This is a guest post by Philip A. Clemens, former Chairman and CEO of the Clemens Family Corporation. To read about Phil's personal journey of how he specifically chose a lifestyle of contentment, check out the full article, Choosing Contentment.
Living a life of contentment is not easy, especially if you will have to radically change your lifestyle in order to do it. Here are five key steps to help you on your way to choosing contentment. Many of these principles even come from the Bible!
1. Remember that contentment is a choice.
How you live is truly a choice – a choice based on who you want to be, not on what you have. Your lifestyle is determined by you – not your possessions. Often, people who have a lot, spend a great deal protecting their stuff (security systems, locks, alarms, etc.) because their stuff defines who they are. However, people who have chosen a different lifestyle are often giving away what they have since they see their possessions as things, and things don’t define who they are.
2. Acknowledge it doesn’t belong to you.
In one of his parables, Jesus taught about the business person who was very successful and decided to build bigger and better buildings so the world would know his success. However, that very night, God said the man would lose his life, and then who would receive what he had prepared for himself? All that the man had worked so hard to acquire was no longer his. The world would see him as foolish, not successful. (Luke 12:16-21)
Jesus also taught that people who have accumulated a lot of wealth have a hard time following Him. They choose to chase wealth and be seen as successful in man’s eyes and not in God’s eyes. He did not teach that wealth in and of itself is wrong, but rather your attitude toward your wealth can be wrong.
3. Delay gratification.
Another of Jesus’ parables taught about the rich young ruler. Jesus told the ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor, and then he would have treasures in heaven. Then Jesus called the man to follow him, but the man couldn’t sell his possessions because they defined him (Mark 10:17-22). Unfortunately, this young man had chosen earthly possessions to define who he was, and without his possessions, he had nothing. Jesus countered that with his possessions, the man had nothing, but give them up, and he would have everything. The bottom line in Jesus’ parables on lifestyle is to follow him and not allow your possessions to drive you, and you will have eternal success.
4. Live on less than you make.
In 1 Timothy 6, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to one of his former traveling partners who was now settling down to be a preacher. Paul tells young Timothy that he needs to strive to have godliness with contentment. If we have the basics of life – food and clothing, we should be content. He also said that many people want to be rich, and when that is their driving force, they fall into a trap which causes them to make foolish choices that lead to their ruin. He said that many of the people whose only drive is money and material possessions walk away from their faith and end up with only trouble. Since they fail to be content, they fall in love with money and what they think it will give them. We should be content with the basics because we have Christ. No amount of money can buy contentment.
5. Choose role models carefully.
We can look at both Paul and Jesus’ lives as an example for how we should live. In his letter to Philippi, Paul relays his personal experiences and explains how there had been times when he had plenty and times that he really had been in need. There had been times when he was well fed, and then times when he was hungry. But, he learned the secret of contentment by allowing Jesus Christ to give him strength. When we give Christ control, He will meet all of our needs through His glorious riches.
Jesus’ own lifestyle is a great example to us. He lived in a perfect world and had anything He wanted. He really was living in heaven, not the man-made heaven, but in God’s actual home. He was willing to leave His home, take on human flesh, live as a human, and then die a physical death. He chose a lifestyle that clearly put everyone ahead of Himself. The lifestyle he chose was not that of a king, when He was in reality the King of Kings. Instead, He took on the lifestyle of a servant where, to almost everyone around him, he was seen at his worst. However, the role he took was much greater than that of the King of Kings because as a servant, He was actually at His best. It was a choice – a choice He didn’t have to make, but one He chose to make. As a result, His Father exalted Him above every person, that at His name, everyone will bow because of the choice He made.
Is your lifestyle one that glorifies God or makes you stand out? You do have a choice. Choose wisely. It will make an eternal difference.
To read about Phil's personal journey of how he specifically chose a lifestyle of contentment, check out the full article, Choosing Contentment.