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Thursday-Contentment

 

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

 

Philippians 4:10,11

 

Why did you go to school in the first place? You might have started in pre-school or kindergarten. My first day was first grade. Most people went to public schools. Some to private schools while others were taught at home.

 

School wasn’t a destination as much as it was a journey. It started with elementary, followed by middle and high school. After that, some went to college while others went to specialized technical training.

 

We should at least ask the question of why we went to school. Yes, it was expected that you’d go. Yes, there were some legal requirements that for you to go for at least the first 12 grades. Yes, to do certain jobs, have some careers, you needed to complete the required education. So, let me ask you, why did you go? Did you go just because you had to? Were you looking for a place to hang out? Did you go because your friends went? Did you do what your parents told you to do?

 

At the beginning I sure you went for the same reason I went: my parents told me to. After all, my brother went so why shouldn’t I? And that was fine for a while. I was willing to accept their authority in exchange for food and a place to sleep. But eventually something happened. Something changed. It shifted gears and going to school, receiving an education became something different. Something more. It wasn’t what someone else wanted for me but what I wanted for myself. It moved from an external push to an internal motivation.

 

That’s where we find Paul. He’s finished with the education that was required by his parents. He’s even moved beyond the advanced study and training under Gamaliel[1], a teacher of the law that was honored by all the people[2].

 

Paul had come to the end of all he education and learning. He’s come to the end of himself and found no contentment. No inner peace within himself. With others. Or with God. But in Jesus he finds that peace that had escaped his learning all those years.

 

Now, finally, Paul’s content. He’s come to the place that he doesn’t need people telling him how smart or great he is. He doesn’t need achievement to feel good about himself. He no longer needs things, money, or power to be at peace within himself.

 

How did Paul find this contentment? This peace? It didn’t come at the end of a multiple-choice test. It didn’t come when he finished his last paper at school. It didn’t even come when he got his diploma.

 

When Paul says that he has learned, this isn’t something he’s known all his life. This is a new thing that he’s come to. And that new condition is contentment. He wasn’t born with it. It wasn’t something he inherited from his parents. It’s something new that he’s learned.

 

His contentment, his satisfaction with life, his inner peace didn’t come with anything he did. It didn’t come at the end of some degree program. It didn’t magically appear through meditation or a change in diet. No, this contentment wasn’t due to anything he did or tried to do.

 

No, his contentment, our contentment comes at the foot of the cross. Our self-sufficiency, our being enough is never enough. Everyone and everything needs to be abandoned so that we can put our trust and contentment on Christ. And Christ alone.

 

In the first Harry Potter movie, there is a scene between Harry and Professor Dumbledore about the Mirror of Erised[3]. Harry has seen himself in the mirror standing with his parents, the people he most misses and wants in his life. He asks Dumbledore if the mirror shows what he wants.

 

Dumbledore explains that the mirror “shows us the deepest and most desperate desires of our hearts.” For Harry, it’s to be with his parents who were murdered when he was very young. They’ve left a hole in Harry’s soul that he’s still trying to fill.

 

So, I have to ask the question to myself and you; who or what would be with us if we stood in front of the Mirror of Erised? Who are the people, what are the things, or what are the accomplishments that we want next to us? That will fill that empty place in our hearts. In our heads? In our soul?

 

It doesn't matter how good they might be, they will always, always, always disappoint you. Like Harry Potter, you’ll never be at peace. You’ll never find true happiness. You’ll never be content. Paul found contentment in Jesus and Jesus alone. No one else. Nothing else. Jesus is the one we were made for, and he alone can fill that deep emptiness at the center of who you are. Contentment is only found with Christ. Stop looking everywhere else. Run to him and him alone.

 

Noodling Questions

 

  • On a scale from 1-to-10, where are you with contentment? Explain

  • Who or what do we want to please more than anything else? Why?

  • How can we use disappointment to move us closer to Jesus?


[1] Acts 22:3

[2] Acts 5:34

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