Today’s discussion was inspired by one of our sons in law. He likes to visit us alone at times and draw from our insights and experience without the interference of other family members including his wife (our daughter) and we enjoy such bonding moments and the richness of our discussions. He quoted a parable in local yoruba language parlance that meant there was no end to aspirations to measure up with others. It was admonition by a friends father that young men should learn to be contented. That to the need to clarify the biblical idea of contentment which had arisen in my mind several times. There is an ample number of scripture references promoting desire, goal orientation, pursuit of purpose and greater blessing while others promote contentment, self restrains, and modesty with gratitude.
Abraham was described as rich in silver and gold and cattle(Genesis 13.2) while Isaac was not only great but grew until he became very great(Genesis 24.12-14). God certainly helped Jacob to acquire wealth from Laban’s substance in a supernatural way(Genesis 39). One of the most popular prayers of the Old Testament is that of Jabez who prayed that God may bless him abundantly and enlarge his territory..and God heard him and responded positively(1 chronicles 4.9-10). These examples communicate God as a source of spiritual and material blessing and also one that has no opposition to the desire for better welfare and improved living conditions. The psalmist praises God as one who lifts the needy out of their poverty and who does not forget the poor in their plight(Psalm 113.7-9, 136.23). For the poor to yearn for improved living conditions is certainly the Will of God. To live without a desire for more impact and blessing positions one at the risk of untapped potentials, mediocre living and wasted opportunities.
Contentment in it simplest meaning is to be satisfied with things as they are. That seems to suggest a sense of self sufficiency that does not desire for more on the surface but that will contradict aforementioned portions of scripture. Let us look at contentment therefore through the eyes of the Word of God. I start with John the Baptist who admonished soldiers to be so content with their pay that they do not extort money from people(Luke 3.14). That shows us that the moment desire extends to greed, covetousness and cheating of others, the bounds of contentment are broken. The Lord Jesus in Matthew 6.19-31 discussed kingdom priority as against a life of pursuit of the financial and the material. Contentment is lacking where the cares of life and of daily needs are prioritized over the kingdom of God. Wherever worry and sleepless nights are found because of what we desire, we are no longer contented. Also, loss of joy, feelings of distress about finance and material things, indicate we are out of line. A contented Christian life priorities God’s kingdom purposes and refuses to worry about material things. This attitude is not a mere discipline but a quiet confidence in our Heavenly Father’s everlasting love and care of us. Paul added to this position when he reassured that we should be content with what we have because God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us(Hebrews 13.5-6). Contentment therefore does not stop me from desiring provision in poverty, comfort in distress, increase in shortages but to be so confident in God’s providence that I do not lose sleep over it nor cut corners to acquire more.
There is a vast difference between a life focused on Kingdom purposes and one focused on materialism. A purposeful life is lived in the consciousness that it exists to fulfill a divine mandate. In the course of living according to God’s plan, a contented Christian is confident that God will pay the bills of His kingdom assignment and supply every need. I am reading ‘Treading upon the Lion’ which is a book that chronicles how the Canadian missionary ‘Tommy Titcombe’ took the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Yagba people of present day Kogi state in the early part of the 20th century and how a bicycle was a miracle provision for him and other missionaries at the time when no cars plied the dusty footpaths of Yagba land. Contentment is being confident that whether it is a bicycle that is needed to fulfill God’s mandate or an aircraft, whether it is millions or billions, God is more than able to supply. And yet, the contended is willing to deprive himself of the luxury and comfort of the same things if the plan of God requires such sacrifice. To believe a gospel that defines prosperity majorly in the light of material comfort and views an abundance of it as God’s will for every Christian in every circumstance misses the point and excludes the very sacrifices that have characterized the propagation of the gospel itself from the beginning of the church. While God wants all our needs met and we prosperous , persecutions and tribulations for the sake of the gospel may cause temporary insufficiency and yet God expects us to be contented as such times. Paul testified of his ability to weather the storms of lack due to the nature of his ministry(Philippians 4.12-13. Paul also described false teachers as seeing gain as godliness in contrast with enjoying the wealth of godliness with contentment because we brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out of it(1 Timothy 6.5-7). Gain can never be the purpose of God but rather His own glory.
I pray the Lord illuminates your heart to see that there is nothing godly about lacking the desire to fulfill your God given destiny. Nothing godly about staying where you are and refusing to reach God’s best for you and to make the impact you are to make on your generation. I pray your faith in God will soar to believe for every spiritual, human and material resource you need to accomplish your God given vision. I also pray in the same vein that God will keep you from distractions that may cause you to abandon God’s mandate for your life to chasing after material things. I pray you will live at peace, free from worry, fear and anxiety. I pray you live free from comparison and competition, free from pressure and covetousness to enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going. May you be always reminded that ‘the life of a man does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ and that ‘we brought nothing to this world and we will take nothing out of it’.