We live in a world of more. More stuff, more time, more freedom and all for me. But what if God’s call for us is bigger than being comfortable and hoarding up treasures here on earth? The Bible reveals three life-changing keys to contentment, purpose and joy.
Contentment is a trending word in Christian circles these days. As the world restarts after being at a near standstill during the pandemic, people are desperate to travel, enjoy good food, attend parties and make up for all they have missed. We see it all over social media, but for many of us, our experience stops there.
The truth is that the Instagram lifestyle is not one most of us can afford. Jet-setting to Paris on a whim, tucking into a delectable buffet spread at a five-star hotel, indulging in ‘shopping therapy’ at a luxury store — the majority of us do not and cannot live that way.
But we continue scrolling, double-tapping, wishing. Soon, a little green blob with a snarky face called Envy wriggles its way into our hearts. Fleeting moments of desire quickly turn into all-consuming thoughts. And if we’re not careful, we can become very discontent with the life God has given us.
But how do we stay content when the world keeps telling us we don’t have enough?
1. We can’t be content on our own. Jesus gives us the strength to be contented.
In Philippians 4:11-13, the Apostle Paul talks about the secret to contentment: it is Christ who strengthens us. We often take verse 13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) out of context. In fact, Paul is explaining that Christ is why he can be content no matter his circumstances.
So the first step to learning contentment is to know that we can’t do it on our own. It is a liberating thought, to know that Jesus Christ is the One who makes it happen. Once we realise this, the weight will be taken off our shoulders and we can approach contentment the way God has always intended us to.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:13 NIV
2. Contentment ultimately isn’t about happiness. It’s the ability to be grateful no matter our circumstances because we have Jesus.
Interestingly, Jesus points out in Matthew 6:24 that when it comes to our hearts, the rival to God is mammon or material goods. This includes money, of course, but it encompasses materialism.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.Matthew 6:24 NKJV
The world today glorifies wealth and material comforts, and perhaps without realising it, we too have become slaves to stuff. But because we can never have enough, contentment evades us. We end up anxious about the future and dissatisfied with our lives. It is an unhappy place to live.
The solution, Jesus says, is ultimately to seek His rule in your life and live a righteous life. Why? He is our Father who already knows all of our needs and is committed to meeting them. He is offering us freedom from the burden of having to build a mountain of savings or keep up with the Joneses. Jesus is telling us how to be content.
And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.Matthew 6:30-33 NLT
Therefore, contentment isn’t really about happiness. Happiness is determined by our circumstances and situation, and the world pursues it. But it’s fleeting and momentary, because all of us go through tough times. When we are content, on the other hand, we can walk through any circumstance without bitterness.
3. We find contentment when we realise that we’re just passing through this earthly life. Eternity is what matters.
In Paul’s words to Timothy, “we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world.” The world will keep trying to pin us down to this temporary life, to instil the fear of missing out (FOMO). If we can understand that we’re just passing through this earthly, it will enable us to live more purposefully.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.1 Timothy 6:6-10 ESV
Jesus also cautions us not to store up treasures here on earth, where things break down or get stolen. Instead, our hearts should be focused on laying up treasures for eternity. What does that look like? It’s seeking God’s kingdom in our lives, obeying His leading, living righteously, defending the poor, being generous, serving others and sharing His love in whatever ways we can.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
The mark of a contented life is a grateful heart, and out of gratitude flows generosity.
How do we know we’ve discovered the secret of contentment? It’s when we live as Jesus did, with open hands. God has given us all that we need to live and be a blessing to others, through no effort of our own. When we realise that, we can be grateful. And gratitude begets generosity.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.Prov 11:25 NIV
When we are content in Christ, we can be grateful and generous because:
- We know that all we have and possess is simply because God is generous towards us
- We are no longer enslaved to money and material wealth
- We trust that our Father has committed to providing for all of our needs
- We understand that Jesus Christ strengthens us day by day
- While we wisely save for the future, there’s no need to hoard; it becomes easy to obey God’s leading to give
Let’s live in God’s kingdom, where His economy runs on obedience, surrender and generosity. As we seek to follow Christ in a world that wants more, we can rely on Him for strength to live purposefully and be content.