18 Jul True Contentment
It’s funny how a word can mean one thing to someone and a completely different thing to another. ‘Contentment’ is one such word. While the world defines contentment as being happy with what you have, to the believer it means being happy even with the things you don’t have. Another striking difference lies in the fact that while the world’s contentment is based on ephemeral things, Christian contentment stands on a firm foundation–the knowledge that I am saved by grace through faith, that Christ died on my behalf and rose again, and that because He lives I have the hope of resurrection, and the assurance that all things work together for good.
It is this foundation that allows the believer to find peace and calm even when his circumstances seem unfavourable. As Burroughs puts it, “A Christian comes to contentment not so much by way of addition as by way of subtraction.” How on earth does one find contentment through subtraction? No wonder the world feels the believer’s contentment is idiosyncratic.
Well, Paul found the secret of this when he said in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Notice that Paul didn’t make this statement at the time of his dramatic encounter with Christ. On the contrary, he says this after years of toil in the ministry, and having stared at death multiple times. God used the experience of loss to produce the fruit of contentment in Paul. Thus, Christian contentment is a grace that grows over time and it comes along with growing in Christ-likeness. It does not come naturally to the believer. It needs to be learned.
Despite being a believer in the Lord for the past 11 years, it wasn’t until November 2016 that I understood what contentment truly meant. It was at that time that my father was diagnosed with tongue cancer and my world came crashing down, or so it seemed. I do not want to delve into the details of what followed thereafter, but I can say with complete certainty that the Lord led, comforted and sustained us. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that for the child of God, suffering is a cakewalk. The burden of constant check-ups, the depressing sights that catch your eye the moment you step into a hospital, the surgery and its excruciating after-effects, the agony of watching my father spit out blood, or lose all his hair to chemotherapy. . . Yes, the pain was real. But what was far more real was the unmistakeable presence of the all-knowing, compassionate God, suffering along with us. Through songs, Scriptures and the prayers of fellow believers, it seemed as if God was shouting out to us that we need not worry and that He’s got everything under control.
I always thought I was content in the Lord because I never asked for worldly blessings. All I used to pray for was for spiritual blessings, along with good health, so that nothing would distract us from honouring and serving God. I know now how foolish I was to have asked for good health, how immature of me to have thought that I could please God most when everything went my way. As Job said, “Shall we receive only good from God and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
By God’s grace alone, my father is out of danger (at least for now) and is restored to his normal health. It seemed as if God took me and my family through this phase just to teach us that He is all that we need to be content. There are so many people suffering with all kinds of problems, but I’m thankful that I can tell them about God’s peace that passes understanding, not just because the Bible says so, but because I have experienced it first-hand.
In Colossians 1: 23, Paul encourages the church to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel”. In the very next verse, he talks about how he rejoices in his sufferings for the sake of the church. It is as if Paul is saying that rejoicing in suffering is a fruit of walking in the faith and hope of eternal life. This verse keeps me going. I’m very young now and I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I do know that He will give me the strength to bear it all, if I am steadfast in my faith.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not pray for worldly gains because these will soon disappear and will cause us to wander away from our faith (1 Tim. 6: 8-10). Instead let us not just be godly, but also be content, because godliness is great gain only when it goes along with contentment (v.6). Let us thank God because in Him is found all contentment we will ever need and let us sing with confidence, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow”. . . !