Bible Study 3: Godliness with Contentment (Contentment - Part 1)

What is Contentment? (Part One)
Next, we look at the word, Contentment. What is Contentment? What does it mean to be content? Being a seemingly simple English word, one would think it a no brainer understanding what it portends. Really? Let’s start. The imagery the word gives is that of stillness; calmness; a state of rest or peace. This would suppose a person with an inner state of calmness, stillness, rest and/or peace.

The dictionary defines it as, “the feeling experienced when you have everything you want and you enjoy your life.” Another defines it as, “the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” The Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines it as, “Being Sufficient, Enough, Satisfied, or Adequate.” It is a peaceful satisfaction. It involves appreciating what you have and where you are in life, rather than wishing things were different.

Synonyms for contentment include, complacency; fulfillment; gratification; pleasure; satisfaction; serenity; ease; equanimity; gladness; peace; repletion; delectation; restfulness; tranquility; well-being; placidity; placidness; bliss.

Contentment is not settling for a life that does not bring joy. In fact, it is not settling at all. It is not the proverbial, “when the preferred is not available, the available is preferred.” It is built on sets of values and principles which do not change with the changing weather and/or season. For a Christian, those values and principles have their firm foundation in the word of God. [Matthew 7:24-27] “Opinions might change, but principles remain. The leaves might change, but the roots remain.” Contentment is a state of heart, an attitude that submits to God’s sovereignty and grace.

Joseph’s life illustrates what contentment is. [Genesis 37, 39-50] He was a man of like passions with us. [ref. James 5:17] He was susceptible to the same emotional roller coaster we are. He felt pain, had a sense of loss, could get anxious, fear, etc. What marked him out was his response to those stimuli (passions) and not an absence of them. [Genesis 39:7-12; 40:14-15] “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance. …Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Viktor Frankl) We too can choose to be content under any and every circumstance of life. That is if we want to grow and not be in bondage.

Joseph did not settle. He was in Egypt but never allowed Egypt in him. Even though he was in captivity, he excelled and stood out wherever he was placed. [Genesis 39:1-6, 20-23, 40:6-8] Joseph never lost sight of the God of his fathers and His promises. [Hebrews 11:22] Contentment does not mean that we face life without pain. Nor is it a means of escape. It does mean that in the midst of our affliction we are able to find peace in God’s sovereign control, melting our will into his. It is excelling in the middle of any and every situation or circumstance of life. It is “an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.” (Holman Bible Dictionary)

To have contentment in suffering, we must recognize and actively remind ourselves of the goodness of God in the midst of our affliction. God is a loving Father who cares for his children. Contentment is not being complacent or indifferent to/in our circumstances. It is refusing to be controlled by them. It is never confusing faith that we will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of our current reality, whatever they might be. (Stockdale Paradox)

Contentment is not a lack of having big dreams, setting goals, or being ambitious. [Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:23-24] There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, improve, or do better. The question is who is controlling who? Are your desires controlling you, or are you having them submitted to the cross? [Matthew 10:37-39] Contentment is the act of enjoying every step of the journey. It is always living in and enjoying the now of life. It is taking and applying the lessons of yesterday, and having a positive audacious outlook for the future, but always ever living in the present moment. It is finding peace in the present, irrespective of what that present might be.

Contentment is refusing to resent. [Genesis 50:19-20] The choice is between living in contentment or in resentment. Resent or regret is a powerful emotion, and if not careful, it can consume your thoughts, energy, and time. And, become an idol all on its own. Contentment is choosing not to live a life of regrets. There is nothing we can do to change yesterday. It is what it is, irrespective of what it is. What we can do though is to decide the way we look at it. We can choose how we interpret it. We can choose how it affects us. We can choose to interpret it in a way that keeps us in the freedom of contentment or in the bondage of resentment. The choice is ours to make. What are you choosing?

Feel free to share your thoughts. Part 2 to follow…

Links to "Godliness with Contentment" Bible Study Series:
Bible Study 2: Godliness with Contentment (Godliness)
Bible Study 4: Godliness with Contentment (Contentment - Part 2)

Link to Related Articles:
Contentment is the Mark

Books for Further Study:

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