Thursday, September 9, 2010

Are You Content?

There is an epidemic in America that is rarely talked about. It's not one that makes national headlines or that has everyone freaking out quite like H1N1 or Anthrax, but I'd still call it an epidemic because of the tragic consequences it secretly causes in so many lives. I'm talking about the epidemic of being discontent.

Think I'm overstating the case? Being a little over-dramatic? Ok, I'll admit it's possible. But think about it. So many billions of dollars are spent every year because people are not content with who they are, where they live, what they own, and who they hang around. As I've heard it said several times before, the fundamental goal of marketing is to show you a product or experience, convince you that your life is not good without it, and then tell you how to get it. Think about that next time you see a Snuggie infomercial, a Bo-Flex machine commercial, or a car commercial. Everyone is obsessed with finding that one thing that will make them more happy, more content, satisfied with the direction their life is heading.

And, truth be told, I'm often no different. I don't always notice it as discontentment, but it's there. Often I just feel like it's a random impulse to buy something or do something. But when I reflect back on it - many purchases I made without planning for it, for example - I realize the root of it is a discontent heart. But what am I going to do about it? How do I move from discontent to content? Is there really anyone who can be truly content?

It is here that the Apostle Paul has some inspiring words for us. Difficult, but inspiring. In Philippians 4, as he is closing out the letter and thanking the Philippian church for their generosity, Paul mentions something extraordinary. He says "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." These are beautiful words of a content man. Why so content?

Paul was content because he had been radically changed by the Gospel. He had became intensely aware of what God had done for him in Christ. He knew that as long as he had Jesus, he had all that he needed. Here's the thing: in my own heart, I know that as I typed that last sentence it doesn't describe me. I often want "Jesus + _______" You name it and I feel like I need it. Just one more thing - a bit more money, some more clothes, a nicer car, whatever. But Paul was writing from prison and yet he knew how to endure and be content because he knew his Savior guarantees he is always present PLUS there is eternity awaiting, when we'll be in God's presence forever. And that is enough.

So, what's the secret to contentment? How do we cure ourselves? We focus on the Gospel. We look to the cross. We realize we've been fooled and fooled ourselves into believing lies about what we need and repent. Paul knew it... not because he worked "hard" at it, but because he had been changed so thoroughly that it was true in his life.

Lord help us.

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