Welcome to Living Contentment – your weekly nudge towards a life of Biblical contentment.
Here are today’s three contentment-related things for you to
read | do | pray
These past few months we’ve been preaching through the book of Philippians here at Rift Valley Academy, which is an absolute treasure of teaching on contentment.
While there are some very direct, and oft-quoted passages on contentment (4:11-13)- the whole book gives off the distinct odor of a contented life.
One passage that is always challenging is what Paul says in Phil 1:21:
For as long as I can remember knowing that verse, I have wrestled with it.
The immediate context is verses 19 through 26:
Paul is basically saying – “Honestly it’s better for me to die and be with my Lord. But since the things I’m doing here are beneficial in real, eternal, significant ways to others – it’s better for them that I stay alive and keep serving them.” That’s what “to live is Christ” means. ‘Fruitful labor’ which is ‘more necessary” for others than for him, because of their ‘progress and joy in the faith.’
I think this is a fundamental key to the contentment Paul has found – he is no longer living for himself. He can more easily be content because when he experiences hardship he’s not weighing out whether he still has more good than bad things happen to him. That’s not a relevant question for him. He’s pretty sure more bad happens to him -that’s why he’d rather leave this life and be with Christ. But he is content to stay here with little, or with lots, because he knows he is being used by Christ, to help others.
In both Philippians (2:17) and in his letter to Timothy, Paul refers to his life being ‘poured out like a drink offering.” (2 Tim 4:6). This is what Paul sees as the purpose of his life – serving others.
My hesitation in encouraging us to focused lives of service is that it can be twisted into a self-martyr kind of door-mat Christianity. A life where we simply do anything people want us to including enabling bad behaviour, creating co-dependent relationships, and allowing ourselves to simply be used by others. I don’t think the goal is to ensure that the majority of our time and efforts are spent doing things for others, like we need to analyse the hours spent in a week and make sure most of them are something that qualifies as ‘service.’ That feels legalistic, and simply improperly focused.
I think the real question is: can we say with Paul – ‘for me to remain alive is better for you.’ and have it be true for those around us?
This is a bit tough – but I encourage you to do this.
Take account of what your time, attention, resources, and effort are all contributing to – at this point in your life.
Maybe questions like:
- In your interactions with colleagues, co-workers, fellow students…whoever you spend the majority of your waking hours with – do you have a net positive impact on their lives?
- If you allocate most of your day to raising your kids – are you prioritizing their walk with Jesus?
- In your other time – are you doing things to help others – or doing things to make yourself more comfortable?
- There are lots of other ways to ask this question – what feels most relevant for you? Does the outcome of your time (helping create some product or service, or whatever) make the world a better place for others? What about your attidude while you do it?
I think the really hard question – which every single one of us has to wrestle with is:
Seriously, Reader can you say ‘My life benefits others more than it benefits me.’
Everything I see in what Paul is writing in this book (and his other books) makes me think this is an accurate question to ask ourselves.
Can we echo Paul’s words and say, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
Please – hit reply and let me konw what you’re thinking.
I’m not 100% how I feel about this one – but I think that might just be my own discomfort with how my answers make me feel.
Self-sacrificing, ever-loving God,
You have called us to love others
as you have loved us.
Help us see ways to love those around us every day.
Give us courage to try,
grant us forgiveness where we fail,
keep us humble when we actually get it a little bit right.
Constantly draw us to the contentment you have for us,
allowing us to live lives of service to you,
through helping others,
not to earn your favor – but from gratitude,
for what you’ve done for us.
Talk to you next Thursday!