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Learned to Be Content

Greetings All,

This week's "thought" comes to you from Beth Moore. I was visiting my mother's house in Massachusetts two weeks ago and Moore's book "Voices of the Faithful - Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Around the World," was sitting on a counter with a little piece of paper marking this entry.

Out of curiosity I picked up the book, opened to the marked page and started reading. I was struck by the truth of her words, and thought I would like to pass them on to you. It has to do with the rare Christian virtue or art of contentment. I trust her words may resonate with you as they did with me. Enjoy.

"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 all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)

"I'm about to talk to you about contentment. It's not that I'm not content. For crying out loud, I ought to be content! My bird dog lives better than most of the world's human population. It's just absurd talking to you about it in the company of the people who will address the subject [from across the globe] in the next month.

I've noticed on a number of occasions, however, that God doesn't mind if I feel like an idiot... So here's my shot at a subject I know virtually nothing about. My inexperience with more extreme challanges of contentment stems from the fact that I've never really lacked...

To inhabitants of most Third World countries, Keith and I are rolling in cash. So are any of us in America literate enough to read this book. Most Western Christians don't know the first thing about biblical contentment. Then again, perhaps that's why in some ways we should be pitied. We are as addicted to more stuff as a cocaine addict is to his next snort. The more we have, the more we want. What we can't fit in our homes, we move into storage. What we can't pay for, we borrow. Relatively speaking,
we have more and give less than any people in the world. And we -- Western believers -- are arguably the most discontented Christians in the world...

Christians like me cannot say with the apostle Paul that we 'have learned to be content whatever the circumstances' because most of us have been less content with plenty than we are with less. Ironically, excess only increases discontentment. Why? Proverbs 13:12 offers a perfect explanation: 'Hope deferred makes the heart sick.' (NIV)

In other words, we set our hope on the lie that if we could only have this or that, we will be content. If we get it (or him, them or there), we are astonished to realize that it still doesn't cut it. Our hope that we'd finally be happy inevitably defers, and our hearts are left sick. At least with less, we still have the fantasy. Those with more and more attend one funeral of expectation after another.

So would poverty make us content? Hardly! ... Miserable 'have nots' make miserable 'haves.' Unhappy singles make unhappy spouses. Contentment has little to do with what
we have or lack. It is a state of mind. One that is far more often learned than suddenly attained, by the way.

Check out the apostle's wording again: 'I have learned to be content' and I have learned the secret of being content.' The original Greek word comes from the same word as 'disciple.' Paul explained that Christ had used circumstances to disciple him in the art of contentment. Discovering the power and presence of Christ in every circumstance was the secret.

Both 'haves' and 'have nots' alike need discipleship in contentment. How can 'have nots' learn to be content? I would not insult you by suggesting I know. I'll let some missionaries who have earned the right tell you. But how about the 'haves'? How can those among us with plenty -- who find ourselves addicted to more by a billion-dollar advertising industry -- learn a little contentment? Two suggestions: Practice saying no to ourselves if just for the satisfaction of Spirit-empowered self-
discipline. Second, give! Nothing brings the satisfaction of giving. If I'm feeling especially selfish, I know that I haven't been giving enough.

I lost my mind recently and wrote a check for a suit that was way over my price range. The salesperson hesitated just long enough for me to ask for the check back. I can't describe how good I felt walking out of that ridiculously expensive department store empty-handed. Had the discipleship lesson stopped there, I alone would have been helped. The next day I sensed God leading me to give away the money I was going to spend on that suit. I squirmed, then I submitted. Then I learned a secret."

May the Lord disciple our hearts as well -- especially as we come up on the holidays.
In the Bonds of Christian Charity, Pastor Jeff