The summer of 1984, my wife and I were vacationing with our friends in California and heard that the game show Let’s Make a Dealwas looking for some contestants to try out for the next day’s episode. We quickly went to the nearest costume shop to select some crazy-looking outfits that would perhaps get us on the program. We didn’t care if we won any money or not—all we wanted was to be able to say that we had been on the show. After selecting our costumes, we headed for the studio.
Much to our surprise, we were chosen to be on the show, and it wasn’t long into the show until Monty approached me (I was dressed in a full-length banana costume) and said, “Robert Jeffress, my next deal is for you!” I ended up winning $350. Then, Monty went to my friends, and they won $1,200.
When the show was over, we were taken to a small room to fill out some information about ourselves and sign the necessary releases. While sitting in that room, I began wishing I would have won the piano that the woman sitting next to me had traded something else for. If only I had been in that seat. My friends started lamenting that they had not gone for the Big Deal of the Day, instead of keeping the $1,200. And the woman who won the Big Deal of the Day complained that some of the furniture would not match the decor of her living room.
Above all the winners’ moaning and lamenting, I heard one contestant say, “I’m just glad I even got on the program. I wasn’t expecting anything.” At that moment, I began to clearly see the foolishness of comparison and the elusiveness of contentment. I thought of Benjamin Franklin’s observation, “Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
If, indeed, there will always be people with more of something than we have, and if those things cannot ultimately satisfy us anyway, what is the secret to lasting happiness? In a word...contentment.
In my book The Road Most TraveledI define contentment this way: being at peace with the unchangeable circumstances, choices, and even mistakes that shape our destiny.
Contentment is an attitude that says, “I will be satisfied with what God has given me.” Contentment should not be confused with complacency. The Apostle Paul was always content with what he had, but never with what he was. Paul was always striving to be more like Christ: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
The word contentment comes from a word that means ‘‘containment.’’ It describes a person who is “self-contained”—that is, he is able to derive satisfaction from his inner resources, rather than from external sources.
To the Christian, of course, that inner resource is a relationship to Christ. Such a resource allows the content person to be happy, regardless of his circumstances. What is “the secret” that allows a person to be content? Here are three keys to contentment:
1. Compare yourself to God’s standard of success rather than human standard of success (Philippians 3:7-8).
Paul knew what it was like to live in the rat race. He had been one of those super achievers who was determined to be the best at everything. As a successful Jew, he had been determined to keep up with the Jones’s. Yet once he became a Christian, he realized that all of his achievements were worthless—all that mattered was God’s approval
The great Baptist pastor George W. Truett gave the best definition of true success I have ever heard: Success is knowing the will of God and doing it.
When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord will not ask you if you were successful in accomplishing great evangelistic crusades. No, God will only judge you according to the opportunities He gave you to serve Him.
2. Trust in God’s sovereign plan in your life (Psalm 139:13-16).
Do you realize that the most important aspects of your life were predetermined by God: your parents, your heredity, your emotional makeup, along with dozens of other factors?
If God has a unique blueprint for all those areas of your life, is it too much to believe that His plan also includes other details of your life—your vocation, your spouse, your children, your income? Yes, we do have responsibility for managing our resources well. But to a large degree, God has predetermined our economic status in life (Job 34:19).
We should neither be conceited nor despondent over our bank accounts (1 Timothy 6:17). Why? Because ultimately it is God who supplies our money, and He does so according to His eternal and unique plan for our lives.
3. Manage your expectations (1 Timothy 6:7-8).
A man went up and down his block passing out $100 bills to every household for no reason other than his generosity. He did this day after day for an entire month. One day, he inadvertently missed a house. The owner of the house stuck his head out the window and violently cursed the man for not delivering his $100 bill.
Many of us are like that in our relationship with God. We have a list of “basic expectations” that are based on what God has given us in the past, or what He has given someone else. And such a list of expectations is one of the greatest enemies of contentment. A crucial key to contentment is shortening our expectation list and thanking God for anything beyond that list.
An attitude is a response to the circumstances of life. How do you respond to the inevitable situation of someone else having more than you have? You can respond by comparison—which is a nice term for covetousness and leads to certain sin—or you can be content.
To develop an attitude of contentment, remember these three principles:
- God’s plan for your life is unique; therefore, refuse to compare yourself with others.
- God’s purpose for your life is based on His elective will; therefore, trust in His sovereignty.
- God’s provisions for your life come from His goodness; therefore, be grateful for what He has already provided.