For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
God helps those who help themselves
Oh, wait, that last one isn’t actually in the Bible, though some think it is.
Another of those scriptures that even non-Christians have probably heard quoted is Philippians 4:13.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
We use that verse for many things. Athletes often quote it after some great achievement. People quote it when they are going through a particularly rough time in life. People quote it when they are faced with a difficult task.
None of those uses of the verse are wrong, but did you know the actual context of the verse?
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.Philippians 4:10-13
Paul was actually speaking about contentment. He had found the secret to how to live in need and how to live with plenty. That secret was the strength that Christ gives him.
Contentment is perhaps one of the most important keys to financial health. In fact, I would suggest that without at least some degree of contentment you will probably always struggle financially.
And it is hard in our society as we are marketed to constantly. Everywhere you turn there are advertisements.
Understand that the whole key to marketing is to make you feel discontent: “I am lacking something in my life and this product is just what I need to fill it.” Now marketing isn’t evil (as long as it is honest). In fact sometimes there are products that really do make our lives much better and marketing that makes us aware of that is a good thing. Just be aware that the whole point of marketing is to convince you to buy something.
As we are faced with this constant barrage of marketing, we can easily be led down the road of thinking” I need just one more thing to be happy.’ But that road never ends. There is always a better, newer version. Our neighbor always has something with one more feature. There is no financial peace on this path.
So what are the keys to finding contentment
Knowing the finish line
Contentment does not mean we should always passively accept our circumstances. It’s ok to want a better life. To strive to learn new skills. Look for a better job.
The key is to define for yourself what is enough.
One of the surest ways to kill an attitude of discontent is to focus on gratitude. Most of us, even the poorest among us, have more wealth than a large percentage of the population of the world. While we may not have everything we want, few of us are lacking in daily needs.
And consider as well the blessings that money can’t buy. Good health. A spouse who stands with us. The hug of a child. The beauty of a sunset. Freedom. Grace. When you focus on all that there is to be thankful for, the discontent will quickly be drowned out by the chorus of gratitude
A focus on others
Discontent often comes from looking inward. What is it I want that I don’t have and I think I need? By lifting our eyes from our internal wants and desires, and changing our focus to those around us our perspective on contentment changes.
Spend some time helping out at a local homeless shelter. Volunteer to help out at a local pediatric hospital. Go on a short-term mission trip. There are many ways to shift our focus to those who are much less fortunate than we are. When you do this you will begin to see that the things that are causing you discontent are often just stuff. And stuff just isn’t that important.
The strength Christ provides.
Most importantly as Paul said the real secret to finding contentment is found in the strength that Christ provides. Psalm 37:4 says:
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
When I was young I used to think this meant that if we focused first on the Lord that he would give us what we want. What I have come to understand is that when we put our focus on Him, He changes us so that over time our desires come in line with His desires. The things that used to seem important to us often fade and we learn to desire what really matters.
Looking for contentment in all the wrong places
I believe the real root cause of discontent is often the fact that we are looking for contentment in the wrong place. We look for money, jobs, stuff, relationships, power, and many other things to fill the discontent we have inside. The problem is that hole is only filled by one thing, a relationship with Christ.