Contentment Brings Rest For The Soul

 

In a world filled with activity, materialism, things to get done, demanding schedules, demands from people, demands on self, full-time employment and business pursuit, it is easy to lose sight of contentment.  The Scripture speaks about contentment as an attitude of the heart.  God also commands His children to maintain an attitude of contentment in their daily lives.

 

Before we start this study, ask your self some basic questions:

 

If I were unable to achieve my goals in life (e.g. work, home improvements, relationships, money, prestige etc.), would I be content?

 

If I were unable to attain the material things I want, am I satisfied with what I own right now?

 

If I lose everything I own, but have food and covering, am I content, thankful, and grateful?

 

If I don’t accomplish the spiritual calling I feel I am called to, am I content to be a lowly servant of Jesus?

 

Ask yourself, “Do I really need the things I am working so hard to get?  Would I be at peace within if I had only the clothes on my back and food in my belly?”

 

If I lose my health today, and I am unable to do the things physically that I now take for granted, would my soul be at rest in the Lord?

 

If I remain single for the rest of my life, will Jesus be sufficient for me?

 

If I lose my spouse through death or divorce, will God be my comfort and partner for life, or will I become lonely, bitter, and discontent?

 

If my birthday party doesn’t go as planned, can I still enjoy the day and be glad?

 

If the waitress doesn’t bring my order on time, or makes a mistake, do I get upset and irritable, or am I content with what can be provided?

 

What if my plans in life are disrupted for whatever reason(s), will I be content and satisfied with my circumstances?

 

These, and many more questions could be asked to test our level of contentment.  Why are we so dissatisfied with what life offers us?  Our fast paced society discourages contentment.  We are bombarded with ads on television telling us we need a nicer care, better clothes and shoes, a platinum Visa card, better internet service, an upgraded computer, a new home, vacations, and so on.  Our subconscious mind has stored up an unfathomable amount of data on what we want, but don’t absolutely need.

 

One example would be a person’s desire to buy a new sofa.  Perhaps their old one is worn, and even tattered.  It is not unreasonable to want a new sofa, but would you be just as content if you never got the new one?  Our society no longer understands the concept of delayed gratification.

 

We are not trying to discourage God’s people from setting goals, or seeking to improve their quality of life.  However, one should take a hard look at their heart attitude, and honestly evaluate what is really important to them.  Because we have expectations of what we want to obtain, or accomplish, our lives are quite often filled with stress about things that are totally insignificant.

 

Too often Christians become agitated when things don’t go their way.  If they get a dent in their brand new car, they get upset and focused on that which is really quite insignificant.  The Scripture tells us that it is the eternal things that are the most important, not the things that are temporary and earthly:

 

·         2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  (NAS)

 

In America, the land of plenty, we so easily take for granted the many blessings that would be considered a luxury in third world countries.  Think of the mother of a starving child in Sudan who would be content if all she had was a bowl of rice to feed her little boy.  While she has no choice but to be content, we get upset when our prize rose plant dies, or is broken by someone’s carelessness.

 

Our perspective needs to be one of contentment in any and all circumstances.  What if you were paralyzed from the waist down?  Could you learn to be content?  Those with such a disability have learned to be happy if they simply get a wheelchair, in order that they can have some kind of mobility.  But we get upset if our car won’t start, or if our best pair of high heel shoes is damaged!

 

In many countries people freeze to death because they don’t have adequate clothing to wear, while at the same time we become impatient if we can’t afford to buy the stylish coat we want at Nordstrom’s.

 

Some folks are born deaf, and never discover the joy of hearing the birds’ chirp or the sound of waves crashing on the beach sand.  And yet we get upset when our car stereo breaks, and we don’t have Christian music to listen to on the way to work!  We have become a greedy, self-centered, and discontent people.  God is watching us, as we forget to thank Him for giving us life, and the air to breath.  He is asking us the question, “If all you had in life was Me, would you be content?”

 

·         Hebrews 13:5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] [Josh. 1:5].  So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me? [Ps. 27:1; 118:6]. The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999

 

Disappointment Is Not Discontentment

 

A person should not confuse disappointment with discontent.  It is not wrong to work hard, set goals, and enjoy the fruit of our labors.  God even tells us to plan our lives ahead and to enjoy our work.  In order to do this, God must always be the center of any activity in our life.

 

·         Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good.  This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God.  For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?  (NAS)

 

Sometimes our plans and goals are interrupted by circumstances and conditions beyond our control.  We make plans and we set goals, only to be disappointed by unexpected events.  We may save and plan to build or buy a new home, and then suffer a traumatic medical injury that suddenly drains all of our savings account.  It is quite natural and understandable that this would result in a certain amount of disappointment.  This kind of disappointment is not discontent; it is the normal emotional response to tragedy.

 

Or what if we are able to build that same house, move in, and then suddenly lose everything in a house fire?  Unless God is our ultimate and primary goal, we will not only be disappointed, but we may become devastated.  If we are content with the things that are truly important (i.e. God, Jesus, our family and friends), suffering loss will be weighed in light of the gratitude we have for what God has left us with.

 

·         Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (NKJ)

 

When a person’s hopes are dashed, it can make their heart “sick.”  The Hebrew word used for “sick” means, “to be rubbed or worn; hence (figuratively) to be weak, sick, afflicted; or (causatively) to grieve, make sick.”  The God who created us knows our hearts, and He understands the emotions we will experience when our hopes and dreams are dashed.  He knows we will feel sick inside, grieved and worn.  This is not being discontent, it is the disappointment that negative circumstances can create in us.

 

What if a young bride gets a phone call late one night, only to hear the state patrol inform her that her new husband has been in a fatal collision?  Or what happens to the small boy badly burned from head to toe with third degree burns, marring his face and body for life?  Or what of the young girl who, falling from a rearing horse, breaks her neck, and is paralyzed from the neck down? 

 

It would be normal for someone in the scenarios above to be disappointed, grieved, sick, or afflicted.  There are thousands of examples we could list that would alter a persons’ life.  Even having God in your life, it would be a terrible struggle to face such an adversity.  Whether our problems are large or small, on a small or grand scale, we must not think it is wrong to experience grief and disappointment.  This is not being discontent.

 

Contentment is an attitude of heart that will help maintain our perspective in the midst of affliction and adversity.  The apostle Paul understood this concept, as God inspired him to pen the words of Scripture, the very expression of his own heart:

 

·         Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.  I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance.  I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.  I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].  The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999

 

·         2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. [Job. 2:6].  Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; but He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.  Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!  So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).  The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999

 

Phil. 4:11 and 2 Cor. 12:7 read this way in the New American Standard Bible:

 

·         Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  (NAS)

 

·         2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (NAS)

 

When things don’t go your way, are you content?  What is your attitude when something you own breaks, is lost, or stolen?  How do you handle conflict?  Very few believers can say they have been through the kind of tribulation that the apostle Paul experienced.  Consider just a few of the things Paul tells us he endured:

 

·         2 Corinthians 11:23-30 Are they servants of Christ?  (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.  I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches.  Who is weak without my being weak?  Who is led into sin without my intense concern?  If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.  (NAS)

 

Paul’s attitude was to be content in each circumstance he faced.  What pain Paul suffered, what loss, what grief he felt.  Yet he writes that through all these things, God’s grace was his sufficiency.  To Paul, God’s grace was the thing he had learned to be content with, particularly in adverse situations and the pain he suffered physically.  Of course, being sinful man, Paul did not do this perfectly.  Yet in him we do see an example of a man who learned to lean upon Jesus for his strength in times of distress.  God’s grace was Paul’s sufficiency for each situation, and so too it should be for us.

Godliness With Contentment Is Gain

 

·         1 Timothy 6:3-11 If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.  But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance {and} gentleness.  (NAS)

 

Today in America many false teachers, ministers, and so-called prophets have espoused the doctrine that God is a God of material blessings.  They claim that we, as believers in Christ, are entitled to good health, wealth, and other forms of prosperity.  They know little of the doctrine of suffering, even though it is a central teaching in the Scriptures.

 

The result of this type of teaching has been the proliferation of printed material, media hype, and attitudes that trap Christians into thinking God is some sort of heavenly Santa Claus.  If adversity, sickness, disability, poverty, or any other type of loss is experienced, the Christian community chimes in, “All you need is faith brother!”  They think that they can “name it and claim it.”  They twist the Scriptures to their own destruction, and become have a lukewarm, selfish, materialistic people.  They are addressed in the Book of Revelation as the “church in Laodicea”:

 

·         Revelation 3:14-17  "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot.  'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”  (NAS)

 

God tells us to flee from the pursuit of materialism, and the notion that being a believer in Jesus entitles us to perfect health, wealth, and the like.  God tells us to pursue the things that are of true value, which are righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  Jesus tells us to lay up treasures in heaven, not upon the earth.  The treasures we store up in heaven are the hearts, souls, and spirits of people we have affected for the kingdom of God while we spend our time wisely here on this earth.

 

·         Matthew 6:19-21 Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal.  But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999

 

Notice that where your “treasure” is, there your “heart” is also.  The Greek word for “treasure” means, “a deposit, or place of safe keeping.”  Thus we would say, “Where you deposit your time, thoughts, attitudes, energy etc., that is where your heart is.”  Most Christians in America have a very small account in the bank of heaven.  They have squandered their time, money, and efforts mostly on temporal things, giving but a fraction of their deposit into eternal souls for Gods’ kingdom.

 

When our heart stores up its hopes in this life, discontentment increases.  Those who are pursuing the things of this earthly life as their primary objective are never satisfied with what they have, and become extremely discontent when things go wrong, and the plans and schemes are disrupted.  The Scripture warns us not to fall into such a trap.  King Solomon, the wealthiest man to ever live on this earth, speaks to the folly of pursuing what is only temporal:

 

·         Ecclesiastes 1:8 All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing.  (NAS)

 

·         Ecclesiastes 4:8 There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor.  Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, "And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?"  This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.  (NAS)

 

·         Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.  This too is vanity.  When good things increase, those who consume them increase.  So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on?  (NAS)

 

·         Ecclesiastes 6:7 All a man's labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.  (NAS)

 

·         Proverbs 27:19-20 As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man.  Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.  (NKJ)

 

We must certainly work, and take care of the needs of our family.  This is a commandment in Scripture (1 Tim. 3: 4-5; 2 Thes. 3:7-14).  Don’t over-react to this study by thinking that all of our time, talents and money should be given away.  The main point of this study is to test where our hearts’ attitude is at and to make the necessary adjustments.  We must allow Gods’ word to sink deep into our innermost being, and find our uttermost contentment with the fact that He has promised never to leave us, nor forsake us.

 

King David was satisfied and content, as long as Gods’ presence was near to him.  In fact, he stated that God was his good:

 

·         Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, "Thou art my Lord; I have no good besides Thee."  (NAS)

 

·         Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!  (NAS)

 

·         Psalm 73:28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works.  (NAS)

 

Our careers, our homes, our hobbies, and anything else that life can offer must never become an obsession.  When this happens, we lose sight of the nearness of God, and our focus becomes earthly and sensual.  When we seek God, and His kingdom first, then all of the other things in life fall into proper perspective:

 

·         Matthew 6:33  "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.  (NAS)

 

Then we are truly content, whether we prosper and are in health, or whether we are abased, impoverished, and in poor health.

Consider Jesus

 

Jesus is our ultimate example of how a man or woman of God can be content.  Jesus had no home, no wife to comfort him at night, and oftentimes he had no place to even lay his head.

 

·         Matthew 8:19-20 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  (NKJ)

 

Jesus was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.  He was forsaken by his friends and disciples, betrayed, and persecuted.  He was born, only to be destined to a death by torture and to bear the sins of the world in his own body.

 

·         Isaiah 53:2-7 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.  (NAS)

 

No one has ever suffered like Jesus.  He was not handsome, nor did he seek popularity.  His sufferings went far beyond what we even read in Scripture.

 

·         John 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.  (NAS)

 

How did Jesus learn to be content, knowing his life was destined to be one of such tremendous affliction?  The answer can only be in the intimate relationship he had with his Father God.  Jesus relied upon and trusted that whatever Gods’ will was, it was for the ultimate good.  Jesus sought to do only the things that were pleasing to his Father in heaven.  That was his secret to being content.

 

·         John 8: 27-29 They did not perceive (know, understand) that He was speaking to them about the Father.  So Jesus added, When you have lifted up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will realize (know, understand) that I am He [for Whom you look] and that I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me.  And He Who sent Me is ever with Me; My Father has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.  The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999.

 

Like Paul, like David, and like all other men and women of God, Jesus knew that to have God with him was the ultimate security.  This was true contentment, and the reason for his existence…to please God.  This must be our foremost desire as well…to please our Father in heaven.  We must love one another as Jesus loved us, and thus we will be contented in the assurance that God’s spirit is with us always.

 

·         I John 3:18-24 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.  We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him, in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.  And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.  And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.  (NAS)

 

Contentment is not complicated theology.  It is a decision of the will and a change of heart.  It is a daily seeking to do Gods’ will and to be pleasing in His sight.  It is knowing His love, as we express it to others.  Contentment is having faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, and knowing that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sin through him.  The ultimate contentment is the assurance that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life:

 

·         Luke 10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  (NKJ)

 

Knowing that Gods’ presence is with us, we can learn to be content if the only thing we have is food and covering.  We won’t worry about the pay raise we deserve, or whether or not our business becomes prosperous, because we will be content with our wages.

 

·         1 Timothy 6:8 And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  (NAS)

 

·         Luke 3:14 “…and be content with your wages."  (NAS)

 

Even those who are in full time ministry positions can become discontent.  Pastors seek for bigger congregations, more programs, and more participation by their congregation.  However, the man of God who does what pleases the father doesn’t worry about these things.  He simply does what God asks him to do, knowing that as long as the Lord is with him, it is sufficient.

 

May we all seek to be content, in any and all circumstances, knowing Gods’ grace and presence are our sufficiency. 

 

Selah.


 

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