Contentment in Life - Being contended with what we have
Contentment is not simply about settling for what we have, but trusting in what God has said. Both anxiety and greed rise in our hearts as God’s words fall.
We live in a discontented world, and it is all too easy for the Christian to share its spirit of murmuring and complaint. The Bible is the only book that remedies this spiritual disease in practical and effective ways. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content", writes Paul in Philippians 4:11.
When the author of Hebrews wanted to teach his readers about contentment, he told them an old story with a familiar refrain. He quieted their fears and quenched their greed by reminding them what God had said. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
We will only be truly content with what we have when we know that we have him. And we will remember that we have him when we hear and believe his voice.
When Joshua stared out into impossible circumstances and enormous opposition, God said, “I will not leave you or forsake you. . . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 9)
When the author of Hebrews saw what followers of Jesus would face, and how they would be tempted to wander, he went back to those same words (the only time this promise is quoted in the New Testament), “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
You will never be alone. No matter how desperate and alone you feel, no matter how much opposition you face, no matter how precarious your circumstances become, he has said, I will be with you. His presence can calm any fear — if we don’t forget that he’s there, he’s near, and he’s attentive.
Contentment is so far removed from many Christians that it seems that they will never be able to find it or be at peace. However, contentment is not something that must be searched for and found. It is an attitude of the heart. Once the attitude has been modified and all has been transferred to God, contentment will be evident.
Be content with what you have. Are there six more terrifying words in a culture like ours? They certainly land on me like six sharp cannon blasts. Don’t let your heart endlessly pine for what you might have one day, but cultivate satisfaction in what God has given you for today.
The word for content is the same word in 2 Corinthians 12:9, when Jesus says to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
Paul’s message is not like so many contentment gospels: If the Lord gives you less, make lemonade. Rather, he says, If Christ gives you less, boast in your less, because you get to see more of him in your less. His grace is sufficient to cover any deficiency in us. If God is that big, and grace that sweet, then we are able to say what the vast majority cannot say: “If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).
We will not be simply appeased, but pleased, because our deepest joy does not rise and fall with what we have (Philippians 4:11).
If we want to be content with what we have, however, we have to be free from the love of money. As Paul warns, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10). And through this craving, many have forfeited contentment and forgotten what God has said. Intimacy with God loses its value as we fall deeper in love with our currency (and all it buys for us).
“We will only be truly content with what we have when we know that we have him.”
If we keep flirting with money, we will make ourselves sons of Judas, who traded God himself for thirty pitiful pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). But even before he died, Judas knew he had been had (Matthew 27:3). He had grossly overestimated money and misjudged the love that no amount of silver could buy: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Could he not see how murderously unhappy the Pharisees were (Luke 16:14)? Still he couldn’t shake his cravings for more, even if they cost him everything. If we could feel the horrible realisation he felt after trading Jesus away for money, would we not race to give away every possession necessary to have God? Would we not gladly have however little in this life to gain him in the next and forever?
What does contentment sound like? True contentment does not sound cheap, shy, or docile because it often requires profound strength and lionhearted courage. Hebrews continues, “He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5–6). As he looks out on this small army of Jesus-followers, facing want and need and worse, he turns from Joshua 1 to Psalm 118, which goes on to say,
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8–9)
Courage ties Psalm 118 to the promise from Joshua 1 because God says to Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–7, 9). And before Joshua heard those four words, Moses had said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
When you are tempted to worry about how much you have, set your mind on what he has said. If the true God is your God, he goes with you. He knows what you need (Matthew 6:32). And knowing all you need, and all you will face, he will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore, we can be courageous wherever his hand leads us, flee the shiny promises of silver, and rejoice in what we have. Most of all, we can rejoice that we have him.
Let us dare to believe and trust in the promises of God’s word. We are able to do all things in him who gives us strength constantly. Our life does not consist in the abundance of things that we possess but in our vital union with Jesus Christ – who can cause us to be content always.
Therefore, let us not be anxious over anything (Philippians 4:6). He is with us, and he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He will be with us, strengthening us, even in the hour of our death when we shall enter the very presence of God.
He who has started his wonderful saving work in our souls will continue it till the very end and thereafter make us victorious and glorious at Christ’s return. That is our glorious hope and greatest contentment.
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