As we move from the season of gratefulness and Thanksgiving, and into that of gifts, giving, and receiving, we must be careful that we do not slip into a hunger and desire for things, dissatisfaction for what we have and what God has given us, and a need to possess more. I’ve always thought it rather paradoxical that immediately after our celebration and declaration of thanksgiving to God for what He’s done for us and given us, we turn to and start thinking about what we’ve got to have and will not be happy without. So as we transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I believe that the Apostle Paul has a timely message for us.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
~I Timothy 6:6-8
eThe world is full of discontent individuals. People who know that they lack something, and looking for fulfillment in stuff, relationships, success, capital, wealth, popularity, fame, power, and etcetera. Basically in anything outside of what they have now. However, the Bible tells us what everyone lacks is the God factor, and this cannot be found in anything the world has to offer. And while we, as Christians, have obtained that most precious of gifts, Paul tells us to go one step further and that godliness coupled with contentment is great gain. Now this verse is placed within the context of materialism and money, but can be applied in all aspects of life.
While many Christians know that godliness or God-likeness is something one must strive after, they tend to overlook the second great character quality mentioned in this verse: contentment. Our world is constantly telling us to be discontent with our lives as they are because there’s something better out there. Newsflash! If we truly possess a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we have the greatest thing out there! There is nothing this world has to offer that can surpass this ultimate possession: eternal life with the triune God!
So why don’t we live our lives reflecting this amazing truth? Have you noticed how easy it is to complain about anything and maybe everything in our lives? For instance, I’ve been around young women who would like nothing more than to be married and having kids, while others who have the little ones running around and a husband at work, lament about how they’d like to have more time to themselves and have a less crazy life. Oh, how I wish I could bring the single young women in and sit them next to a group of exhausted young mothers and tell them, “Listen closely to the realities of what these women are sharing, and let me know if you still hold your perfect, future family in such rosy colors.”
Or while sightseeing the city of Dallas, Texas, I saw many beautiful, elaborate mansions where the occupants enjoyed all that money could offer—servants, fancy cars, and prestige. However, as we drove by these amazing homes, I wondered what the family dynamics were. How many times had some of those couples been married and then divorced? Or how close were the parents with their kids? Did they even take part in their children’s lives or did they defer all responsibility to hired staff so that they could flash their wealth and social standing among their sphere of influence? How truly happy were these individuals who seemed to have everything?
On the other hand, while looking at a picture on the cover of Samaritan’s Purse’s magazine, I saw a child from an under-developed country holding a shoe box filled with simple, nondescript items like paper, crayons, and cheap plastic toys. However, the expression on the child’s face was that of absolute, inexpressible joy at the amazing treasures contained within that one small box. Contrast that with the screaming child down the store aisle who’s mad at his mom for not buying him that one thing he had to have, even though that child already possessed twelve of the same thing at home. Or what about the teenager who is seriously considering suicide because they feel they have nothing to live for and are not happy even though they have two loving parents, a room full of electronic gadgets, clothing and food provided for them, and a promising future ahead of them?
And while we look at these examples and think, Why? Why would the teenager want to throw all that away? Or how could that child be angry when they already have multiple copies of the same thing at home? However, how often are we like these examples? How often do we want and need to have the latest piece of technology even though we already have a computer, tablet, iPhone, HDTV, and fancy music player at home? Or how often do we want someone else’s lifestyle and family, but don’t acknowledge the realities of what that looks like?
We can always find something to complain about, whether it be what we have versus what we don’t have, where we live versus where we don’t live, whether we’re married or not, whether we have kids or not, whether our jobs and careers are viewed as “successful”, whether we’re popular and well known or not, whether we have wide reaching influence and power or not, and the list could go on.
God has us exactly where He wants us, when He wants us to be there. And He has a lesson or two for us before He moves us on to the next stage of our lives, so we need to stop chafing at the bit and instead be patient and receptive to what God has for us; not in the future, not in the past, but right here, right now. Therefore, it is important to live fully in the present. Too many people waste their time reliving and agonizing over the past, while others have their minds and hearts dwelling in an unrealistic future. We need to be Christians solidly and contentedly living in our present day to day lives, fixing our eyes on our eternal goal and learning from the mistakes of the past, yet faithfully walking one step at a time in the God-given now. For God cannot pour out His blessing upon us until we turn our eyes off the things we want and focus them upon Him.
Have you noticed how our world tends to define contentment as settling for less? In our current culture, whenever we hear the word contentment it always carries with it a feeling of resignation or acceptance of facts. Whenever I hear someone use content, I always get the feeling that they’re not truly happy but have merely become okay with the way things are. It’s a feeling and subtle message of settling for less. But this is not a biblical definition! God defines contentment as completeness and full happiness in the blessings of the Lord. Or as the Greek word in 1 Timothy 6:6 is defined: sufficiency. In short, contentment is not an action, but rather an attitude and a heart mindset. The world says it’s a resignation to facts, a settling for less, but God says that it’s a looking to Him for all fulfillment, completion, happiness, and satisfaction. It’s finding our promise of life abundant solely in the One who promised it, not in the world, a president, or the American Dream. As the wisest and wealthiest man in the world wrote, “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it. (Pr. 15:16) And “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Pr. 16:8)
So we need to be fully content wherever we’re at and with whatever we have. But beware! Contentment is not complacency! Contentment is full happiness and completeness with where God has us and what He’s given us in this temporary world, but complacency is satisfaction and okay-ness with where we are and what we have in the spiritual realm. We need to be content with where we are physically—where we live, what season of life we’re in, what we have—but we must never become complacent with where we are spiritually and with what we have in Christ. While the Bible has much to say about possessing contentment, it has even more warnings against complacency. In fact, Zephaniah 1:12 reveals that God hates complacency and will punish all who are complacent! So don’t get the two mixed up or confused! We are commanded to be content with what we have and this contentment is in reference to our physical world, and we are also warned to never ever become complacent in our spiritual walk. Therefore, take heed!
So, couple a correct understanding of contentment with godliness and, as the Apostle Paul wrote, we will have great gain. Great gain! Doesn’t that sound like something we’d all like to possess?! But what does great gain look like? Peace that surpasses all understanding, fullness of joy, greater witness, deeper fellowship, inner beauty, wholeness in Christ, God-given identity, spiritual success, power in the Lord, and the list goes on. In short, great gain is above and beyond all that we could ever imagine; it is God’s blessings poured down from heaven and overflowing in our laps.
Therefore, I challenge you, wherever you are in life—house full of little children or empty-nesters, single or newly married, student or retiree, recently widowed or divorced, poor as dirt or living in the lap of luxury, completely overlooked and obscure or famous and popular—live your life with godliness and contentment, centering them in your heart, so that you may receive great gain! And while you strive to become completely content with where God has you, be careful not to slip into a state of spiritual complacency so that God’s name may be completely glorified!
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