Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Joy of Contentment--Part 1

I tend to write out of the flow of whatever God is dealing with me at the time, and for the sake of being transparent and hopefully touching at least one life, I tend to write with candor.

In this case, the issue is contentment, and I will be honest about my tendency to be seduced into pitching my tent in The Land of Discontent.
For me, The Land of Discontent includes towns such as Greed, Envy, Not Trusting God, and Pride (which is also the capital of this deceptive land). The streets beside which I have pitched my tent include I Hate My Thighs, I Hate My Arms, I'm Tired of that Color, I Want a Bigger Car (sometimes this street sign is misread as I Need a Bigger Car), and one of my long-time favorites, I Wish I Were Like Her.

I confess that this is not the first time God has dealt with me regarding a lack of contentment in my life and my dwelling in this particular sin, but it is surely one of the most intense times.
The Apostle Paul gave me and you plenty to meditate on regarding contentment. And the Holy Spirit never wastes a Scripture or an opportunity to remind us of His Truth! I will be dividing this discussion into two parts for ease of chewing.

Prayerfully consider
1 Timothy 6:6-8, which says, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 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." The middle portion is easy to comprehend and to accept. But, the first and last portions can be a bit harder to swallow.

I have been pondering the first portion: "Now godliness with contentment is great gain." In the preceding verses, Paul described certain men who regarded godliness as a means to gain. But, Paul points out the beauty of contentment coupled with godliness. Godliness is not about being "good" in God's eyes so that He can give us more of what we want or what we think we need or deserve; godliness is about being like God, imitating His character according to the grace He provides, and being content with what He, in His perfect sovereignty, sees fit to give us.

The last part of this passage,
"And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content," speaks to the importance of distinguishing true needs from deceitful wants. Granted, our world today is much, much different from the world in which Paul lived, and you may be successful in arguing that even our true needs are different these days due to various societal and familial demands. Electricity and technology have made huge differences. And yet, in some respects, our worlds are the same because human nature is the same. Recall with me that since the beginning of time as we know it, humans have been attracted to things they wanted, but not necessarily needed (Genesis 3).

Now, I have to be honest again and tell you that I often struggle with distinguishing my true needs from my deceitful wants. And not just mine, but my daughter's, as well. It is very easy for me to say to my husband (who, I must add, is a wonderfully responsible provider), "But, Jon, Claire needs a new dress for church." (Forget the fact that she already has five dresses that fit perfectly well and that make her look absolutely darling.) And if I am in a particularly challenging (uh, make that deceived) state of mind, I will add, "Don't you want your daughter to look pretty for Jesus at church?" Um, deceived much? Mercy, mercy, mercy. Praise God that He, in His infinite wisdom, gave me a husband who is much better at distinguishing our family's needs from our wants.

I think that is enough candor for now. Keep reading for Part 2!

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