Contentment is for Every Christian
Early in this series, we established that contentment is independent of circumstances. In Part Two, we looked at where contentment is rooted. Both are contrary to the consistent message of the world: that happiness is found in more, better, and newer experiences. Contentment goes beyond emotions; it is never dependent on our emotions. Now, true Christian hope, Christian faith, is belief in God: not only against the world, but against the senses. People in general would say, “I want what I can lay my hands on. I want what I can taste and touch and hold.” The senses tell us to grasp the thing that’s there in the moment. Even many Christians need to free themselves from this popular message. Discontent abounds in today’s society.
Scripture is how God both reveals himself to and comforts believers. Sadly, many people (even some who identify as Christians) have turned their backs on the Scriptures as a source of truth. It is important for us to see ourselves under the authority of the Bible when pursuing contentment. We are to be a people under the authority of the Word so that we can learn contentment from the God of the Bible (who is the source of all true contentment). Puritan preacher and author, Thomas Watson says that a contented Christian is one who is “captivated under the authority of the Word.” Without finding comfort and trust in the Lord (from His Word), we cannot find true contentment. In order to gain contentment, believers must not only understand what it is, but also what it is not.
Jeremiah Burroughs describes contentment as: “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition….It is a work of the Spirit ‘indoors.’ It is a box of precious ointment, very comforting and useful for troubled hearts in times of troubled conditions….Certainly our contentment does not consist in getting the thing we desire, but in God’s fashioning our spirits to our conditions…To be well-skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian…” It’s vital we realize that contentment is not just for people who are outstanding in their faith. Contentment is for every Christian.
Many times we believe that plenty and comfort will bring us contentment, but this is a lie. If we reflect on real life examples, we can think of times when having wealth actually made individuals less content; prosperity brings trials of its own. If bringing glory to Christ is our main goal, then there is no sacrifice too great for us to make and no comfort so tempting it can draw us away. We must pursue contentment in Christ, not in the examples of this world. Knowing that the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us affects our view of being content. The Spirit who is within us is greater than our flesh. The internal war with sin can, and ultimately will, be won. As Christians, it is the hope of the power of the Holy Spirit that informs our contentment, and a heart content in our Sovereign Lord allows us to examine ourselves before our circumstances.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 5:1–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
It’s important to note that living life in community means we will have brothers and sisters who have struggles. When friends and family suffer hardship, fact is that we can be of help or hindrance. Help points to the Bible. From a practical standpoint, it can be helpful to simply acknowledge that life is hard but when others are burdened in their circumstances, we should listen with empathy and compassion. It is not our duty to sugar-coat the reality of what someone is going through – We are instead to listen to, pray with, weep with, and simply to be with a person who is experiencing hardship. It is our duty as Christians to point them to the Scriptures as encouragement. Understanding that life is burdensome and hard can be debilitating if it is not coupled with a biblical understanding of community (koinonia). We can be crushed under the weight of difficulty if we do not have others with whom we can share our burdens. Nevertheless, we must remember that God alone is the true Comforter, Healer, and Helper. To acknowledge hardships and then to seek living faithfully through them is a sure pathway to contentment.
When we go to the Bible, we can look to the life of the apostle Paul and others like him to bring comfort to modern day Christians. Paul was not concerned with showing how great he was but with showing how Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul writes of his life as one that includes a multitude of hard circumstances. In his difficult life, the apostle knew and experienced things that many of us will likely never experience. Still, Paul always pointed people back to Christ. It is significant in Paul’s writing that he confirms for us that contentment and longing for eternity are not in opposition to one another. Remember, we are designed for eternity, yet this does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be content in this world. Our greatest joy is still future – dwelling in the presence of the Lord forever.
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. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 4:12–14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
In Philippians 4:13, Paul is referring not to his own physical strength, as popular culture mistakenly contends, but instead to his contentment. Paul’s life is a beacon to the modern day Christian as an example of true contentment in the face of great trials. As it was with Paul, so it is with us that our weakness serves to show the power and glory of Jesus Christ. Our weaknesses show that our Lord is still working in us by His Spirit and conforming us to be more like himself. God used the experience of loss to produce the good fruit of contentment in Paul’s life. Have you discovered contentment in your own life? Though never complacent, we can be content with where we are currently, knowing that Christ is creating in us hearts that are more patient, kind, compassionate, and humble.
But godliness with contentment is great gain,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Not just gain, but “great gain” Paul says. How does thinking on and learning details about the life of Paul bring comfort? To be content in this world, we must have our priorities in proper order. Contentment influences how we pray: Rather than praying that a situation would change, we are first able to ask that God would change our hearts and mold them into the image of Christ. Contentment influences our time in the Word. Trusting in the Lord and delighting in his Word relate to each other. It is only in God’s revealed Word that we can know what contentment is and why we should value it and pursue it.
For further study, read Philippians Chapter Four.