Senior minister Mat Yeo on spiritual contentment in a world that breeds discontent.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
I said in a wedding sermon last month that one of the great things about knowing God is the ‘deepest of deep’ sense of contentment that you have. Knowing that you are friends with, forgiven by, and at peace with the Almighty God. There’s really nothing quite like it.
But here’s my question: Do you feel that way? Do you have a deep sense of contentment? At a basic level, would you describe yourself as a content person?
I suspect your answer is similar to mine. Yes… and no. And I think that’s because contentment exists on at least a couple of levels. There is the spiritual contentment I have been talking about, but we also live in the physical world, surrounded by stuff and existing in a consumerist culture. And the Bible addresses this:
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 11:5
The world makes us discontent. It creates that feeling that we want more, need more, have to buy more. The dictionary definition is spot on: Discontentment is a restless desire or craving for something one does not have.
Hebrews 11:5 suggests that if we can learn to grow spiritual contentment, then that gnawing craving will dissipate. That if we understand that God is always with us, then the things of this world will grow dim in comparison.
Contentment should not be governed by what one does or does not have.
Contentment is trusting God, whatever situation we are in. That’s what Paul meant in Philippians 4:11-12:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.
Contentment grows when you remember that you are dearly loved by the Lord, that you are precious to him.
Discontent ought to have no place in our lives. Having said that, this side of heaven we will always be battling it. So pray hard about your desires and seek to grow that contentment that comes from being safe in him, from finding your identity in him alone. Much like prayer, Bible reading, stewardship and other faith practices, contentment is a spiritual discipline that must be learned, practised and repeated. The Lord knows your heart. Open up to him in prayer.
Addendum – Godly discontent
There is a place to be contentedly discontent.
Our hope in Christ is our anchor (Hebrews 6:19). That is where that deep sense of contentment comes from. But we ought to feel an amount of godly discontent, for two reasons. Firstly, we are declared holy by Christ. But we are also growing in holiness, and sometimes that is a slow, painful, frustrating process. Don’t be content with where you are at. Practise being godly.
Secondly, we recognise that while those in Christ know that wonderful peace of forgiveness, those outside of Christ do not. They do not worship the one true God, they do not know his sacrifice for them, they do not know spiritual contentment. And they will not inherit eternal life. We must never get so comfortable that we forget this, for there will come a time when the patience of God is over. So strive hard to seek out the lost, while there is still time.