Contentment has been a personal struggle for me for quite some time. So when I ponder the words of the Apostle Paul about his growth with contentment, it gives me hope that I too, can obtain this precious gift of the Lord. How does someone who is full of ambition and wants to strive for more in life take hold of contentment on top of all the other desires and dreams one might have?
When I was younger, I thought contentment was for people who did not want much in life. I could not have been more wrong! The Apostle Paul may have been one of the most ambitious, driven men to ever lived, yet he says plainly that he, “Learned” how to be content. Could we not also learn the process of contentment?
Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 6:6, “Now there is a great gain in godliness with contentment.” Yes, there is great gain in material goods and worldly goods, but when we consider the Word of God, the wise believer will understand and seek out the “great gain” of godliness with contentment. Let us explore what it might look like in our own lives.
Content with God’s Provision
King Solomon defined contentment for me in Proverbs 30:7-9, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food that is needful for me (my portion), lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
For me, this is the perfect balance between ambition and contentment. King Solomon says he neither wants poverty or riches because both can have negative consequences. Instead, he asks the Lord to give him simply what he needs.
Can you and I pray this type of prayer? Can truthfully ask the Lord to only give us what we need? The danger of poverty is that it can cause you to feel slighted and steal justifying your actions. However, the danger of riches is that it distorts your perspective. It causes people to not look to the Lord because they feel sufficient within themselves. According to Jeremiah 2:13, God calls self-sufficiency sin!
If I am going to trust in God’s provision, then I am going ask God for what I need and not worry about the other matters of life. It is much easier said than done, especially for people who are ambitious.
Content with God’s Promises
2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.” I love this verse. If God’s promises find their sufficiency in Christ then why should I doubt them? Christ cannot fail so neither will God’s great and precious promises.
I think contentment in God’s promises means that I am not going to try to bargain or negotiate with God. Instead, I am going to accept His will knowing that all things will work together for my good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).
Why should I bargain with God if I am confident that His will is perfect for my life? If I am going to grow in contentment then it means I am going to be content with what God has not only given me but what He has promised me. This will protect me from feeling slighted by God.
For more content on this subject, read my article, (Negotiating God’s Will).
Content with God’s Presence
Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life, in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” This is an important verse for the day we live in. People seek happiness and they seek joy in everything but the Lord. Whereas the Bible teaches that it is in God’s presence that there is fullness of joy.
Do you know the difference between happiness and joy? It is intriguing to me that the Bible doe snot promise believers happiness, but rather, promises us joy. I think it is because happiness varies. Happiness depends on the way things happen in our lives. If life happens to be good, comfortable and convenient at the moment, then we can be happy. But what happens when life takes a turn? Where does our happiness go? It is fleeting and it fails.
Instead, God gives His people joy and what a difference between joy and happiness. Joy does not depend on the happenings of life. Joy rises above the circumstances of life. Joy is solid and consistent. Joy will not fail you when your life turns upside down. Why? Because true joy is found in God and God alone.
So if I am going to be a person who grows in contentment, then I must understand where my joy comes from. My joy, according to Psalm 16:11, is found in the presence of God. When I am joyful in the Lord, then I can experience Nehemiah 8:10, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
I want to grow in contentment. It was Benjamin Franklin who well said, “Contentment makes poor men rich. Discontentment makes rich men poor.” What a true statement. A happy man wants what he has. An unhappy man gets what he wants, but never stops wanting.