Ep: 7 Learning Contentment

welcome to the Olive Christ for all of life podcast where we equip men and women to be faithful in every aspect of life this week you will hear the opening sections of Nancy Wilson's learning contentment read by Jana Lindstrom introduction imagine how comfortable our lives would be if we learn to keep our spirits in order in all circumstances unruffled undisturbed calm not reacting not chafing cheerful not turned up with the daily dramas what a huge spiritual emotional and physical benefit that would be but we live in a world where it is easy and acceptable to be stressed out by circumstances and events and we even plan for excuse and accommodate stressed out miss after all it is the mother of the bride or the new wife or the new mother and how could we expect anything else during finals week on the first week on the new job or when the bills are overdue or when the baby is overdue funny when you think about it we had to coin the term stressed out to describe this common condition of a disordered heart we even use being stressed out as an excuse for anger and kindness rudeness worry or flaking out on our duties it can even cause us to get sick but stressed out is not a neutral behavior it is a sinful manifestation of an unquiet heart and it often brings a host of other sins with it contentment maintains control over the spirit and does not allow uncovered passions and unrestrained emotions to bring discomposure right at the moment when the greatest composure is called for contentment calms the heart and leaves the heart to act and speak wisely even when under great provocation in fact especially when under great provocation just because a situation is stressful doesn't mean we have to become stressed out our daily lives are fraught with many provocations we're going to let them have power over us we get sick we're stuck in traffic our flight someone lets us down someone is unkind or rude we forgot an appointment someone was late do we allow these things to arouse our hearts to anger impatience annoyance or general irritation if we do then we need to enroll in a class to learn contentment we often think intent Minh is something that happens to us rather than something that we take pains to learn we assume that if we are not naturally disposed to be that way then it's fine to have a fiery temper or sharp tongue we make excuses for our behavior after all we tell ourselves our parents had anger issues so we accept the fact that we will have them too and it's easier to just go with our natural impulses and get stressed out by all the drama in our lives but this is false each of us can learn contentment and each of us should learn contentment it is an important part of our Christian life it is not optional this requires work we're going to have to give ourselves to our lessons and study contentment we have to pay attention otherwise there's not much hope of gaining contentment we can learn it but not without spiritual and mental attentiveness even the passo pol said he learned contentment so there's no reason to suppose that we can get it without any learning not that I speak in regard to need if I have learned in whatever state I am to be content I know how to be abased and I know how to abound everywhere and in all things I've learned both to be full and to be hungry both to abound and to suffer need I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:11 2:13 New King James Paul doesn't say he was born and naturally contented person rather God gave him many opportunities to learn it we should be encouraged by this because if Paul such a great man of faith had to learn contentment then there is no shame in confessing that we are going to need some lessons as well difficult lessons we have the same gracious instructors the Apostle Paul had our good and merciful God has given us his word his promises and His Spirit to teach us these are tremendous resources that make contentment attainable but we must enroll in the class first and then we must be eager students diligently studying and learning our lessons in his wonderful book on contentment jeremiah burls compares our spiritual progress in learning contentment to being enrolled in school he points out that we should be making progress in this school of contentment and not stuck in spiritual kindergarten learning our alphabet for the umpteenth time learning is more than simply reciting a Bible verse it is applying it doing it and making it ours so we have to be able to do contentment not just recite Philippians 4:11 and 12 just like good students we will have to go over material and prepare for the tests that we know will be coming and I have to warn you that most of these tests are pop quizzes but when God gives us a test it is always open book think of that he never leaves us but walks through each test with us giving us the power to pass of course if we pass a test then we will move on to harder material if we fail we can rest assured that we will have a redo very soon so in our pursuit of contentment there is no point in shrinking back for fear of a test each pop quiz is an opportunity to practice what we've learned then when we have mastered the material we can move on to the next level of growth in Christ to get started on this business of learning contentment we need a working definition I've seen a few excellent definitions but I find my mother-in-law Bessey's comes most readily to mind and covers all the territory in a few words contentment is a deep satisfaction with the will of God let's go back to the passage in Philippians for a moment Paul says he is satisfied when he is hungry satisfied when he is full satisfied when he has to go without and satisfied when he has all he needs he says he is satisfied in all places and in all things he makes it clear that there is nothing that he finds to be unsatisfactory why because he understands that God has put him in each circumstance on purpose he knows that in each circumstance no matter how difficult God is doing this for him and not to him this understanding helps us read what is happening to us as designed by our good father who is growing us up in Christ difficulties are not for nothing they grow us and this growth is faster when we are stewarding the difficulties with contentment contentment is not listed in the fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22 and 23 but it would find a good company there tent-mate is loving joyful peaceful suffers long is kind good faithful gentle and self-controlled fruit is not something we generate ourselves but it originates with the Holy Spirit in the same way he is the source of all our contentment the normal state of man is certainly not contentment we creatures can find much to complain about in all circumstances even the best circumstances can be less than perfect it's too hot or too cold too short or too tall too much or too little too early or too late too wet or too dry it's Paul just too easily satisfied no he hasn't learned to have control over his own spirit in every situation of life he knows that God is in control of all things exercising his sovereign will in and over every aspect of his life therefore Paul is satisfied with all that God is doing but how does he exercised control over his spirit so it agrees with and is satisfied with God's will why isn't Paul stressed out that is what I hope to address in this book how we like Paul have contended hearts in all circumstances before we move on let's do a quick survey of some of Paul's hardships to see if he really knows what he is talking about in what sort of circumstances did he learn contentment from the Jews five times I received 40 stripes minus one three times I was beaten with rods once I was stoned three times I was shipwrecked a night and a day I've been in the deep and journeys often in perils of waters in perils of robbers in perils of my own countrymen in perils of the Gentiles in perils in the city in perils in the wilderness in perils in the sea and perils among false brethren and weariness and toil and sleeplessness often in hunger and thirst in fastings often in cold and nakedness besides the other things what comes upon me daily my deep concern for all the churches 2nd Corinthians 11 24 to 28 this is the same man who says not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content Lapine's 411 this is remarkable how does he do it his answer I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me verse 13 without Christ there is no contentment but through and with Christ we can do this difficult thing enrolling in a class on contentment is not like enrolling in a Spanish class learning contentment requires supernatural strength contentment is only possible because Christ strengthens his people to be content there is no other way contentment is not hardening yourself so you do not care what happens it is not being a stoic nor is it bottling things up contentment is the result of spiritual strength that comes directly from Christ contentment is the ability to stay satisfied with God's will in all circumstances whether easy or difficult so it is simple to understand it is certainly not easy to do that is why we need lessons to learn this skill and we need an expert teacher which we certainly have in the Lord Jesus Christ chapter 1 the father's contentment as we open up this topic of contentment we should look first at the example that God Himself sets for us of contentment both in his own character and in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in later chapters we will consider how we can imitate him in this when God created the world he pronounced each day's work as good after the creation of the light on the first day Genesis 1:4 records and God saw the light that it was good at the end of each subsequent day's work the text says and God saw that it was good 1 10 13 18 21 25 finally in verse 31 God saw everything that he had made and indeed it was very good God was satisfied with his work and content with his labor so he rested from this we can deduce that contentment leads to rest we will come back to this aspect of contentment shortly we all remember the great exception to this when God said it is not good that man should be alone Genesis 2:18 so he remedy this problem by creating woman but woman was not content and she succumbed to the temptation of the serpent if she had been content with all God had given her she would not have taken the forbidden fruit and eaten it discontent is fertile ground for planting unlawful desires consider all the Eve had she lived in Paradise she had the perfect husband she had unbroken fellowship with her creator if anyone had perfect circumstances it was Eve and yet the temptation to be discontent was too great and she distanced herself from God and from her husband choosing up sides at the tempter and following his advice to disobey God but marvel of Marvel's God overturned that when he put enmity between the woman and the serpent even though Eve chose to follow the serpent in her disobedience God pulled her back to his side separating her from her foolish choice and of course God finally overturns this for good in the gospel of grace as my husband is fond of saying God draws straight with crooked lines the creation account exhibits another aspect of God's contentment God is perfect and all his works are perfect he is the rock his work is perfect for all his ways are justice a God of truth and without injustice righteous and upright as he Deuteronomy 32:4 being perfect he could have wanted more perfection one more animal one more mountain range one more ocean or one more color but he was satisfied with his creation he did not need anything more he rested we sometimes flatter ourselves into thinking that it is a good character trait to be a perfectionist but this label brings much trouble in temptation with it a so called perfectionist is never satisfied with his work or anyone else's work it could always be better so that means that it is never enough always falls short or because the work is never up to the standards of the perfectionist he may give up entirely and use his so-called standard of perfection as an excuse for laziness and failure I am such a perfectionist that it will take too long to get it done to my high standards so I don't have time to try this is self-deception on the occasion when the perfectionist thinks he has achieved or accomplished something perfectly he may be temporarily satisfied but this is self-satisfaction in pride all these reactions are ungodly forms of discontent as creatures we must learn to find our true satisfaction in our Creator God then we can be satisfied with our imperfect work then we could offer our imperfect work to him and be thankful that he is satisfied with us in Christ then we can rest only God is perfect when we think we can be perfect we are stumbling blindly God was also well content with Jesus his beloved son the Gospels record two instances of God speaking alone about his son the first was at Jesus baptism by John the Baptist this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased Matthew 3:17 three Gospels record a voice coming out of a cloud at the Transfiguration Matthew 17:5 mark 9 7 Luke 9 35 and they all record the voice saying this is my beloved son hear him Matthew includes in whom I am well pleased this reveals God's identification and satisfaction with Jesus as well as his pleasure in his son he is well pleased with him the son is beloved of the Father and the father speaks aloud of his satisfaction and pleasure in his son what a wonderful glimpse given us of the father's contentment with his son Jesus himself offers us another perfect example of contentment when he was facing his imminent arrest and crucifixion he struggled in the garden in Gethsemane he was sorrowful and deeply distressed Matthew 26 37 from this we learned that sorrow and distress are not contradictory to contentment Jesus wrestled in prayer and asked God if there was any possible way but he concluded this time in prayer with your will be done Matthew 26 42 from this point on in the story Jesus was in complete control of himself and in control of the entire situation when he was arrested he did not resist when he was slandered he didn't answer when he was mocked he stayed in control of himself he went to the cross content and determined satisfied with God's will Paul uses this example of Christ's suffering to admonish us in Philippians 2:3 2:8 let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind but each esteem others better than himself let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but made himself of no reputation taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even the death of the cross Jesus Don contentment by means of humility in obedience he submitted to God and went freely to the cross for us his resulting glorification and exaltation are our salvation so at the heart of the gospel is a contented father and son the father was content to send his son to die for us sacrificing his only beloved son in whom he was so well pleased the son was content to be that sacrifice for us and we are called to imitate his frame of mind in this we are to be obedient and humble both necessary companions of contentment and satisfaction selfish ambition pushes forward running on discontent and a need to be in front conceit thinks only of itself and runs on pride and vanity but if we want to imitate the mind of Christ we must be more concerned with others than with ourselves we can't hold ourselves and our desires in the front of our minds thinking that we are more important or better than everyone else for even the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many mark 10:45 if we want to find contentment humility must be our frame of mind if we want to be like Christ we must take the form of a servant we know the father loves his son and we know the son wants the father therefore my father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it again no one takes it from me but I lay it down of myself 10 17 to 18 Jesus obeyed God freely he was content to give his life he did not have it taken from him in the same way we must freely choose to follow and obey God this is our liberty and our life when we refuse to obey God when we are driven by our own desires it is no surprise that rest and contentment elude us when we follow Christ in obedience and humility we find rest for our souls the father was content with his work and he rested Jesus was content with his work knowing what it would cost him for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God Hebrews 12:2 Jesus kept his eyes on his god-given duty though he hated the shame he found contentment in the absolute worst circumstance in all of human history he did not wait until he felt like a B in the same way in all situations our contentment looks for its duties it is quick to ask how can I obey God in this circumstance how can I steward this situation in a way that honors and obeys God contentment is love for God and it requires humility and grace in John 14:15 jesus said if you love me keep my Commandments this is very straightforward do you love Jesus what he says and how do we know what he says by reading his word by humbling ourselves by not relying on our own wisdom we have a savior who provides us with rest for our souls take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls Matthew 11:29 contentment brings rest discontent brings restlessness now that we've looked at the contentment of the Father in the son let's consider the ground of our own contentment in the next chapter questions number one why do some people call themselves perfectionist is it intended as a flattering statement number two can you think of ways that a perfectionist can be annoying to others number three what keeps us from lowliness of mind for what is the world's view of the lowliness of mind or five think about what discontents you have allowed to take root in your life do they involve duties you have shirked if so how can you address them for listening to this week's edition of the olive Christ for all of life podcast that was the opening section of Nancy Wilson's learning contentment if you'd like to hear the rest of the book on audio you can purchase it at can and press calm or anywhere audio books are sold

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