Listen (ooh-ahh-ooh), do you want to know a secret (ooh-ahh-ooh)? Any Beatles fans out there?
Seriously, though. Do you want to know a secret?
What if I told you that I could give you a secret so powerful, that it can change your life? In fact, most of the big decisions you make are based on chasing this secret. What to do for a living, who to marry, how many kids to have (or not have), what to do on vacation, what house to purchase, what kind of pet to have… and countless others, all designed to move you closer and closer to it. What am I talking about?
Contentment… Fulfillment… Peace.
Well… have you chased it down yet? Do you feel content, fulfilled, and full of peace no matter what is going on in your life?
If not, then this secret is for you. Of course, it’s not my secret… it’s been an open secret for the past two millennia. And it can be found tucked away in a letter the apostle Paul wrote in the First Century.
But before we unpack Paul’s secret, let’s explore 3 reasons you may not be feeling so content to begin with.
Reason #1: Your Appetite for Stuff is Making You Discontent
When I’m trying to lose weight (which seems like every day of my life), I’m smart enough to know that I need to stay away from bagels. Bagels, while absolutely delicious (especially here in the NYC area), are just about as unhealthy a food decision I can make for my morning routine.
So, let’s say I’m resisting the bagels and then I go to church… and as part of the coffee hour fare, they are serving – yep, you guessed it: bagels. But, of course, this is church, and they don’t serve full bagels, they only serve bagels all cut up into pieces. By the way, who does that? Who serves 1/8th of a bagel? Churches, that’s who.
Anyway, I take my 1/8th of a bagel, spread the thinnest layer of cream cheese on it (like molecules holding hands) and eat it in two bites. Now, a bit of trivia for you. Will that 1/8th a bagel satisfy me or will I want more? Exactly.
Here’s the thing about appetites. They grow when you feed them.
We all have appetites, and it’s usually to do with upgrading some part of our lives that we wish were better. We live in an upgrade culture: phones, homes, cars, relationships, and mountains of stuff. We become convinced that if we just upgrade different areas of our lives, then we’ll finally be content.
But the problem is that, we are never content. And that’s because our appetites keep growing.
When we are perpetually looking to upgrade, it can create a persistent sense of discontentment with what we currently have. By definition, this prevents us from being content.
Reason #2: You Trust in Your Resources More Than God
There’s a reason Jesus taught about the dangers of wealth more than any other topic. He knew that it would be the number one competitor for our hearts. Why? Because we are tempted to trust in our own financial resources for security, status, comfort, and identity.
The thing is, our resources will eventually fail us.
Don’t think so? Well, what happens to all our resources when we die? Do they save us? Do they get packed into spiritual moving vans?
As Paul tells Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17).
Or as Jesus puts it:
Reason #3: Your Generosity is Dictated by Your Circumstances
Let’s say you go to a local coffee shop and a barista comes to your table. You order black coffee and a bagel (of course!) Five minutes go by… then ten… after twenty minutes you give a nasty look over toward the counter. Finally the barista comes back with a latte and a donut. You mention the mistake, and the barista argues about your order. Finally, you decide it’s not worth it and proceed toward the cash register.
How much will you tip?
A. An emphatic zero… or something really snarky like one cent.
B. 5, 10, or 15%
Okay, now imagine you found out that barista just lost her mother, and she had to work in order to cover funeral expenses. How much would you tip then?
Or, what if the barista was your sister? How generous would you be then?
Or, what if you just learned that a huge business deal you’ve been working on came through? Or if it didn’t go through?
You see, our generosity is incredibly circumstantial. And as a result of an underdeveloped generosity, we struggle to be thankful or feel content.
Paul’s Secret Revealed: Philippians 4:11-13
“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 this through him who gives me strength.”
In other words, when we draw from the well of our circumstances, resources, or appetites, we never reach peace, contentment, or fulfillment. It is only through God’s strength, abundance, and love that we can be content no matter what.
Then we start living a life of Thanksgiving. And when that happens we finally feel that fulfillment, contentment, and peace we’ve been chasing our whole lives.
So resist the bagels… curb your appetite for stuff… and give thanks.
[If you’d like to hear more about this topic, check out our Be Rich sermon series on our podcast]
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