Gratitude & Contentment Philippians 4:10-13 1 Timothy 6:3-10
Gratitude. Simple, gratitude... and contentment. Both spring from knowing who and Whose we are...
It’s certainly been a “point of emphasis” in my own life, as of late... to be intentionally grateful for the blessings of life... and the grace... and the mercy of God.
Instead of focusing on what I don’t have (which is, quite honestly, a temptation that most of us seem to deal with, most of the time), AND instead of focusing on what hasn’t gone “my way” or according to my plan... my disappointments... my goal is to choose to be thankful for what I do have... and what has happened in my life. To be content. My blessings outweigh my disappointments.
We can choose to be grateful... we can choose to acknowledge our blessings... we can choose to see the good, and to acknowledge the grace and mercy of God... every day!
Of course, GRACE is when God gives us what we don't deserve; he’s gracious to us... MERCY is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve; he’s merciful to us.
And we humans have a way of thinking we deserve a lot! We tend to be a self-absorbed lot... And “me, myself and I” tend to consume much of our time and energy.
One of the hallmarks of faith - and maturity of faith - is when you and I learn the power and joy that comes from living a life of gratitude & contentment.
Which, I’ll be the very first to admit... does not come naturally, not even for the apostle Paul, who said, “I have learned to be content.” Being content is a learning process. It seems natural to be envious... while being content requires some work.
Of course, it can be hard to admit we struggle with envy because it’s such an ugly emotion. The fact is... when you and I are envious of others... we’re ultimately failing to love others as Jesus loves... we’re basically wanting less for them... because for some strange and crazy reason it makes us feel better about “me, myself and I”.
If we can learn to be grateful for, and content with, what we have, what we’ve been blessed with, we can begin to get rid of those feelings of envy - and jealousy... and we can learn to love and support and encourage others - like Jesus.
Of course, it’s important to understand that envy is not about having a desire or a dream or setting goals. You can actually have role models that you try to emulate... or pattern your life after. It’s good to have goals and standards and dreams. Envy is not about looking forward to something... or hoping that something good will happen in your life... or even wondering if you should have something.
Instead, envy is resenting others who’ve already obtained what we desire... or being jealous of those who’ve reached a goal that you and I have yet to attain. Envy says you can’t be happy until you get that desire or until you reach that goal.
In other words, what I’m trying to get across is... Envy is not being grateful for what we already have. Envy is a product of our lack of contentment.
Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13.
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7.
If we truly believe God is omnipotent... sovereign... in control of all things (like good Presbyterians)... if we really believe He see’s all things, knows all things, and he’s the source of all things good, and holy, and worthy... then you and I have to learn to be content with what He has given us.
And like the Apostle Paul, you and I learn to be content, by having plenty, and by having little. Because when we have little, we really learn what it means to trust God. And when we have plenty, we can appreciate the gifts even more, because we know where the gifts came from...
James 1:16-17: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” James 1:16-17.
“Every good and perfect gift comes from above...” from God.
When we live humbly before our God and celebrate life each day with Him, we can rest assured that He will meet all our needs. And as we submit our lives to Christ, and our needs to Christ, we’ll become more content... and at peace.
Of course, we still strive for better... we still set goals... and have dreams. We will always have to desire to strive for things beyond our immediate grasp! But as we strive, we strive with Jesus... and we trust Him for the results, not our own efforts. When we live life in Christ - for Christ - with Christ... we will find contentment... and the anxiety and stress of envy goes away... and the peace of God rests in our hearts.
The Good News of the Gospel, is that God’s Word tells us we already have more than we need... and far more than we deserve. Every good thing in our lives is a gift from God, and it is up to him to decide when and how he blesses us. Of course, it’s up to us to choose to be grateful... and to make the most of what we’ve been given.
This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.