that constantly bombards us with the message that life should be better. Every time you turn on the TV you here the messages: "you need this product," "your are not beautiful enough," "this idem will increase your standard of living to where it should be." MacArthur was right, the degree by which we are told that we should be discontent is as great as it has every been.
What this message does is feed our already fleshly desire to be discontent. Our selfishness pushes us to demand certain "rights" that we think we have. When areas of our lives to not attain to our idea of a happy life we feel offended. We believe that we deserve what we envision what our life should look like. (Of course if we go by what we deserve, we should all be in hell!)
The Christian life, however, is not to be one in want. On the contrary, as the Psalmist say, "The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want," (Ps. 23:1). God wants His children to be in a sate where they reside with satisfaction and joy, no matter the circumstance. "Because your steadfast love is better than life,my lips will praise you," (Ps. 63:3). No matter what happens in life the steadfast love of the Lord should proves more satisfying. A satisfaction (which is another way of saying contentment) should permeate a Christian's walk.
Contentment is a satisfaction in God that a Christian possess that transcends the circumstances of life. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice,"(Phil. 4:4). Rejoicing is not a action that one is suppose to do when he feels like it. Feelings have no regard in the matter. Instead, we are commanded to be in a constant state of rejoicing. There is to be a satisfaction underlining our lives that produces a flowing river of rejoicing. Even in the mist of sorrow, joy is to be seen (2 Cor. 6:10a). Gladness is a defining characteristic of the Christian.
How do we receive this contentment? I know that I do not have it in full. There are many times that I am not satisfied with my circumstances. MacArthur walks through the book of Philippians to see what are the characteristics of this contentment:
1. A content person is one that not focused on his own wants or needs but is focused on imparting the gospel to other people's lives.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Phil. 1:12-18)
Paul was under arrest when he wrote this epistle. He was not in best of circumstance. On the contrary, He was imprisoned for his faith.
Yet, with him being in such a circumstance he does not focus on what he does not have. Instead, he says is, "this imprisonment is working out for the best." Why could he say such a things? He did not have any freedom. He would not have the best of living conditions. If his goal was to live a simple live and get by with good things he should feel destituted. But just to get by is not his goal. His goal is to make the glories of Christ known throughout the world. His thoughts to not dwell on himself but on the mission to proclaim Christ to the heathens. Even though he did not have much, he lived according to what drove him. What drove Him was to preach Christ crucified.
It was not just the material things that he went without because of the gospel. He laid aside his own honor for the proclamation of the gospel. In verse fifteen we read about some ministers that would preach Christ in hopes of becoming more famous than Paul. They wished to afflict Paul by thier work. What was Paul's response to such harsh and undeserved actions? "Christ is proclaimed, I am satisfied." This is being sold out for a mission! It does not matter what harm you are doing to me, as long as my Christ is brought before sinners I am happy. Paul is not concerned with himself at all. He is totally fixated on his mission and his calling given to Him by Christ. His own wants are of little too no concern in his own mind.
I think it is just mind rocking to see how the apostle Paul deals with personal attacks. People constantly attacked him and tried to discredit his ministry. Yet, if you watch Paul, He never retaliates against the attacks that will do him harm. He will just sit there and meekly take unjust blows against himself. However, if a person moves his attacks from the person of Paul and onto the message of Paul, then there are words spoken in return. If one dares to try and bring discredit upon the gospel they will meet the broadside of Paul. That is what Paul is concerned with. Not himself but on Christ's glory shown through the gospel.
Back to the text, we see that that a content person sees his task in delivering Christ's message to people. Whether they are lost or saved. He wants to Christ magnified in people's lives. The gospel, not himself, is the concern.
That hits me deeply. I ask myself, "What drives me?" Is in a passion to see the gospel become manifest in some one's life? Or is it just to have good things? Is it to get the wife, get the house, get the children, and have a minister that I look back at with satisfaction? Or is it to give my life away to turn people's eyes on to Christ? Do I look to see where Christ can be proclaimed when I am with out freedom, food, wife, or any other physical position? Or do I sit around and fret because I do not have? What drives me?
This gets into the transcendent part of my definition of contentment. When I am driven to see Christ gloried in people's lives, material possessions are subdued to fulfill that purpose. So without or with, I am to look where the message of Christ can be to someone.
Hopefully I will get to the other points during the week. If not soon.
2. The content person knows that Christ is near.
3. The content person goes to God with thankful prayers.
4. The content person saturates his mind with Godly thinking.
5. The content person learns from a godly example.