Philadelphia Church

Contentment

"I know how to get along with little, 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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Phillipians 4:12-13

The Christian walk leaves no room for discontentment. The Western Church seems to have forgotten this fundamental truth and as a result has forfeited many an opportunity to shine the light of Christ. While this is a sad reality, it is not a new one. History has proven that safety and security often dampens the fervor of God’s people. There is a strange negative correlation between the amount of material blessing that one receives and the amount of gratitude with which one receives it. This sheds new light on the colloquial phrase “less is more.” Though this seems to be a recurring theme in Christendom, it does not have to be. Paul was a man, just like anyone else, yet he learned to be content in both abundance and in need.
   
Paul addresses the root of discontentment in Phillipians 4:12-13 (above). If the secret to contentment is the realization that all things can be accomplished through Christ, then it must follow that those who are discontent do not fully realize God’s providence. In the poor man this manifests itself through a fear that God will not provide which, more often than not, leads to diminished faith. Among those who have wealth, the opposite seems to occur. The rich man does not doubt whether or not God will provide, but whether or not God is needed to provide. Financial success becomes a cause for pride, and as a result, the wealthy person is more inclined to reject God than thank Him. It is easy to deceive oneself into thinking that God is not needed when virtually anything the heart desires can be attained by the writing of a check, but there is a fundamental truth that those who fall into this mindset fail to grasp. The apostle James informs us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). Every good thing, including the intellect and skill required to accrue wealth, comes from God.
 
Paul did more than merely preach contentment--he lived it. Throughout his life he endured many difficulties, including unlawful imprisonment, quarter lashings, and was even once stoned to the point of near death, yet he found no room for complaint. One of the most dramatic examples of Paul’s attitude of contentment in the midst of suffering is found in Acts chapter sixteen. In this chapter, Paul and his companion Silas were unjustly beaten and thrown into prison. What followed was nothing short of bewildering. Instead of groaning about the unfairness of the situation, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God. Beaten and bloody, in a dingy prison cell surrounded by the worst of men, the joy of God flowed into their hearts and filled their mouths with songs of praise. It is in the darkest of places that the light of Christ shines brightest.
   
There is one major difference between those who rejoice when under duress and those who don’t. Christ promises that those who suffer for His name’s sake are blessed and ought to rejoice, for great is their reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12). The problem with many believers is that they suffer not for Christ, but for the consequences of their own folly. God cannot and will not bless foolish decisions, nor even right decisions done with the wrong attitude. If God’s people continue to refuse to  walk in His will, they will never experience the fullness of joy that He desires for them. Believers often forget that being in God’s will does not consist solely of following a list of commands. God is not interested in superficial religious acts, He is interested in the state of the heart. “In everything give thanks...” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB) is not a suggestion that one can either take or leave. It is a command, and those who fail to obey it are rebelling against the Lord Jesus Christ. A hopeful heart in the midst of even the most hopeless of situations  is one of the primary things that sets the Christian apart from the pagan, and if the Church is to be effective in this generation, the people of God must return to this pivotal truth.
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