Contentment Is a Choice

Contentment is an elusive goal. We are bombarded with advertisements designed to create dissatisfaction with our living conditions. Comparisons between our possessions, achievements, and status with those of our neighbors trigger urgent desires for upgrades and replacements. Our pile of possessions expands as though we will never have enough.

While Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s perfect world, Satan plotted to destroy paradise. What action could he take to cause the greatest harm in the shortest time? He must somehow convince Adam and Eve to rebel against the one rule God had established in Genesis 2:17 (NIV), “…you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”

Satan deceived Eve and insinuated that God’s provision for the first couple was deficient. He hinted that God was depriving the pair of being like God with the ability to discern between good and evil. Discontentment was born and Eve took the bait. Adam joined her and plunged the human race into sin.

Luke 12 relates a parable about a rich man with a big problem. His fields were producing bumper crops, and his barns and bank account could hold no more. Rather than enjoy the warmth of contentment the foolish man planned to build more space to store goods. Instead of consulting God on the best practices of stewardship the man simply added to his pile. Eternity caught him by surprise, and his wealth was forfeited.

David held few material possessions. As Jesse’s youngest son and the keeper of the family sheep David expressed contentment in Psalm 23:1 (NIV): “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” Can we share those words and mean them?  Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV), “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” We know how to pursue godliness through spiritual disciplines like praying, studying God’s Word, and serving, but how do we become contented believers? 

Paul explains the path to contentment in Philippians 4:11 (NIV), “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” God did not zap Paul, and suddenly the man emitted dazzling rays of contentment. Paul struggled through the ups and downs of his walk with God. As his heart drew closer to God Paul’s life goals and his desires changed. Recall his mission statement from Philippians 1:21 (NIV), “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Only when Jesus became Paul’s one thing could the apostle live above his circumstances and model contentment.

We learn new things by investing time in study and practice. We read and research. We capture notes and review. We ask questions of those more knowledgeable on the subject. We discuss our findings with others seeking the same knowledge. Our goal of contentment demands penetrating personal evaluation.

  • What is biblical contentment? How will I recognize it?
  • Which areas of my life reflect contentment today and which languish in the turbid waters of discontentment?
  • What Scripture passages should I memorize to fill my mind with the right stuff as Paul urges in Philippians 4:8?
  • How should I pray to foster contentment in my life?
  • What anti-contentment influences do I need to drop from my daily routine?
  • What do I own that I am not willing to leave behind for Christ?
  • Do I know any contented believers? Might I ask how they do it and learn from their struggle? 
  • Who can be my accountability partner in the quest?

Choosing contentment carries a price. Are we willing to pay? Erskine Mason (1805-1851), a Presbyterian minister, wrote, “They that deserve nothing should be content with anything…”

That’s something for sinners saved by grace to think about, isn’t it?

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