“But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.”
(1 Timothy 6:6 NASB)
“And if we have food and covering with these we shall be content.”
(1 Timothy 6:8 NASB)
“Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
(Philippians 4:11 NASB)
In this age of the popularity of social media and the influence of advertising, it can be very challenging to live a life of contentment. The former paints the best picture of people’s lives which could promote jealousy and envy. The latter tells us that we need things that we can’t afford which could promote discontent, financial bondage, striving to amass more things and complaining. Neither of those influences lead us to happiness or fulfillment. It is what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls “vanity (futility) and striving after wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14b).
1 Timothy 6:6, quoted above is nestled in a passage that warns the readers against those who preach a different gospel that promotes intellectual pursuits that do not lead to godliness for the purpose of financial gain. Paul brings correction by saying that it is godlinessthat brings great gain when it is paired with contentment. In verse 8, he goes on to say that “If we have food and covering with this we shall be content.” He further warns that the pursuit and love of money leads to destruction and ruin and all kinds of evil. So, what does it mean to be content?”
Contentment is NOT living with things that should be and can be changed. In other words, it is not allowing things to persist that lead to the destruction of property, relationships, health, ministry, etc
True contentment requires a change in perspective. Instead of seeing life as that which happens TO us, we must see it as that which happens FOR us. Instead of seeing life as a tidal wave that overcomes us, we must see it as a wave that carries us to the next level of maturity, faith and opportunity.
Let us first define the word, “content” in its biblical context. In 1 Timothy 6:6 and 6:8, the Greek words used are similar. The first is the idea of self-satisfaction with what we have (Strongs Exhaustive Concordance). So, it could read, “Godliness actually is a means for great gain when accompanied by being satisfied with what you have.” The Greek word in 1 Timothy 6:8 is similar. It emphasizes that the necessities (food and covering) should be sufficient (Strongs). In other words, be satisfied with having your needs met rather than trying to get rich (.v.9). Instead of pursuing wealth, we are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love , perseverance and gentleness” (v. 11). Verse 17 warns the rich not to fix their hope on “the uncertainty of riches” but on God who “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.” He goes onto tell them to do good and be generous in order to lay up treasures in heaven.
The context of Philippians 4:11 required a slightly different Greek word. There Paul is making the point that though he rejoiced that the church at Philippi sent a financial gift, he was never in need of anything. The word, contentment, here meant “sufficient in one’s self” (Strongs). Verse 12 confirms that definition by stating that he has learned to live with any financial status, high or low. So, contentment is being satisfied with having your needs met and working within those means with satisfaction.
The root of contentment is gratitude. The root of discontent is ingratitude which leads to complaining and fault finding. It could also be said this way. The fruit of gratitude is contentmentand the fruit of ingratitude is discontent. This concept doesn’t just apply to possessions but also to relationships. How many marriages would be saved if people would practice the art of living a contented life? The grass is not greener on the other side. It is just that the imperfections of their situation cannot be seen from a distance. A contented life is ahappy life. It is a life of joy, peace, love and fulfillment. It is a life of “smelling the roses” and enjoying where you are each day. So, how do we achieve this life?
A life of contentment is not passive. It is active. It requires effort. There are four things one can do to live a life of contentment. It begins with focus. We must focus on the positive things in our lives rather than the negative things.This doesn’t mean we neglect the things that require improvement . We just don’t let that be our primary focus. Secondly, we must thank God for those positive things no matter how small. Verbally thank Him. It is akin to counting our blessings. The old children’s song said, “count your blessings; name them one by one.” It may be necessary to write them down. Thirdly, “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15) with a genuine heart. That will counteract jealousy and envy. Lastly, pray about everything and avoid complaining and fear talk. Pray then speak words of faith and trust concerning the situation. (Phil. 4:4-8)
As I was preparing this article, I received my own breakthrough in this area. In the last few months, I have been feeling different. I have felt dry. Life felt like more of an effort than the adventure or delight that I was accustomed. I was tired and each day felt like an uphill climb. I had learned years ago not to let my feelings dictate my disposition but life is sure easier when the feelings are partnering with the journey. It was while preparing this article that I realized what my problem was. It was my focus. We had moved into a new bigger house in August. It was a move of faith responding to God’s leading for His purposes but the house needed some work and updating. Every day, I was focused on the work that needed to be done and the problems that arose rather than the blessings of the house. It was robbing me of my joy. When the Holy Spirit revealed this to me, I began to thank God verbally for the good things about this house and rejoiced over His goodness to me and my family. Immediately, the joy returned. It was like a leaping of the Holy Spirit within me. Yes, there is still work to be done, things to be repaired and boxes to unpack. I will deal with them one by one while I rejoice in the gift that God has given us –this house and the many positive things about it.
How about you? Are you experiencing fully the joy and peace that is your inheritance in Christ in all aspects of your life? If not, check out your focus. Is it on the positive things in your circumstances? Have you been expressing gratitude for these things (1 Thess. 5:18)? Are you grateful for what you have – your spouse or your singleness, your job, your life etc.? Are you praying about what you need or are you complaining about it? Are you grateful for what God has done in your life or are you hard on yourself? Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and follow this simple command and live the contented life. It is:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:17-18)
That is the strategy for contentment in a “nut shell.” It is a command from the word not a suggestion. Obey it and you will have a contented heart and consequently a joyful heart.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your lovingkindness and patience towards me. Forgive me for the times I have focused on the negative and lacked gratitude. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Help me to see the positives in my situation and delight in them. Restore my joy. Thank you for loving me and helping me to live a life of contentment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Article Written by: Shermaine Jones