Bible Book: Psalms  62
Subject: Peace; Contentment; Satisfaction; Life, Meaning in

You may remember me telling you that this past January some of us—including me—were able to fly in FIRST CLASS both to and from our mission trip in the Dominican Republic. That’s four FIRST CLASS flights: from D.C. to Miami, from Miami to Santo Domingo and then back by the same two flights a week later. Understand—we didn’t intend to get seats in that forward cabin of the plane. It’s just that we had such a large group that we had to make our own reservations and those were the only seats that were available. The cost was slightly more but not significantly so and as I said they were the only seats left. In fact I didn’t know we were in first class until another one of our team told me. Even then, I didn’t believe it until we actually boarded early that Saturday morning but he was right. Sure enough, my seat was in FIRST CLASS.

Now, I have flown a lot over the years but I’ve never sat in that coveted section. I confess I always wanted to—especially on our long flights to and from Kenya back in 2002 but I’ve never been in first class except to WALK THROUGH that part of the plane on my way to my seat in the back with the “common people.” And I have to say, it felt good to board before anyone else and then settle into that comfortable seat with plenty of leg and elbow room. I had taken books and sermon files in my carry-on bag to study in order to prepare for my messages in the DR and there was lots of room to spread all that out on the desk provided with my first class seat. It was great!

But that was just the beginning. I learned that the seat could recline. In fact it was motorized such that it could take the form of an easy boy. I could stretch out and get really comfortable with no worries about the shoulders of fellow passengers because first class seats are not wedged together like those in the back of the plane. Well, I had no sooner sat down and spread out my sermon materials than the steward arrived with a hot towel so I could wash my face. He brought me another one right before we landed. After the towel he brought me a bowl of hot nuts—my favorites: almonds and cashews and during the flight I could have as many sodas or orange juices or V-8’s as I wanted. Plus, more snacks were delivered by the friendly steward—snacks that were much better than the stale pretzels they gave the people in the back of the plane and my snacks came much quicker. I mean there was no looking down the long aisle wondering when the stewardesses would get to you. Service was almost instant.

Now, just so you know, I did offer my seat to other mission trip team members who could have benefited from all this comfort and I’m ashamed to admit I was thankful they always said, “No—keep your seat Mark.”

Well, as I said, my first class flying experience was great—AT FIRST. I say “at first” because on my second and third and fourth flight the “fun” kind of gradually wore off. The excitement began to diminish as, in my mind, I began to critically EVALUATE how comfortable each flight was. For example, I noticed the towels weren’t as hot and there weren’t enough almonds in my bowl on the second leg of our trip. Then on the first flight home I saw that the stewardess wasn’t fast enough in asking if I wanted another OJ and the magazines weren’t as good. On the last flight the chair didn’t recline as much as the prior one. . . things like that.

In short, I became a discontented traveler while sitting right in the middle of FIRST CLASS. I had always thought that in that coveted section of the plane I would finally experience joy in travel; thought that in first class, complete travel satisfaction would be mine, but no.

Now before you criticize me for my self-centered immaturity, and it WAS self-centered immaturity, let me ask, have you ever had an experience like that? Have you ever wanted something because you thought it would bring you lasting joy? You wanted that thing, whatever it was, because you thought your life would be empty and meaningless until you got it? Maybe it was a certain toy you wanted when you were growing up or a make of car when you got older or a new laptop or the latest IPAD or POD. Maybe it was a promotion at work.

Well, have you ever had the experience of GETTING what you wanted, whatever it was, and at first it felt good, wonderful even, but gradually the newness wore off? You wanted that something. You thought it would bring you lasting contentment but it didn’t.

I think we all can relate because the sad fact is these days dissatisfaction or discontentment with what we have, or don’t have, is an American epidemic. And one of the reasons for this plague of discontent is the advertising industry—an industry that spends $450 billion a year promising us again and again that our dissatisfaction will disappear if we just get this or that product. Advertisers say, “Buy me, eat me, drink me, wear me, drive me, put me in your hair—AND YOU’LL BE A CONTENTED PERSON.” And, speaking of HAIR, the kinds of things that are offered to people just to make them contented about our locks, or lack thereof, are staggering. Think of it. You can wash your hair; you can condition it; you can mousse it to make it look wet; blow dry it to make it look big; spray it to keep it in place; dye it to change the color; straighten it; curl it; wax it if it grows where it shouldn’t and Rogaine it or transplant it if it doesn’t grow were it should. Thanks to all these ads millions of us are constantly discontented with our hair.

But I digress. He’s the basic truth I’m getting at: Here in America people are healthier and cleaner and richer and smarter than they have ever been before. We live longer lives, we eat better, we dress warmer, we work less, we play more than at any time in the history of the human race. We even have better hair. I mean, compared to the rest of the world, we ALL sit in “first class” all the time. But are our “souls at rest?” Are we happier? Have we become more content? Or are we just cleaner, healthier, sad people with endless good hair days?

To help you answer that question, let’s do a little test to see if how many of you are infected with discontent right now. In the past six months if you’ve been discontented enough to complain about your physical appearance or your education or your athletic ability or achievements or lack thereof or about your finances or about how busy you are or about your spouse or lack thereof, or your children. If you’ve complained about your health or your age or your boss or the weather or the traffic or a teacher at school or how much homework you have in this new school year or the fact that the data plan on your smart phone is too limited or about your pastor’s sermons or about how many pimples you have or how much hair you don’t have, if there has been ANY discontentment in your life over the last six months, discontent that led you to complain, would you raise your hand? Go ahead, be honest, lift up those hands, this is a safe place. No judgment here. Lift them high!

Wow—what a bunch of complainers! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The fact is we ALL have times when we are discontented enough to complain about this or that. And since we do, since CONTENTMENT is so elusive, before we go any further let’s try and DEFINE this increasingly rare attitude. Here goes. Basically, contentment is not being driven by wanting more. It’s the experience of inner freedom, especially freedom from dissatisfaction. It’s freedom from out-of-balance appetites that come from unfulfilled desires. It is freedom from that itch that says, “I’ve got to have it. I cannot live until I get what I don’t have now.” Contentment is the ability to live in the moment; it’s the realization that, “I don’t have to put my life on hold until I get something or someone.” It is closely related to simplicity, to a simple and focused life.

Borrowing an idea from John Ortberg (for whom I am indebted for my outline this morning), let me suggest a PICTURE of “contentment” and I apologize because this picture is from the discontentment-breeding world of advertisement. There was a Nestea commercial several years ago that showed a guy who was very hot and very thirsty and very sweaty. He was standing right by a swimming pool. I’m referring to the Nestea plunge commercial. Do any of you remember it? This hot, sweaty, thirsty, guy would take a drink of Nestea and experience such intense contentment that he would go, “AHHH” and fall back into the pool. Now do you remember it? Well, remember it or not, let’s try to make that noise together because in my mind that’s a good image of the attitude of contented people. They have this “AAAHHH” feeling in life no matter how easy or hard life is. Everyone say, “AAAHHH.” Good! That’s what we long for isn’t it—the “AAAHHH” of contentment—an “inner AAAAHHH” that means we enjoy SOUL AT REST satisfaction.

We’ll talk more about this later, but the only people who can experience the “AAAHHH” of soul rest are Christians because only Jesus brings true contentment no matter what life brings. Only He satisfies, only He empowers us to experience a peace that passes understanding. And, with that in mind, here’s a basic fact about contentment: Christians who are content, people who experience this “AAAHH” feeling…would say that they LEARNED to be that way. The Apostle Paul comes to mind. Do you remember what he said? In Philippians 4 Paul wrote, with a definite “AAAHH feeling” in his words, “I have LEARNED to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have LEARNED the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” In other words, Paul would say we aren’t instantly blessed with contentment nor do we GRAVITATE instinctively toward it. This is a virtue that has to be learned and developed.

Let’s be sure we understand each other here. There are some things about which Christ-followers should NEVER learn to be content.

For example, we are NOT to be content with the needs of those around us. We are to be concerned, discontented with those needs, so that we do all we can to meet them.
And we are NOT to be content with racism or prejudice. As Christ-followers we are to work to end that kind of evil.
We are NOT to be content to see people die and go to Hell. We are to always be ready to share our faith every time God gives us the opportunity to do so. In fact, we are to seek out those opportunities.
We are NOT to be content with our own imperfections, those sins in our lives that continually draw us away from God. There ought to always be a tension, a discontent that comes from looking at who we are, and who God wants us to become.

The fact is, if we let Christ live in us, we will always be DISCONTENT with things like this. But contentment with our situation in life as individuals, that is something else. That’s an attitude we should embrace and this morning I want us to use the 62nd Psalm as a starting point to look at some of the things we have to LEARN to experience what David talks about, true “my soul is at rest contentment.” I want us to review things we need to learn in order to become “AAAHH” people.

I. Contentment is not found in Possessions or Circumstances

Quoting Paul once again, he said he was able to feel the “AAHH” in the midst of ANY circumstance. He said his “soul was at rest” when he had a lot of stuff and his “soul was at rest” when he had a little and his “soul was at rest” when he had a full stomach and his “soul was at rest” when it was so empty the growling kept him awake at night. This is because true contentment is not related to EXTERNAL things. But so many times we forget this basic principle. We think if only the right circumstances would fall into place, if we just had adequate financial resources or the right home or the possessions that our hearts desire or the job that we think would really satisfy, then we’d be content. Or we’re in a season of life that’s just too demanding, too much strain and too much stress associated with it, so we think contentment’s not possible. When the stress eases or when we retire then we can be content. Or we don’t have the right relationships in life. We have to deal with too many difficult people to be content, and we think if the right people would come along and enter into our lives, and if the wrong people would change or die—well then we would be content. This is flawed thinking because contentment doesn’t work that way. Contentment is not found in physical circumstances. Contentment—soul rest—is an INTERNAL thing.

This week I read the story of a Russian woman who lived with her husband and two children in a very small hut. Her husband’s parents lost their home and she had to take them in. Unbearable. In desperation, she went to the village wise man, who she knew had solved many, many problems. She begged for his help, describing her situation and asking, “What should I do?” The wise man thought and then said, “Do you have a COW?” “Yes,” she replied. The wise man said, “Then bring the cow into the hut too. And come back and see me in a week,” A week later she was back. She told him, “Having the cow in the hut is UTTERLY unbearable.” “Do you have any CHICKENS?” asked wise man. “Yes,” she replied. “What about them?” “Bring them into the hut too, then come back and see me in another week.” She thought the wise man was out of his mind but—still awed by his reputation—she did as he asked. A week later she returned and said, “This is absolutely impossible. Our home is a mess.” “All right,” said the wise man, “take out the chickens.” The next week she reported that without the chickens it was definitely better, but still a miserable situation. “All right,” said the wise man, “now take out the cow. That will settle your problem.” And it did! Without the chickens and cow, the woman, her husband, the children, and his two parents got along quite peacefully. Well, this wise man was wise indeed because he knew contentment is an internal thing—it’s not based on external circumstance. With his little “livestock lesson” the woman was able to see this.

II. Contentment Depends on Realistic Expectations

Here’s a second basic lesson contented Christians have learned. They have learned the importance of making REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.

Listen. Life in this fallen world is not ALWAYS going to be happy. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And we will. Let me put it this way. There are going to be times when life does not FEEL even remotely like “first class.” Our lives are going to include times of disappointment and hardship, fear and sadness. I think many times we forget that and when we do we set ourselves up for DISCONTENT. For example, you may think that once you find your calling, once you find and do that job, that good work God has prepared in advance for you to do, you may think that once you get through your schooling and get that job, well from then on every day your work will be completely joyful and satisfying. The sun will always shine and the birds will always sing! Your labors will not seem like labors, they will be worry free! Of course this is foolish, UNREALISTIC thinking. All of us have times when the work God has called us to is HARD and disappointing, discouraging even.

Here’s another example. Young people fall in love and think, once I walk the aisle with that special someone, that person who is my prince charming, then life will be glorious. It will be my own “perfectly-happy-ever-after story.” My perfect husband and I will buy our own perfect dream home and drive perfect new cars and have perfect kids. Anyone who has been married any length of time knows that of course that doesn’t happen. No, soon the bride discovers her groom is imperfect. He discovers the same thing about her. Then they realize they can’t afford their dream house and won’t be able to for some time. Other problems come. Cars break down. Kids misbehave. I could go on with example after example, because the reality is life as a fallen being living in a fallen world is hard at times, even heart-BREAKING at times. Contented people have learned that difficult lesson. They have learned NOT to expect perfection in life.

Here’s a FORMULA FOR CONTENTMENT. Ortberg says, “Contentment equals reality minus expectations.” Here’s how it works. Say you’re going home for Christmas, and you have a history in your extended family of conflict, and it’s deep-rooted. Nevertheless, you say to yourself, “This time it’s all going to be different. This time, as if by magic, it’s all going to be smooth sailing. The decorations and the gifts and the joy of the season is going to make my family perfect.” Well, if you think this you set yourself up for deep discontentment, because if the reality is going to be about a four, but you make your expectations like a ten, then your contentment factor is going to be a negative six. We have to set our expectations in the ballpark of reality. This is simply a part of wise living in a fallen world.

Now this is not to say that you just become resigned about life or take the attitude that nothing and no one will ever change. Nor is it to say you should become a passive victim. Of course not. It just means there is a correlation between contentment and thinking realistically. I’m reminded of The Serenity Prayer. Do you remember how it goes? “God grant me the courage to change what can be changed, and the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Have realistic expectations about life. This world is not going to be perfect because this world is not Heaven, that comes later. There are some things that can and should be changed, changes that can and will make life better but life on this world will never be perfect.

III. Contentment Requires Cultivating Gratitude

They learn to be thankful in all circumstances. Now that sounds a little easier said than done, so how can we be that way? How can we be like Paul, grateful in spite of bad circumstances? Well, I think gratitude is connected with a deep trust in God. It comes from embracing or resting contentedly in God’s attributes, such as His great love and faithfulness to take care of us. Gratitude flows out of the conviction that God knows what we need better than we do and loves us enough to meet those needs, according to His riches in glory! Let me put it this way. The list of things I DON’T have right now is a mile long. No doubt yours is too. And as I said the advertising world pushes us to add to that list all the time. Every commercial tells us things we DON’T have and SHOULD.

But we have to remember that there is ANOTHER list. I’m referring to the list of things we DO have right now. And that list is much, much, much longer than a mile! Let me review just PART of MY “other” list with you. I have a home! Sure, the bank owns most of it. But every night I sleep in a soft warm bed within the walls of a four bed, three bathroom house that I can say is mine. My home is warm and dry in the winter and cool and dry in the summer. Only 3% of the people in the world can say they have a HOME on their “have list” and I’m in that group. I have a full stomach, usually it’s too full! I have good health. I have TONS of dear, closer-than-a brother friends all over the world. I have fantastic parents and siblings…nieces and nephews. I had a good, happy, loving, Godly home life. I have a wife, the world’s greatest help-mate, and we’ve been increasingly happily married every year for 34 years now. We have three amazing children and 1.75 ASTOUNDING grand-children. I have a church full of people who love the Lord and seek to serve Him…people who astound me with their commitment to Christ. And best of all, I have a personal relationship with my Creator and Redeemer. I never face life’s challenges without His all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful presence. I could go on and on but the fact is when I wake up every day it is easy to see that God’s mercies are indeed new every morning. GREAT is His faithfulness!

I would imagine if you took the time to look you would see that your list is just as long—just as wonderful. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t look at my list without being grateful. Contented people are people who learn to embrace that focus. They look at what they have! They learn to thank God for the miles of blessings He gives them every day. They DON’T focus on their wants, their “have-nots” but rather on their “haves.”

I’m reminded of a story that Alan Carr tells about a man who was tired of his friends owning nicer homes than his so he went to see a realtor to put his home on the market and began to search for a new one. One day as he was reading the paper, he came across a listing for a home that seemed to be just what he was looking for. He called the realtor and said that he wanted to schedule a walk-through. The realtor replied, “But sir—you already own that home! That listing is for your house.” People who learn the secret of contentment are people who see what they HAVE. They cultivate gratitude for the limitless blessings of God. And, they realize that the greatest blessing in life is God Himself, God with us. They embrace the words of Hebrews 13:5 and “…keep their lives free from the love of money…they are content with what they have knowing that God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

This leads me to a fourth lesson that contented people have embraced.

IV. Contentment Invests in Things that Last into the Next Life

They learn to seek SOUL SATISFACTION. In other words, they have discovered that the greatest contentment in this life, comes from investing in the things that last into the NEXT life, things that are important to God, things that further His eternal Kingdom, things that deepen our relationship with Him. They’ve discovered that, sure, possessions give you a thrill but it is temporary at best. Lasting satisfaction ONLY comes in God. Contented people—“aaahhh” people—have learned that as Augustine taught, no matter how many THINGS they have, no matter how good their circumstance is, their hearts will always be restless until they find their rest in God.

David had learned this lesson and it inspired him to write the Psalm that we read a moment ago. Look back at those verses for a moment. As you scan the words of Psalm 62 you’ll see that David says contentment is not found in things or people. It is ONLY found in God. We see this emphasis in the fact that he uses the word “only” or “alone” over and over and over again. In my mind it is as if that word is UNDERLINED and CAPITOLIZED.

For example, in verse 1 David says, “My soul finds rest in God ALONE.”
In verse 2 he says, “God ALONE is my rock.”
In verse 5 he repeats verse 1 saying, “Find rest, O my soul, in God ALONE.”
In verse 6 he repeats verse 2, “He ALONE is my rock.”

David is saying that God is his ONLY object of trust. He is not trusting something other than God for contentment, nor is he trusting God AND someTHING else, or God AND someONE else. His trust is in God ONLY—God ALONE. I think this is something many Christians in our day have forgotten. Because as I see it, our problem is not that we do not trust God. After all, we have to do that to be Christians. The problem is that we do not trust God ONLY, meaning that we always want to add in something else to trust as well and that’s not true trust. As someone once put it, “They trust not in God at all who trust not in Him alone.” That may seem harsh, but the fact is ONLY God satisfies. Only God brings abundance to life. Jesus referred to this principle in Matthew 6. He was talking about what you do with your life, and this is what He says: “Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat or what will we drink or what will we wear,’ for it is the Gentiles who strive after all these things. And indeed, your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Listen. Contentment is not the kind of thing that can be acquired DIRECTLY. There’s a kind of paradox to contentment because contentment is the by-product of a certain kind of living. The only people who are truly content are people whose ultimate aim in life is something bigger than mere contentment. They seek to know God and please Him and when they do they experience contentment—SOUL satisfaction. David would say the SOLE way to find SOUL satisfaction focus SOLELY on God.


Some of you are here today and you feel empty like there’s a big hole in your life. Some of you are single, and you long for a partner to share life with, and you see other couples together walking hand-in-hand, and there’s a kind of an ache inside of you and you wonder, “Why doesn’t God give me what I want so much?” Some of you are physically challenged, and you live in a world where physical perfection is what’s lifted up. Some of you are in chronic pain of one sort or another. Some of you have suffered deep disappointment that is beyond your ability to control.

Well, no matter what the source of our discontent, we ALL need to understand that the aim of life is something bigger than being content. The aim of his life is not just a first class lifestyle of comfort and convenience. No—the aim of his life is to know God and to become God’s kind of person. The aim of life is to join God in His work. Only that relationship can satisfy the human soul, only that can bring contentment, because the human soul is an eternal soul. So what we ultimately crave is the eternal. What you crave cannot be satisfied by any human circumstance or human relationship or job or possession or title. It can’t, because you are an eternal being, created to live for all time—and beyond—with God. Contented people are people who have learned this. They are believers who aren’t satisfied with the things of this world. They focus on the next. They seek things of eternal significance because they know that as eternal beings only that will satisfy. Only that will bring contentment. C. S. Lewis put it like this:

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Scriptures, rewards like this one, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Christ-follower—could it be that the discontent you are experiencing in life is because you are “too easily pleased?” Are you unhappy because you are focusing only on the things of this world?