A great hindrance to giving thanks is a lack of contentment. As we approach the American celebration of Thanksgiving, an excellent question for self-discovery is, “What do I need to be content?”
In session 8 of Discipleship Explored, Barry Cooper tells about the results of a poll in which Americans were asked, “How would it take to fulfill the American dream?”
Those with an income of $25,000 said it would take $54,000.
Those with an income of $100, 000 said they needed $192,000.
So Barry concludes that if we are basing our contentment of material circumstances, then we tend to think that if we just had twice as much, then we would be content.
In contrast to this, the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” He goes on in verse 12 to say that it doesn’t matter what his circumstances, whether in plenty or in hunger, or any other circumstance. The Apostle Paul knew the secret of contentment and thanksgiving.
In his book In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life, Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Contentment is an undervalued grace…If it could be produced by programmed means (“Five steps to contentment in a month”), it would be commonplace. Instead, Christians must discover contentment the old-fashioned fashioned way: we must learn it.
Thus, we cannot “do” contentment. It is taught by God. We need to be schooled in it. It is part of the process of being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). It is commanded of us, but, paradoxically, it is created in us, not done by us. It is not the product of a series of actions, but of a renewed and transformed character. It involves the growth of a good tree that produces good fruit.
A little later in the same book, Ferguson explained the source of contentment, “Christian contentment means that my satisfaction is independent of my circumstances. When Paul speaks about his own contentment in Philippians 4:11, he uses a term commonplace among the ancient Greek philosophical schools of the Stoics and Cynics. In their vocabulary, contentment meant self-sufficiency, in the sense of independence from changing circumstances. But for Paul, contentment was rooted not in self-sufficiency but in Christ’s sufficiency (Phil. 4:13). Paul said that he could do all things-both being abased and abounding-in Christ.”
So contentment is a discipleship issue. It is an issue of learning to live “in Christ.” I pray that we all may learn a little more contentment this Thanksgiving.