The counter-cultural antidote to consumerism is contentment nurtured through giving.
But how do you develop that kind of contentment?
The Apostle Paul teaches us about contentment in the last chapter of Philippians when he says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (4:12) What’s his secret?
1. Remember what’s important — “For me to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:12) Paul learned contentment by keeping his focus on what’s most important. His top priority was living for Jesus Christ. We learn contentment when we focus on the priority of living for Jesus Christ and not for ourselves.
2. Let go of the past — “Forgetting what is behind…” (Phil. 3:13) Paul purposed to put his past behind him. Of all people, Paul could have let his previous life of persecuting the church send him into a cycle of guilt and regret. Instead, he was able to forget about it through his experience of forgiveness. As a result he was content in the present. Experiencing and offering forgiveness frees us from our past.
3. Look ahead with hope — “…straining toward what is ahead.” (Phil. 3:13) Paul kept his eye on the prize of becoming and doing all that God intended for him. Having let go of his past, Paul was empowered by God’s Spirit (see below) to focus on God’s future for him. We, too, find contentment when we look forward to God’s goal for our lives and let it impact our present.
4. Depend upon God daily — “And my God shall supply all your needs…” (Phil. 4:19) & “I can do all things through Christ … ” (Phil. 4:13) Chasing after our wants — whether material, relational, or emotional — through our own efforts is a futile endeavor that ends in dissatisfaction. On the other hand, depending upon God to provide for our needs frees us to give away ourselves and possessions to others through the power of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ. When we give we receive the blessing of contentment.
What about you? Are caught up in today’s consumer culture that grabs and hoards material things? Are you distracted by “stuff” and filled with dissatisfaction? Are you demanding that others fulfill your emotional/relational desires and frustrated that your needs aren’t being met?
If so, learn from Paul. He was content focusing on the priority of living the Christ-life, experiencing the freedom of forgiveness from his past, looking ahead with hope, and depending upon God to provide for his needs as he gave himself to God’s purpose in and through his life.