Contentment

Source: The Gospel Reminder, 1/11/04


LEARNING TO BE CONTENT

by Marvin Rickett

There were folks in Paul’s day who supposed that gain was godliness (1 Timothy 6:5).  They had the mistaken idea that since God had promised to take care of the righteous, if a man was materially prosperous, this was proof that he was a godly man.  Paul says that this is not so, and he warned the brethren to withdraw themselves from the people who taught such.

One important ingredient was missing from their gain and godliness theory: CONTENTMENT.  Though gain doesn’t necessarily mean godliness, godliness with contentment is great gain.  Many wicked people prosper with great gain, but they are not godly.  The mark of the righteous man who prospers is contentment.  If he is not content, something is lacking in his life.  His gain counts for very little without contentment.  That is a lesson which still needs to be learned today.  A well-known saying is: “Money cannot buy happiness.”  But folks just keep on trying.

Many just never are content.  They wouldn’t be content if they could gain the whole world.  Large numbers of “poor” folks are longing to be rich, and rich folks are trying to be richer.  Some folks spend their lives pursuing happiness, not realizing that it is not a goal to be pursued, but a by-product of right living.  Others are filled with anxiety, depression, and restlessness.

This world needs more contentment.  Contentment contributes to peace, joy, and well-being.  We need to learn to be content.  In 1 Timothy 6:8, Paul says, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Yet, how many are truly satisfied with enough to eat, enough to wear, adequate shelter and reasonable health?  How many continue to be anxious about these things?  Jesus said, “Take no thought (don’t worry) for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; or yet for your body, what ye shall put on.  Is not life more than meat, and the body more than what ye shall put on?”  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25, 33).

Paul had learned contentment in whatever circumstance life dealt him.  He said, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12).  This is a hard lesson to learn.  Most believe that if they could just change to a different state, they would be happy.  Yet, they wouldn’t be happy there, either.  They never learn to be content WHERE THEY ARE.  If we are ever to be content, we must learn to be content wherever we are.

The author of Hebrews exhorts people to “Be content with such things as ye have” (Hebrews 13:5).  Many people find this lesson hard to apply for they have been taught that happiness lies in more and better stuff.  Television commercials, and newspaper and magazine advertisements exploit this philosophy by proclaiming, “If you’ll just buy our product, you will be happy.”  Labor unions contend, “If we can just get this wage and benefits increase our workers will be content.”  They seldom are for long.  John the Baptist spoke in a very plain way to the soldiers, “Be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14).  A discontented spouse may sigh, “If I can divorce this one and find the right one to marry, I will be content.”  Yet this spouse fails to stir in the ingredients that would help him/her be content in the present state.

There is a place in everyone’s life for growing and improving and working.  These things we need to do to fulfill our human potential and the stewardship that God gave us.  This lesson is not against those things.  It is against anxiety and trust in material things.  Everyone agrees that “We can’t take it (wealth, material things) with us,” then they go on living as though they expect to.  This saying comes from the Bible, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).

There is another dimension that is essential to being content.  It is the spiritual dimension.  One can be content only when he has God’s assurance that everything will turn out for the best in his life.  God has given His assurance: “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).  The apostle Paul, after he had expressed his contentment, said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).  Paul gave God’s assurance to the Romans: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The assurance of God’s providence applies to those who are His children, those who are the “called according to his purpose,” those who have been born again and are living faithful Christian lives.  The world will continue on in discontent, unrest, and anxiety.  Should a member of the world’s crowd seem to be content, it would be a delusion, for he is forfeiting his soul.  For this reason, the very first step to being truly content is to become a Christian.  The second step is to live a life of obedience and submission to God, seeking His kingdom and righteousness first.  Then, one can apply the principles to his life which will lead to contentment.  No Christian should be living in discontent.  Those who accept Christ may know the serenity of live that comes from having learned to be content.

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