Conditional Contentment

Life Notes—December 3, 2009 

“…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 4:11b-12 

Contentment.  With whatever I have.  Hmmmm.  That’s a pretty large expectation, and yet that’s what Paul claims for himself in his letter to the folks in Philippi.  For much of my life I had little, at least by American standards.  I grew up in a lower, middle-class home.  The six of us rented older, smaller homes in very modest neighborhoods.  Most of our vacations were to one or both sets of grandparents’ homes.  We were one of the last families I knew to have air conditioning (a single window unit) or color TV.  But I didn’t mind much.  For the most part I was content.  When I moved out on my own I had very modest apartments, duplexes, even a small trailer home.  Although I was doing my best to move up the socio-economic ladder, I was mostly content with my lot in life.  I never went hungry or without any of life’s basic needs. 

So, I like to tell myself, with Paul, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have…”  But have I?  If I were forced back into the studio apartment where I lived in the weeks before Carrie and I were married, would I be content?  If a fire wiped out our home and all its contents would I be content?  It is easy to look back on my past realities and say, “I was content, then.”  But Paul seems to be hinting at something very different.  That we should be able to find contentment regardless of our circumstances—even if we teeter between poverty and wealth and back to poverty, again.  It reminds me of Steve Martin in the old movie The Jerk.  He was “born a poor black child,” achieved tremendous wealth, and then fell back into poverty.  He found contentment in the relationships with his family that made poverty preferable to wealth. 

The punch line from Paul, not quoted above, comes in verse 13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Contentment is directly related to that on which we lean.  If we lean on our environment we are setting ourselves up for unhappiness.  If we lean in faith on our Lord and Savior, we find stability regardless of our surroundings. 

This is the second Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Peace.  Tom will be preaching from the scripture Philippians 4:10-13.  His sermon title is “Living With Peace?”  Life Worship in Brady Hall begins at 10:45.  Traditional worship in the sanctuary is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Contemporary worship at the west campus begins at 9:30.   

Come home to worship this Sunday!  Find contentment in fellowship with others.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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