Greater Contentment: 4 Insights for Christians

By Pastor Ruttan

Recently I led a Sunday teaching series at Westminster called Contentment: Being at peace in a world of more more more!

This post summarizes the four main insights from the series. I just thought it would be helpful to have them all together in one place.

After all, many people experience struggles in life and would like to be more content. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s someone you care about.

Since the Bible has an unending amount of wisdom for us, those of us who know and follow Jesus can be given help and hope when we keep these four insights in view.

To get us all on the same page, here’s the 50-second video intro to the series:

Here are the four main insights from the series. At the end I’ll provide links to the full-length messages.

1. You are a spiritual billionaire

As you could see in the video, there are many invisible “robbers” who come along and try to steal your contentment. In Part 1 we focused on the robber who shows up to remind you about what other people have (but you don’t).

But the more you focus on what you do have, you’re less likely to be downcast by what you don’t. To this end we explored the book of Ephesians where the apostle Paul highlights the many, many “riches” we have in Christ (but often overlook). He uses a word for riches (ploutos) six times to make the point.

Here’s a partial list: We are God’s heirs; we are made special for a special purpose; in Christ we are given redemption, forgiveness of sin, God’s generosity, knowledge of God’s will to bring harmony to all things in Jesus; hope; power; a relationship with Christ; God’s kindness and love; and God himself living within us!

To help us remember this, I encouraged you to:

(a) Value spiritual things more than material things

The reason for this is because we live in a world that sells us a lie that material things are more important than spiritual things. If we believe that, we’ll always undervalue the eternal and un-equaled gifts we’ve been given by God. Do we think and live in a way that values love, truth, justice, and holiness? Or do we really just think and live in a way that values shiny gadgets, being popular and bigger bank accounts?

(b) Thank God in your prayers for making you “a spiritual billionaire”

Seriously. Use those words. What we say impacts how we think and act. Oh, and it’s true! God has done this for us, and we are wise to thank him.

The more you focus on what you do have, you’re less likely to be downcast by what you don’t.

2. You first job is to be faithful to God

The second “robber” steals your contentment by convincing you to put too much stock in (a) comparing yourself to others (in person or online) and (b) the judgments, criticisms, or negative opinions of others.

For help we turned to 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Paul reminds us that our first job is to be faithful to God, not to please and appease others, especially when they are perpetually comparing us to others, or when they are too negative or harsh. What’s more is that our ultimate affirmation comes from God (not from other people).

To help us remember this, I offered some advice:

(a) Start to withdraw from the game of constant comparisons and criticisms

This may involve limiting your exposure to environments that thrive on comparison, and developing a healthier attitude toward criticism.

(b) Don’t feed the envy beast (in person or online)

This means that we should try to avoid playing the envy game. Don’t just say things or post pictures that are intended to make other jealous (and make yourself feel good in the process). It’s really about examining your motives.

(c) Be more concerned with faithfulness to God than with measuring up to others

To do this, cultivate practices that help you focus on God—things like helping others, worship, prayer, studying Jesus’ teachings, sharing your faith, seeking justice, and cultivating personal virtue and love. The more focused you are on God the less focused you are on the comparisons or criticisms of others.

(d) This might seem trite, but when you feel discouraged, make a number one sign with your finger

It’s a finger pointing up, reminding you that your first job is to be faithful to God (not to measure up to others’ comparisons or judgments).

3. You have a meaningful purpose in life

The third robber tries to steal your sense of purpose. This can be a real threat because, according to psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Frankl, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” Plus, individualism and secularism can undermine our confidence that there can ever be any kind of greater purpose to our lives.

To respond to this we looked at Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 4:12-255:13-16 and his call for us to be his salt and light. In short, we have a very distinct purpose: to be useful as Jesus’ hands and feet in a hurting world. After all, usefulness is the hands and feet of faithfulness.

This is a part of being a disciple and making disciples. And all of it is a part of how we glorify, know, love and serve God.

So the key question each of us need to ask is this: How can I be useful to Jesus as his hands and feet in a hurting world by being proactive about the well-being of others? Maybe you’re being summoned to respond to someone’s physical needs, or mental-emotional needs, or spiritual needs.

These opportunities can arise through specific initiatives or programs, through random opportunities, or through situations you’re already in.

4. God will provide for your needs

Lastly, the fourth robber tries to fill your life with worry. Yikes!

That’s why we explored Jesus’ teaching about worry in Matthew 6:25-34. In it, he encourages his followers to live by faith, trusting that God provides for your needs. It’s one of those things that is easy to say, but hard to do—kind of like loving our neighbours as ourselves!

But Jesus encourages us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and to trust that God will provide for our needs. After all, worry and faith can’t both command the same brain at the same time.

To tune down the volume of worry and to turn up the volume of faith, I offered these four guidelines:

(a) Root yourself in the voice of Christ

This is what Jesus’ listeners did. The more we listen to the voice of Christ, the more we trust the voice of Christ, and the more we live by faith in Christ. There will always be volume in your life. Would you rather it be filled with the voice of Christ, or the voices of worry?

(b) When you worry, use a filter to see if it’s worthwhile: Is this a kingdom worry, or not?

This question can help you sort through the kinds of things you worry about. In his book Living in Grace, Dr. Kennon Callahan has a good way of putting it: “When you worry, worry over a worry worth worrying about.”

(c) Practice gratitude proactively

Why? Because gratitude grounds you in the ongoing goodness of God. When you remind yourself how God has provided for you in the past, you’re reminded about how he’s providing for you in the present, and you’ll be given more confidence that he will continue to provide for you in the future.

(d) Cultivate the virtue of material modesty

The more extravagant and opulent that our lives, homes, clothes, and past times become, the more distracted we are from pursuing righteousness. A good question to ask ourselves is this: Is what I’m buying, and how I’m dressing, and how I’m spending my money, in the service of God’s kingdom and righteousness… or my kingdom and my reputation?

The good news is that you can experience greater contentment in a world of more more more! As a quick recap, here are the four insights we excavated during the Contentment series:

1. You are a spiritual billionaire
2. Your first job is to be faithful to God
3. You have a meaningful purpose in life
4. God will provide for your needs

A Prayer

Before I leave you with the links to the full messages, here’s a prayer for all of us, based on this series:

Good Shepherd,
On the days when I obsess about what others have but I don’t,
remind me that you have made me a spiritual billionaire in Christ.
On the days when all I can hear is the constant comparisons to others,
and the negative judgments, opinions and criticisms of others,
remind me that my first job is simply to be faithful to you,
and that you alone are my ultimate source of affirmation.
On the days when I drown in apathy, or when I question my purpose,
remind me that you have called me to be salt and light,
to be useful to Jesus as his hands and feet in a hurting world,
to be proactive about attending to the needs of others.
On the days when I worry like a professional,
remind me that worry and faith can’t both command the same brain at the same time.
Remind me that you provide for my needs,
and that in you, I have everything.
In Jesus’ never-failing name I pray, Amen.

Full-length podcasts

As promised, here are the links to the full-length podcasts if you want to go deeper with the biblical texts and messages:

Sign up for my free daily 1-minute email devotional called ‘UP!’ here!


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