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Friday, December 16, 2011

Great Contentment

The banner at the sporting goods store read, "Now is the winter of our discount tents." Of course, that's not right. (I made it up.) It's not about tents. It's about discontent. I suspect that discontentment is a primary driving force for most people. We're not content with our lot in life, so we try to improve it. We're not content with our weight, so we go on a diet. We're not content with our job, so we look for something new. We're not content with our wardrobe, so we go shopping. We're not content with our spouse ... well, you get the idea. While this is certainly normal (in the sense that it is typical, average, the usual), it is contrary to what the Christian life should be.
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:11-13).
Paul here has discovered the secret of contentment. No, that's not accurate. He has learned the secret. Paul says that he has "gone to school" in a sense and finally learned the secret of being satisfied with what he has whether he is rich or poor. Now that would be a great lesson for us to learn, wouldn't it? So ... what's the secret?

First, from the text, where is contentment not found? It is not found in circumstances. It is not found in having enough or having more. It is not found in abundance or comfort or possessions or even "the necessities". Contrary to our normal human thinking, genuine satisfaction is not found in what I have or don't have. So, where is it?

He states it right there. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." It's really that simple. Jesus actually said the same thing, didn't He? "Seek first the kingdom of God ..." and you know the rest. David said, "You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound" (Psa 4:7). He wrote, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psa 16:11). There is nothing more than "fullness of joy". You can't get "more fullness". Full is full. And Paul says that there, in that place, genuine contentment lies. He told Timothy, "There is great gain in godliness with contentment" (1 Tim 6:6). While the Stones assured us, "I can't get no satisfaction", Paul would beg to differ. He had learned the secret.

Where, then, is there any room for discontentment? In what sense would or should we be dissatisfied? I would argue that there is a clear calling for discontentment in the life of the Christian. Where? That would be the discontentment of not seeing the power of God "who strengthens me". That would be when we fail to find our deepest joy in the presence of God. Our discontent would be in our shortcoming of being aware of God, His love, His power, His goodness, His mercy, His grace.

While many try to balance family and work and fun and church and all, I find I want more of Jesus. If I can learn that secret of finding my ultimate contentment -- my fullness of joy -- in Christ, I think that my work and my relationships and my fun and my life will be more properly ordered. I think that finding satisfaction there is the secret to godliness with contentment. And that is great gain.


Jeremy D. Troxler said...


In my experience, the biggest confusion with contentment seems to be believing contentment and complacency are synonymous. Challenge someone to read more, study the Bible, attend a seminar on prayer, exercise as a means of being a good steward of their body, etc. and many times a response referencing their not doing whatever it might be because they are trying to just be content. Contentment does not equal laziness.

I'm so glad you tied in your desire for more of Christ. That is the key, it seems to me. We are content in Him, in that nothing else will do but we are totally satisfied with Christ. Because that is the case and the object of our satisfaction is in the form of relationship and is therefore "alive" we continually work to improve what ought to be a steadily deepening desire.

Constantly work to be fulfilled by returning for another drink of temporal water, or be satisfied with the Living Water and never thirst again.

Stan said...

Yes! Big difference between "contentment" and "complacency". And isn't it interesting the number of times we are told to have responses that are contradictory on the surface? We are to "fear God" but enjoy "a peace that passes understanding". We are to stand firm and turn the other cheek. We are to work out our salvation and rest in Him. And on it goes.