This month, when many churches have a stewardship focus and as we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays, I thought it might be appropriate to draw from my little book, Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity. —Adam
In my previous post, I talked about RHS and how it affects us all. We struggle with discontentment.
Today, I want to share with you the Four Keys to Cultivating Contentment.
The apostle Paul is an excellent example of contentment. He wrote, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need” (Philippians 4:11-12).
When Paul wrote these words, he was sitting in a prison cell in Rome, waiting for the news of whether or not he would be executed. On a trip to Rome, I actually visited this prison cell and discovered that Paul was lowered through a hole in the floor and dropped into a cavernous, damp pit. This is where he sat when he wrote these words in his Letter to the Philippians, which is known as his letter of joy.
Like Paul, we too can learn to be content in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves. These four keys, which include the “secret” Paul referred to in his letter, can help us to do that.
1. Remember that it could be worse.
This first key to contentment comes from John Ortberg, pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in California. He says there are four words we should say whenever we find ourselves discontented with something or someone: It could be worse.
This is essentially the practice of looking on the bright side or finding the silver lining. It is recognizing that no matter what we may not like about a thing or person or circumstance, we can always find something good to focus on if only we will choose to do so.
2. Ask yourself, “How long will this make me happy?”
The second key to contentment is asking yourself a simple question: How long will this make me happy? So often we buy something, thinking it will make us happy, only to find that the happiness lasts about as long as it takes to open the box. There is a moment of satisfaction when we make the purchase, but the item does not continue to bring satisfaction over a period of time. Many of the things we buy are simply not worth the expense.
Have you ever thought you simply had to have something and later found out that it wasn’t that much fun after all? Several years ago when I was visiting my brother, I watched him playing a game on his Play Station 2 (PS2). Later I told my wife, LaVon, that I really wanted to get one. She said, “Who are you kidding? You’re not going to play with it. You don’t have time for that.” I assured her that I would. So I saved up, went to the mall, and bought a PS2, along with four video games. That was several years ago, and to this day I have played only half of one game. One day the whole kit and caboodle will be in a rummage sale for ten or fifteen bucks.
3. Develop a grateful heart.
The third key to contentment is to develop a grateful heart. This is one of the most important keys to contentment and happiness in life. Gratitude is essential if we are to be content.
A grateful heart recognizes that all of life is a gift. Contentment comes when we spend more time giving thanks for what we have than thinking about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.
4. Ask yourself, “Where does my soul find true satisfaction?”
The fourth key to contentment is found in this question: Where does my soul find true satisfaction? The world answers this question by telling us that we find satisfaction in ease and luxury and comfort and money. The Bible, however, tells us that we find our satisfaction in God alone.
The only real satisfaction of our souls is Jesus Christ. We can be content because we know Christ is by our side no matter what we’re walking through.
In my next post, I'll offer five ways to simplify our lives.
This post is an excerpt from Enough.