Contentment – by Greg Albrecht
Friend and Partner Letter from October 2022
If you are like me, you have had the experience of seeing an old friend your own age, whom you have not seen in “forever,” and thinking how old they have become since you last saw them!
Meanwhile, we fail to remember we have been seeing our own aging reflection in the bathroom mirror every day. No one likes to get older. Surgical procedures, injections, creams, lotions and diets are sold, promising to restore what has long since gone down the river of life.
Sam went to a new dentist, and as he was in the waiting-room he saw a diploma on the wall —it seemed his new dentist had attended the same university Sam had. Minutes later, when he first met the dentist, Sam thought they looked like they were the same age. So Sam asked his new dentist when he was at the university, and when the dentist told him, Sam realized they had been on campus at the same time. But the dentist interpreted the experience (and their ages) a little differently: “That’s amazing! What classes did you teach?”
It is hard to get old(er). Seniors (I am one!) can find the world an increasingly troubling place. Our blood pressure spikes when we watch, hear or read “the news.” It can be depressing to hear and see the hostility and hatred and animosity. We often find ourselves yearning for “the good old days” when things were more peaceful and people “seemed” to be more contented (at least that’s the way it is in our memories, right?).
In 1907 the Carnation Evaporated Milk Company introduced the promotional phrase, “Carnation Condensed Milk—The Milk From Contented Cows.” The Carnation Company suggested the milk from their cows was better because, they claimed, their cows were content.
The implication was that if you drink milk from contented cows, you will probably be more content yourself. You are no doubt way ahead of me, and you know that contentment has nothing to do with imbibing Carnation condensed milk, or any brand of condensed milk.
In our world today, and in particular in our North American world and culture, contentment is rare, because our society seems hell-bent on making us discontent. Salespeople and the purveyors of materialism base their economic well-being on making us discontented with what we have, or what we see in the mirror, holding out something “new and improved” that, they say, will make us deliriously happy.
First, advertising and promotions must create dis-satisfaction. Politicians know how to push these buttons too, don’t they? After dis-satisfaction is created—after the pot is stirred, an attempt is made to persuade you and me about our “felt needs.” Once people are agitated, then convince them their “felt needs” will be achieved by their support for a political agenda or through purchasing a product that will give them happiness and peace of mind.
The Bible speaks of the primary state of a Christ-follower as being at rest—we rest in Christ. Jesus invites us, in our weary and burdened and frazzled, and stressed-out state of mind to come to him and he will give us spiritual rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. –Matthew 11:28
The false and spurious claims of Christ-less religion result in anxiety, worry and stress. In many cases, when people go to a temple, a synagogue or a church of some kind, they receive an emotional hammering—they are spiritually mugged.
They are told that they are not measuring up—they need to work harder, give more, and in general do more to serve that particular religion, or God will not be happy and they will wind up being roasted on a spit over the hot coals of hell-fire, forever and ever (because God loves them?!—REALLY?!).
Jesus says “come to me” and he will give us rest. Hundreds of millions of people go to a building where Christ-less religion promises to make God happier with them and they leave stressed out, anxious and anything but “at rest.” Something’s wrong with this picture.
We rest in Christ by the grace of God—rest in Christ is a gift—it is not an emotional state that we achieve by hard work, because we deserve it. When we rest in Christ we are content—free from the guilt, shame and religious shackles that can cripple and imprison us.
…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 all things through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).
In North America the prevailing definition of contentment is directly linked with possessions and getting more and more. But there are two ways to be rich: 1) Get all you want or 2) Be satisfied with what you have.
As an airline pilot was flying over the Rocky Mountains on a clear day he looked down on a lake, nestled high in the pristine mountains. He elbowed his co-pilot and said,
“You see that lake down there? When I was a kid my dad took me fishing on that lake and when planes flew over I looked up and wished I could be flying one. Now, every time I fly over that lake I wish I was down there fishing.”
When Paul wrote about being content in the book of Philippians he was in prison. Some say he was under house arrest, but whether he was imprisoned in a home or in a prison, we do know he wasn’t poring over travel brochures planning a Mediterranean cruise.
Paul had been betrayed, persecuted, stoned, beaten and left for dead. He had received physical pain and heartache and suffering because of his commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul had no physical reason why he should be content. Paul was not ready to retire and live in a little cottage by the sea, fishing in the morning and writing his memoirs in the afternoon.
Paul had nothing to look forward to but more persecution, more hostility and eventually death for his commitment to Jesus Christ. Yet, Paul was content.
He was content because he had been given inner peace, by the grace of God. He was content because of what God was doing inside of him—living the life of our risen Lord in him.
God’s number one priority in our lives is not to provide more and more physical enjoyment—his number one goal in our lives is not to miraculously make all our physical challenges go our way, so that everything is coming up roses.
God’s number one priority in our lives is that we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we become more and more like him.
And what is Jesus like?
He is focused on serving and helping and sacrificing for others. That’s the kind of life that God produces in us as Jesus lives his life within us, and that is God’s priority for our lives.
God’s priority for our lives is that we rest in Christ. When we rest in Christ and when he is the core and center of our heart and soul, we are content to follow and serve others in his name rather than desiring what others have and resenting them. Christ-centered contentment is not realized by achieving our desires, but rather by being thankful with what we have already been given.
The secret of being content is being a Christ-follower.
The secret of being content is NOT all about drinking condensed milk that comes from contented cows.
The secret of being content is NOT about finding the fountain of youth, getting rich, or retiring and fishing in a beautiful, secluded lake in the mountains.
The secret of being content is about serving others in the name of Jesus, following Jesus and finding satisfaction in the lifelong journey of being a disciple of Jesus.
In part, this contentedness is an enormous blessing and privilege enjoyed by those of us who are Friends and Partners in this ongoing ministry. It is a joy to be a part of all that we do together!
PS. Here is a letter from a friend in Florida who is thankful for this ministry. Thanks to YOU for helping us continue this work, through your prayers and financial support!Thanks so much for all you do at PTM/CWR. You have helped me stay on track, along with God’s divine help. I pray that God will bless you and enable you to continue