The Elusive Business of Contentment (Part 1)

game-of-life

Socrates once said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Martha Washington, our countries first “first lady” said, “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

And Pastor Steven Furtick gave great insight and truth when he shared, “One of the Enemy’s most effective strategies is to get you to focus on what you don’t have, what you used to have, or what someone else has that you wish you had. He does this to keep you from looking around and asking, “God, what can You do through what I have?”

Our culture influences us to be discontent by teaching us to play by the wrong rules…and it starts early.

When I was young, my sisters and I played a game called “The Game of Life.”

“The Game of Life” subtly or not so subtly taught me at an early age, what success was and where happiness came from:

These were the rules:
>He who ends up with the most money WINS!
>You get money for having children.
>You get a car for free.

This got ingrained in my head as I went to business school in the 80’s and it was reinforced by my professors and by the award winning movie “Wall Street” with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, where happiness and contentment came by getting what you wanted, at all costs…IT LOOKED SO GLAMOROUS AND TRUE.

Then I got out in the real world and learned that there were different rules and realities in the real game of life that were the exact opposite of the board game.

These are the REAL rules:
>Money has little to do with whether you win the game!
>Kid’s suck you dry of every dollar you will ever make.
>You only get a free car if you make the half time shot at an NBA game or you win one on “The Price is Right”.  And yet you still have to pay taxes on it.

The truth is, people are really confused these days about what the rules of life are.

Never in the history of our world have we had more.

Never in the history of our world has depression, sadness, loneliness and discontentment been higher.

CONFESSION: I am not very good at contentment. I wrestle with this everyday. Maybe it’s my generation, maybe it’s the way I’m wired up, maybe it’s my experiences, for sure it’s my fallen nature but I struggle with contentment.

The wisdom of scripture and the testimony of content people makes me realize that “Real contentment does not come from the right circumstances, but from a rich relationship with God.”

Not the right circumstances.  (You fill in the blank of what circumstances would make you content…a job, a better job, money, more money, a spouse, a better spouse, health, better health, a house, a better house, children, better children, that your children would move out.)

We can spend our whole life hoping to spin the right number, hoping that we will land on the right spaces, so we will get the things that will make us happy, or we can stop, begin a relationship with the one who made us, redeemed us and discover that contentment isn’t as elusive as we think.

Our cultures contentment is like cotton candy. It might taste good, but it’s fleeting, you can’t build you life on it, and you can’t eat too much or it will make you sick.

You get a new car and it smells good for a while, then you get the first door ding and the first spill and the first payment and you no longer have that rush of happiness when you see it. (Cotton Candy)

You meet this amazing person, and for a while you can’t sleep, work or do anything without thinking about this perfect human being that God has given you, and then it’s not long before you realize they have some quirks, and they do some things that irritate you, and they have bad breath, and the feeling of euphoria that you felt for that 1st week has left, reality has set in, and the real work of love begins. (Cotton Candy)

You go to a church and the music grabs a hold of your soul and you are amazed at how brilliant and relevant the person is who is giving the message, and then you keep coming and the music loses it’s emotional edge and there is a song that the worship team does too often and it’s getting on your nerves, and the guy who is giving the messages tells the same joke too often and is a little long winded at times and you realize he is not as brilliant and relevant as you thought and you have to decide that your belief in God is deeper than a feeling and the real work of faith begins. (Cotton Candy)

Imagine getting to the place the Apostle Paul got to when he wrote these words in prison, “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One(Jesus)who makes me who I am.”

2 QUESTIONS:

1) From a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being very content and 1 being not content at all, how are you doing when it comes to living a contented life?

2) When and where are those times when you are most content? What are you doing?

I will talk more about this in “The Elusive Business of Contentment” (Part 2)

For more thoughts about contentment, you can watch my message on contentment starting at the 25:45 mark: http://vimeo.com/71704976

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