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Cultivating Contentment

2/18/07 CC/AM

1 Corinthians 7:17-24

Introduction: Are you familiar with the game show Jeopardy?  It has been in syndication since 1984 and has contracts to air till the 2012 season.  If you have watched it you know that the answers are given and what the contestant needs to do is come up with the right questions. To understand 1 Corinthians you have to act like a contestant on Jeopardy! Last week we noted that in Chapter 7 Paul begins to answer the questions that those in Corinth had for him. We are not given the questions that they asked Paul so we must decipher them from his answers.  From what Paul writes we know that they had several questions on the topic of marriage and divorce.  We dealt with some of those questions last week.

Another question that must have been asked, given Paul’s remarks in our text today, was “how radical should we get about changing the way we live after becoming a believer in Jesus”?

At appears that some were using the excuse of becoming a new creature as a vehicle to express their discontentment in life and sought to change everything about themselves and to do so with a “spiritual” excuse.  Some were even leaving their spouse.  In our text, Paul makes it clear that contentment should be a priority for these believers.  It is also something that current believers need to cultivate.


1.   The devastation of discontentment

a.    Its roots – Would you say that people today are mostly content or mostly discontent?

If we’re young, we want to be older. If we’re old, we wish we were younger.
If it’s old, we want something new. If it’s new, we want something newer.
If it’s small, we want something bigger. If it’s big, we want something really big.
If we have a hundred dollars, we want two hundred. If we have two hundred, we want five hundred.
If we have an apartment, we want a condo. If we have a condo, we want a house. If we have a house, we want a bigger house. Or a new house. Or a nicer house. Or maybe we want to scale down and live in an apartment again.
If we have a job, we dream of a better job, a bigger job, a closer job, with a bigger office, a better boss, better benefits, more challenge, bigger opportunity, nicer people to work for, and more vacation time.
If we’re single, we dream of being married. If we’re married, … (we are perfectly content)?

Where does this discontentment stop?  Where did it come from?

The first instance of recorded discontentment in the Bible came from where?  It came from Lucifer.  God made him an awesome being gave him a great job, and gave him great influence and what happened?  He was not content, he wanted more, he wanted to be exalted above God Himself.  That is the foundation of discontentment.

Shortly after God made Adam and Eve, we see a similar trend that emerges that was even facilitated by the now fallen Lucifer.  Satan quickly learned that discontentment could be a powerful tool and he used it effectively when he caused the first couple to doubt God’s goodness and to become discontent even within the paradise that existed in the Garden of Eden.

Down through the ages Satan has continued to hone his craft of causing people to always want more.  Actually the economic success of our own country is largely dependant upon us buying into the “I must have more” mentality.

b.   Its route

How does a person get to be discontent? Answer, we were born that way and have been raised in a culture that knows no other way of life.

Six signs that discontentment is dragging us down spiritually:

1) Envy. The inability to rejoice at the success of others.

2) Uncontrolled Ambition. The desire to win at all costs, no matter what it takes or who gets trampled in the process.

3) Critical Spirit. The tendency to make negative, hurtful, cutting remarks about others.

4) Complaining Spirit. The disposition to make excuses and to blame others or bad circumstances for our problems. A refusal to take personal responsibility. Inability to be thankful for what we already have.

5) Outbursts of Anger. Angry words spoken because our expectations were not met.

6) Illogical consumerism. We buy what we cannot afford and don’t really need.

c.    Its results

The discontented person looks around and says, “I deserve something better than this.” Because he is never happy and never satisfied, he drags others into the swamp with him. No wonder Benjamin Franklin declared, “Contentment makes a poor man rich, discontent makes a rich man poor.” Discontentment is the cancer of the soul. It eats away our joy, corrodes our happiness, destroys our outlook on life, and produces a terminal jaundice of the soul so that everything looks negative to us. We cannot be happy because we will not be happy. We cannot be satisfied because we will not be satisfied.

Let me ask you this.  Do you struggle with discontentment?  In what areas can you identify a lack of contentment?  Do you see it as a problem?

Transition: Paul gives us some help when we are struggling with being discontent in life.

2.   The steps to contentment


a.    Recognize your calling

I was joking with a few of you the other day and I said that “I was unsure why anyone stayed in this state when it is so cold here in the winter”? I told them that I was called here by God but I was unsure why anyone else stayed to endure the winters.  Actually are of us are called to be here right now.

Do you realize that you have a calling from God or is that just for special Christians?  He is talking on a wider scope than just those who were called to be married or single.

The foundational step to contentment is accomplished when we come to the realization that we have been specifically called by God, just like we are.

One of Satan’s best lies is to get us to believe that we are not really usable to God, not actually called.  Paul says that the message that he is giving in all the churches is that people come to the realization that God has called them.

God has called you to a place that no one else can fill.  Repeat after me, God has called me. Seriously, say it!

We must understand and be committed to the fact that we are called or we will have trouble making the next step.

b.   Resist the temptation to become sidetracked

Have you ever noticed that when God’s call is heard that often we are quick to come up with objections?  Moses said he couldn’t talk good enough, Adam said, I was naked so I hid, Jonah hid in the bottom of a ship headed the opposite direction of where God instructed him to go.

What are your favorite objections?

Sometimes our objections are based around our current situation in life.  Lord, I will be a better disciple when I get past a certain issue that I am dealing with right now.

Paul gives two examples of situations that had become more important to the believers than their calling as believers.  They had become sidetracked and were missing the point.

The first was the issue of circumcision.  There was an argument of whether or not the believers should be circumcised.  Could someone really serve the Lord if they had not been circumcised? Circumcision was a sign of the old covenant Jew.  Paul basically says that under the New Covenant where there is no distinction of Jew or Gentile that circumcision was nothing.  Stay content with where you are.

The second issue was, should a Christian remain a slave.  Could a believer really serve the Lord if he remained a slave?  Paul inferred that if God called you while you were a slave then He could no doubt use you as a slave. If it was possible for a slave to become free through legal means than do it, but it really did not matter what position or occupation that a person holds.  God is able to work and use you in spite of it, or because of it.

God wants to use us just as we are.  God has placed us just where we are.

We are tempted to suffer from discontentment when we look around at others and notice that they have it better than us.  Paul would say, you are looking in the wrong direction!  Looking around for those reasons will just get us sidetracked.

c.    Realize your true mission

Paul says here is what matters, keep the commandments of God, that is to be your true mission in life.

He is not saying become a legalist.  One of the commandments for a believer of Jesus is to be led by the Spirit of God.

Ever notice how immature children struggle with their own mission because they are focused on the mission of a sibling?  In our house it might sound like this:  Kaleb time for bed.  (Kaleb) when is Katie going to bed?  We might be totally alright with our situation and content as long as someone else isn’t getting a better deal!

What do you want to do with your life?  Our answer should be simply to please the Father!  If that were truly our goal, our contentment level would be on the rise when everything else is put into perspective.

d.   Remember the cost

We normally take better care of things that are costly.  Paul cautions believers not only to remember the price tag for a relationship with Christ but also to remember that we have been bought and paid for and are no longer our own.

Since we are the Lord’s “property” He is free to do with us as He pleases.  Sometimes we question God as to why is He doing something in our lives and we fail to remember that our life is His and He can do what He wants.

If He wants us to prosper in certain ways He has the right and when He wants to deny us certain things He is allowed.  If God wants to change a certain circumstance for us He has every right to do so regardless of the direction that it goes.

e.    Remain with God

The last step to contentment is to always be in a condition of abiding in Christ.  It means to wait or to remain in Him, to keep on or to continue to exist. Acts 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being;…

To remain in Him means that we are to pursue Him and to live in His will for our lives.  That all that we do fits nicely with what He desire of and for us.  It means that we will keep in close contact with our owner and make sure we are doing what He desires.

Conclusion: As you read this passage you can’t help but see that God want to use us right where He has placed us.  When He wants us to do something different it is likely that He will show us.  Am I content to serve Him when He has strategically place me?

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (NASB95)
17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.
18 Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
20 Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called.
21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that.
22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave.
23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

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