Contentment Devotion: “Great Gain”

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

The whole problem with discontentment is that it is wanting what we don’t have. So, to really grasp contentment is to want nothing more than what God has already given. Then how does it fit that embracing contentment means that we gain?

The real problem with our discontent is that it is focused on the things of this life, which are destined to end. We can gain everything this world has to offer, and from an eternal perspective we are exactly as far along as the person who has gained nothing this world has to offer.

Jesus gives us a different focus. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

When our focus is on God’s kingdom, on aiming for his glory and getting to his heavenly home, then we do gain. We gain people for the kingdom. We gain peace for our souls. We gain contentment with this life, because we are focused on the next life. Heaven is ours. It is a sure thing, because of Jesus. When we stop spending time worrying about and trying to get things here, we find the peace that comes with knowing we already have everything to look forward to eternally. That’s the great gain of contentment.

Contentment Devotion: “How do we find contentment?”

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

You’ve probably seen the last sentence of that passage on a t-shirt or a meme. It’s often misquoted to mean that as long as I have Christ, there’s nothing I can’t do. Is that what Paul is saying?

Paul wrote Philippians while he was in prison. Let that sink in – a man sitting chained up in a jail cell is saying he is perfectly content. If anyone had a right to wish for something different, to wish for more possessions, a different position, better relationships, and a change in environment, it was Paul. But he was content.

Now, if in that context he had meant that with Christ there’s nothing he can’t do, he could have hulked out, broken his chains, bent the bars, and walked right out of prison. But he didn’t need to do that to be content. He had Jesus. To him, that was enough.

Is it enough for us? It might be hard, at times, to say yes, even though we desperately want to. We know we have these desires in our hearts, and we just can’t let go of them so easily. But just as Jesus strengthened Paul to say, “It’s all good,” so he can strengthen us.

Contentment Devotion: “How does discontentment affect your life?”

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)

Discontentment is a form of evil desire. Do you agree with that? Our world would say that discontentment, with a little bit of shifting the verbiage, can just be called ambition or drive. Nothing wrong with those, right?

Certainly, it’s not wrong to want to be the best you can be at something, to glorify God by pursuing excellence. But we so easily cross the line from godly ambition to sinful wanting, and the warning of Scripture is that sinful wanting always leads to sinful doing.

Even when we stop ourselves short of doing something sinful to achieve our desires, discontentment can show up in sinful worry. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6 that no one can add a single day to his or her life by worrying. Yet, when we dwell on the things we don’t have, we can worry ourselves into all kinds of emotional and relational distress.

But Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are also intended to put our worries to rest. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

God loves you more than you can ever understand or imagine. He will never leave you without something that is needed to keep you on the road to heaven. Maybe he has blessings in store for the future that you don’t have yet; but knowing that he is good, you can wait on his timing. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Contentment Devotion: “Why do we struggle with contentment?”

“What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting.” (Romans 7: 7-8a)

Where does sin come from? In general, it’s produced by our sinful nature. But why do certain sins rise up in our hearts? Where does discontentment come from? If we apply what Paul says in these verses from Romans, it isn’t a stretch to say that as soon as God’s Word says, “Be happy with what you have,” our sinful nature immediately protests, “But what I have isn’t enough!”

Mike Westendorf once said, “Awareness drives our discontent.” As soon as we know that there is something out there that we don’t have, our sinful nature takes hold and says, “Then I want to have it.” When God says, “I’ve given you everything you need,” our sinful nature suggests that since God hasn’t given us everything, he must be holding out on us.

This isn’t God’s fault. It’s ours. It belongs to our sinful nature. And our only hope for dealing with it is to take it Jesus. To admit that we feel discontentment the moment he tells us to be content, and to surrender that sin to Jesus. Let him do with it what he does with every sin – carries it up to Calvary and pays its terrible price. A God who would do that for you can’t possibly be holding out on you. And he isn’t – he has eternity waiting for you. In Jesus, God has given you everything.

Contentment Devotion: “Godliness with Contentment”

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.   For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Contentment. Those who have it scarcely think about it. Those who don’t have it wish they did, and usually think that all they need is just a little more of… something… and then they’ll have contentment.

But the whole idea of contentment is that we don’t wish we had something that we don’t. Contentment is being perfectly happy with what we have. So how do we achieve it?

The answer to the question is, like many things relating to our faith, both simple and complex. Paul’s words to Timothy make it sound so simple – “If we have food and clothing, we will be content.” Most of us have food and clothing; are we content?

Weeding through our hearts and minds to understand why we want what we don’t have certainly seems more complicated than the question, “Do I have food and clothing.” Our chronic lack of contentment might show itself in different ways for each of us. Is it the stuff you wish you had? Maybe it’s a position you hold, either at work or in your social life, and you wish you had more recognition or respect. Is it a relationship, like Rick Springfield who just wishes he had Jessie’s girl? Maybe you just wish you had a change of place.

All discontentment boils down simply to a lack of faith. If I believe God is good, then I know that whatever he has given me today is good enough for me. To wish I had more or different is to say, “God, what you’ve given me isn’t enough. It isn’t good enough. I want more.”

Whenever we experience a lack of faith, our first step is to go back to the cross. See your Savior, who was so good he gave himself up for you. Remember that if he gave that, then he won’t withhold anything good. Trusting in his goodness, you know you have forgiveness for your lack of contentment. Now, with that perspective of the cross, you can look at how God has blessed you, and how he has given you all you need.

2017 Conference Registration Now Open!

Online registration for the 2017 Men of Truth Conference, The Art of Godliness, is now open! Come and join us for a day of focusing on contentment in this life as we look to the next and register ahead as soon as you can!

Registrations are handled via Eventbrite, and there are special tickets available for MLC students (make sure to bring your student ID the day of the conference). Register online today and visit the conference pages to find out more!

Truth Devotion: “The truth will set you free”

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Freedom. It’s important to people in our culture. There have been dozens of movies about it, hundreds of songs about it (most of them country songs), and more speeches about it than anyone can count. But do you ever wonder if despite all this, people in our culture don’t really understand what freedom actually is? Is the ability to say what we want and do what we want, whatever we want whenever we want, really freedom?

Well, to most people it probably would sound like it. After all, if saying and do what we want isn’t freedom, then what is? But God in his Word begs to differ. He tells us that our hearts are deceitful and cannot be trusted, that our desires are the root of sin, and that when we do what our sinful hearts want, we make ourselves slaves to sin.

Slaves. There’s no freedom there. Being free to do and say whatever we want is not freedom at all; it’s just another form of slavery.

Jesus offers us true freedom. True freedom is knowing that the failures that haunt us ultimately have no hold over us. True freedom is knowing that the pain we feel in this life will one day be gone and forgotten. True freedom is having the ability to discern the difference between that which we want and is good for us, and that which we want and is bad for us. True freedom is having the strength to not follow desires that would be harmful to us and others. The truth Jesus gives us in his Word tells us how he has taken away our sin, tells us of the heaven that awaits us, tells us how we were meant to live, and gives us the power to live according to his will.

I knew someone once who was caught in possession of child pornography. He was arrested, and his access to the internet was taken away. Now, to the world’s definition of freedom, this man was no longer free. He could no longer do what he wanted, go where he wanted, look at what he wanted. But his assessment of the situation? “For the first time in a very long time, I finally feel free.” See, his sin had caught up with him, but he had faith in the one who truly makes him free. He saw his earthly consequences as an act of God’s grace, reclaiming him from slavery to his sin and returning him to the loving arms of his Father.

Jesus offers you the same freedom. He offers it every time he leads you to his Word. He offers it every time he puts someone in your life who speaks the truth to you. He offers it every time he confronts you with your sin and leads you to repentance. He offers it every time temptation comes your way and he gives you a way to resist. In him, you are free.

Reflect

  • Are you tempted to think of freedom in the same terms our culture defines it? Have you seen ways that exercising that “freedom” has led people into slavery?
  • Has there been a time in your life when you followed the desires of your heart, only to find yourself ultimately dissatisfied and enslaved to sin? Are you in that place right now?
  • The truth Jesus gives us in his Word is the only source of true freedom. How will you tap into that freedom and live by it today?

Truth Devotion: “Sanctify them by the truth”

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

To sanctify something is to make it holy, to set it apart for a holy purpose. God sanctified the people of Israel by setting them apart for the purpose of preserving the line of the Savior. God sanctified Jesus by setting apart from the rest of humanity, the child of a virgin and the only human being since Adam and Eve born without sin. God has sanctified his Church, the people called out of the world to be his own, through Word and Sacraments.

When I teach my catechism students what it means to be sanctified, I use the example of a chair designated for sitting and studying the Word. If I wanted a place to sit and study the Bible, where I could keep myself free of distraction and in a meditative state of mind, I might choose a chair in a corner of my house and designate it as my “Bible reading chair.” In order to preserve the sanctity of that chair, I would not put it in sight of the TV. I wouldn’t sit in it when playing a game on my phone. I wouldn’t use it as a stepstool to reach something in an up high cupboard. I would use that chair for its one purpose – a place to be in the Word. To do anything else in or with the chair would make it less than sanctified.

Okay, that’s a hypothetical example, and a little bit silly. I don’t have such a chair, and while it doesn’t sound like a bad idea, I don’t know if it’s practical in my little house to have an entire piece of furniture devoted solely to my daily devotion. But you get the point – to set something apart for a holy purpose means to keep it free from things that take away from that holy purpose.

So it is with our lives. Christ has sanctified us by his truth. He has set us apart for holiness by his truth. Through the truth that Jesus is our Savior, and through the truth that his blood cleanses us from all sin, we have been brought to faith and set apart from the rest of the world.

Since we are set apart, we live by the truth of God’s Word. When faced with a question of how we are to live, we don’t do what the world does – look to philosophy, or theory, or a blog post on the top ten ways to make your life awesome. We look to God’s Word. There we find the truth that sets us apart, and leads us to live sanctified lives, lives set apart for God’s holy purpose.

Reflect

  • In what ways does the life of a sanctified Christian look different than the lives of those around them?
  • How does it change your outlook on life to know that God has set you apart for a holy purpose?
    If God has set you apart for a holy purpose, that means he wants to accomplish things through you. How will you identify the purpose God has for you right now? How can you fulfill the mission of his Church today?