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Preacher feature: Seeking contentment in all the wrong places

By Ernie Fowler
Contributing writer
updated: 8/22/2021 3:33 PM

Are you content with your life? Some 300 years ago a man by the name of Jeremiah Burrows defined contentment as "... a sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and Fatherly disposal in every condition."

My interpretation of his definition is that we simply place our trust in God without whining, without questioning, and in all matters both big and small. Paul said it even better in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances."

Many people today live a life of stress and depression largely due to the fact that they have bought into how the world defines contentment. The world says we have to drive the nicest cars, we have to live in the biggest houses, and we have to have the most important jobs. Even the millionaire is not content because his friend is a billionaire!

Like happiness, things do not make us content in the long run. Possessions, according to the world's standards, provide only short-term contentment. A good example is our paycheck. We accept a job which will pay us a certain amount of money. Initially we are thrilled to be bringing home a paycheck. After a period of time, however, that pay doesn't seem to satisfy us. Eventually we expect the boss to increase our pay. We get a 3% pay raise and we are on top of the world. A short time later, however, we are grumbling about needing another raise.

Sometimes we lack contentment because we are focused on what other people possess. The neighbors purchase a new 2021 car but we have a 2012 model sitting in the driveway. Maybe it is a talent we do not have but another person does. We have some people in our church who can sing beautifully. When I sing, the dog covers her ears!

We all do not possess the same things, but God has given us all different talents. A few years ago pop singer Sheryl Crow had a song that was very popular. One of the lines stuck with me and it really is the key to being content. The line is " ... it's not getting what you want, it is wanting what you've got."

Discontentment happens when we focus on the wrong things. I typically awaken and roll out of bed around 4:30 a.m. A few mornings ago however, I somewhat grumbled about having to get out of bed. I rolled over and my dog -- who sleeps in her bed next to mine -- wasn't too sympathetic. She continued to snore while stretched out on her back!

God gave me a thought of encouragement. He reminded me that there are many people in the world who aren't healthy enough to get out of bed. My discontentment turned immediately into contentment as I thanked God for the gift of today and the good health to enjoy it.

If you are not content in your life today, maybe you are looking in the wrong places. Quit looking in the driveway. Cease looking at the bank account. Stop looking at your neighbors. Contentment comes when you start looking to God and realizing just how good you've got it.

• Ernie Fowler is associate pastor at Pankeyville Baptist Church in Harrisburg.