If you aren’t content with where you are now, you will not be content where you will be later. I first heard comments along these lines several years ago. It was in the context of being content in ministry and how pastor or ministers have a tendency to always look elsewhere as if it would be better. Most people, no matter their job or vocation, have the tendency to think that the grass is greener elsewhere. For the pastor, this can come in the form of numbers attending; that if they just had a certain number involved they would be content with their ministry. In other lines of work, this can come in that one promotion or position they long for, or that pay bump they desire. They say to themselves, “If I only had that, then I would be content.”
The problem here is that in both of these situations the person is looking to their circumstances and the condition they are in and relying on them to give them contentment. That will never work. Or rather I should say that will never be a lasting solution. Yes, you might be content with that new promotion… for a little bit. But before long you will be looking longingly at that next step in the corporate ladder. Yes, you might be content if your church hit that attendance point you have been aiming for. But it is not too long before that becomes the new normal and you desire to reach the next step. The first step is to realize that our contentment has to be freed from outward circumstances. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it like this in Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures: “We are living in days and times of uncertainty, and it may well be that the first and greatest lesson we may have to learn is to know how to live without allowing circumstances to affect our inner peace and joy.”
Paul says the same thing when he told Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). There is a great gain to be had when we have godliness and contentment. We are not searching for something else; rather, we realize we have what we need in God. We are not longing for something else to fulfill us – we are fulfilled by God. When we look at the word translated as content or contentment we see that it can mean sufficient, self-sufficient or self-satisfaction. This is the idea of being in a condition of life where no aid or support is needed.
Self-help books will take this and run with it. To be content they would claim you just have to realize that you are sufficient in and of yourself. All you need, they will urge, is to be confident in your completeness in yourself. This is where the world believes you can find contentment, but lasting contentment in yourself is as fleeting as looking for it in your circumstances.
Paul is saying something different. He is saying that we shouldn’t be self-sufficient but rather God-sufficient. We look to God as our satisfaction. We look to God as our completion. We look to God as the fulfillment of our longings and desires. And when we do, not only will we have godliness as we seek to live for our Father, but we will also have contentment as we know and believe that He is with us and for us.
If you want to be content take your eyes off your circumstances, take them off yourself, and put them on Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews states, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” Then we can run the race marked out for us.
Adam Kareus is the lead pastor at River Valley Community Church in Fort Smith, AR. He graduated from Denver Seminar in 2009 with his M.Div. Adam is married to Kacee, and they have two kids, Titus and Jillian.