Cultivating Contentment

Cultivating Contentment

My friend Bruce Ligon passed away this week. Some of you might recognize that name; he has been on our prayer list on Facebook in the past. I have known Bruce basically my entire life, at least as long as I can remember. His first job out of Freed-Hardeman University was as the Youth Minister at Eastern Hills in Marshall, where I grew up, in 1986. Afterward, he preached at several congregations across Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. For the last decade, he has worked with the Church of Christ in Bellville, just west of the Houston area.

Bruce experienced some severe health issues in late 2021 that led to his hospitalization in Houston. Extensive testing revealed he had multiple myeloma. After a long stay in rehab, he went back home; he fought hard and his cancer went into remission. He was back preaching again, as well as substitute teaching, after a few months. One of his hobbies was photographing all of the old courthouses across Texas—he had done about 150 out of the 254—and that brought him to Liberty in April of this year. It was good to see him doing so much better than when I visited him in the hospital last year; he seemed like his old self again. But his cancer returned earlier this summer, and he recently fell and broke his femur; nevertheless, his passing was still sudden and unexpected. He was only 60 years old.

Bruce loved to write and encouraged it in other preachers. He told me recently he had read something of mine and that I should write more; I don’t have the creative ability to come up with ideas for topics the way some people do, unfortunately. But I thought a fitting tribute to him would be to publish something he had written here this week. It just so happens this was the last article he wrote and posted on Facebook a few weeks ago. If anyone had a right to be discontent, it was Bruce. Due to circumstances out of his control, he suffered more personal and professional heartache than anyone should have to deal with, even before his illness. But whatever his personal struggles, he always tried to encourage others. That a man who, by the world’s standards, should be completely disillusioned with life wrote about cultivating contentment struck me as particularly profound; even though you never met him, here is an opportunity to get just a little bit of insight into my friend—“he being dead yet speaketh.” -BP

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

Contentment is a defining attribute in one’s life. Its impact reaches into every area of life. It represents a decision. But contentment does not come to any of us without much effort. Contentment must be pursued and learned. As a marksman carefully aims his gun to the intended target, you and I must carefully aim to attain contentment in our lives.

Complaining or grumbling is the opposite of being content. Consider the various situations encountered by the apostle Paul. Regardless of the depth of the challenges or frustrations which came to him, the contentment he had learned remained intact.

People have varying personalities. It is a mistaken notion to claim that our personality does not lend itself to consistent contentment. Contentment is possible for each person, if they willingly learn it and submit to its challenge.

The following are some suggestions to help us in learning and attaining contentment:

1. Remember it is a challenge. A child is born with two fears: falling and loud noises. But you and I are not born with contentment. As we mature, we are able to attain and strive to be content. One aspect of the challenge of being content is realizing most people are not focused on this needed attribute.

2. Be aware of “the enemies of contentment.” Complaining or grumbling are the opposite of being content. Steven J. Cole stated, “Complaining is probably one of the sins most tolerated by Christians. We tolerate it and perhaps don’t even think of it as sin because we’re all so prone to do it.” When we choose to grumble or complain, we are taking our eyes away from Jesus. Also, comparing ourselves with others is a detriment to being content.

3. Decide to be content. Many people would like to be content, but they are not willing to accept the challenge. When we attain and maintain contentment, it will impact every area of our lives. The following affirmation of the apostle Paul should encourage and embolden us as we strive to be content, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). This statement emphasizes our strength comes from the Lord.


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