|AKA: Learning Contentment|
To be happy, add not to your possessions but subtract from your desires.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
I Timothy 6:6-7
|What is the one thing in
life that all of us are desperately seeking for? The answer to that
question is a one word answer. Happiness! Paragraph two of the Declaration
of Independence declares that the pursuit of happiness is one
of our inalienable rights.
There can be little question that we have taken that statement to heart, because for the past two hundred years plus we have pursued our share of happiness like a hound dog howling after a rabbit. We know it's out there someplace because our Declaration of Independence tells us we have a right to go after it. It is our right to be happy, and we will be happy no matter what we have to do to achieve it. If anyone interferes with our pursuit of happiness they are likely to get walked on or ran over because pursuing happiness is our constitutional right and woe to the one who tries to tamper with that right.
In our pursuit of happiness we must be going about it all wrong, for happiness seems to have become a rare commodity among the general population. Some people in their pursuit of happiness are spending themselves into financial ruin in an attempt to capture it. But it seems the harder they try, the more futile their quest.
There is something we need to remember as we run around looking for our pot of happiness at the end of the rainbow. Our constitutional right is to pursue it but nowhere are we guaranteed that we will find it! I sometimes wonder if most people would recognize it if they did catch up to it. Do you know what really makes you happy? Think about that question for a moment. What actually makes you happy? Is it money? Is it friends? Is it possessions? Is it being looked upon by others as being successful? One of the main reasons there are so many unhappy people in our society is because many have never taken the time to discover what it is that makes them happy. Chances are if you were to ask someone else what would make them happy you'd get a list of the same things I mentioned above. The truth is, most people have a difficult time stating exactly what would make them happy for the simple reason they've never really thought about it.
A successful person by society's standard isn't necessarily a happy person. However, I believe a successful person is always a happy person by the Bible's Standard. Just because a happy person doesn't drive the latest car, or have the finest home in the development, or buy their clothes from the finest clothier doesn't mean that person isn't successful. It only means that person understands that material things are not part of the equation for producing happiness.
Our happiness has nothing to do with our possessions, our environment, or even our health for that matter. Our happiness comes from a source that is independent of all those influences. Genuine happiness is a state of contentment - a peace of mind - a sense of well being regardless of outward circumstances going on in your life. The main ingredient to anyone's happiness is contentment.
The Apostle Paul was a man with few friends, no possessions, serving a jail term and facing death sentence. Yes, he was happy. How could he be happy in the midst of this storm in his life?
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:10-13, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me."
If you and I could master the contents of those four verses, we would find that it takes much less to make us really happy. Paul had learned to be content. His contentment is the number one ingredient to this illusive thing we pursue called happiness.
So -- how do we learn to be content? Let me offer a few suggestions.
(1) We learn to be content when we stop comparing our life and possessions with other people. There will always be houses bigger, better and more expensive than the one we have. There will always be people with much more money than we have. As a pastor, I know there will always be other ministers with larger and stronger churches than the one where I minister. There will always be those who can declare the Word of God more effectively. If we keep comparing ourselves to those who are better, bigger, richer, more talented, and better looking, we'll always walk under the cloud of unhappiness.
(2) We learn to be content when we accept the fact that there are some things about our life that we can't change no matter how much we want to, and so we should quit worrying about it.
There are two things we shouldn't worry about. Those things we can change and those things we can't change. I saw this prayer recently on a wall plaque: "God give me the wisdom to change those things that can be changed and the serenity to accept those things which cannot be changed." Contentment comes when we know we cannot change everything about life.
(3) Contentment is based on making Christ the very heart and center of our life. Jesus has our best interests at heart. Everything He does in our life is for our eternal benefit. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed His disciples the highway to happiness. He promises that all who faithfully walk this highway will possess a happiness the world cannot take away.
John A. Redhead in his book, Living All Your Life", said there are three kinds of blessings: pleasure, joy, and happiness. Pleasure comes from satisfying our physical senses. Joy comes from our association with others. But happiness results from a right relationship with God.
There is happiness available in this world. And you can find it. It all depends upon where you look as you pursue it. I point you to the source of all happiness and say to you, Look to Jesus! Look to Him - and live and experience happiness - true happiness.
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