My task is to help you give women help and hope in teaching them to be content. We’re going to camp on one key passage, Philippians 4.
One of the lies of our age is this: Contentment in my life is dependent on the circumstances or the people in my life.
- If only I had a good marriage, I would be content.
- If only I was married, I would be content.
- If only I was single, I would be content.
- If only I had a new car, I would be content.
- If only I had a new house or a bigger house, I would be content.
- If only we had different neighbors, I would be content.
- If only I had a good church, I would be content.
- If only I had a different pastor or a different pastor’s wife, I would be content.
- If only I had some friends, I would be content.
- If only my life wasn’t so busy, I would be content.
- If only I wasn’t so lonely, I would be content.
- If only I didn’t have this physical problem, I would be content.
- If only I could take a vacation, I would be content.
- If only I didn’t have small children, I would be content.
- Oh, if only I had children, I would be content.
- If only I didn’t have rebellious children, I would be content.
- If only I had more money, I would be content.
- If I could have a new dress, I would be content.
- If only I was a male instead of a female, I would be content.
- Ah, if only I could lose some weight, I would be content.
- If only I could have this and everything else, I would be content.
The world has told us numerous lies. And you know what? We believe them. We have believed the world. The truth of the fact of the matter is this: the more you get, the more you want. In fact, just watch your children around their birthday or around Christmas time, and then tell me if that’s not true. We’re rarely satisfied, are we?
One of the most important lessons that we can learn early in life and teach to the women whom we counsel is this: If I am not satisfied with what I have right now, I will never be satisfied with what I want. If you are not satisfied with what you have right now, you will never be satisfied with what you want.
If you and I are to be content, and if we are to counsel women to be content, then just what is contentment? How do we help women to learn to be content as they go through their life in order for them to remain content?
There are multiple places in the word of God that we could go to look at contentment. But I believe that Philippians chapter 4 is one of the best places because the apostle Paul has some wonderful principles tucked away in just 4 verses for us, as we (as counselors) try to teach women to be content. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, is certainly able to help us because he learned contentment. That’s what he says in this passage. He learned to be content. Remember, the apostle Paul’s life was not one that was easy. It was not easy. It was not peachy cream or hunky-dory as one lady in my church would say. When I ask her, “How are you?” she says, “I’m peachy keen, hunky-dory.” Paul’s life was not peachy keen, hunky-dory. It was very, very difficult. But through thorns and thistles, he learned to be content through difficult circumstances and difficult people. He leaves a legacy for all of us as he will give us four keys to contentment that I think you will find very helpful not only in your own life personally, but in the lives of those whom you try to disciple and counsel.
With that in mind, I want to read Philippians 4:10-13. Paul writes this:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed to be full, both to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Though it’s not my purpose to get into the background of the book of Philippians—why Paul wrote it and who he wrote it to—basically we know that the book of Philippians is a book about joy and being joyful in very difficult circumstances, so much so that Paul uses the words “rejoicing” and “joy” 18 times in this little epistle. That’s very important as we keep this in mind. By the way, the book of Philippians is a great book to have your counselees memorize because I certainly think it will help them in this area of contentment because Paul has a lot to say in this book of Philippians.
Now, we’re going to draw four valuable lessons or principles for contentment from this passage. It’s kind of nice that there’s one key to contentment in each verse, so that will help you as we go through the lesson.
1. Teach them to entrust their needs to God.
Notice that Paul says here that he rejoiced in the Lord greatly. Now notice Paul’s reason for rejoicing here. What is his reason for rejoicing? Is it that he would get a new car when he gets out of prison to be able to travel around to all of the churches that he started and see how they’re doing? Was his reason for rejoicing that when he gets out of prison there’s going to be this great meal waiting for him? No. Look at what Paul says is his reason for rejoicing: “Now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you did care, but you lacked opportunity.” Paul was rejoicing because the church there at Philippi cared for him. It had been about 10-12 years since Paul had been there, and yet the church at Philippi had not forgotten that Paul had a need while he was in prison. He had a financial need.
If you know anything about the book of Philippians, Epaphroditus (who was the pastor there) walked 800 miles from Philippi to Rome while Paul was in prison there to bring him this monetary gift. If you’ll remember from the book, Epaphroditus almost died. Paul said he was sick unto death, “but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” Because of the 800-mile trip, it was very difficult for anybody. Today we have planes and cars, but Epaphroditus or Paul would be walking.
Paul didn’t fret. He didn’t fret because the money wasn’t on time. He didn’t beg people for money like we see so many Christians doing today. Do you know what Paul did? He entrusted his needs to God and he learned contentment. As we teach our counselees to entrust their needs to God, we need to ask them questions, such as: Do you believe that God is a loving Father who takes care of His children? If so, then why are you discontent?
Maybe you’re counseling someone with a financial need or with a marriage problem. There are a lot of needs that women have or think that they have. Elizabeth Elliott says, “If you had a need, you’d have it because God has promised to supply all of our needs.” A lot of things that women want are not needs; they are wants. In fact, some of them are idolatrous desires. They’re not really needs. Maybe your counselee wants a child desperately, or is single and wants a husband, or is single and needs a job, or it could be some other need. But we must teach them to entrust their needs to God. We must instill in them that they have a blessed Savior whom they can cast all their care upon for He cares for them. Whatever their need is, we must teach them that God has been faithful to them. Ask them questions like these:
- Has God been faithful to you in the past?
- Is God faithful to you today?
- Will He be faithful to you in the future?
Ask them questions like those, and then teach them how to entrust their needs to God. Teach them how to put off worry and anxiety and to put on contentment.
2. Teach them to learn contentment by the hardships of life.
Paul gives this second key to contentment in verse 11. Notice what he says: “Not that I speak in regard to need for I’ve learned in whatever state I am to be content.” Paul says, “I’m not speaking in regard to need.” The Greek word used there for “need” is interesting. It means “want” and comes from the word “behind.” Therefore, what Paul is saying here is, “I’m not wanting, I’m not behind in anything,” even though he’s sitting there in prison. Why does he say that? Because he says, “I’ve learned to be content.”
Paul learned to be content there in prison, but not because he knew that when he got out of the Roman prison there was an inheritance waiting for him in a bank somewhere. That’s not why he was content. He says, “I’ve learned to be content in whatever state I am.” In fact, the word “learned” is interesting and means “to have learned anything by experience, to understand it.” This should be a wonderful encouragement to me and to you because as you try to help your counselee learn to be content, you teach her that it does not come by osmosis. Just like any part of her sanctification process, it’s not going to happen overnight. Even the apostle Paul had to learn to be content and he learned to be content by going through the hardships of life.
We must be very, very patient with those whom we counsel because some of them are not even redeemed and so we need to bring the gospel to bear on their hearts, but many of them are new Christians and they’re just beginning their walk with Christ. As a result, we need to be very, very patient with them as they go through the hardships of life, but we also need to use the apostle Paul as an example. He didn’t learn contentment overnight. He had to learn as he went through the hardships of life.
We need to teach our counselees to let the circumstances of their life teach them something valuable. We need to encourage them to let it teach them contentment. In fact, when I’m trying to teach a woman to be content, there’s a lot of passages that I take her to. Two specific passages, of which we’ll just look at the second, are 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and 2 Corinthians 11 starting with verse 22, looking at the apostle Paul’s hardships. What I do in the counseling room is usually I will hand my Bible or if the counselee has a Bible I will ask her to open her Bible to 2 Corinthians 11. I have found it to be far more effective and to have more bearing upon her heart and her conscience for her to read it to me out loud. 2 Corinthians 11, starting in verse 22, reads:
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”
After reading that I would say—graciously, of course, we always want to be gracious and offer compassion—”How would you like to go to school with the apostle Paul? Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? But it’s the schooling that God used to teach him contentment.” Then I address the counselee by her name and say, “Your hardships in life right now are given by a sovereign teacher who’s using them in your life to teach you to be content.”
I think some of the women whom we counsel quite frankly might need to go through some more hardships before they will learn contentment. In fact, when you think about Paul’s life, it was always in danger. He talks about people trying to kill him and about his time in prison. Do you know that 25% of Paul’s life was spent in prison? I think that you can bring these biblical facts to bear upon your counselee because it’s the word of God. I love the word of God and I got certified with ACBC because they believe the Bible is sufficient. I believe it’s sufficient too. Since we believe the word is sufficient, we take our counselees to Scripture and we show them these biblical examples. You can share about Paul’s time in prison and ask them if they knew that Paul spent 25% of his life in prison. They might respond, “Oh, that’s not so bad. He would have a TV, internet, and access to work out in the gym.” No!
Do you know what Roman imprisonment was like? It was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged, which was a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated. Prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, blood-stained clothing was not replaced even in the cold of winter. We know from Paul’s final imprisonment that he asked for a coat because he was cold. Most cells were dark and unbearably cold. There was a lack of water and cramped quarters. A sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable. Male and female prisoners were sometimes incarcerated together, which led to sexual immorality and abuse. Prison food—when it was available—was poor, and because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death and others just simply committed suicide. Twenty-five percent of Paul’s life was spent in prison.
He traveled around the world 8,000 miles by land and sea. He would walk three miles an hour, twenty miles a day. Have you ever walked 20 miles? I recently went on a 20-mile walk with my friend Debbie, and let me tell you, I can’t imagine doing that every day. But that’s what the average traveler would do in biblical times, and remember, they didn’t have Nike tennis shoes. They were lucky to have sandals. Then they had the problem of the bears and the wolves coming after them.
When Paul did go into town, if he didn’t land in prison, he went to a hotel that most likely would have been known for its filthy sleeping quarters, extortionate innkeeper, gamblers, thieves, and prostitutes. That’s the kind of place where he would stay. He traveled a lot by boat since the passage mentions being in a shipwreck and laying out in the open sea, freezing to death. I’ve never done that, but in those days if you bought a fare for the ship, it did not include food or a place to sleep. It only included water. In addition, there was the greatest danger in sailing in the winter. Paul mentions that he was in three shipwrecks.
We look at these examples and we try to help our counselees see that Paul didn’t whine. You don’t see him murmuring. You don’t see him complaining. He learned contentment.
Since 9/11, my husband and I had hope that American Christians would wake out of their apathy and learn to be content. But what I have seen—at least with the women to whom I minister—is that there wasn’t any impact of that event nor of other events that we’ve seen that are evidence of our world spiraling downward so fast. Yet it hasn’t awakened some of us out of our apathy and our complacency. Instead, what I’ve seen is that we have become more engrossed in lawlessness. I think one of the reasons that it’s very difficult to teach American women contentment is because we have so much. We have so much. In fact, recent statistics tell us that Americans spend more money on storing their stuff in storage units than they do on spending money at Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s. You know how much we love those places. We spend more money on storing our stuff. Do you remember what Jesus said in the parable about the man who built more barns for his stuff? He said, “You fool. Do you not know that your soul will be required of you tonight?” We are like the church at Laodicea, which John says is rich, increased with goods, and knows nothing. Little do we know that we are wretched, blind, miserable, and naked. These are the women that we are trying to help, including ourselves. We have so much.
I think worthy of noting here in this verse is that Paul does not make any demands on God as I have seen some Christians do. I think you bring this out to the women whom you counsel. We can’t make any demands on a sovereign God. This God has allowed the hardship to come up, He knows the beginning from the end, and we and our counselees need to allow our hardships to teach us contentment. Just because Paul’s conditions were not the best by human standards, Paul rested in the fact he was enrolled in a real Christian school and he was learning contentment. He was in Contentment 101.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, we’re called the Bible Belt, but I think that we’re the heresy capital of the world. Some of the women whom we try to help who come in for counseling are unfortunately under the delusion that coming to Christ means health, wealth, and prosperity, but that is not biblical. You have to teach them that.
- Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” You need to teach your counselees that.
- Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” He instructs us to be content with food and raiment. Isn’t that what Paul says? Therefore, we teach our counselees this in a very loving, gracious way.
- In Hebrews 13:5 Paul says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will [never, no never, no never] leave you nor forsake you.'” We need to teach our counselees that God has promised to never leave them. Do you believe that?
By the way, I would assign your counselee to commit these verses to memory. If you are counseling women, I hope that one of the homework assignments that you give is for them to memorize Scripture because that’s how their mind is going to change. Paul is very clear in Romans 12:1-2 where he says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (emphasis added). Therefore, we have to help women change the way that they think, and the only way that we’re going to help them change the way that they think is through God’s Word. I would use some of those Scriptures for Scripture memorization to bear upon their mind.
Now, if your counselee is struggling with same-sex attraction, I would first of all bring the gospel to bear on her heart, along with teaching her to be content with the gender that she is, especially if she wants to change her gender. You need to teach such a woman that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by a sovereign God and any gender change or homosexual encounter is a sinful affront to God, just like any sin is. It’s no different than any other sin.
Paul knew what the real key to contentment was and it wasn’t anything that this world had to offer. That’s what we need to teach women. All of the things that they’re lusting after and wanting are going to burn up. It’s all going to burn up. We need to stress this with those whom we’re counseling. We must teach them that the key to contentment is not in having a vacation to the Bahamas. It’s not. It’s not in buying the latest fashions. It’s not in driving a BMW. It’s not in going out to the finest restaurant in town. It’s not in having a gender change or in having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. That is not where contentment lies. In fact, it is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In that and there alone is where they will find true contentment.
3. Teach them to live independent of their circumstances.
Paul goes on to describe his contentment in a little more detail in verse 12. Notice what he says: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
You know what Paul is saying? He is saying, “I know how to be abased,” which means “I know how to be in circumstances of want or humility.” Not only that, but he continues to say, “I’ve known how to abound.” The Greek word for “abound” means “super abound.” Therefore, it means “I know how to be content even if I have everything I want.” He goes on to say, “I can be content everywhere and in all things,” which means he could be content in the totality of all relationships and all circumstances. We need to ask the women whom we counsel: “Does this describe you? Are you content today with every circumstance and every relationship that you are in?”
Paul adds, “I’ve learned to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” In fact, the Greek word for “learned” is very interesting. It’s a word commonly used to describe the mystery religions of Paul’s day, such as Gnosticism. Paul is actually using a play on words here. It’s as if he says, “I’ve been initiated into the secret—not the secret of Gnosticism, but into the secret of contentment. I possess the secret.” To most of the women whom we counsel and maybe to some of us, contentment is still a secret, right? We haven’t learned it yet. But that’s the point of counseling, we work with them very patiently so that they learn that.
Furthermore, “full” describes a supply of food in abundance. In fact, it’s a word to describe how they fatten up the animals before they take them to the slaughter and chop their heads off. What he is saying is kind of like what we experience after Thanksgiving or Christmas when we’re so full that we think that we can’t eat another bite. Paul says, “I’m content if I’m stuffed,” but he says, “I’m also content if I am hungry,” which means “to be famished.” Most of us have no idea what that means, do we?
In my case, the Lord blessed me with two stomachs (that is a medical fact). I don’t know why. I remember growing up being hungry all the time. After I found out that I had two stomachs, I think the hungriest I’d ever been was when my daughter came home from college one summer, and she said, “Mom, let’s go on the maple syrup lemonade diet.” I asked her, “What’s that?” She replied, “Well, we’re going to drink some maple syrup and some lemonade and take some Epsom salts and we’re going to lose a pound a day.” I was like, “That’s great, honey. Let’s do it.”
So we did, and come day 8 I thought, “I just can’t do this anymore.” I really thought that I might be starving to death. I really thought that I might die. At that time, we were also painting my kitchen. We tore down the wall posts and were doing physical work while on that diet. I don’t know remember where exactly she was—probably on the ladder painting—and I said, “Cindy, I love you, but I’m not doing this diet anymore. I think I really might die.” I remember going into the kitchen and opening the pantry, and there were some saltine crackers there. I remember taking one out and thinking that it was the best thing I had ever eaten in my whole life. It was just so good. That is the hungriest I’ve ever been.
At the other extreme, I did an eating contest one time with a guy in my church because he said that he bet he could out eat me, to which I replied “No, you can’t.” My kids were at the Master’s College at that time, and I said, “My kids have me come and go out to eat with all their friends because they say, ‘Mom, we want our friends to see how much you can eat,’ because most people don’t know that I have two stomachs.” The eating contest was really difficult and miserable too and I will never do that again. I don’t know which is worse, being hungry or being that miserable. But that’s basically what Paul is saying in this verse: “I’m content whether I’m stuffed or whether I’m hungry, whether I have good relationships or bad relationships, whether I’m in Kentucky or in Oklahoma or in India. It doesn’t matter. It does not matter to me. I am content.”
Therefore, you must teach your counselees to live independent of their circumstances. Circumstances didn’t matter to Paul. If he was full, he was content. If he was hungry, he was content. If he had it all, he was content. If he had nothing, he was content. If he had good relationships, he was content. If he had bad relationships, he was content. You might ask how in the world the apostle Paul did this. Was he on Prozac? Was he being counseled by an ACBC certified biblical counselor? Was he in denial? No, none of that. Paul held the things of this world loosely. He had already said that his citizenship was in heaven. That’s where it is. He lived for the kingdom to come. His God was not his appetite. He had already talked about the enemies of the cross of Christ whose god was their belly. We must help our counselees to see this. They must learn to live independent of any difficult people in their life or any difficult situation. Christ alone must be their sufficiency. Often I tell women in difficult marriages, “You can be content and happy even in a very difficult marriage because happiness and contentment does not come by a good marriage.” I know women who have good marriages and are still not content or happy.
Before we go to the final key to contentment, I wanted to interject just a little bit about contentment in the context of transgender and homosexuality. I did some research and I just found it fascinating. The issue with transgender and homosexual individuals is really that they need a relationship with the living God.
I found this article written by a man who had become a woman and then had changed back to being a man. I won’t read the entire article because it’s about 10 pages, so I just pulled out some things that I thought were very fascinating. He says, “Bruce Jenner wants to change the world when he should change his mind. Personal and medical experience indicates that switching genders will not give Bruce Jenner peace.” That’s interesting. He will never have peace.
Then he goes on to say:
“As a former transgender myself, I found it painful to see Jenner looking so frail and uncertain, nervous throughout this interview with Diane Sawyer. I saw Jenner and my heart sank with sadness. My stomach ached in pain. When Jenner said, ‘I want to know how this story ends…’ a rush of concern filled me. I know one possible outcome of the story: great pain to his kids, his wife, his family, and even to himself. And I wanted to yell at him, ‘Stop! The bridge is out.’…..I was narcissistic [and] self-absorbed. I hurt the ones I loved. It resulted in deep depression [and] regret. I started to consider suicide. That’s what I mean when I say my one successful transition turned on me. I discovered much too late that gender change surgery was not a medical necessity at all. I can admit that transition was the biggest mistake of my life.”
I found out in my research that 65% of all people that have cosmetic surgery regret that they ever did. In fact, 41% of transgender individuals have reported attempting suicide. That’s interesting. Four point six percent of the United States population attempt suicide. In the homosexual and lesbian community the percentage is much higher: 10-20% attempt suicide. Now you tell me if they’re content or happy.
The author of the article goes on and I end my discussion of the article with this:
“We should all be concerned for Jenner. A whopping 41% of transgenders report attempting suicide. We saw a glimpse of how frail he was when he shared that he recently considered suicide. I pray it ends well for Jenner. He says he wants to change the world when, in my view, Jenner would be wise to change his mind.”
4. Teach them to draw upon their resources in Christ Jesus.
The key is teaching women to draw upon their resources in Christ Jesus. I know some of you may not be counseling a woman who is struggling with same-sex attraction or transgender, but it doesn’t really matter if that’s the area where she’s not content or if it’s another area such as not having children, having children, or not being married. Whatever the area is, the key to all of it is really found in this last key in verse 13. Paul’s key to contentment was in his relationship with the living God as seen in this verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
First of all, notice what Paul says. I can. You know what most women say? I can’t. You know what that equates to? I won’t. This is the real issue with transgenders, gays, and lesbians. They can. A transgender can remain in the sex that God created him, but he won’t. The same thing is true especially with someone who says that he or she is a Christian. They can, but they won’t. Can’t is not a word that should be in a Christian’s vocabulary when you consider what Paul is saying here.
He says, “I can.” You know why? Because he has the power of the resurrected Christ, just like you do, just like hopefully those whom you counsel do. I know this verse is taken out of context often, but when Paul says that he can do all things, he’s saying: “I have the strength. I’m able to do all things.” The context is contentment. He says, “I can do this.” Paul is not saying, “I can change a tire” or “I can go without sleep for a year” or ridiculous things like that. I’ve heard people use this verse to try to prove all kinds of things. But the “I can” is in the context of being content. When Paul says, “I can be content in all things,” the “all things” are the things that we know that God has called us to do and has called the women whom we counsel to do, even though those things might seem impossible. Through God we are able to be content in the most unusual circumstances.
Now, how does Paul do this? Does he muster up some self-determination? Does he get some self-help classes? No. Notice what he says: “I do this through Christ.” If you only get one takeaway from this message, let it be that the main key to contentment for the believer is Christ.
How in the world did Paul endure all those hardships that we read about in 2 Corinthians 11? I’ll tell you how he did: through Christ who strengthens him. The Greek means that Christ “infuses strength into me.” In fact, Paul mentions this same thing in Romans 8:37, where he says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Similarly, he says in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” Then there is also the passage in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 when God told Paul he was not going to take away this thorn that Paul had prayed three times, “Get this out of me, get this out of me!” We don’t know what the thorn was. Some people think it was his wife. I don’t think so. Others think it was his eye disease. We don’t know what it was. Three times Paul asked for the thorn to be taken away. And God said, “No, my grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul goes on to say, “…most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities…” Teach your counselees to take pleasure in infirmities. Why did Paul take pleasure in infirmities? Because when he was weak, Christ is strong. Christ is strong.
Without the connection to Christ, our counselees can do nothing—absolutely nothing. If they have never made that commitment to Jesus Christ, if they have never made Him Lord of their lives, if they have never repented of their sins, if they have never made Him their master and their lord, then they will never understand contentment. They’ll never understand it.
Each one of our counselees has a choice in the area of contentment. Did you notice Paul’s will in these four verses?
- I rejoice.
- I have learned.
- I know how…
- I know how….
- I can do.
Paul had a choice just like our counselees have a choice. Paul chose contentment.
Questions to Ask Your Counselees
As we try and help women to be content, I would ask them questions like the following:
- Do you desire contentment in your life today?
- Is your life one of contentment or are you continually focusing on what you don’t have and what you still need to be content?
Here are some good questions to ask your counselees for each one of the four keys of contentment from our text:
- Entrust your needs to God.
What are your needs?
What are you doing about them? Are you fretting? Are you complaining? Are you sinning to attain them?
Why not entrust those needs to God?
Teach them to cast all their care upon Him for He cares for them.
- Learn contentment by the hardships of life.
Do you shrink at the trials that God brings your way?
Did you not see that as part of the course you enrolled in when you signed up for Christianity that we must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
Did you really consider the cost of His Lordship?
Do you allow your trials to teach you contentment?
Perhaps you might encourage them to pray for more hardships so that they might learn contentment.
- Live independent of your circumstances.
What are your circumstances today? Use this question to gather better data and get to the issue of the heart.
Are you rich? Poor? Lonely? Busy? Sick? Well? Childless? Single?
We could go on and on with all the problems that women have. But you know, whatever their circumstances are—we don’t want to be insensitive—but does it really matter? Live independent of those circumstances, realizing that this is not your home. This is not our home. We are just passing through. Teach your counselee to live for the kingdom to come. There is where she will find her contentment and her joy.
- Draw upon your resources in Christ.
You might ask me what I mean by that. Well, I mean the means of grace that He has provided:
His Word: You must get your counselees into the Bible. This is where they’re going to find what they need. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness right in His word. The word of God is powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.
Prayer: Your counselees may not know how to pray. Teach them how to pray. Pray with them.
His people: Make sure that your counselees are involved in a local church that is a real church that teaches the Bible and does the sacraments (communion and baptism) and church discipline. Get them in a real church that’s teaching the Bible.
The Holy Spirit: She can also draw upon the Holy Spirit. He is the Great Comforter.
You (the counselor): You are a resource in her life. If you have a Titus 2 Ministry in your church, get your counselees involved in being discipled by older, more godly women if they can.
In order for our counselees to learn contentment, we must submit to whatever God allows in their lives and then allow whatever He allows to draw them close to Him.
One of the most sobering events that I experienced that taught me a valuable lesson on contentment was probably over 12 years ago when I went to Honduras for the first time to do a ladies conference along with the same daughter with whom I went on the maple syrup lemonade diet. I was thinking, “Well, I’m going to Honduras to be a blessing to these ladies.” Little did I know what God was going to do in my life during that visit. I remember Cindy and I hooked up with Ginger, who was one of the missionary ladies there. During one of our breaks, she said, “How would you girls like to go out to one of the villages that my husband and I do mission work in?” I said, “Oh, yeah, it sounds like fun.”
We hopped in her jeep and went along this rough terrain. We arrived in the little village and at this lady’s house. Only it wasn’t a house. It was kind of like built with cardboard and other materials that I don’t remember now. It was not a home. It was about as big as my closet back home. Then we walked through a makeshift door and the lady was sitting on the dirt floor. She was pregnant with her fourth child, and her husband had gone out to try to find some food. They had been without food for three days. The children were outside playing. Then the woman invited Cindy, Ginger, and myself to come in and sit down—only there really wasn’t any place to sit down. We sat down anyway, and then we began to listen to this destitute pregnant woman share of the faithfulness of God as met through Ginger and even though our visit. She said, “Even your visit is an indication of God’s faithfulness.” She told us how Ginger had provided prenatal vitamins and even parasite medicine for her children as they had passed worms that were 6 inches long. We later learned through this missionary that many children are not fortunate to have medicine and eventually the worms come out of their noses, their mouths, and their ears.
I remember leaving there thinking, “What is wrong with American Christianity? We have fine houses. We have more than enough food and medication for our illnesses. And yet we are anemic in our faith.” This woman had nothing. She was destitute. And yet she was content. There was no complaining out of her mouth, but only praising God for His mercy in her life. This woman learned contentment not by attaining this thing or that thing, not by this person or that person, but by living out the four principles given right here in the text. This woman learned contentment by entrusting her needs to God, by learning contentment by the hardships of life, by living independent of her circumstances, and by drawing upon her resources in Christ Jesus. This is what we must teach the women whom we counsel. Teach them these four principles. Be patient with them. Be long-suffering with them.
Lastly, a book that I personally read that I recommend as a great help is an old one, a Puritan book, The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson. It was a great help in my life personally and hopefully it will be in the lives of those whom you counsel.