Episode 1. Is Contentment Really for You?
Listen to the radio broadcast
Download audio file
So let me ask you – are you content with your life? As you survey the landscape of your life – the hills, the valleys … the roads yet untraveled – is that something that you do with a quiet …
So as we stand in this funny little week between Christmas and New Year, with just that bit of time to reflect, can I ask you – are you truly content with your life? As you survey the landscape of your life – the hills, the valleys … the roads yet untraveled – is that something that you do with a quiet contentment in your heart …. or not?
So, come on – on a scale of zero to 10, 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 2, because they’re not content at all, and a few who are a 9 or a 10 – the vast majority are in the middle of the bell curve, somewhere between a 4 and a 7 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 … 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 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” and “the contentment of a comfortable retirement”.
Of course it’d be great if we all were 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 people on the planet. The people who are bringing children up and dealing with all the struggles and joys that that entails; the people who are working in a fast paced world, with never – it seems – enough time to get to everything they should get to; the people who are struggling with their health, with their wellbeing, 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’s just been diagnosed with cancer, or just lost one of their children.
Life is a series of valleys and mountain tops isn’t it? And my sense is that contentment is something that we can have, whether where on the 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; it’s God too – He has a lot to say about contentment and as we step out on 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.
Why don’t we kick it off with this Scripture: 1 Tim 6:3–10
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, dissension, slander, 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 can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 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 a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the 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 money 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 will be content with these
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, the fruit of contentment?
And that – in stark contrast to what the world offers. The riches of this world that are so … so seductive. All those baubles and trinkets. The things that go way, 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, will cause us to be pierced with many pains. Pretty strong language that.
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 wasn’t all perfect, but inside you had that warm feeling of contentment. Isn’t that something worth having? Isn’t that so much better than having the things that the world tells us will make us happy. You and I know that all those things are imposters and yet … we’re tempted to chase after them anyway. We get our needs and our wants all mixed up and our wants take over.
I know that 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 that we can cross over which robs of contentment. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about over these coming few weeks. 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 discover how.
I wonder sometimes whether we realise how deeply conditioned we are to desire things that we don’t have. Have you ever been puzzled by the tenth commandment – let’s take a look at it as a bit of a refresher – Exodus 20:17:
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 that belongs to your neighbour.
What an odd commandment. Don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t lie … they all make sense. They’re about what you do. But this commandment doesn’t talk about what we do; it’s 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 our neighbour’s wife, shouldn’t have – can lead us into doing things that’ll 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 a newspaper, or a glossy magazine, or visit a site on the internet, or even go down to your local supermarket, you’re confronted with advertisements specifically designed to fuel your desire for something that you don’t yet have.
It’s so insidious, so pervasive, that we don’t even realise that it’s going on. The best way to figure out how deeply these desires have their tentacles wrapped around our hearts, is to do a stocktake of the things that you dream about. Then, all of a sudden – you start to realise what your heart truly desires.