In this episode, we try to answer the question: “what is contentment?” Putting our trust in people, circumstances, and things will never satisfy us. To be satisfied, we must put our trust in the things that man cannot touch. Peace, joy, and purpose come through eternal things. They are not achievable through superficial ways. We will look at the secrets of contentment and the vital role striving plays in experiencing what it means to be content.
What is contentment, would be the important question. Contentment is an interesting thing to look. Let’s look at Hebrews 13. We can have piety with and without contentment because we go to the place and do the stuff. We’re in the place right now, doing the stuff, actually, and we can do this thing in the place, doing the stuff, and still not have gain.
We want to understand what this contentment thing is, so let’s look at Hebrews 13. Let’s look at verse 5.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.
That seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? One part of contentment is, what? The stuff I have is OK. The spouse I have is OK. The children I have are OK.
You consider that stuff?
Be content with what you have. Where you are. Who you’re with. The job you’ve got. The relationships you have. The family situation you have. The material possessions you’ve got. Just be content with that. Why?
We have a helper
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”
What does that have to do with being content with the circumstances and the stuff you have?
You’ve got God.
You’ve got God! Why should that make me content? What does that do for me that I would otherwise think of my circumstances and stuff doing for me?
Man can’t touch you then.
Why can man not touch me? They can take all my stuff.
So why do I need a helper? It says The Lord is my helper; I won’t fear. What can man do to me?
He has to remind us.
He’s got to remind us. What do we usually want stuff to do and situations and circumstances?
Make us comfortable and happy.
Make us comfortable and happy, how? Because we have what we want. But what do we want? More! We want more! That doesn’t make us happy.
God says don’t count the children of Israel and don’t multiply chariots and things because you end up trusting in them. David showed a great example of walking up to Goliath without anything and trusting in the Lord, and the Lord redeemed him.
We do tend to trust in stuff, don’t we? There’s a whole system of advertising on TV that is trying to get you to put money with financial advisors because that is your security.
If you know a little bit about the stock market, you should not buy that basic notion. If you look at the history of money, there’s a cycle where money goes into complete—goes to zero and then resets. It happens when government starts spending. The first thing they do is they start debasing the basis of the currency.
What Rome did is they started they started diluting the silver and the gold with tin or with other with other metals. First it’s actual gold, and then it’s diluted gold because they’re inflating it.
If you see a dime today, it’s got little serrations on the edges, and that’s because people used to shave it on the edge to get a little of the silver off and just kind of take a little here and there, so they start putting those serrations on there so you could tell if it been shaved or not. That because there’s just a tendency for people to want to get free money.
What governments tend to do—this is all throughout history. Going back to China. What they tend to do, they first debase the basis of the currency, and then they start printing fiat money. Then the money goes to zero. It’s a very well-known cycle.
But we’re too smart to do that now.
Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that.
Trusting in money’s not really a good idea. It’s good to have money. I’m glad we all have money. But trusting in money—
How about trusting in other people? Can you really put your confidence in other people to make you happy? For one thing, they’ll die. Even if they’re trustworthy all their lives, you’re not going to be able to depend on—one of you is going first, right?
What we tend to do is put our trust in people, circumstances, things. On the one hand, when we do put our trust in there, it’s not good enough. We have to control it. We have to say, “You owe me.” We want more. All of which puts us in a position to be incredibly unhappy.
Here’s this saying. You know what? I love my spouse, and I’m really thankful I’ve got my spouse, but even if my spouse goes someday before me, I’ve got another helper. I’ve got somebody else I can depend on that’ll take her place.
I like my stuff. I love my pickup. I enjoy driving that thing so much! if it turns out someday that I don’t have my pickup, I’ll have enough. I’ll have something. I don’t know what it will be. You know how I know that? I’ve got a helper.
I’ve got enemies. I’ve got people who would like to kill me. Maybe they will at some point. Maybe they will do that.
What can man do to me? They can’t take my soul. They can’t take my life. I’m going to lose it anyway, one way or the other.
You see this attitude? Now, I don’t have to fear anymore. I can build my 401(k), happy to do it. I can build up my bank account, happy to do it. I can own stuff, happy to do it. It’s fun. But it doesn’t control me.
Why does it not control me? That’s not what I’m relying on because I have a helper.
By the way, this word helper, this comes from Psalm 118. You know what this Hebrew word is the same as?
Yes! It’s the same as “I will make a helper suitable for you.”
Ladies, you know what you’re doing when you lean into this helper role? You’re being God on earth. You are the image of God, and it’s happening when you do this.
Men, we’re supposed to be one, which means as a unit, we’re supposed to be helpers and servants because this is the image of God.
This is contentment without covetousness. Do you see the contrast here? Because what’s the tendency? It’s to look at someone else and say, “I wish my kids were like that. I wish my health was like that. I wish I was that short. Gee, I wish I had that—”
I have an acquaintance and somebody told me this. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a great story. He was looking at the Forbes 400 or whatever. Whoever was with him said he looked at it, and the bottom tier had gone up a bunch, you know, like the 400th guy’s net worth had increased a lot. He said, “Oh, I just don’t think I’m ever going to make it on here!”
If you had a chance to be on the Forbes 400, wouldn’t your life’s goal and your happiness depend on getting on that list and being published in that magazine? You look at it and say that’s kind of crazy, right? But think of the things that have made you miserable because you couldn’t get them, and aren’t they basically the same? The difference is that you don’t have a shot at that one, but you do have a shot at this one, so we tend to get miserable over it, right?
It’s sort of a pride thing too. C. S. Lewis said the biggest sin was pride. Pride is always competition and comparison to other people. If you’re really content, you cease to compare yourself to other people.
Very great, because what are we judging ourselves now?
I’m a child of God.
I just played my role, and I enjoy what I have. The crazy thing about this—let’s go back to 1 Timothy 6. The crazy thing about this is, this is the basis for enjoyment of stuff.
Contentment brings enjoyment
Look at 1 Timothy 6:17. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, prideful, comparative, nor to trust in uncertain riches—I’m always going to be OK because of this money I have. But you’re all uncertain, right. —but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
This is the real tragedy. I think there’s going to be an accounting for this. The rabbis actually say we will give an account to God for every pleasure we could have had, but didn’t. What we tend to do is go through life with all these wonderful things that we should just be enjoying like crazy, and we’re not enjoying any of them, why? Because we’re focused on comparison or focused on what we don’t have to make us happy, instead of enjoying what we do have.
The funny thing about this is when we adopt this contented attitude, it frees us up to enjoy our stuff. I mean, really enjoy our stuff!
If you have anything that’s not making you happy, please get rid of it. If you have something that’s making you miserable, just get rid of it. That’s not what it’s supposed to do. It’s supposed to be something you enjoy. Because God’s given us all things richly to enjoy.
Then, of course, one of the keys to doing that is—
Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
By sharing our stuff, we actually free ourselves up to enjoy our stuff, and we send stuff ahead.
In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, one of the keys that he says in that book is exactly what you just got through saying: The secret is subtraction, not addition. I think that’s a great way to look at it.
What does that mean, subtraction? Getting rid of things?
Quit trying to add things to your life thinking that’s going to make you content. Find ways to get rid of things, except for God.
Then you can enjoy everything.
Possessions are temporary
Well let’s go back to our 1 Timothy 6:6-7 passage. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. That’s where we started this whole thing is we want great gain.
It says, For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
Why is that important? Yeah because everything is temporary.
We tend to think of everything we own as permanent, somehow, don’t we? That’s why we clutch onto it so much.
If we can get this notion really ingrained in us that everything we have is just passing through—it’s just a matter of timing as to when it goes out of my hands, isn’t it? Which would you rather do, have the people fight over it after you’re gone or teach them how to use it profitably while you’re still here? If you think of it that way, then giving is just like attending your own probate and saying here’s how I want things done, and then shepherding the people as you go along.
I really don’t understand why people build all this stuff up and then dump it on folks that are not really prepared to use it. It mostly wrecks their lives if you just kind of look at how it tends to go.
If you have great means, start teaching them—whoever you’re going to give it to—start teaching them how to do it now. Get them engaged with being great stewards. You don’t want you don’t want to set up dependency because then they can’t learn these lessons. They’re going to depend on their trust fund or whatever.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
Let me show you this perdition word. it’s the Greek word apoleian. (I don’t know how to pronounce it.)
Look at Matthew 7:13. T his is what chasing material benefit for the purpose of having happiness will do: It gives us this apoleian, perdition. Matthew 7:13.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
It’s pretty typical for people to say that this is talking about hell. Do you think you can go to hell because you don’t treat your money well? That doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?
One of the ways you can do the wide gate—it’s pretty easy to trust in money and expect money to make you happy, isn’t it? Does it take a lot of effort to fall into that way of thinking? It’s the wide road.
What Jesus is saying to them, he starts this whole Sermon on the Mount with “and his disciples came to him, and he opened his mouth and taught them saying—” We know there are other people listening, but this is mainly to the disciples. He’s trying to teach throughout this whole thing how to have a constructive, productive life, and it starts with changing the heart on the inside.
The narrow gate is this same attitude we’re talking about of contentment. And one of the ways you can get destruction is chasing money.
You’ve seen this, haven’t you? Haven’t you seen people start accumulating possessions to the point that they just get totally miserable?
Spending money. You’re saying women like to spend money? Has anybody else noticed that? Why do women like to spend money?
Somebody asked me that the other day, and I was thinking, “It just feels good.”
They’ve actually studied this. There’s an endomorphin rush that goes with buying stuff. Men actually like it too.
What about buyer’s remorse? How does that work?
Buyer’s remorse? It’s like the DTs.
Men don’t like to buy lots of stuff; they like to buy big stuff that makes a big noise when you start it up.
The happiness usually comes from the purchasing and not the enjoyment of what you buy.
It’s a very fleeting thing.
That’s right. We should just create an industry where you can buy something and then just annul it the next day. That would be a big positive.
Look at John 17:12. It’s the same word apoleian. Because the opposite of contentment is perdition. So, dang, we keep getting these binary choices, don’t we? We always would prefer just the middle ground where we have a little bit of both, comfortable and benefit; but we don’t get that. We can either change from the inside out or have perdition.
John 17:12. While I was with them—he’s praying to his father—in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, the son of destruction. Who’s he talking about? Judas. Judas was incredibly destructive. Why was Judas destructive?
Money. He threw the money back, speaking of buyer’s remorse. Do you remember why he threw the money back? He saw he had betrayed an innocent man.
The circumstances here tell us he thought he was precipitating the revolution, which was going to be great for Israel, and he was going to profit at the same time. It was a win-win situation. He saw, “I’ve betrayed an innocent man.” Buyer’s remorse. Goes out and hangs himself.
Well, that’s pretty destructive. You think you have everything under control, and it all blows up. It’s to the point where you’re ready to kill yourself.
It’s not unusual to see people who become incredibly famous and rich destroy themselves. Isn’t that what Robin Williams just did? It’s not that unusual. Marilyn Monroe. You just start going down the list, you know? It’s not it’s not that unusual of an outcome.
2 Thessalonians 2 calls the false messiah the son of perdition as well.
I won’t go to that one since you brought it up. That’s good. You get the false prophet.
The opposite of contentment
Let’s look at Romans 9:22. Because this is what we’re embracing if we don’t take contentment. This is the alternative.
Romans 9:22. What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath—and this word prepared here’s actually the word katartizo which is a middle acting on itself word. It should be really translated “fit”—which is “fit” for destruction.
What we’re doing if we pursue these worldly things, we’re just getting stuff that’s going to burn up. We’re possessing and trusting in things that are just passing through our hands. They’re transitory.
All that ends up with just destruction, loss.
What are some things that can be destroyed by having an attitude of “these next things that I buy are going to make me happy” or trying to control our circumstances?
You burn up all your time pursuing them.
Boy, you sure can. You lose your time. You just get this one chance to know God by faith in this life, and it’s just gone. You burned it up. You don’t ever get another opportunity to know God by faith. We’ll know God by sight forevermore, but our blessing of knowing God by sight, our ability, our capacity to enjoy that is largely being set with the extent we know God by faith. And you just burned it up. You lost it. It’s gone forever. That’s certainly a huge loss.
What other? What else?
Your health. How can it mess up your health?
You’re just constantly striving for something.
You stress. Anxiety. Yeah, you can’t sleep. “What’s going to happen to me? What are they going to say tomorrow? What if I lose this 401(k) account?” or whatever. Yeah.
There are some great quotes by J. P. Morgan right before he died. He said basically that he was more miserable than he could ever imagine, and he wouldn’t wish the riches that he had on anyone.
Henry Ford said the same thing.
Did he really? Wow.
Because what is wealth, material wealth? It’s the power to do more of whatever it is you wish.
Then there’s Mr. Burns on The Simpsons that said, “I’d give it all up if I could have just a little more.”
He gets it, then, doesn’t he?
You destroy relationships. I mean there’s just destruction everywhere.
Contentment comes through striving
Let’s end with Philippians 4 because one of the things that kind of comes in here is that we started with the idea of contentment in the context of striving. We’re the ox; we’re under the yoke. We’re working really hard; we’re trying to get stuff done. And we’re supposed to be striving and content at the same time.
It turns out that contentment really comes through striving. That’s the way that works. Not striving for stuff or striving for control. But look at Philippians 4:10.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me—the Philippian church had had sent him a material gift— has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. You didn’t have the opportunity to give to me. I’m really glad you started giving to my ministry, again.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
I know how to be abased—I know how to live with nothing— and I know how to abound, which is actually the harder one. I know how to enjoy my life when I have a bunch.
Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things—What does do all things mean? Is he busy or not? “Do all things” is a busy phrase, isn’t it? What all is left out of “all things”?
Yes. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. There’s energy and power and achievement flowing through Paul’s veins, and none of it’s directed towards his material circumstances. He’s happy with whatever they are because he’s focused on the prize. He’s focused on finishing well and serving others.
Then he goes on and says nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. I had need.
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. You’re my only real, consistent support base.
For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. I’m really glad you’re doing this because you’re laying up treasure in heaven.
He ends with And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
When we serve from the heart, we can depend on our helper supplying all our needs because he’s really rich. Everything just kind of ends up backwards from the world’s way, doesn’t it? Instead of controlling, we trust. Instead of ascending ourselves, we serve. Instead of amassing possessions so that we can be indulgent and do nothing, we work our tails off. Out of that grows great riches and contentment and the ability to enjoy richly all things God’s given us. That’s the way to be rich.