I am still thinking a lot about contentment these days. I don’t think I have ever realized the importance of contentment to the health and growth of a person’s relationship with God. I was giving one of our guards a ride home a few days ago and I missed the turn. We took a different turn a long a bumpy, dirt road. We ended up picking up some of his friends who went to his church. As we came up on this small house that they lived in, I noticed a sign painted on the brick… It said, “6 But godliness with contentment is great gain” and it quoted the verse, 1 Timothy 6:6. I smiled and appreciated the reminder, especially in this poor compound that was full of broken down houses and difficult circumstances. As a family we have been memorizing Philippians and we have reached the part where it says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances.” He goes on to say, “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty, I have learned the secret of being content in any and every circumstance, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” So, I have been wrestling with why contentment is great gain, and how to learn the secret and why it is a secret. I had an insight this morning that part of being content is being thankful.
In a situation that is difficult, and which has the potential to sweep us away from being content, I realized that if you can step back and review the circumstances, and be thankful for what you do have instead of what you don’t have, it is much easier to be content. For example, we used this thankfulness idea during our bible time this morning of not being able to eat gluten. So instead of complaining about what we can’t have, we spent some time being thankful for what we could. Living in Africa, immediately we realized that just having food is a blessing. So, we could just stop there and that would immediately change our attitudes. But, what about the fact that we found out as early as we did which saved a lot of pain and damage to the intestine. We are thankful that the world is realizing gluten and so we know what we can and can’t have. I am so thankful that there are tests so my girls don’t have to be sick like I was for many of my years before I found out. And of course, that mom is such a good cook that we don’t even notice the lack of gluten. I could go on, but you get the picture. So, what could have been complaining and thus sin, we have turned into praise and thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. “ So, in striving to be content, and thus becoming thankful, we have obeyed God and his will for our lives, thus leading to godliness. Godliness with contentment is great gain. But, if you reverse it you understand that godliness without contentment is great loss. We will miss out on godliness if we aren’t content and I think this is because contentment is so much a thermometer to our spiritual lives. It measures our spirituality in a sense. If we are content, than we recognize God’s sovereignty and goodness, we have stepped back to be thankful and actualized it into our lives and we treasure and value God more than that for which we don’t have.
Contentment is living at peace. Being content is not an accident, but it is learned, practiced and experienced. A lack of contentment exposes an area of ingratitude, selfishness or a lack of trust. Contentment then is a warning light of sort, exposing areas that we have made idols for ourselves and cherished something more than God. It shows us where we have cherished something more than God, because by its absence, it shows us that we don’t think that God is enough.