The Fires of Contentment
…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13 CSB)
Contentment should mark every believer in Christ Jesus. Contentment does not come from having stuff or money, it comes from finding our joy and center and fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah.
I have witnessed this kind of contentment in many of the Kaleo/Iris Missionaries I have come to know and admire over the past couple years. To watch people who are—day in and day out—so consumed with Jesus and sharing His Good News with others that they are truly content whether sleeping on the ground in a mud hut or sleeping in a fine American hotel is amazing. In fact, many of the folks I am talking about are actually more content when living amongst the poorest of the poor than they are in places of abundant luxuries…
So why is contentment such a rare reality among first-world Christians? Much of it has to do with the culture we live in, and the pull we feel to finding “contentment” in what we own or drive or can bank on. There is no worse time of the year for the exaltation of this false contentment than at Christmastime, ironically.
We are inundated with advertisements, cultural expectations, our own human guilt (or painful memories), and our very human desire to be accepted by others. The end result is to be extraordinarily busy and to try to “buy” contentment for ourselves and others with gifts—which NEVER bring the kind of contentment that God through Paul was describing above.
The irony truly abounds. We give gifts based on the actions of the Magi in bringing Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh, not realizing that the Wise Men found their contentment not in gift-giving, but rather in obedience to God—even the obedience to go home another way after a warning from the Lord in a dream.
To be honest with you, this is the rub I feel every Christmas—and it is growing as I see true Biblical contentment in the faces and hearts of people who couldn’t care less about stuff or money. The truth is, I am a product of this culture and find myself in the swirl of false contentment based on worldly stuff and pleasures much of the time. I see it, but at times, I don’t know how to exit it without actually leaving the culture all together by going to a third-world place and becoming a missionary. I have known contentment there I can’t seem to find here…
My prayer for both you and I is a growth in true Biblical CONTENTMENT which necessitates a rejection of the false contentment the world promises from the next gift received—or given. Our contentment will NEVER come from mountains of worldly stuff, but will only come from mountaintops of knowing Jesus and determining to be obedient to and content with Him regardless of our outward circumstances…!