"CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN"
"But godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into this world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content. But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced them- selves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
A commodity that ranks high on the "need list" in our society is simple contentment. In our "pursuit of happiness," we have allowed ourselves to become engulfed in discontent and frustrat- ion. We chase after success, popularity, money and power. And yet perplexities and distresses have built up such pressures that heart attacks and nervous breakdowns have become common-place among us. But nearly all of these agencies of unhappiness and even death stem from discontent. And our discontent really has its origin in a lack of faith in God.
The Bible says, "And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him...The righteous shall live by faith...In nothing be anxious; but in everythng by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus" (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 1:17; Phil. 4:6,7).
Trust In The Providence Of God: A strong reliance on the providence of God precludes our worrying and fretting ourselves into early and untimely graves. It is surely not reasonable to sup- pose that God no longer cares for us, when we can see many manifestations of His goodness and mercy. Sunrise and sunset, sunshine and rain, planting and harvest -- all these and much, much more attest to the present and continuing providence of a loving God. Even from of old, God promised, "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22).
God has shown us great examples of His abiding care and concern for us. Jesus pointed out a few of them in the "Sermon on The Mount." "Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they?" (Matt. 6:25,26).
As Jesus shows, God cares for His own, and He wants us to be content and have true peace of mind -- trusting Him to provide. That is the only way we can have "the peace of God which passeth understanding" and cease from worry. Trust God to do what is best for us, and provide what we need. As Peter writes, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:6,7). Isn't that simple? If God cares for the flowers, the grass and the birds of the air, won't He care for us? Let us learn to trust Him!
Materialism Is A Constant Threat: The Bible warns us about the dangers of seeking after, and trusting in, material things. "Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for Himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5). Anyone should be able to be content with such things as he has, if he also believes that God will never forsake him, nor leave him. If we believe that God will provide for our needs, from day to day, we will not be so anxious about "saving up" for the next twenty years!
The barefoot boy, flying a kite on the hillside under a beautiful, blue sky in the Spring has wealth that the vaunted tycoons of Wall Street can never purchase. In fact, they can't even understand it! To drink deeply of the fresh air of a morning on the mountain and feel the exhilarating sense of quiet serenity is worth more than money can possibly buy. To find the peace and comfort with our family in a warm house and cozy bed at the end of a day of good and honest toil -- who can place a price tag on it?
Do we really take the time to appreciate and enjoy such pleasures that surround us? Are we so busy "making a living" that we forget about the importance of making a life?! Notice again our text at the beginning of this article: "Let us be therewith content." As Jesus asked long ago, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:25,26). Unless we "stop and smell the roses," we miss the real beauty of the life which God has given us.
We Live In A Dangerous World: We all remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon Building in our Capitol. Crime rates continue to soar, and the "I'll get mine" mentality abounds. Many of us still remember when none bothered to lock their doors, but today most homes in our urban areas have locks, bars and electronic security systems. We have lost trust in one another, and that breeds fear and suspicion of all strangers -- and even of friends!
The new "reality shows" on TV propose that if we had a million dollars, or be recognized for our beauty, or could marry the most glamorous person, then happiness would be ours. But if you had all that, you still couldn't have any greater blessings than are now yours! Why not develop a sense of appreciation for what God has already given you, and be content? It isn't from our work and labor that we die. We worry and fret ourselves to death because of frustration. We will only begin to live happily and at peace when we learn this lesson: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
Contentment And Peace Of Mind: There is a difference between being content and being satisfied. A Christian should always be content, but dare not become satisfied. To be satisfied means to accept the present situation and not try to change it. But being content means not allowing external circumstances to determine our mindset, or character. The apostle Paul wrote, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:11-13). Paul was content, even while striving to improve conditions.
Contentment begins with God, for He is the author of it. Paul writes of "the peace of God which passeth understanding" (Phil. 4:7), and shows that through Christ we have "peace with God" (Eph. 2:14; Rom. 5:1). If we are at enmity with God, we can hardly be at peace with those who are made in God's image. So, contentment and peace begin with God and Christ.
The Lord also expects us to be at peace with other people. The Bible exhorts us, "If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12:18). And we are further encouraged, "So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another" (Rom. 14;19). Being content, and at peace with God, will make a difference in the way we view other people. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:31,32).
But peace with God and peace with other people will aso pro- duce peace within us, and that is what contentment is all about. "And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace" (Jas. 3:18). Only when we are at peace with ourselves can we truly appreciate what God has given us. And if we avidly seek the things of this world, that contentment and peace of mind will escape us. Notice again: "Having food and covering we shall be therewith content. But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition" (1 Tim. 6:8,9). Are you content, or has life become a wrenching experience while you are in quest of more riches than you need?
Let's get our focus right. The "rat race" may be fine for rats, but not for people. The laying up of riches on earth or "looking out for number one" does not make for contentment or peace of mind. Jesus warns us, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Lk. 12:15). All of the experiences of this life demonstrate the eternal truth of that statement.
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 52, No. 39, Sept. 26, 2003.
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