Big Apple Chapel is a New Testament based church in New York City, modeled after the pattern of the early church, with a strong emphasis on following Christ as a community of His disciples.

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BAC Sermons

The Secret of Contentment

2002-06-01 Philippians 4:11-17

11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I 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. (NIV) 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (NKJV)

Contentment: (self & enough; self sufficient ) A state of mind in which one’s desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be. It is opposed to envy, avarice, ambition, anxiety, and repining. It arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of an intelligent consideration of the rectitude and benignity of divine providence, the greatness of the divine promises, and our own unworthiness, as well as from the view the gospel opens up to us of rest and peace hereafter. Online Bible

I. Things about which we are discontent:

A. Appearance, Health, Finances, Possessions, Job, Housing, Singleness, Spouse, Family, Freedom, Responsibilities, Needs, Desires

In essence, we don’t have what we think we need to be worthy or happy, when we want it, and without hope of getting it soon

B. Good things to be discontent about: our Spiritual growth, knowledge of God and His word, Ministry to others, injustice

II. Sources of Discontentment

A. Satan’s temptings (Eve in the Garden- if our eyes aren’t fixed on obeying God, even in a perfect environment, we will be discontent)

1Jn 2:16  all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.

B. Unsanctified and unexamined values 1Ti 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

Js 4:1Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

2  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Heb 13:5 conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you

III. How to have what you want and want what you have: Change for the best; Trust God for the rest

A. Contentment is found in submitting to your present path as God’s perfect will

Js 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

F If God’s will is perfect, then: either we’re resisting and missing His perfect will through our prideful independence; or we think we know better than God about the means and time of the fulfillment of His promises.

B. We might need to change (do what God wants us to) to get on the right path (Change for the best)

Rom 12: 1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

C. We must draw upon God’s grace to prayerfully change, thankfully wait, and joyfully endure (Trust God for the rest)

2Cor 12: 9  And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.   Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!

IV. Knowing God (character and promises) is the Key to Contentment

A. God is Sovereignly and wisely in control “God has arranged all my circumstances for my best benefit and His glory”

Jer 32:17 Lord GOD!  You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called ac cording to His purpose.

B. God is infinitely Good and Loving “He will give me what’s best when it’s best, that is when I’m ready for it”

Ps 84:11 LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

C. God gives all-sufficient grace as well as perfect gifts “He will give me grace to profitably wait for the fulfillment of what’s best.”

Jas 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights...no variation or shadow of turning.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion/Response:

1. What are we most tempted to be discontent about? Why? Does getting what we want satisfy? How can we not become like Golem?

2. If we’re not finding our satisfaction in our relationship with God, why do we think that addiction to finite vain trash will satisfy?

3. Why do we doubt that God knows what He’s doing, desires our best, and will work all things together for our highest good?

4. What does God want you to do in the area in which you are discontent? What strength does He provide? What do you need to do?

5. How are anxiety and discontentment related? How is contentment related to ministry?




Pagan worship usually revolved around fertility (herds and crops). Most pagan religions had “mysteries” into which the neophytes were initiated. The “mysteries” were usually “magical” attempts to control one’s environment. Paul uses the word for initiation into the mysteries to describe how to control one’s reaction to circumstances, regardless of the environment: We can do all things through the strengthening grace of Christ. That grace can transform us, sustain us, and prepare us as we await God’s blessing.


Some quotes and notes I found that are worth contemplating -bc

Happy the man, and happy he alone, he who can call today his own; he who, secure within, can say, tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.•John Dryden  

The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.

Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor. •Benjamin Franklin

Patience is the key to contentment. •Mohammed

It is right to be contented with what we have, but never with what we are. •James Mackintosh

Learn to be pleased with everything; with wealth, so far as it makes us beneficial to others; with poverty, for not having much to care for; and with obscurity, for being unenvied. •Plutarch

It is not our circumstances that create our discontent or contentment. It is us. •Vivian Greene

What makes us discontented with our condition is the absurdly exaggerated idea we have of the happiness of others.

Since we cannot get what we like, let us like what we can get. Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase. 

Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty. •Socrates

Greed as a source of discontent must always have more because more doesn’t satisfy -bc

Suffering is a vaccine against short-sightedness of the soul. -bc


Overcoming Discontent www.thegoodsteward.com/article.php3

Are you discontent? Dissatisfied or unhappy? Or rather, are you fulfilled? To be fulfilled is to be content.

What makes us discontent? Usually our lack of fulfillment centers on our circumstances. Poor relationships, a lousy job, stretched finances or low self-esteem can lead to discontent.

We could meet these challenges by identifying them, deciding what needs to change and then establishing action steps to convert discontent into fulfillment. But the Bible offers a somewhat different solution.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that overcoming discontent is a matter of relying on God: "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 everything through Him who gives me strength."

But how do we learn to rely on God? It is very simple. Not easy, but simple. All we have to do is find out what He wants us to do in the area where we feel discontent, and then do what He wants.

To find out what God wants, all we have to do is ask Him. All too often, when we remember to ask the Lord, we do not wait for His answer. He may be trying to tell us, but we have already gone on to something else. Or if we do listen, we usually are not willing to do what He says. We have not learned to rely on Him—to really trust Him—for the solution.

The Lord will not solve every challenge the way we would prefer, but if we do what He asks of us, we can be content. Even in the midst of disappointment because things did not go our way, we can be fulfilled, knowing that we have done what God desired. There are three common areas of discontent: relationships, work and finances. God can bring us peace in each area.


Relationships - Problems in our relationships with those closest to us can be the most painful of all. We can be dissatisfied in marriage, discontent with the bond with our children or our parents and also disappointed in our relationships with friends and colleagues.

Finding fulfillment in relationships means turning first to God, expecting Him to resolve the problems. We must ask for His solution and wait patiently until we hear it. Then comes the hard part--doing what God requires.

Often this is as simple as asking someone for forgiveness. Nine times out of ten, that is all that is needed. The other person will bend a little, and the relationship is restored. It is not a matter of who is at fault. What matters is who will take the initiative in seeking forgiveness. However, in the most extreme cases, the other person may not be willing to forgive. If we have asked for forgiveness and done all that God has shown us to do, then we must leave the broken relationship with the Lord.

I had to do that with someone who had once been a very close friend. I gravely offended my friend, and the relationship was broken. Soon after I became a Christian in 1976, I asked for his forgiveness, but he cursed me instead and has rebuffed my other attempts to reconcile our friendship. Now I must leave this relationship with God.

Of course, we can, and should pray about broken relationships—as I do about my lost friend. Yet the results remain with God. And our contentment must rest in knowing we have done everything God wanted us to do.

Work Situations - A few of us have jobs we would not trade for anything. But many have jobs we are not crazy about. Some have jobs we really want to leave. And a few have jobs we must escape to preserve our sanity.

To find fulfillment in our work, we must rely on God and do what He says. There are five ways God usually works.

God can supernaturally change our attitude toward a job. Or we can find aspects of the job that enable us to feel content even when the job as a whole is not fulfilling. We can find contentment through the job's indirect benefits—things outside the day-to-day work that the job makes possible. We can seek to have the job changed. Or we can change jobs.

However, the key to fulfillment in work remains finding God's path. This may mean taking some risks, relying on God at a deeper level than ever before, asking questions we often do not want to ask. It could even mean being willing to risk being dismissed or quitting without knowing God's plan for our provision. Job contentment comes from obedience--staying where we are when God directs us to do that or being ready to move when He calls us to go.


Personal Finances - Who does not wish they had more to spend—or less to manage? The key to contentment in personal finances is to really that what we have is not ours, but God's. We are stewards, and we must develop a spending plan—a budget—that recognizes the limitations of our resources and God's priorities for our spending. Then we must commit ourselves to exercising the self-discipline to stay within the plan.

When I became a Christian, I was in debt. I had no budget. I did have great anxiety (discontent) about my finances. However, I soon discovered the Biblical principles of managing money and learned how to apply those principles to my situation. At this point, I no longer struggled with trying to understand what God wanted me to do differently, but whether I was willing to do what He wanted.

I chose to be obedient and trust the Lord with my financial future. I increased my giving. I stopped borrowing and using credit cards. I paid off everything I owed and began to save money. At the same time, my income increased, my spending decreased, and the balance between income and outgo gave me—and when we married, my wife Pat—maximum contentment.

In short, I am convinced that the antidote for discontent is converting areas of disobedience to God into obedience. As we seek His direction and obey His leading, the result will be contentment and fulfillment.

© 2000 by Christian Stewardship Ministries (CSM), 10523 Main Street, Fairfax, Virginia 22030. Telephone (703) 591-5000, fax (703) 273-1795.


A new book was recently published entitled, "Let's Roll!" Maybe you've heard of it. It is by Lisa Beamer, the wife of Todd Beamer who died last year on September 11 in the crash of United flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Todd Beamer was one of the passengers on that flight who is regarded as a hero for fighting back against the terrorists and causing the plane to crash in a field instead of into a building.

In the book Lisa Beamer describes what it was like for her on that day and what it has been like in the months that have followed as she has gone on with her life. She was left behind to raise their two little boys and a little girl she gave birth to four months after her husband's death. But she is a Christian. And God has helped her to find peace and contentment during this difficult time. In the last chapter of the book she summarizes, "My life since September 11 includes many human sorrows and challenges, and every day I must choose how to confront them. I can sink into depression or anger or anxiety, or I can trust that God is working everything for my good....The road ahead is uncertain and even scary at times, but I believe that God will provide what's best for me, just when I need it. Even now, in the midst of great sorrow, there is much to be thankful for - a great family, wonderful friends, and a strong community of faith. I try to appreciate my blessings every day."


I don't know if you've given much thought to the connection between prayer and contentment. But Paul makes a definite connection between the two when he says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." As sinners we are all prone to be anxious about things and to worry. We worry about health and family and finances. These days we worry about our country and our safety. Maybe you had some worries this past week as you listened to the news and heard about the sniper shootings out east. Worry is a sin. It shows a lack of trust in God. And our anxious worries are not conducive to a feeling of contentment. What's the solution? Prayer. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Take all your burdens, no matter how big or small, to the Lord in prayer and let Him to carry them for you, and see if it does not produce an attitude of contentment in you.

Paul tells us to pray "with thanksgiving." As you bring your worries to God in prayer, don't forget to also thank Him for all He's done for you. That will bring contentment too. Try beginning your prayers with, "Lord, I thank you for......" and then list the things He's done for you. Thank Him first of all for forgiveness in Jesus and then for other blessings like His Word and church and family and food and shelter and freedom and countless other blessings He has given you. Pray with thanksgiving and you will soon realized how richly blessed you are and how content you can be with all that the Lord have given and done for you.

As we bring our prayers to God with thanksgiving, Paul says, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." As Christians we enjoy an indescribable peace in knowing that through Jesus all our sins have been forgiven and we are at peace with the almighty God. Prayer connects us to God and His peace. As you pray, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind from worry and anxiety and the result is contentment.

Remember the connection between prayer and contentment and make use of the blessing of prayer God has given us. Another key to contentment is godliness or living for the Lord.

Paul makes the connection between godliness and contentment in 1 Timothy where he says "godliness with contentment is great gain." Godliness and contentment go hand in hand. Godliness could be defined as faith in Jesus showing itself in living for Jesus. When you are living your life for Jesus as a redeemed child of God it produces contentment. The person who does not believe in Jesus and simply lives for Himself has no real contentment in His life. For him life becomes a meaningless chasing after the wind as he discovers that no amount of possessions or pleasures can bring real lasting happiness and contentment to his life. He may try to fool himself into believing the slogan "he who dies with the most toys wins," but deep down he knows the reality is "he who does with the most toys dies" just like anybody else. Real contentment is found in knowing that through faith in Jesus you are a forgiven child of God with an inheritance in heaven waiting you. Real contentment is found not in living for yourself, but in "living for the one who died for us and was raised again" to give you a place in heaven.

Here in Philippians Paul encourages us to live that kind of life when he says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." Living for the Lord begins with cultivating a godly thought life. Did you know that you can break every one of the Ten Commandments even if you are just sitting in a chair? You and I sin every day with our thoughts. Those sinful thoughts are every bit as offensive and condemned by God as our sinful words and actions. And sinful thoughts lead us to commit sinful words and actions as well. That's why living for the Lord has to begin with your thought life. Are you in the habit of filling your mind with the moral garbage that the unbelieving world keeps pushing at us on TV and over the inter net and in books and magazines and movies? Do you let your thoughts dwell on things that are impure and unholy? That will only lead you away from God and away from the contentment that is found in living for Him.

Paul urged the Philippians to cultivate a godly thought life and to follow his example of godliness , "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice." In Paul the Philippians had an excellent example of one who struggled and strived daily to live for the Lord. Paul encouraged them to follow his example. And the same encouragement comes to us today. Strive to live your life for the Lord, to follow His will in all that you think, say and do. "And," Paul says, "the God of peace will be with you." The Lord Himself will be with you to bring peace and contentment to you life as live your life for Him.

Paul also shows us a third key to contentment: Trust in the Lord. Paul trusted in the Lord to be with him and help him to remain content whatever the circumstances in his life.

This is how Paul was able to be content as he wrote to the Philippians even though the conditions in his life were not ideal Paul most likely wrote his letter to the Philippians during his first imprisonment in Rome. He was under house arrest and was able to carry on a ministry from a home in the city but had to be chained to a Roman soldier at all times. The members of the church in Philippi had sent one of their members to deliver a gift to Paul and to stay with him and assist him. This is what Paul is talking about when he says, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you did had no opportunity to show it."

Paul appreciated the show of support from his fellow Christians and thanked them for it. But he also wanted them to know that his happiness and contentment did not depend on how comfortable or uncomfortable his living conditions were. He told them, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is be 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 everything through him who strengthens me."

No matter what the circumstances in his life Paul could be truly content and satisfied as he placed his trust in Jesus. He trusted in Jesus as his Savior and he knew he could also trust Jesus to be with him and help him through all the ups and downs of life. And Jesus never let him down. He always gave Paul the strength he needed to face anything life threw at him. You and I can trust in the same Savior to do the same thing for us.

In the last chapter of her book Lisa Beamer tells about some words from a hymn that have come to mind since September 11. The words are: It is well, it is well with my soul. She explains that the hymn was written by a man named Horatio Spafford who lived in Chicago in the 1800's. In 1873 the family doctor recommended a vacation for Mrs. Spafford. It was decided that the family would take a trip to Europe by ship. Just before their departure, something came up that prevented Mr. Spafford from going at the scheduled time. Rather than ruining the family vacation, he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead, promising he would join them in a few days. I'll read what happened: "On November 22, in a tragic, freak accident, the ship on which the women were traveling was rammed by an English vessel and sank in less than half an hour. With the cold, roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean rolling over them, Mrs. Spafford and the girls were tossed from the ship as though they were tiny porcelain dolls. Mrs. Spafford was miraculously rescued, but all four girls drown in the sea. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband a stark message: "Saved alone." Horatio Spafford bought passage aboard the first ship he could find that was sailing to England. Out on the high seas, the ship passed close to the spot where the accident had claimed the lives of his four daughters. With tears pouring down his face as he looked out over the rolling waves where his daughters had died, Horatio Spafford penned these words: When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, "It is well, it is well with my soul."

Trusting in Jesus as our Savior and helper we too can say, "It is well with my soul," in good times as well as bad because with Paul we can say, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation....I can do everything through him who strengthens me." Amen."

The American Way has become to spend more than you make.  One survey concluded that for every $1,000 earned that Americans are spending $1,300.  Many have adopted credit as a normal behavior.  Credit has become an easy sell, but always causes a heavy burden.


Contentment can’t Co-Exist with Comparisons! Comparing our house, cars, incomes, retirements, clothes, jewelry, vacations, toys, and net worth to others always destroys contentment.  We are all equal in this,  “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” 2  Comparing stirs up anger, envy and causes us to lose eternal perspective.  On the other hand remembering that the one that has more will one day stand before the Lord empty of all possessions reminds us that instead of anger and envy, we ought to practice peace and encouragement. Also comparing will tempt us to purchase things we do not have the money to buy.  Many folks today are living in house, driving a car, or wearing clothes they can not afford financially, but their pride couldn’t afford not too!


Contentment Can’t Co-Exist with greed

Yes that is a redundant statement, but perhaps it makes the simple point that we often forget.  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” 3   Have you sincerely thanked God for your necessities. Greed causes us to not appreciate what we do have and concentrate on only what we don’t have!


Contentment Can’t Co-Exist With the Love of money

God says to “flee these things” 4    Why?  God doesn’t want us to leave the faith and cause piercing sorrow in our life.  Satan says,  if you had more you will be happier and God says that kind of thinking causes great pain.  Love God and use money as a tool to godly living!

So often contentment eludes us as we live our lives from day to day. Our focus is often on such lofty thoughts as our heart's dreams for the future — a husband and wife, perhaps, and a family — or on the more mundane things of life like buying that new outfit we saw at the Mall, or upgrading our two-year-old computer system. Sometimes we get caught up in building up our own businesses or climbing the corporate ladder — making a name for ourselves and creating a nice padding for our bank account.

But inevitably focusing on any of these things brings discontentment. When Paul wrote to Timothy, a young man with all the hopes and dreams of any young man, he reminded him that if he has food to eat, and clothes to cover his body, that he should be content with that. But he writes this within the context of many other instructions for a young person who is committed first and foremost to serving God, and it is a letter that would be good for us to read often. Just a few sentences beyond the reminder to be content, Paul tells Timothy what things he should pursue in place of these earthly things: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness — all part of "laying hold on eternal life".

Eternal life in the presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ -- therein lies all the fulfillment of our dreams and aspirations as human beings. Satan would have us believe that fulfillment lies in earthly things and relationships, such as making lots of money, getting married, and having that nice big home with the latest and most convenient furnishings. But reality is that we will take none of these things with us when we leave this earth for eternity. When we focus on what matters in our preparation for eternal life with the Lord, and in preparing those around us for eternity, it becomes much easier to be obedient in being content with what God has already provided us.

Most of us have many more earthly things than just enough food to eat and clothes to cover us, and yet it seems we often fight discontentment. No doubt this will be an ongoing battle throughout our lives, for it seems to be our enemy's primary ploy to get us off course as Christians. His very first "trick" was causing Eve to be discontent with all the wonderful things she had in the Garden of Eden, by getting her to focus on that one thing which she didn't have. If we don't recognize this ploy when he uses it on us, it becomes way too easy to go out and try to grasp what we think will bring us contentment and fulfillment, even though it is currently outside of God's will for us, just as Eve did, and of course have disastrous results, just as she did.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain." Great gain — for ourselves, for eternity, and most of all for our Lord and His Kingdom, of whom we are His soldiers:  "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (II Timothy 2:3-4) © 2000 Purposeful Singleness   By Fern Horst


"A state of contentment makes one independent of outward circumstances, satisfied with one's inner resources, enabling one to maintain a spiritual equilibrium in the midst of favorable as well as unfavorable circumstances. . .  The Christian can be self-sufficient because his sufficiency is rooted and grounded in God's all-sufficiency and rests with assurance upon God's providential care.  Such contentment naturally belongs to true godliness."  D. EDMOND HIEBERT.