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Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 (NCV)

Contentment defined: The quality or state of being contented. (I love when they do that! Tell you a definition by telling you a different word you don’t know.)

Contented defined:  Feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.

Do a search of images that define contentment. You’ll find cute pictures of animals sleeping in odd positions, people smiling while walking with loved ones, or various pictures of people, clouds, the sun and water. Even the word conjures up peaceful surroundings, happiness and joy.

Contentment means that even though there may be things I’d change, few of those changes would be major. The things I see around me are good. My life is good. I’m content.

The picture of contentment that comes to my mind is far from the ones I found on the search engine. The picture of contentment I see is one of a bird snuggled down into her nest. A violent storm is tossing the branches of her tree back and forth. Lightning is flashing, thunder is crashing and the world around her is taking a thrashing. Still, there she sits, riding out the storm, satisfied with where she is at that given moment.

That’s the kind of contentment that Jesus talks about. The feelings of hunger affect every aspect of your being. You look at people differently; situations you encounter seem larger and harder to conquer. Hunger makes you weak and ineffective. Add thirst to hunger and the problems magnify. A person can live a few weeks without food and water, but their health is affected in just a matter of days.

Spiritually hunger has the same effect. There is, within each of us a desire for contentment. A longing to be satisfied with where we are and who we are and what we have. The only way you will find true contentment in life is to look beyond the external pleasures of life. True contentment begins in the heart. When you are satisfied on the inside nothing on the outside can take away the contentment you seek.

A crowd gathered around Jesus one day. They’d just witnessed an amazing miracle. Jesus had just made over 5,000 men content with a few loaves of bread and a couple small fish. Jesus said, “You’re still here with me because I gave you contentment with the externals of life. But I have so much more to give you. I can give you comfort in the wilderness, encouragement in the midst of the storm, courage in the face of danger.”

You won’t find contentment in relationships, or money, or status. Contentment isn’t measured by the size of your bank account, the number of friends you have on your social networking site, or the victories in your win column. Contentment can only come as you grow in relationship with the one who makes us content in the midst of the storm.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, right now I’m going through a storm in life. Some of it’s due to my own poor choices. Some is at the hands of evil people. No matter what I’m going through, I ask that you would help me be content because of your presence, love and protection. Amen.

Then Jesus said to them, “Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns.” Luke 12:15 (NCV)

Contentment. When you think about it, it just may be the single most important thing we seek during this journey called life. We seek for it in relationships, and when one goes sour we reach out to others who may be able to fill the void. We seek it in our jobs, our marriages, our children, the number of toys in our yard and even in the church we attend. It can become the driving force in every thing we do, every thought we have, and every word we speak.

The lack of contentment can push us to try harder or it can lead us to hang our heads in disgrace and failure. It’s the lack of contentment that causes us to succumb to the addictive patterns in our life. Addiction to drugs, pornography, anger, work-aholism and a whole list of other activities that drain us of our desire to succeed and bring on more discontentment. The negative spiral continues. We want to feel good about ourselves, to be content, so we try new things and fail which brings on more frustration and a stronger desire for contentment.

Jesus says, STOP! You are looking for contentment in all the wrong places. Contentment isn’t found in relationships. Even if those relationships are good relationships with your spouse, your children, your friends, earthly relationships can not completely fill the void in your life that we call contentment.

You won’t fill that void with more or new, friends, a better job, a new car, a bigger house, a vacation home or a new toy. Contentment goes well beyond these things. Contentment comes from inside. It comes from being satisfied with who you are, with believing the fact that you are God’s creation, his number one masterpiece. Contentment comes knowing that the job can fail, you can lose your house, and you can find yourself without a friend in this world. But if you have Jesus, you have the strength to go on and the contentment within yourself that says: “I’m okay. Things are tough right now. But I’m okay because of Jesus.”

Contentment doesn’t mean we are satisfied to stay where we are. It means we know that whatever we are going through is for a time and that someday, because of Christ, things will be better. Contentment weathers the storms of life with confidence that who we are isn’t dependent on the outcome of our trials.

PRAYER: Father God, things aren’t going so well for me right now. I’m worried about finances, my kids, my marriage and a whole list of other things. Help me to realize that I have all that I need in who I am because of you. Empower me with your Spirit to be content with who and where I am. Give me strength to endure and to make my world a better place. In your name I pray, Amen.

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. Philippians 4:12

A friend of mine makes the statement “You can do anything for awhile if you see the end in sight.” There is some truth to this statement. If we know the struggle we are in is temporary we know we can probably endure. For example, a runner will see the finish line ahead and often get a quick burst of adrenaline that helps to cross the finish line.

But what about in the spiritual life? What about those times along this journey we call life when we don’t know the outcome. When the doctor’s report isn’t what we’d hoped. When our children start making bad choices. When our spouse begins to drift from us emotionally. What then? If we don’t see the end in sight what helps us to keep going?

It’s during those times when life seems uncertain that we need to look at the life of Paul and his motivation for moving on. Today’s verse seems like a ‘pie in the sky by and by’ statement until we realize what had happened in the life of Paul. He’d been stoned and left for dead. He’d been lost at sea after a shipwreck. He had spent nights in the cold dark cell of prisons and, on one occasion, lived through an earthquake while underground. Relationally he was hated by many of his closest friends, held in suspicion by his new friends, critiqued for his preaching and leadership styles, and now, sat in a Roman prison awaiting execution!

So with all that history and an uncertain future what was his secret to ‘being content’? Paul had learned the hard way that God can see us through anything. What Paul is NOT saying is that life in Christ is a breeze, and void of any adversity or conflict. What Paul IS saying is that every time he came upon an obstacle he found that his faith in Jesus Christ was powerful enough to see him through!

In Christ you can do anything when you realize that whatever is going on in your life is temporary. Temporary in the sense that here on earth the worst that could happen is death, and, for the Christ-follower the best that could happen is to be transformed from this frail human body into the glorious body we receive when we see Jesus.

Learning contentment comes from seeing how God helps you through adversity. Sometimes you don’t see it until you’ve come through the fire or through the flood. Sometimes you don’t realize it until after the divorce or miscarriage. Sometimes you won’t realize it until you are on the other side of life, looking back as Paul did.

The Psalmist says (Psalm 34:8) to taste and see that the Lord is good. Until we’ve tasted of his goodness through adversity we will never learn contentment in this life.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the reminder that you know better than anyone what I’m going through right now. I don’t see even a hint of light at the end of this tunnel. I have no idea what lays on the other side. Empower me with your spirit to taste your goodness in the light of this trial. Let me look back on my life to see how you have seen me through. With you on my side I know I can ‘do anything’ because my future is in your hands. In Jesus name, Amen.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

A storm moves through in the middle of the night. The windows shake from the wind. The yard is as light as mid-day from frequent lightning. On one particular crash of thunder small feet are heard running down the hall. As if with one motion she snuggles in securely between her mom and dad. ‘Safe from the storm’ she soon falls back asleep completely oblivious to the raging storm outside.

What was it that drove the little one to the arms of her father and mother? Were they able to save her from the storm? Should a tornado have wiped out the neighborhood would she have been spared because she was in their arms? The storm certainly didn’t let up. It wasn’t any quieter in their room.

What drove her to the arms of her parents was the calm assurance in her mind that safety rested there. In the arms of her father the lightning became a nothing more than a light show. The sounds of the wind, rain and thunder became music to lull her to sleep. The storm could be weathered just fine when she was in the arms of her father.

When we rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father there is calmness in the storm. He is God. He is holy. The word ‘Holy’ is a word that means set a part. One notch above the rest of the world. Unaffected by circumstances.

Because he is a holy God, the things that frighten me have no effect on him. The things that pull me down won’t contain him or change his focus or actions.

When I fail it affects how I view myself. It affects how I react to other people. It changes my outlook on life. Small problems seem bigger. Mole hills become mountains. But when I fail it doesn’t affect how God views me. Not with Jesus by my side.

When I struggle with sin I feel hopeless and defeated. But with God there is no such thing as hopeless. Defeat isn’t in his vocabulary. When life takes different turns for me and I don’t understand how I got in the situation I’m in, I get confused and discouraged. God never gets discouraged, never gets sidetracked, never gets distracted by simple, mortal earthly things. He is on a higher plain which is unaffected by humans.

I can’t control everything that comes my way. I can’t change decisions that I’ve made in the past that haunt me now. I can’t see the future so that my choices today will guarantee my comfort or safety. I can’t control everything that comes my way…but my God can.

PRAYER: Holy Father. As the storms of life swirl around me today there will be times when fear grips me like an iron fist. Times when confusion clouds my ability to choose wisely. Times when I want to lash out rather than listen. Empower me by your Spirit during these times to be still. Even though life may be loud around me, help me to be still in your arms of safety and love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11 (New International Version)

Contentment: The feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.

The Bible tells us in numerous places and ways that we are to be content; have the joy of the Lord in our hearts; be joyful always; trust God in tribulation and the list goes on and on. When things are going well for us (the job is going well, gas prices are down, the teenagers are behaving and you are getting along with your spouse or significant other) it’s easy to be joyful, trusting and content.

But what about the other times? How can you be content when everything seems to go wrong around you, when God seems distant or angry with you and you feel yourself getting older and not getting better? How can you be content then?

There are many people out there that will give you three easy steps to contentment, or a product, service or program that will ‘bring you contentment’ but the reality is you already have everything at your disposal to be content!

While it’s not an easy thing to admit or practice, contentment is really about our reaction to the event around us more than it is the actual event, person or place. Contentment isn’t really about being happy! You can be content with your situation even though you aren’t happy about it. You an also be happy on the outside even though internally you are miserable. Paul tells us in Philippians he is content regardless of his circumstances because he ‘learned the secret’ to being content.

I’m not going to be one of those people who gives you the ‘three easy steps to contentment’. First of all, there is nothing easy about being content. Secondly each of us reacts to situations differently. However, here are some ideas to help you on the road to contentment.

First of all, each of us must realize that coming to the point of contentment is a process, a part of the journey of life. Paul says, “I have learned…”. Learning takes time and work and is best learned by experiencing discontentment. If you read the life of Paul you find that he was a man of extraordinary talent, wisdom and spiritual strength. But he was also a man who’d endured prison, had numerous attempts on his life and was physically and emotionally beaten.

I’m sure that the contentment the Paul talks about to the Phillippians was a contentment resulting from all the turmoil of his past. Little by little Paul saw that God provided for him in times of danger and prosperity. He had to go through the bad part of life in order to learn that God could really be trusted to take care of him.

Secondly contentment comes to us when we have a proper view of God, ourselves and others. When contentment is based on external things we are bound to be disappointed. Relationships fail. People fail. Economies and politics take different directions. Life is fluid and sometimes we end up in places we hate to be in.

Contentment based on the Soveriegn God isn’t dependent on external factors. He is always God. He is always in control. He always loves us and wants us to experience his love. Because of this, there is nothing that can effect His working in our lives.

We also need to have a proper view of ourselves. Sometimes the situations we find ourselves in are the result of choices we’ve made in the past or actions others have taken to hurt us. To live a life of contentment we need to forgive ourselves and forgive others for the things of our past. As long as we hold on to the issues of our past we will never be able to experience the contentment that God has for us.

Contentment based on relationships will fail regardless of how good those relationships are because relationships involve humans and humans fail. Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions to end relationships because they are harmful to us emotionally or physically. Ending a bad relationship, in some cases, may be the safest way to find contentment, but this must always involve forgiveness of the offending party as well. Even if trust is no longer possible, forgiveness is a requirement for your own healing.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many things right now that are keeping me from being content. I worry about my job, my school, my friends, my family. It’s so hard for me to be content when everything seems to be falling apart around me. I realize now that I’ve been basing my contentment on external things and not the eternal and internal things you have for me. Help me to be patient and trusting as you bring the trials I must endure to learn contentment. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to trust you. Amen.

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