I am taking up the topic of contentment in a few articles here on the blog. In a previous post I began writing about what contentment is. This second article continues to focus on the nature of contentment and how we go about learning it.
Contentment Is Spiritual
We are staying on track if we stick with our definition of contentment: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.
It is the key for us to understand that contentment is spiritual. Through the gospel, God is working a change in his people. Part of this change that he is working is a change in how we value things.
In Romans 1 we see the ugly pattern of sin. Tragically, we appraise created things as more valuable than God himself. We believe the hollow and hissing promises of the tempter and, like our first parents, exchange God’s truth for a lie and worship and serve creation instead of God.
What does the gospel do? It unfastens us from finding our meaning, purpose and identity in created things and enables us to find it in God himself. Remember, this is the way creation was designed to work prior to sin entering the world.
Adam and Eve were discontent with God and his word. Their circumstances did not match their desires. They were not permitted to eat of the tree that they wanted to eat from. And they caved to their desires and plunged to ruin.
Now, it is important to understand this. We can define and express what sin is in a lot of ways. Sin is rebellion against God, sin is lawbreaking, sin is treason, sin is self-worship, sin is idolatry. You can nuance the language of sin to explain different facets of it. However, I wonder if you ever thought of sin in this way: Sin is discontentment. Sin is discontentment with God. It is a discontentment with God himself, his word and his gifts to us.
This is why Philippians 4:13 is so powerful: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This is a very popular verse, but it often gets hijacked from its context and quite abused. One writer noted that “it’s often used as a blank-check promise for whatever is desired. But in context, it is a verse is about contentment. It’s not about your dreams coming true or your goals being met. Rather it’s about being joyful, satisfied and steadfast even when life is hard and your circumstances seem impossible.
You see, this verse is not about winning the football game; it’s about how you respond when you lose the football game, or get injured for the season or fail to make the team altogether. It’s not about getting that new job, that new house or that new outfit; it’s about finding your satisfaction in the job you already have, in the house you already own and in the wardrobe already hanging in your closet.
This is not a verse about being empowered to change your circumstances; rather, it is a verse about relying on God’s power in order to be content in the midst of circumstances you can’t change.”
The verse is saying that we can be content—in any and every circumstance—through Christ who strengthens us! And, this is such good news.