Contentment. It’s something that I’ve needed to work on for some time.
How about you? Are you like me, always looking forward to the next (you fill in the blank) – vacation, concert, movie, book, album, dinner at your favorite restaurant, etc.? Are you not content with your current vocation, relationship(s) you are in, or the church you are attending? How about the discontent with your house, car or version of iPhone that you have, or even the number of blog followers or Facebook friends that you have? Does the grass always look greener somewhere else? Is it someone else receiving the promotion that you deserve? Do you look forward to the quitting time, the weekend and ultimately retirement?
As a Christian, I know I should be fully content in what God has provided for me, mainly Him! Short of that, a life of discontentment is a sin, a lack of thankfulness for what we have already been provided.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and study on the subject of contentment of late. And sometimes, God just puts something on a subject you are studying before you without you specifically looking for it. For example, I came across this section of a prayer entitled “Fullness” in the wonderful book of Puritan prayers The Valley of Vision:
With Thee I can live without other things,
For Thou art God all-sufficient,
and the glory, peace, rest, joy of the world
is a creaturely, perishing thing in
comparison with Thee.
Recently I heard a wonderful sermon that reminded us that Christ is worthy. We were challenged to think about what we were valuing more than Christ. The sermon stated that we are what we worship. That reminded me of a Martin Luther quote I had seen recently: “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God”. In his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller states “If you love anything at all in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations, and it will eventually break your heart. The things we love individually not only determine our character, but what a society loves collectively shapes its culture”. He goes on to state “To change people most profoundly, we must change what we worship. Ultimately we are what we adore. We are what captures our imagination, what leads us to praise and to compel others to praise it”.
Advertising certainly plays to our lack of contentment, as we hear about all of the things we “need”. We can also envy others or covet what others have and we don’t, which is a violation of the 10th Commandment, which reads “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
So rather than being condemning of my (and possibly your) sin of discontentment, I would rather offer you encouragement from the Scriptures. Here are ten wonderful (ESV) Bible verses or passages to encourage you towards contentment:
- Psalm 37:16 – Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.
- Psalm 16:5 – The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
- Matthew 6:25-26 – Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
- Matthew 6:32-33 – For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- 1 Corinthians 7:20 – Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.
- 1 Timothy 6:6, 8 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
- 1 Timothy 6: 10-11 – For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
- Philippians 4:11-12 – Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be 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.
- Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
There is so much more to be said about biblical contentment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll end with this wonderful prayer on contentment that my friend Kevin Halloran recently published on his fine WORD + Life blog:
Oh Lord, You are my shepherd and I should not be in want,
but so often I struggle to be content and do want;
forgetting that you have graciously provided me with every spiritual blessing in Christ
and everything I need for life and godliness.
Thank you for often not giving me what I want
because my desires would draw my heart from being satisfied in You.
Help me to be content in You with what You have given me
and to not be focused on what my flesh wants or the world tells me I should have.
Protect me from coveting possessions or people,
talent or influence, relationships or prestige.
Keep my heart from being anxious for what I don’t have
and make me thankful for the numerous gifts that You have already given.
According to Your Word and steadfast love,
fill me with the joy and satisfaction of contentment in Christ.
Help me learn to be content in any situation like Paul
and to quickly reject the idolatry that dwells beneath the surface of my coveting.
I ask you to continually bring to mind your faithful provision for all of my needs,
that Christ died for the sin of coveting,
that in Christ I am free to be content and live righteously,
and that godliness with contentment is greater gain than pleasing my flesh.
And may I be humbled and changed by the ultimate example of contentment;
of Christ becoming poor in order that I could become rich,
and being content to go to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will
to rescue a people for Himself who can be free from discontent and zealous for good works.