Happiness and pleasure is one thing, but to be content is a whole other thing. Much in society revolves around discontentment; advertising drives the continual desire for more and better things. However, no sooner do you get something than you’re bombarded with ideas of getting even more, hoping for greater satisfaction.
Likewise, it’s easy for discontentment to flavour our spiritual lives. The flesh continuously craves more, for better and greater. It longs for greater satisfaction with less effort and less sacrifice. Sinfulness constantly puts the Lord and His Church on review, as if mankind can evaluate God.
The apostle Paul lived in and promoted a level of contentment that challenges our modern values. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Many struggle to accept the painful things in life, never able to say they are content in them.
So, what was it that made the difference for the apostle Paul? What enabled him to possess this unnatural contentment which ruled regardless of circumstances? Paul explains the answer to Timothy in 1 Timothy chapter six.
First, Paul explained how the discontented, disgruntled, and agitated false teachers in the church live. These people presented false truth in order to distort Christian reality. They can be men or women of any age in any church as Paul describes in 1 Timothy 6:3-5. Their false beliefs lead to wrong behaviour which obviously damages others and the testimony of the Church, not to mention bringing shame to the Lord’s name. For these people, self must come first.
Second, in contrast to these false teachers, Paul tells Timothy that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). Notice what comes first, “godliness.” Now there’s a misunderstood word. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, “godliness” depicted a life of God-like character which was flavoured by God’s holiness, particularly in relation to the gospel scheme of life.
Paul explains the gospel scheme of life in Romans chapter 6. “For if we have been united with him [Christ] in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom 6:5). This resurrection is the new Christian life of living like Christ at the cost of self. Paul continues; “now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom 6:8). But how you ask? Paul answers; you “must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). Contentment begins with total surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord. The attitudes and actions that speak “I, mine, and my” are exchanged for “Christ.”
Now, 1 Timothy 6:6 says; “there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” To experience great gain, which is NOT financial profit, is personal God-like character and is to be accompanied by the decision to be content with living the life of Christ as the best expression of God’s character. This is the Christians highest priority; to allow the gospel scheme of life to be your dominating love in life at the expense of self. This is what it means to be content in Christ.
Next week we shall consider some specifics of how to live contentment in Christ. For today, I encourage you to be content in Christ. Invite Him to invade every part of your life. Explore the wonders of salvation in Christ so that your appreciation of Him will flood your mind and heart with contentment. Live it and share it.