Related Resource: In depth discussion of Christian Contentment
Our English word content is derived from the Latin word contentus which means "satisfied" and in turn is derived from the verb continere which means "to hold in" or to "contain." The noun content refers to the things that are held in something. One dictionary defines content as the state of being "happy and satisfied with your life, satisfied and willing to accept a situation, and not wanting anything more or better." This etymology suggests to me the picture of our heart as a "container" which in turn begs the question
"Am I content with the content of my heart,
not wanting anything more or better?"
It has been said that man is made with a God-shaped vacuum and his heart will be filled either by God Himself (Jesus) or the things of this world (idols). In simple profundity, Jesus living and reigning in our hearts is the warp and woof of supernatural contentment. (See topic Heart)
Contentment does not depend on
what we have but on
Who we have within and on
what we have in Him.
Paul explains how he came to learn the secret of Christian Contentment:
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.
Christian Contentment is not a concept but a Person, Christ Jesus living in me (Colossians 1:27-note) and living out His life through me (Galatians 2:20-note) as I daily yield to His Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-note) flowing through me to the glory of His Father (Matthew 5:16-note).
Jeremiah Burroughs in his classic book The Rare Jewell of Christian Contentment describes contentment as that
"sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition….It is a work of the Spirit ‘indoors.’ It is a box of precious ointment, very comforting and useful for troubled hearts in times of troubled conditions….Certainly our contentment does not consist in getting the thing we desire, but in God’s fashioning our spirits to our conditions…To be well-skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian…That man or woman who is never without a contented spirit, truly can never be said to want much. Oh, the Word holds forth a way full of comfort and peace to the people of God even in this world. You may live happy lives in the midst of all the storms and tempests in the world. There is an ark that you may come into and no men in the world may live such comfortable, cheerful and contented lives as the saints of God. Oh, that we might learn this lesson.” (Amen!)
Beloved, if you are struggling in your spiritual life to mine "the rare jewel of Christian contentment" (and who isn't?), consider setting aside some time to invest in reading Burroughs' 400 year old Puritan classic, acclaimed by most writers as the best work ever penned on the subject of contentment. (See Table of Contents and reviews).
C H Spurgeon said "If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled!"
A tragic illustration of this principle is found in Ps 106:13-15-note (describing events in Nu 11:4, 31-34 where Israel was not CONTENT with MANNA but craved MEAT):
They quickly forgot His works. They did not wait for His counsel, but CRAVED INTENSELY (“greedy desires” in Nu 11:4) in the wilderness and tempted God in the desert. SO He gave them their request, but sent LEANNESS into their SOUL.
The psalmist explains that Israel’s craving tested (tempted) the LORD, because He had already given them all they needed for life (Manna), yet they were neither CONTENT nor GRATEFUL! Oh, the dire consequences of discontentment and the leanness of soul (spiritual barrenness) it brings! Indeed, Discontent is one of man’s greatest sins, while contentment is one of God’s greatest blessings! Contentment comes not from greater wealth but from fewer wants.
Contentment is more accurately a reflection of the state of a one’s heart rather than the statement of their bank account!
A W Pink writes that "Contentment is the product of a heart resting in God…It is the blessed assurance that God does all things well and is, even now, making all things work together for my ultimate good."
Thomas Watson adds that "Contentment lies within a man, in the heart and the way to be comfortable is not by having our barrels filled, but our minds quieted!"
Spurgeon comments on Ps 106 writing that whatever the meat "might do in fattening the body, it was poor stuff when it made the SOUL LEAN. If we must know scantiness (falling short of what is necessary and desirable), may God grant it may not be scantiness of SOUL: yet this is a common attendant upon worldly prosperity. When wealth grows with many a man his worldly estate is fatter, but his soul’s state is leaner."
TRUE CONTENTMENT consists not in the LARGENESS of our possessions, but in the FEWNESS of our wants. SOUL CONTENTMENT is vital to our spiritual health. Thomas Watson writes that “There is no better antidote against coveting that which is another’s than BEING CONTENT with that which is our own.” The more content we are with what God has given us, the less we crave what we don’t possess. On the other hand, the more we get the more we want. When we focus on material things, our HAVING will never catch up with our WANTING!
I am so convicted as I write this — how often I want something more or something other than what God has already generously given me! Oh, that we all might have a heart saturated with the sweetness of His sufficient provision in Christ, always confident that “God is able to make all grace abound to (us), that always HAVING ALL SUFFICIENCY IN EVERYTHING, (we) may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor 9:8-note) Paul had LEARNED the sweet SECRET OF CONTENTMENT writing “Not that I speak from want; for I have LEARNED TO BE CONTENT (word study) in whatever circumstances I am (in Jail as he wrote, so his contentment was not based on his present circumstances but the presence of his Christ, His sufficiency!). I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have LEARNED THE SECRET of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” (Php 4:11, 12-note) Having learned the SECRET OF CONTENTMENT Paul could boldly write the words which are sweet as honey to our taste “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13-note) In short, true supernaturally enabled CONTENTMENT is not self-sufficiency (as the Greek’s thought) but CHRIST-SUFFICIENCY. Have you “learned the secret?”
Spurgeon rightly says that
"contentment is one of the flowers of heaven and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us by nature. It is the new nature (Ed: And the enabling power of the Holy Spirit) alone that can produce it and even then we must be especially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us…Remember that a man’s CONTENTMENT is in his mind, not in the extent of his possessions. Alexander (the Great) with all the world at his feet, cries for another world to conquer…. But how easy it is for a man to be CONTENTED when he knows that God has promised to be with him in ALL circumstances and at ALL times"
This recalls the wonderful words of Hebrews 13:5-note where the writer encourages us to
"Let (our) character be free from the love of money, BEING CONTENT with what (we) have; FOR (See note = explains why we should be able to BE CONTENT with what we have) He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER (in Greek 5 negatives paraphrased “never, ever, no never, absolutely never”), FORSAKE YOU."
We will be CONTENT when we truly embrace the fact that we have Jesus, Who is forever ENOUGH and forever with us. This great truth is the firm foundation for great contentment – Christ in us our Hope of Glory (Col 1:27-note).
Only genuine believers can be truly, fully content, for in the final analysis, contentment is not a natural attainment but a supernatural gift from our heavenly Father to His children! To say it another way, a believer's degree of contentment in this world is a reflection of their degree of contentment regarding the world to come! The more the invisible, eternal things above grip our heart, the less will be the power of the visible, temporal things of the world to cause us discontent.
A W Tozer rightly said that “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.” A Puritan sat down to his meal and found that he had only a little bread and some water. His response was to exclaim, “What? All this and Jesus Christ too!” The truth is that when you come to the point where you realize that all you have left is Jesus, then you come to know that JESUS is all you NEED! (See 2 Cor 12:9, 10-note). dgard Farasijn's painting gives us a good depiction of what the world sees as "Human contentments." The truth is that Spirit enabled supernatural contentment is not found in the "plenty" we possess, but in the "Person," Who possesses us, our Lord Jesus Christ. This clearly begs the simple question...
IS JESUS ENOUGH FOR YOU?
Thank You great giving God, especially for the unfathomable gift of Your precious Son Jesus Who is “more than enough for all of me for every thirst and every need.” (See song below) May You grant each of us great grace, supernaturally enabling us by Your sweet Spirit to be CONTENT with what you have given us (be it in the world’s eyes a little or a lot), SO THAT we might give the world a proper opinion of (“glorify”) Your great Name and Your gracious giving character which prompted You to give Your only begotten Son to die that we might truly live. Amen
When Jesus is our sole satisfaction,
We will have true satisfaction in our soul.
All of You is MORE THAN ENOUGH for
All of me for every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is MORE THAN ENOUGH
You are my SUPPLY, my BREATH OF LIFE
Still more awesome than I know
You are my REWARD, worth living for
Still more awesome than I know
You’re my SACRIFICE of greatest price
Still more awesome than I know
You’re the COMING KING, You are EVERYTHING
Still more awesome than I know
MORE THAN ALL I WANT, MORE THAN ALL I NEED
You are MORE THAN ENOUGH for me
More than all I know, more than all I can see
YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH
Related Resource: More in depth discussion of Christian Contentment