To Be Content
Dr. Richard Dobbins
-- Contentment is not a gift to be received but rather a lesson to be learned.
Paul makes this clear in Philippians 4:11 where he says, "In whatsoever state
I am in I have learned to be content." Notice, he did not say, "In whatsoever
state I am in, God gives me contentment."
Contentment is a spiritual discipline
to be learned. It is a product of resolving the struggles between what we want
to have and what we know God wants for us.
DISTINGUISH BETWEEN TEMPORAL
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly tells us that our
lives do not consist of the abundance of things we possess (see Matthew 6:25-34).
He is telling us that temporal things are transient and temporary. Paul reminds
Timothy, for example, that we brought nothing into the world and we will take
nothing out of the world (see 1 Timothy 6:6-8).
Whatever we have accumulated
between our birth and our death stays here. We leave our riches here; but we take
our relationships with us. Our relationships are eternal.
of material things can consume valuable time and energy and leave one with no
eternal residual of life on earth. However, when you invest in your relationships-with
God, with your spouse (if married), your children, your parents, and with the
family of God--these relationships become eternal treasures that follow us into
The difficulty comes in focusing on the eternal more than on
the temporal. As humans we are sensual beings, and the enemy knows how to make
this world exciting and appealing to the senses.
The enemy can make it
convenient for us to acquire the things that excite the senses. This is why John
warns us that we must beware of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and
the pride of life (see 1 John 2:15-17). These are the things that will distract
us from our relationship with God, keep us from investing in our family relationships,
and inevitably make fools of us.
Distinguishing between the temporal and
the eternal is the first lesson one who desires contentment must learn.
Satan knows how to appeal to our ambitions. He knows how
to fire our drives, and he feeds our desires to compete while he plays on insecurities.
We begin to think that if we had more of something we like or were in a different
position, then we would be more secure. We would have more respect if we got what
we wanted, we tell ourselves.
Whether or not ambition is godly will depend
Certainly it is godly to want to be your best for the Lord
and His kingdom. However, if competition is driving your ambition, it is likely
to be prideful. If you go back to the Bible's account of the prideful ambition
that motivated Lucifer to try to displace God (see Isaiah 14:12-14), you will
understand how that kind of prideful ambition is not good.
Paul talks about
being caught in the competitive trap of measuring ourselves by what others have
and do, and tells us that this is unwise (see 2 Corinthians 10:12).
aware of what is driving your ambition. Prideful ambition can cost you your contentment.
DEFER YOUR APPETITES
For some people, enough is never enough. When
John D. Rockefeller, Sr., one of the wealthiest men of his day, was asked how
much money it would take to satisfy a rich man, he said, "Just a little bit more."
Today, people want more and want it now. For example, young people want
to begin life with a standard of living that took their parents sometimes as much
as 30 years of working and saving to acquire.
The Bible says we should
be content with the necessities of life. Of course, some people may argue what
that level of necessity is. For some people, necessity means two cars with a three-car
garage and an acre lot, and so on. Others may see it in various other materialistic
These days keeping up with a high standard of living is extremely
difficult, yet very few people seem to be willing to lower standards of living
in order to raise the level of contentment.
Therefore, delayed gratification
is a discipline that is rapidly disappearing from our society. In its wake, a
wave of discontentment is washing over America. If you do not learn the discipline
of delayed gratification, then you can kiss contentment good-bye.
A GRATEFUL ATITUDE
When you find a contented person, you are going to find
someone who is grateful and thankful. Today, so many people feel cheated. Many
people are ungrateful for what they have and envy what others have. Some see life
as being unfair, and discontentment is the price to pay for this attitude. They
do not see things the way a content person does.
When you find a contented
person, you are going to find someone who thinks of life in terms of what they
have and who they are.
Contentment is one of the benefits that come to
a person who is thankful. When you are discontented, you are ungrateful for what
you have and you are not content being who you are. You are a very unhappy person,
and are constantly looking for someone who can make you content.
want to avoid the kind of agitation in your spirit that creates discontent, then
develop a thankful attitude for life.
The thankful person appreciates the
things that come to him or her in life. The grateful person sees whatever comes
to him or her as not because it is deserved, but rather because of the goodness
Truly thankful people appreciate all that they receive. Paul says,
"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning
you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
DISCERN THE LIMITS OF YOUR POWER
statement has helped many people put frustration aside and become more content:
Much of our frustration in life comes from attempting to control what we cannot
control and neglecting to control what we can.
What this means is that
you are not going to be content if you feel powerless or helpless. And you are
going to feel powerless, helpless, and out of control if you are not content to
recognize the limits of your power.
Much of our frustration in life comes
from believing that we have the power to control things we actually cannot control.
Many times, life's circumstances overwhelm and defy our efforts to control them.
Here are five steps you and I need to take if we are going to learn how
to be content:
1. We must learn to distinguish the temporal from the eternal.
2. We must discipline our ambitions.
3. We must learn to defer our appetites.
4. We must develop a grateful and thankful attitude toward life.
must discern the limits of our power.
If frustration, agitation, and irritation
have stolen your contentment, the God of peace wants to come to you today through
His Son, Jesus Christ. If He could calm the storms on the Sea of Galilee, then
He can bring peace to your troubled heart. Commit to Him the parts of your life
that are beyond your control.
Cast your care upon the Lord because He cares
for you. Confess your sins to Him and seek His forgiveness. Bring Him into the
troubled waters of your life and He in turn will bring you into a place of true
Dr. Richard D. Dobbins is the leader of EMERGE Ministries
of Akron, Ohio. He serves on the faculty of Ashland Theological Seminary and initiated
the coordination of their master’s program in Pastoral Counseling. An acclaimed
author, Dr. Dobbins has created numerous film/video presentations on topics of
interest to believers and has written many books, booklets, articles and audiotapes
on Christian mental health care.
Copyright 2002 Media Ministries of the
Assemblies of God. The highlights of the daily and weekly radio program, "From This Day
Forward," are a joint production of EMERGE Ministries, Akron,
Ohio, and the Media Ministries of the
Assemblies of God, Springfield, Mo.