Recently God has used several different circumstances to drill home to me a great need in my life and to expose a sin that easily besets me: the sin of discontentment. He has used verses that I have meditated on for years, a psalm that I chose to pray through one day, a blog entry, a book (not even primarily on the issue of contentment), and a message on prayer to show me where and how discontentment has infected my life. [It is neat to see God use "unrelated items" to get our attention, isn't it?] Over the next few days I will share some thoughts that God has used to prune me and grow my character. I trust these thoughts will help others.
Two well-known verses in Paul’s letters speak to this issue of contentment.
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,” (1 Timothy 6:6, ESV).
“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.” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV).
What is great gain in my life? Being godly with contentment! You can’t be godly without being content. Discontentment is a form of ungodliness.
I am learning that “true contentment is embracing God’s will in every aspect of God’s providence simply because it is His providence” (thanks Sinclair Ferguson).
I am a doer and so I often like to be given “5 easy steps to ________ ” or “just do this and you will be _________________ “. So I figured since we have to “learn to be content” there must be 3 easy lesssons or 4 things I can do to be more content. But that is to misunderstand the true nature of contentment. It is not something we do, it is something we are. It is not the product of some actions but rather the result of a renewed and transformed character such as in Romans 12:1-2. It is not something I do, but something that is done to me as I abide in Christ.
Where do you struggle most with contentment? There are basically six areas that we think about a lot and as Christians we pray a lot about it (thanks Don Whitney for insight here): family and relationships, the future, finances, work or school, church or ministry, current crisis. It is usually in one or more of these areas that we have to struggle with discontent. We have to ask ourselves some heart-exposing questions like:
- Am I content in my marriage? Am I content not being married? Am I content in waiting on God to work in my marriage while I seek to be the godly spouse that He wants me to be?
- Am I content as a young person with my home life? Am I content waiting on God to bring into my life the person He wants me to marry if He wants me to marry?
- Am I content with my children? The number of children? The special needs of my children? The time that these blessings require? The care these young plants call for?
- Am I worried about the future: where to go to college, a job after college, retirement, etc?
- Am I content with my income? Am I content with the appliances, car, home, amount in my savings account, my investments, my health insurance, etc?
- Am I content with the job that God has placed me in? If I am not happy in my current job do I really think that I will be happy in my next one? Is the secret to being content in my circumstances or in Christ?
- Am I happy with doing my very best in my schooling and then being content with my grades?
There are many more questions you can pose in these six areas, so I encourage you take some time and ask God to graciously show you where you are discontent. Identity and confess these areas to God and He who is full of grace will forgive you. And then experience his grace in growing in the character of contentment.
I’ll post more on the issue of contentment this week. May God use these posts to strengthen us by His grace to learn the secret of being content! If Paul did, we can too!