Oftentimes when we think of contentment, we approach it with the attitude of “dealing with” the situation in which we find ourselves. However, I believe that this approach misses the real blessing behind contentment.
When we are trying to develop contentment in our own lives, we usually view it from an incomplete prospective. When we do this, we ultimately sell short God’s promise of provision and miss out on great blessings. Here are some ways that we do this:
Looking for external comfort when life is tough.
- Many times we push ourselves through a negative situation by telling ourselves that it will get better eventually. We aren’t really satisfied with our state of living, but we feel that it is only temporary and so we don’t get discouraged.
- We tell ourselves “it could be worse”. While this is usually true – many of us actually know people who have it worse than we do – it still falls short of contentment. Our contentment should not be based on someone else’s misery, or the fact that our mistake didn’t cost us as much as it could have. Yes, these are initial thoughts that can help turn around our thinking when we are down, but they should not be our focus.
The problem with both of these mindsets is that neither one breeds contentment. In the first case, we are just trying to “tough it out” until better times come along. We are still dissatisfied with the current situation, but we find motivation in the “light at the end of the tunnel”.
In the second case, we still aren’t satisfied or content with our circumstances, and end up looking for external motivation. We look at others who are in a worse situation, and use their misery to wipe away our own. Or we will think back to times in our life when we had to sustain ourselves on less.
This way of thinking is incomplete because it fails to to find satisfaction by focusing on God’s great blessing in the middle of our experience. We may have to “get along with humble means” for the rest of our life, but the fact that God is “strengthening” us, should be more than enough to make us content. Even if we are never given wealth or an abundance of the very basics of life, we are to be content because we know that God will never leave us. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” ~ Hebrews 13:5-6
The great promise is that God will “never desert [us], nor will He ever forsake [us]” and that is why we can be content with whatever we have!
Depending on wealth/material possessions to supply happiness.
Many times when things are going well, we tend to focus on our wealth and possessions instead of God. It becomes very easy to trust in our riches and sometimes we (erroneously) assume that they are a sign of God’s favor. Even in prosperity we are to humbly depend on God for all of our needs, and to be content with the promise of his blessing, care and provision.
How can we develop contentment in our own lives?
Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
The Greek term for “content” (autarkés) actually means “self-sufficient” or “satisfied”. We should desire to be satisfied with whatever state we are in. This is especially true when considering our finances and our ability to both support ourselves and to acquire material possessions. In the passage above, Paul stated that he was able to “get along with humble means, and…live in prosperity”, meaning that he was satisfied with having much or having little. And that contentment came from God strengthening him to do all things!
Another great verse to consider when trying to develop an attitude of contentment is 1 Timothy 6:6-8:
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
There were a couple a great notes in my study bible on these verses:
6:6 Contentment – This Greek word means “self-sufficiency” and was used by Stoic philosophers to describe a person who was unflappable and unmoved by external circumstances. Christains are to be satisfied and sufficient, and not to seek for more than what God has already given them. He is the source of true contentment.
6:8 have food and covering…be content. – The basic necessities of life are what ought to make Christians content. Paul does not condemn having possessions, as long as God graciously provides them [1 Timothy 6:17]. He does, however, condemn a self-indulgent desire for money, which results from discontentment. (MacArthur Study Bible, pages 1840-41)
Living in a developed, wealthy, spoiled nation like ours can make it extremely difficult to find contentment in life. We are constantly told that we need “just a little bit more” in order to be truly happy, or we are taught that we deserve more than what we have and we should fight for what is rightfully ours! However, the word of God is clear about our source of contentment and provision (Matthew 6:33).
Personally, I know that much of my debt is due to a lack of contentment in my life. There have been times when I looked at another person’s gains, talents, successes and then became dissatisfied with my own life. These verses are not just nice, little suggestions, but they actually reveal God’s will for us, and it is a sin to disregard them – by not being content.
How do you deal with the external and internal pressures to focus on what you don’t have? How do you ensure that your prosperity doesn’t cause you to put your trust in wealth? Are you struggling with balancing ambition and contentment?
I have posted a follow up to this article that looks at some practical ways we can develop contentment in our hearts: http://knsfinancial.com/practical-keys-to-contentment/
I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions below!
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