The Battle for Contentment
Contentment is being totally at peace with having nothing more and nothing else. It is therefore the greatest wealth a person can have. Contentment is simply wanting only what I already have. There is no angst; no imagining, no further search.
Have you ever felt totally content? OK, maybe after a big meal on a soft couch when you are dosing off to sleep. Most internet pictures for contentment have people relaxing in tranquil surroundings. But have you ever chosen, independent of circumstances, to be content? It seems almost impossible for us as humans. The relentless stream of advertisements on TV or websites are designed to ensure that we are never content; after all, one week of nationwide contentment could destroy our economy!
We all, it seems, have the “dis-ease of discontent.” Our hearts long for more comfort and convenience, greater perfection in our things and relationships. We try to satisfy this internal quest for harmony and heaven by relentlessly striving to achieve it here and now. So, we never have enough or have it exactly right. We are discontent.
The Source of Contentment is Within
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, writes that the “godliness with contentment” mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:6 is the best virtue combination a believer can have. The first is vertical; the second horizontal. Both come from within. Both are independent of our outward circumstances and physical conditions. Both communicate, “all I need is a deep relationship with God – not much else matters.” Lloyd-Jones points out that this brings great gain, a phrase not often used in Scripture. Contentment is the greatest wealth.
Contentment and Ambition
But are we to become a blob? Can athletes and scholars and artists achieve great things while being content? The Scripture is clear that we can have godly ambition.
- Firstly, we should have an insatiable quest to know, love and serve Him with our whole heart and life (Psalm 27:4. 63:1, Philippians 3:10). I must never become content in my spiritual life.
- Secondly, we should push to wholeheartedly do with excellence things that honor God by reflecting His image in us (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:23-24). We must be content with the gifts, appearance, power and possessions He has given us, but then use them all wholeheartedly for His glory.
Ungodly ambition is the drive for fame, validation, power, wealth, possessions and pleasures to fill up a personal void with the stuff that promises happiness and satisfaction … and that stuff will never be enough. This is why Puritan writers felt that ambition was one of the most deceitful sins. Many leaders “attempt great things for God” out of unholy ambition.
Being Th(i)nkful Brings Contentment
When I learn the discipline of thinking thanks, contentment oozes slowly into my heart. Gratefulness focuses on what I have, not on what I lack. It takes away the fuel of discontent; the fire goes out. Nothing really changes in my life, except for what I am thinking about and expressing. I choose to be th(i)nkful.
David and I are moving back to South Africa in a few months. We will go alone to this land; we will leave family behind. We plan to study the Zulu language diligently, and then teach the Bible, theology and counseling to emerging Zulu leaders, and help them begin a church-planting movement.
As I am thinking about the changes that lie ahead, there are days when I struggle to think thanks. I am tempted to think about precious children and grandchildren who will be out of reach. That is so hard and heavy for me. But when I think about how God has given me joys in the journey that are undoubtedly His fingerprints of mercy, I am th(i)nkful. He will help us. He will measure out grace. I have already started a th(i)nkful list about our move.
Join me in the discipline of thinking thanks so that together we can cultivate contentment, and in the process become more godly.
Godliness with Contentment is of Great Gain ~ I Timothy 6:6