Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rx for contentment

So why are some people content with their lives and others never satisfied? I know of an elderly woman who recently lost her husband to a devastating disease. She is nearly blind and lives alone. Yet she is not depressed in or despair. She doesn't complain. How can this be?

Maybe some people are just naturally optimists and others are pessimists. It's a personality thing.

Or maybe it's how we are raised. Someone credited her parents for teaching her that true value is not found in possessions. (What are we teaching our children?)

Another said she has so many "creature comforts" that she's satisfied with life. It's an easy road.

Or we're content as long as there are others worse off than we are.

Maybe it's society to blame. I read that our culture creates in us an insatiable desire for more. We are daily bombarded with advertisements that stir us to covet what we don't have.

Maybe contentment is a gift from God?

I found the cure in Philippians. If we follow Paul in his letter of joy to the church at Philippi, we will discover the prescription for contentment. What is amazing is that he wrote this letter from prison. Philippians is called the book of joy because the words "joy" or "rejoice" appear 16 times. How could Paul be joyful while he was locked up, not knowing if he would live or die? For best results, read the whole book and let the Holy Spirit direct you to the source of your discontent. Then take your medicine. Paul says, "Join with others in following my example, (sisters), and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Philippians 3:17. There is so much that I can only touch on it. But here are some practical ideas we can begin to apply immediately:

Be thankful for the people in your life and pray for them. "I thank my God everytime I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy..." 1:3,4.

Know that God will complete his work. Be patient with yourself and with others. "...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." 1:6.

Look for opportunity in your circumstances. "Now I want you to know, (sisters), that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." 1:12.

Rejoice and have hope because others are praying for you. "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope..." 1:19, 20.

Accept difficulties as part of God's refining. "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him..." 1:29.

Be humble. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." 2:3-5. Jesus gave us an example of humility, servanthood, and obedience to God.

Rely on God to give you the desire and the strength to do whatever he's called you to do. "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" 2:13.

Don't complain. We already talked about this one. 2:14.

Be a witness and allow God to use your life as he sees fit. "...you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering..." 2:15-17.

Guard your heart. "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you." 3:1. (What are we listening to, watching, and reading?)

Make it your life mission to know Jesus more deeply. "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them but rubbish, that I may gain Christ...I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." 3:8, 10, 11.

Forget the past. "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 3:13, 14.

Look ahead. "...many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ..." 3:18-20.

Don't worry--pray. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 4:6, 7. This beautiful passage sums it all up. We can bring to God all our fears, all our problems, all our tears and anguish, and he hears us. He cares and he listens and he answers. Then the peace comes, and it is a precious gift from our Heavenly Father.

Think good things. "Finally, (sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." 4:8. Our attitude, our words and our actions begin with our thoughts.

Accept the season of your life. We discussed Paul's secret of being content whatever his circumstances. We can do anything God calls us to do through Christ who gives us the strength. 4:11-13.

Help others with their burdens. "Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles." 4:14.

Rely on God's promises. "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." 4:19.

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