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The Secret To Contentment In A World Of More
Have you ever noticed the various ways people respond when you ask them how they are doing?
Typical responses are: “Great, good, busy, not bad, okay or so-so.” Have you ever had someone respond by saying “I am content”? It would be an usual response and would likely pique your interest.
Contentment is not something that is easily found. Contented means to be pleased and satisfied, ease of mind, or not needing more.
We live in a culture that is driven by more. Everywhere you look there is a push to have more, and the prevailing idea is that if you have more, then you will find your happiness. In Philippians 4:11, 12 the Apostle Paul said he had learned the secret to being content (and it is a learning process).
Contentment is not something that is easily found. Contented means to be pleased and satisfied, ease of mind, or not needing more.Here is the secret that Paul gives in this chapter. In your mind imagine four circles, which you have to control what is inside of each. If you follow Paul’s instruction of what you put in each circle, you will discover the same contentment that Paul had. (It is good to note that he wrote this while serving a prison sentence in a cold first century Roman cell.)
In the circle of worry put “nothing”.
In Philippians 4:6, Paul starts building the case for contentment by saying: “don’t worry about anything”. There are no born worriers; we learn to worry as we respond to the challenges around us. Jesus in the Sermon on The Mount told the crowd to look at the birds and the flowers and see how the Heavenly Father cares for them. He went on to say that we are of much more value than the birds, and if He cares for them, He will certainly care for us. In the entire universe, the only creations that worry are human being. The best thing we can do is to take our worries and give them to God knowing He will care for us. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon Jesus because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). To cast means to throw or release the burden of them on Him. He is the one person who will listen to all you have to say and not cut you off as you download your anxieties.In the circle of prayer put “everything”.
Paul goes on to say that we should pray about everything. You may think, I will pray when the going gets really tough, or I will just pray about the big issues of life. But the key is to pray about every issue that might be a concern to you. Take the issues that cause you to worry and bring them into the circle of prayer. We cast our cares on Him and then we humbly bring our requests to God.
For example, I may be very anxious about an upcoming job interview. I am worried about being accepted, worried about my finances, worried about being nervous, worried about my resume being insufficient, etc. I take these worries and share them with God in prayer so my worry circle is empty. Then I make a request, I pray about the interview. I specifically ask my heavenly Father for favor, for peace and for confidence. I may even ask for a safe commute and a good parking spot so I am not late. It does not have to be a long conversation with God; I just simply pray about these items. Some of it may be covered in my morning devotions, and some of the prayers may happen during the day under my breath as I go about my work. The key is to pray about everything. When I know I have given my worries to God and have asked Him to help me, a sense of contentment settles in. Worries tend to creep back in, so do not be surprised if you have to repeat this process a number of times. If you prayed and asked God for help, move to the next circle and thank Him that He is at work on your behalf.
In the circle of thankfulness put “in all things”.
Note Paul says to be thankful IN all things, not FOR all things. I am not to be thankful for something evil or negative thing that has happened, but in the midst of the circumstance I am to be thankful. For example, we have recently seen the city of Fort McMurray evacuated because of the forest fire. To live in contentment does not mean I am thankful for the fire, but in the midst of the circumstances I can make a list of things I am thankful for. It might include being thankful that no one in my family lost their life in the fire, that we received help from strangers, that we live in a country that has an infrastructure to bring support, etc.
Thankfulness literally brings about a chemical change in our brains. By the time you write down twenty things in your circle of thankfulness, endorphins will be released and a sense of contentment will start to overtake you. It is a powerful tool to use if you find yourself comparing what you have to what others have. When you see others get a new house, get a new job, get married, get more likes than you on their Facebook, get something you don’t have, it can bring things into your worry circle. A key to keeping these things out, is to take a few minutes and simply write out twenty things you are are thankful for.
In the circle meditate put “good things”.
Some teachings will encourage you to clear your mind and meditate on nothing. No, nothing is for the worry circle. Meditate means to mutter, to chew on a thought like a cow chews on its cud. We are to review in our minds over and over the good things. Paul gives us a list of these good things in verse eight. Good things consist of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy. These eight characteristics of thoughts provide for us a grid to check our thoughts on.The Bible teaches us to take every thought captive. This means we should act like a border guard. When you enter a country ever person is taken captive for a few moments to inspect the reason for their entry to the country. The border official will determine if you belong in country, likewise we need to determine if the thought is good and deserves to be in our meditation circle.
In the course of the day you will have thousands of thoughts come to your mind, but be careful that only good ones stay in your circle of meditation. When you are meditating on good things you will find contentment.By carefully following watching these four simple circles, you too can say like Paul “I have learned to be content in all things.”