I was on the Outer Banks, NC, on a Sunday morning, sitting in Nags Head Church, on one of the hottest days of the year, maybe the century. The heat index was 112, and it was accompanied with humidity that slaps you in the face as soon as you walk outside. It was hot.
The worship was good, and things were moving along. Then the pastor stepped to the stage and prepared to deliver his sermon. His first words were, “Don’t be alarmed, but I want to let you know that I just turned off the air conditioning in this room.” And 300+ hearts collectively skipped a beat, and we all exchanged nervous glances and a few chuckles. But it did feel warmer already…. He wouldn’t. Oh yes, he did. He said, “This morning we’re all going to learn not to be discontent, and we’ll all be hot together, but you’ll remember this one, I guarantee.”
The sermon was on contentment, and it really was a great message. Pastor Rick Lawrenson had some great points that I wanted to share, and then I have a couple stories of how I’ve been learning contentment in my own life. Here were some great points he made:
The scripture Pastor Lawrenson used in the sermon was Luke 12:13-21, and I want to share my favorite part, in verse 15:
Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.
This is something Jesus taught to a crowd one day. My natural question to follow that, had I been there to ask it, would have been: Then what DOES life consist in? If it’s not in possessions, ok fine. But life has to be found somewhere - where will I find it?
Jesus says at the end of that passage that we ought to be “rich towards God.” What that means is a whole, huge blog post of its own, and you can read through many other posts on my blog from the past to get a better idea of that. But mainly, it means living for God instead of living for self. Don’t look for the riches of life in material goods, but in a relationship with God and a life lived for Him. THAT is where you will find REAL life. A life that is joyful and content, no matter the circumstances.
When the sermon was over, he (mercifully) turned the air conditioning back on. He asked, “You want to know how hot it got in here?” We all nodded, and my guess was well in the upper 80s in my mind. “It was 77. Just 77.” We were all stunned. It had certainly felt hotter than that. But it was only 7 degrees higher than normal and we had to consciously fight to remain calm and content - because of the way we live our normal lives. Thinking we can’t bear to be hot - we are entitled to AC! But as he said, it’s all relative. Some people have no idea what AC even is, and 77 would be a welcome treat to them. It was a very tangible lesson, well executed, and one that will be long remembered.
Some illustrations of learning contentment from my own life. And keep in mind, I am not trying to imply that I have mastered contentment. Just that I am learning more about it recently. A while back, someone ran into my wife’s car and totaled it. We wanted to upgrade to a nice minivan. But we also didn’t want to go in debt and take out a loan, so we only used the money we got from the insurance, which ended up being enough to get a 1998 Mercury Sable station wagon. Not exactly what we wanted, but it did fit our needs, and was in our price range, so we decided to be content with that.
I am an avid hunter, and got into bow hunting last year. For legitimate reasons, I need a new (different) bow this year. My eyes first lighted upon a brand new Mathews, with a price tag of about $900. I had a freelance photography job lined up that would bring in more than enough for that. Sweet. Then we found out we had to switch preschools for my son next year, from public to private. And that means from free to fee. Guess how much it was going to be for the year. The exact amount of my freelance check. Of course, I didn’t bat an eye at using that for my son’s education, but it did put the new bow out of reach. Then I thought, hey I can get a used one for $400 that still looks just as cool, but is more affordable. But we’ve had a lot of medical bills and car expenses this year and scraping the extra money together was proving difficult. Two weeks ago, I was hanging out with a friend, and he gave me an old bow that was sitting in his shed. It’s older than my last one, and not fancy at all. BUT it fits me, it was in working order, and most importantly, it was FREE. So, I decided that this was my best offer and a gift from God, so I decided to be content with it. I had one major hiccup in my contentment though when I went to get it ready for shooting at the store. I walked in and passed all the new bows as I went back to talk to the archery technician. On my way back out to my car to get my bow, I was feeling very strongly that I WANTED a new bow. So I prayed, “God, I want one of those new bows, but I know I don’t need one. Please help me be content with what you’ve given me.” And I was able to walk back inside with my old, used bow and actually feel content with what I had. And contentment is such a great feeling.
As I said, I have in no way mastered contentment. But I do try to practice it, with using money wisely, but also with giving daily thanks for what I do have. This year I am keeping a thanks journal in which I write down at least one thing a day I am thankful to God for providing. At first it was a struggle to find one thing a day, but more recently I’ve been writing more like 4-5 things a day with ease. The more we look for things to be thankful for, the more we will see we already have to be thankful for. We need to strive to see it.
Life consists in thankfulness to God, a life lived in/for/with Him, and the joy that comes from being truly free from all that the world tells us we “need.” Life consists in being rich in God.