The Secret to Contentment- Water CC

The Secret to Contentment- (Excerpt from Water CC Rev. Patt Hardaway)


“The Secret to Contentment”

Philippians 4:10-14

   When I was in college I was given the opportunity to study Spanish for a semesters credit in Central Mexico in Guatemala, Guatemala. I saw extreme poverty for the first time in my life. Streets of tents and lean to’s making up whole neighborhoods. I remember having my first culture shock when I found out my hair dryer wouldn’t work with their electrical system. When I tried to borrow one from one of the innkeepers none of them owned one. I thought I was going to have to fly back to the states. No hair dryer?  The water system was on and off again. Some days you could take a shower some days it would run out or run sorta brown. There were chickens and mules living along side large families who lived under one tent. I thought poor children to live like that. Then I noticed outside my modest hotel window how I heard those same children I felt so sorry for laugh all day long. I asked the inn keepers if those poor families were happy living like that, and they said “yes”. My classmates and I agreed that it would be best that they not know what they are missing having no hair dryers, no electronics of any kind, and only one very warn and tattered soccer ball living with only a plastic tarp over their head to sleep under. How could they possibly be content with life? 

  One Sunday I went to the Catholic church to see how the people of Guanajuato worshipped. Well everyone poured into that cathedral, including a few donkeys that the owners held on to. It looked like Easter but it was just a regular Sunday. No big bill boards or marketing efforts to evangelize the service. No social media or email blasts that went out on Saturday. But those same families I watched from the hotel window with no possessions were singing words of praise loud and proud.  Smiles were mostly drawn on their faces that seemed very real and warm not one of those Sunday morning plastic smiles that says “I’m fine and how are you?” You know the heavy smile that can only be held in place for a few seconds before we have to rush past the person where we quickly drop the heavy smile to a frown the second we walk by.  What was the secret of the Phillippians? The book of joy tells us.

   The Apostle Paul tells us the key in Philippians 4:10-14. 

    I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. 

   What a heart felt letter. He starts off so grateful to hear from them. Praising God that he heard from them and that they showed concern enough to send a messenger to check on him. He lets them know he is fine and not only that he is content.  One of the things to note about contentment is that we have more of it when we know there are people who love us and are concerned about our well fare. If no letters come in the mail, no messages via Facebook, email or phone, how does that make us feel…..?  Unloved. Forgotten. Unimportant.  But the Philippian church had not forgotten him.  It was written from prison thought to be in Rome. The letter was written to a Christian community who Paul had a long and happy relationship with.   This letter though written in the confinement of prison is gracious, joyful and content. How does one manage to be content in those conditions.   We all have our own private prisons we may be in today. Stuck in hurtful relationships, in dead end jobs, or looking for meaningful work. Maybe you have been given bad medical news so you are in a prison of worry and seemingly endless treatment. You may have children you are worried about that have distanced them self from you and God. Or maybe you have aging parents who you are caring for, and you are in prison with no time for yourself.  We think we can find contentment through money. Though ask any one who has won the lottery how their life was wrecked because of it. Paul said this: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.”  More always seems better but it is not always better. It sure does not guarantee contentment. Ask Howard Hughes who died one of Americas richest men, mean and miserable. 

  There are a lot of discontent people. People who are in prison serving a sentence of dissatisfaction with life. I have heard it called Restless Heart Syndrome – people who struggle with discontentment. Perhaps you’ve heard of restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition in which one has twitches and contractions in the legs. Restless Heart Syndrome (RHS) works in a similar way, but in the heart—or soul.  There is a quote that says, “Contentment makes poor men rich, but discontent makes rich men poor.” Discontentment can destroy our spirits and robs us of hope and harden our hearts. Though there is value to discontent, when it is to nudge us to help with some act of justice. When it helps us to stand up for the right of the voiceless, like children or the homeless. This kind of discontent is called holy discontent that God places on our hearts to move us in the direction God is leading us to for justice.  But long bouts of  discontent  can make us miserable. It is like we are reaching for a balloon that is just out of our reach. There is no joy in practicing discontentment. 

   But that is why Paul wrote his friends in Phillipi such a grateful letter to thank them. It had such a gracious tone to it. He is grateful for his friends who stick with him through thick and thin. We learn one of the keys to contentment we find in this letter.   #1  is gratitiude. He is grateful for the letter delivered by his dear friend and sojourner in the faith Epaphroditus because he was delivering a message of concern. Any time you receive a nice note in the mail or a call from an old friend it warms your heart doesn’t it. It makes you feel special.  From that interaction you can experience an episode of happiness that can lead to contentment lasting for days.  That is the power that comes from loving relationships.  We are to not only seek contentment for ourselves but to be producers of it for others. So here are some keys to help us find some peace about us.

   One of the keys to contentment is  #1 having loving relationships.  Having people in your life who care about you and share life’s journey, and who show you the love by their actions.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in prison like Paul and not know when or if you would get out and when or if you would see your loved one again. Imagine that for a second. Think of one person. A child, spouse, parent, friend or pet.  Imagine staring at those four walls and not knowing if you would ever see your loved one again. Hard to be content living without the love of others every day. But Paul claimed he was very content.  With these keys to contentment we are talking about today it is not just how we can be more content, but as a Christian how we are called to help make others content. You cant totally make someone else content but you can do what you can. So as a Christian we are to show others we care. Don’t hide it. Don’t play games. Let your bitterness go and put the heart into your relationships. Show you care. There are a thousand ways to do it. The way not to do it is with a negative spirit that says I’m only here cause I feel obligated. Aren’t you lucky you have me. 

   Sometimes people can be there but not be there. Or be there with a negative attitude, which is worse then not being there.  If our actions are not done from the motivation of love it will be transparent, and brew discontentment.  We will find as Paul did, that often in life people want to be your friend the most when you are a somebody. When you have the title, the money, and the network of people smile at you more, call you more and stand by you more. It reminds me of an old blues song song Eric Clapton

I Once Lived The Life Of A Millionaire  Spent All My Money, Didn’t Have Any Cares                                                                                          Took All My Friends Out For A Mighty Good Time ,                                                                                                                                                                                                          We Drank Good Champagne and Wine                                                                                                                                                                          Then I Began To Fall So Low,                                                                                                                                                                                            Lost All My Good Friends Had Nowhere To Go                                                                                                                                                               But When I Got Back On My Feet Again,                                                                                                                                                                Everybody Wanted To Be My Long Lost Friend.        Sing it Eric! 

In vs 4:14 says  In any case it was kind of you to share my distress. 


    There is alot packed into those words.  Another important key to Paul’s contentment can be found in the generosity of spirit was found in other Christians around him.                                                                                                                               The generosity of their gift of money was of great financial support all along the way to Paul’s ministry of starting new churches.  But their support was also greatly needed as encouragement to Paul.  It says we care. The money he, could not spend in prison. But the encouragement from their generous spirits gave him hope. Got to remember. He was a new church planter. Hard business let me tell you! He went thru hell and back starting churches. Unimaginable rejection, persecution, arguments. Push push push- disappointment, let downs. Thorns in his side in his back and his feet and hands and in his heart- all for the sake of Christ. But the Philippians gave generously their money, time and love from the beginning without complaint, without negativity in full support. What a ministers dream. Paul and Philippi were mutually giving to one another. It was not one way or slanted. Paul gave them himself and his support.  

         Paul’s  exceptional strength to stay content and joy filled was God given. It was the love of God through Christ that allowed him to carry on with such giddiness of spirit. The secret to his success, the secret of contentment is unlocked in vs 13.  

  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  

How does God strengthens us? Through the HS when we pray, (“I can do all things through the 1 who strengthens me.”) and read the Bible,(“I can do all things through the 1 who strengthens me.”) when we worship and communion in nature- Gods creation, “I can do all things through the 1 who strengthens me.”   And when we have good friends who walk with us in plenty and in want -God blesses us thru those people who God put on our path to strengthen us, to help us find contentment.  is not I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content- 

   Bob Cannon decided on V-Day he would help others find contentment. He delivered V-Day balloons and candy and flowers to widows who were spending V-Day alone. He told them this is from me and your husband and he would name the name. So sweet, so appreciative that they were not left forgotten. That they were reminded of their love, their sweet heart. Acts like that are in the name of Christ love and bring contentment.

Conclusion: Which Tent Will You Live In?

Will you live in discon-tent or con-tent-ment? You and you alone determine which “tent” will be yours. You choose it in large part by deciding what life is about. If you decide that “life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions,” then you are choosing contentment. Nothing you ever buy, will ever fill the void you are trying to fill. The hole in your heart can only be filled by God.

     Choosing contentment means we look to God as our source, giving thanks for what we have; and remembering ourselves and always reminding others particularly in want.Say it with me: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”



Rev. Patt Hardaway