Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | January 11, 2013

Is True Contentment A Possibility For Us Today? By David Bower

Much Has Been Written About Contentment

     A web search of the word contentment produced 12,700,000 results in .20 seconds which suggests to me this may be a topic to which much thought has been given. I decided to spend a few minutes examining the results and found many references to the Bible and many quotes from philosophers over the ages. There seemed to be a common thread in all of this that focused on being satisfied with what one has instead of the rather hollow promise of finding contentment with the acquisition of more possessions.

Among the quotes on contentment I found the following to be of interest:

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
― Dale CarnegieHow to Win Friends and Influence People

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
― Lao Tzu

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”
― Socrates

“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.”
― Immanuel Kant

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
― Epictetus

I have long been impressed by a quote from Viktor Frankl, a Jewish, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist,  on the “Last of the Human Freedoms.”

The Last Freedom
We who lived in concentration camps can remember
the men who walked through the huts comforting
others, giving away their last piece of bread.
They may have been few in number, but they offer
sufficient proof that everything can be taken from
a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms
— to choose one’s attitude in any given set of
circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
  ~ Viktor Frankl ~
(Man’s Search for Meaning)
     Choosing one’s attitude on life and circumstances became the secret of Frankl’s survival as he endured the sufferings imposed by the Nazi’s in a number of prison camps including Auschwitz. Whereas most of us will never have to suffer the way prisoners of Auschwitz suffered, the same principle of attitude still applies to each of us as we consider our life circumstances.
     This reminds me of a popular quote by Dr. Howard Hendricks, a longtime professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, who is reported to have always responded to those who commented they were doing thus and so “under the circumstances” by asking them “what are you doing under there?” The idea there is being under circumstances is a matter of choice and we can just as well choose to not be under any circumstances; it all depends on our attitude, our perspective in any life situation.
The Bible on Contentment
     Does the Bible have anything to say on contentment? You better believe it does! The first verses that come to mind are Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 everything through him who gives me strength.”
     Here the Apostle Paul shares with us his perspective on life and contentment; what has interested me in his statement is that he too had to learn the secret of being content in any and every situation. We are not born with this ability; all one need do is to watch a baby (of any age) and see how quickly any feelings of discontent are loudly expressed. Sadly this is a secret all too rarely learned in today’s society.
     As Christians we have an advantage in that we have the teaching ministry of God, the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we experience life. It is when we are controlled by the Holy Spirit that we have the opportunity to experience the fruit of the Spirit which includes the key ingredients that help comprise contentment. By way of review those are found in Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
     I will boldly step forward and say that one who enjoys the fruit of the Spirit as a way of life has found contentment. I point out that there is no reference, not even a hint to possessions or material plenty; contentment is a frame of mind not the possession of material things. Here I’m reminded of the quote by C. H. Spurgeon, the famous London preacher of the 19th century:
“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon
One might add to that tripled, or quadrupled with the same results.

     Although there are many verses on the subject I will limit myself to two more, Hebrews 13:5-6, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” All men look to something or someone in which to have faith. To the materialist their possessions, investments or their bank account are the focus of their faith. As we all know these are fleetingly insecure sources of security as they can vanish in a moment.

     The Christian has an alternative in whom he is urged to place his or her faith and that is in Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth. The Lord, our God is always there and is always the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can know and count on His love for us as we are promised in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

     Living a life of faith is our very best opportunity to learn the secret of contentment and put it into practice in our lives; Proverbs 3:5-6 outlines the steps required, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Abby Cat Getting Sleepy in the Sun 5-18-12Contentment


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