The Elusive Position of Contentment

12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:12-13, CEB)

In a culture that thrives on being DIScontent, these words from Paul sound impossible. Our economy thrives on people being DIScontent with their current products so they will go and buy new products. Our fast-paced media thrives on our DIScontent to shove fantastic stories into face 24 hours a day.

Contentment sounds impossible. It sounds BORING.

How can someone live with contentment and expect to get on the news?!?

But for Paul, this is the place learn absolute trust. Hungry or full. Closet full of clothes or the clothes on our back. We can know Christ and knowing Christ is contentment. 

When we have Christ, what he has put in our lives we call good. Circumstances don’t matter when Christ is our center.

The Pain of Satisfaction

The other day I read a story about a man I have admired for well over 20 years. He is the top in his profession, in my opinion. He has known tremendous success in just about any way you could measure it. Not just money, but integrity, family, awards… I have not known him personally, but everything I could ever read about him spoke of excellence.

The other day I heard a story about another person. Not nearly as well known, but a friend. Though I’ve known of difficulties, I have known this person to be a loving person. Though there are struggles, she would be one I would look at and say, “You know what? She loves God and pursues God and loves people. I truly admire that.”

The stories I heard about both of them were the same: ultimately, they weren’t “enjoying the ride.” For the successful man, the article I read talked about how he never let the successes carry him along. He would let the defeats in life depress him for weeks or months. He couldn’t savor the successes, even when it meant so much to so many people.

For the friend, she was allowing words of defeat and depression take away all the Lord had done in her life over these years.

It is like we cannot believe in contentment. Paul’s admonition that “godliness with contentment is great gain” is lost on us. It is too often lost on me. There is always something better I SHOULD be doing, or I left something undone. And should I ever feel a moment of contentment, it is often overwhelmed in a few minutes with guilt. “There are so many who don’t have what I have.” Or other thoughts like that.

Yet, the Word almost yells at us about our incredible God. He is abundant. In him we FEAST on his grace and mercy.

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:5).

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight” (Eph. 1:7,8).

I am incredibly, deeply satisfied in God’s grace and provision. Truly. My heart is full. It is such a pain to write those words.

Godliness

Working our way through the characteristics of 1 Peter 1:5-7, perseverance brings us to a place of adding in godliness. Getting to godliness sure takes some time! Why couldn’t we start here? It’s all in the mix from the start, I understand that, but it’s clear that there is a healthy progression that needs to take place in our lives to understand the full magnitude of these characteristics. Plus, each of these characteristics, Peter reminds us, needs to be increasing in our lives. We are called to keep climbing higher!

Godliness is reverence. It is about having piety toward God. In 1 Tim. 2:1,2 Paul calls on the readers to pray for those in authority. The prayer offered up seems offered in a very selfish way. We are to pray so that WE can live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We may not like our leaders, but we are to PRAY for them. As we pray, regardless of their political parties, we are asking God’s blessings for them. In seeking out their good, we find peace in our own lives.

The goal of praying for our leaders is our own godliness. For all those who despised President Bush and his plans, how does that feel? Of course, now that he is out of office, we can easily say, “Hey, I prayed for the guy.”

For those who despise President Obama and his plans to “take American into socialism,” how does this set? It was easier praying for President Bush, wasn’t it?

My point is this: we all face hypocrisy in our lives over this issue. We let our political affiliations take over our emotions and lead our prayers. So… since that’s totally uncomfortable, let’s move along.

1 Tim. 4:7,8 — Paul admonishes us to get away from godless myths and old wives tales. We are to train ourselves in godliness. Move away from conspiracy theories. (The World Trade Center was blown up by our own government. President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.) Move into training.

Paul is HUGE into training metaphors. Athletic metaphors paint the picture. Our lives can be trained in piety. It means you shove out what doesn’t belong and you take in what is good for you spiritually. Our habits can change. Physical training has some value. Training for godliness has eternal value.

1 Tim. 6:6 — Godliness with contentment is great gain. We have powerful weapons available to us. Training in piety, we can find contentment. We don’t have to live in discontent like our culture wants us to live. We can be satisfied in God. He can direct what kind of phone we have, and what kind of computer we buy, and what kind of house we purchase. We can learn to live within his provision. Contentment.

Through our pursuit of God we can find rest. Contentment.

1 Tim. 6:11 — Paul gives a list of good things to pursue. To what am I giving my life? My life has a holy calling. Your life has a holy calling. The goal is high, attainable, and wonderful.