by Jeannette Haley
Are you content? Perhaps contentment is as elusive to you as the fountain of youth was to those who traveled the world to find it. God’s Word, however, reveals the causes of discontent and gives us the key to finding lasting contentment.
In 1 Timothy 6:6, the Apostle Paul wrote this powerful statement concerning certain discontented troublemakers who believed that gain was godliness: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” It is interesting that godliness (holiness) and contentment go together. A person cannot be godly without also being content. This involves contentment in all three realms of the physical (material), emotional and spiritual life.
Contentment in this verse means “satisfactory, be enough, and sufficient.” This implies that a person must come to a place of being satisfied and thankful for what they have. The Apostle Paul went so far as to say, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” 1 Timothy 6:8. Can you imagine what he would say if he could see how most Christians in America live today?
I fear he would echo these penetrating words by Dr. K. P. Yohannan, founder and international director of Gospel for Asia: I began with alarm to understand how misplaced are the spiritual values of most Western Believers. Sad to say, it appeared to me that for the most part they had absorbed the same humanistic and materialistic values that dominated the secular culture. Almost immediately I sensed an awesome judgment was hanging over the United States—and that I had to warn God’s people that He was not going to lavish this abundance on them forever.
A friend in Dallas recently pointed out a new church building costing $74 million. While this thought was still exploding in my mind, he pointed out another $7 million church building going up less than a minute away.
These extravagant buildings are insanity from a Third World perspective. The $74 million spent on one new building here could build nearly fifteen thousand average-sized churches in India. The same $74 million would be enough to guarantee the evangelization of a whole state—or even some of the smaller countries of Asia…I think what troubles me much more than the waste is that these efforts represent a worldly mind-set. (Quoted from Dr. K.P. Yohannan’s book, Revolution in World Missions.)
This worldly mind-set is so prevalent among Western Christians today that it is unconsciously considered normal, natural and acceptable Christian thinking and behavior. The truth is, however, this worldly thinking has produced a type of Christian sub-culture that is anathema to God, and exists in opposition to the expressed will of God that His people develop the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:1-11.)
Worldly-mindedness trips people, regardless of how religious they think they are, into a quagmire of discontent, comprised of pride, ingratitude, covetousness, lust, self-centeredness, hard-heartedness, and a host of other works of the flesh. Needless to say, the bottom line is idolatry. Such an unholy and ungodly life is unable to please God.
Our natural tendency towards discontentment is an open door for Satan to come in with temptation and oppression. He lies to us about our well-being, and taunts us that God is failing to make us happy in some way. We can trace discontent clear back to our first parents in the Garden of Eden. God declared in Genesis 1:31 that every thing that he had made was “very good.” Good in the Hebrew means (among other things) beautiful, wealth, precious, sweet, bountiful, pleasant, and well-favored. We all know how this perfect Paradise was lost to mankind through the fall, and the world has been in turmoil ever since.
It’s my contention that fallen mankind has been on a quest ever since Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden to somehow discover or recreate a type of paradise for himself through his own efforts. Whether it’s pursued on an individual level through an insatiable quest for riches, or through secret societies with their insidious goal of a new age, or the international scene of a one-world utopia, everyone dreams of a better world. Hitler certainly had his ideas of how to accomplish it.
The problem is, of course, until the Lord of lords returns to set up His Kingdom, mankind will never be able to reproduce the beauty and perfection of that lost Garden, regardless of how hard he may try.
People fall into the snare of discontentment in different ways, depending on the individual and their particular needs. For example, I have met normally easy-going people who became discontent because they felt unaccepted by people close to them. Sometimes, this type becomes discontent because the little world they mentally hide in is challenged by reality.
Many people have extremely high standards that are impossible for them to reach, causing not only discontent, but frustration and anger. Some people live in a world of fantasy and vain imaginations that cause discontent and depression when reality intrudes into it. Still others end up discontent because they can’t control everything in their environment, including other people and unpleasant situations.
The bottom line is, we all want to be God, and when we discover that it’s impossible to deal with, handle, or take care of every challenge that comes our way, we end up in a state of discontentment.
We all need to seek God’s perspective concerning our standards, concepts, goals, opinions, and perceived needs. It’s surprising how most of what we think we need is nothing more than wants or desires that are not truly necessary. The sad truth is, Christians are just as caught up in the temporary things and fleeting pleasures of this world as the unsaved are.
While they pursue such things as bigger homes, better cars, more toys, and excessive forms of fun and entertainment that come in different guises, millions of souls are perishing who have never heard the Gospelbecause the funds simply are not there to support missions and missionaries. How will we answer the Judge in that day when He asks us to give an account of what we did with our lives and our resources that He blessed us with?
Concerning contentment, the Apostle Paul gives us the key to acquiring it; that is, godliness. There can be no true contentment without godliness, and there can be no true godliness without contentment.
The Apostle Peter gives us the key to the progressive action we must take in order to achieve it. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (unconditional love). For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:4-8.
Contented Christians have learned that they must be thankful for what they have, be on guard against covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and guard their heart (motives and intentions) in order to maintain Christ-like attitudes. Their first priority is their personal relationship with Jesus Christ which is maintained in humility, purity and simplicity. In other words, they have given up their personal rights, died to the self-life, and made Jesus Lord of all. This means that all rights and claims to self in every area are under the Lordship of Christ, including the use of leisure time and the handling of personal finances.
Our flesh cringes at the thought that we cannot reserve any part of ourselves for ourselves, and that every decision we make must line up to God’s will. This is where underlying rebellion and unbelief become exposed—rebellion indicating the right to maintain rule over certain areas of our life, and unbelief revealing that we really do not trust God. Our natural tendency, like that of Adam after he made the decision to prove his independence, is to try to hide from God, while armed to the teeth with justifications. Needless to say, there can be no true contentment, while trying to function on such a line.
John the Beloved, concerning worldliness, wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world,” 1 John 2:15-16. Today, the love for the world among the majority of Christians is blatant.
An observer can tell no difference today between the world and the professing Church. Dissatisfaction and self-serving agendas, coupled with lust and covetousness manifest outwardly as both the world and the Church compete for bigger and better in every aspect of their existence.
Contrary to one popular belief today, Jesus did not die so that we could be set free from poverty and become rich with this world’s goods that can never satisfy. We need to truly take to heart these words of Christ: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” Luke 12:15.
Great possessions, above and beyond what we need, can serve as tremendous burdens which end up putting us in bondage. The more stuff we heap upon ourselves, the more time, energy and resources it takes to care for it all. The end result can be frustration, exhaustion, disappointment, leanness of soul, and discontent. The world and the things of the world can never satisfy the soul’s craving for the Lord God. Only He can fill that empty place in our lives that we try so desperately to fill with worldly goods and activities.
Job, who lived before the Law of Moses, leaves us with a powerful example of how it is possible to be both rich and righteous. God said of Job, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [despises] evil” Job 1:8?
Job was not considered righteous before God because he kept the Law, for the law had not yet been given. But, Job did that which was right in the sight of God, in that he offered sacrifices to the Lord and cared for the poor. Job’s contentment before, and after his great time of testing, came because, instead of looking outward to the world for his happiness, or looking inward for answers as do those without God, Job’s gaze was upward, to the God of heaven. And, his upright lifestyle gave evidence to the fact that he understood the dire consequences to the sins of omission.“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin,” James 4:17.
The Apostle Paul, concerning those who were rich, put it well when he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:17: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” The question is, do you have the contentment that can come only from loving, trusting and knowing God?