Episode 1. Is Contentment Really for You?
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So let me ask you, how content are you with your life? As you survey the landscape of your life, the hills, the valleys, the roads yet untravelled, is that something you can do with a quiet contentment in your heart or not? So come on, on a scale of zero to ten how content […]
So let me ask you, how content are you with your life? As you survey the landscape of your life, the hills, the valleys, the roads yet untravelled, is that something you can do with a quiet contentment in your heart or not?
So come on, on a scale of zero to ten how content are you with your life? I have a strong suspicion that whilst there are a few outliers out there, a few people who are giving themselves a one or a two because they’re not content at all and a few who are giving themselves a nine or a ten, the vast majority are somewhere in the middle of that bell curve, somewhere between say a four and a seven I’m guessing.
Are you content with who you are, where you live, what you have, your job, your family, your future as you see it at the moment? Are you content or not? It’s worth pondering. So what is contentment? Is it a state of happiness or jubilation? I don’t think so. I trawled a bunch of dictionaries but I failed to come up with a satisfactory definition. A state of happiness and satisfaction was the most common definition with examples like, ‘He found contentment in living a simple life in the country’ or ‘the contentment of a comfortable retirement’.
Of course it would be great if we were all able to live a simple life in the country and have a comfortable retirement but that’s not a reality for the vast majority of the people on the planet. The people who are bringing up children and dealing with the struggles and the joys that all that entails. The people who are working in some fast paced world with never, it seems, enough time to get everything done they should get to. The people who are struggling with their health, their well-being, with their safety even.
I’m thinking of the many people listening to today’s program in war-torn parts of Africa from within refugee camps where I know we have many listeners. I’m thinking of the person who has just been diagnosed with cancer or just lost one of their children.
Life is a series of valleys and mountaintops isn’t it? And my sense is that contentment is something we can have whether we’re on top of the highest mountain or in the depths of the darkest valley, I think. But it’s not just me it’s the Bible, its God too. He has a lot to say about contentment as we step out in this series The Road To Contentment. It’s my job and my great pleasure to share with you what God has to say about contentment.
So why don’t we kick it off with this Scripture, 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 3 to 10:
Teach and urge these duties. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with Godliness is conceited, understanding nothing and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words.
From these come envy and dissension and slander and base suspicions and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth imagining that Godliness is a means of gain. Of course there is great gain in Godliness combined with contentment for we brought nothing into the world so that we could take nothing out of it but if we have food and clothing we’ll be content with those.
But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from their faith and pierced themselves with many pains.
All too often I’ve heard Bible teachers or people who hold themselves out to be Bible teachers promise that following Jesus is going to involve wealth and riches. And can I tell you if I started teaching that I know that I personally would be far better off financially because people seem to want to give lots of their hard-earned cash to people who scratch them where they itch, who tell them what they want to hear, that if you follow Jesus you’re going to be blessed with this and with that.
But if I did that I wouldn’t be able to refer to myself as a Bible teacher because my friend as you’ve just heard that’s simply not what the Bible says. It’s what we’d like the Bible to say but it’s simply not what it says. What it does say however is this, let’s listen to it again and let it sink in:
There is great gain in Godliness combined with contentment for we brought nothing into the world so that we can take nothing out of it but if we have food and clothing we’d be content with those.
Godliness plus contentment equals great gain. Let me say that again, according to the Bible Godliness plus contentment equals great gain. It turns out that God places a very high value on this thing that we call contentment. I guess it’s kind of obvious that God wants you and me to be Godly; no one would be surprised by that now would they? But contentment, did you realise that God wants you to be content, that He wants you to reap the great gain of the fruit of Godliness and contentment.
And that in stark contrast to what the world offers. The riches of this world that are so seductive, all those baubles and trinkets, the things that go way above our basic needs of food and clothing and shelter. The things that God is saying to you and me which ultimately, if we chase after them as our main focus in life, will cause us to be pierced with many pains. It’s pretty strong language.
Think back to a time in your life when you’ve been content. Just happy with who you are and what you have. Sure it may not have been perfect but inside you had that warm feeling of contentment. Isn’t it something worth having? Isn’t that so much better than having the things that the world tells us are going to make us happy? You and I know that all those things are imposters and yet we’re tempted to go chase after them anyway. We get our needs and our wants all mixed up and our wants take over.
Now I know this is a touchy area because we all have these desires and aspirations that go way beyond our basic needs. Some of them are really good desires and aspirations too but there’s a line we can cross over which robs us of contentment. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about over these coming weeks on the program. Why? Because God wants you to be content. He wants you to experience the warmth of Godliness combined with contentment. All we need to do is to discover how.
I wonder sometimes whether we realise how deeply conditioned we are to desire the things we don’t have. Have you ever been puzzled by the Tenth Commandment out of the Ten Commandments? Let’s take a look at it as a bit of a refresher, Exodus chapter 20, verse 17. It says:
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or male or female slave or ox or donkey or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.
What an odd Commandment. Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t lie – hey they all make sense, they’re about what we do but this Commandment doesn’t talk about what we do, it talks about what we think and feel. That word ‘covet’ means to desire deeply. Why does God finish off the Ten Commandments with that one? Because He knows that desiring things we don’t have and as in the case of the neighbour’s wife shouldn’t have, can lead us into things that will destroy us.
Just let the weight of that truth sink in. The wrong desires of our hearts are what lead to our destruction and yet every time you turn the TV on or open the newspaper or some glossy magazine or visit a Website or even go down to your local supermarket, you’re confronted with advertisements specifically designed to fuel your desire for something you don’t have. It’s so insidious, it’s so pervasive we don’t even realise its going on.
The best way to figure out how deeply these desires have their tentacles wrapped around our hearts is to do a stock take of the things that you dream about. Then all of a sudden you start to realise what your heart truly desires.