What is contentment?

Straight Talk

The Question

What do you think contentment means?

Betsy from Toledo, OH.

The Answer
Part 1: Contending for contentment
Part 2: How do we battle for contentment?

Contending for contentment (Part 1)

“Contend” means to fight or battle for something and “content” means comfort, happiness and peace of mind. Only one letter difference between the two words but otherwise they share little in common. Wait a minute though; I see a way they are linked arm in arm.

In Philippians 4:11-12 Paul says; “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” He goes on to talk about the great contrasts he has lived through like being full and being hungry. Paul’s life was very contentious and he stirred up trouble nearly everywhere he went.

Remember how Paul and Silas were imprisoned because they cast a spirit out of a slave girl who was bringing fortune telling profit to her masters? Remember the riot Paul caused at Ephesus when the silversmith idol-makers were about to lose their livelihood? Remember all the synagogues Paul was thrown out of? How about all the beatings? Being left for dead? Barely living through a storm at sea and subsequent shipwreck?

Yet this is a man who talked about contentment like he had a handle on it. I think it is because he knew how to contend for it. Contentment is not passively letting life float by without caring one way or the other what happens. It is not just settling for whatever comes your way. Contentment is something that comes with a battle.

Contentment comes when you can join Paul as he says; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) If you have much or little, trouble or ease, poverty or riches, still, you look to Christ’s strength. Everything you need you get from life in him. But that attitude doesn’t come easy, does it?

How do we battle for contentment? (Part 2)

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8)

Even though we know this scripture from Timothy is true, most of us grapple with the reality of living it out. We want more than just food and clothing. Even God’s Word seems to indicate that there is more and that his desire is to bless us in every area of life.

“Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10) God greatly prospered numerous people in the Bible like Abraham, Job, and Solomon. Jesus tells us to ask and expect an answer when he says; “So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)

For those of us who live in the American culture, being content with only what we need is especially difficult. This is a consumer culture driven by advertising which excels at pushing us to believe we need more and more. There are so many choices on the shelves of our stores; there is such an abundance of goods and foods which go so far above bare necessity.

How do we contend for contentment? Jesus told us to “Seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”(Luke 12:31) The truth is that when we make that command a priority in our life, our flesh has no choice but to die or diminish and that’s when contentment is within our grasp.

Seeking God’s kingdom and seeking the world’s kingdom are going to be at odds with each other. Our flesh will pull us toward the world and our spirit will pull us toward God. Who will win? We get to choose – it’s our decision. Many times it will be a very hard decision and we will have to fight to make the right choice.

As we choose to put God first, contentment begins to make its way into us slowly but surely. Contentment removes frustration, envy, and comparisons with others blessings so it is highly prized. Contentment produces such a deep satisfaction of soul it is well worth contending for!