Photo by Mary Holt
A Christian's Twelve Practical Principles to the Path of Contentment
Written January 2011
Listen to Rebekah discuss this article on April 13, 2012 as a guest on The John and Kathy Show, The WORD FM, Pittsburgh, PA
"Contentment requires humility, which requires a willingness to receive what He gives, to relinquish what He takes, to suffer what He sends, to do what He says and to be what He requires." Elisabeth Elliot
Learning contentment takes a bit of spiritual work. Here are few practical principles that have helped me. Everything written here is not original but is gleaned from reading and studying on the topic. I am in a continual process of living out these principles daily and can testify that these principles work, as long as they are applied.
1. Have the Right Mindset
One of the first steps of gaining true Christian contentment is to have a foundation of Salvation in Jesus Christ and to have your mind continually renewed in Him.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).
A Christian's mindset will not match the world's way of thinking, discerning or analyzing the situation or circumstances that you face. As Elisabeth Elliot said, "What the world calls "common sense" often has nothing to do with the will of God in your life."
2. Understand the Attributes of God
Delve into the scriptures and make a list of the attributes of God. Do not make your own mental "idol" of who you think God is or settle for someone else's view of the characteristics of God. Many times the accepted "portrait" of God is often cankered and propagates a false, unbiblical image. Get God's view of Himself, straight from the scriptures. To get you started with what the Bible says about God:
- God is Holy (Leviticus 19:2).
- God provides all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
- God is the All Wise Creator (Isaiah 40:28).
- God is a God of Love (1 John 3:16; John 3:16).
- God always keeps His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9).
- God (Jesus Christ) is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever (Hebrews 13:8).
- God never forsakes Christians (Isaiah 43:2).
3. Trust in the Providence of God
The Bible tells us that God will supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19). We must live in that belief. The first step is to trust that the Lord will be true to His word, to His promises and will fulfill what He says He will do. Again, understand the Biblical attributes of God and trust in the truth of His Word (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:12-15).
4. Obey the Lord
Obedience is of greater worth to the Lord than all the sacrifices or all the "wonderful things" we want to do for Him. Actually, the scriptures tell us that the Lord likens disobedience (rebellion) of His commands to the wickedness of witchcraft and stubbornness to sin and idolatry (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Only by obedience to His commands do we effectively express our love for the Lord (John 14:15; 21; 23-24). As it has been said, "It is useless to sing the praises of God if you are disobedient to your parents." Attend to the priorities that the Lord has for your life. Be sure to submit your religious aspirations, dreams, and longings to God too. It is easy to replace God with religion, "spiritual" works or what we want to achieve for Christendom (Romans 10:1-4). Live according to the word of God and He will direct your paths, open the doors and fulfill His will in your life (Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5-7; Matthew 7:7; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13).
5. Forget yourself
Forgetting yourself is one of the key principles of gaining Godliness with contentment. (1 Timothy 6:6) Everyday there are ample opportunities to apply Christ's example of taking up the cross and dying to self (Romans 12:1; Matthew 16:24). This truly is one of the hardest elements of Christianity to grasp when we are surrounded by wrong approaches (even in the Christian world) to "go with your feelings" and "build your self-esteem." The men and women of God that actually encountered the Lord or His angels were instantly aware of their inadequacy, ungodliness and, by today's standards, had "poor self esteem" but a true understanding of who they were before the holiness of God (Luke 5:8; Isaiah 6:5; Job 42:2-3;5-6; Romans 12:3). As Christians, we must daily "die" to ourselves. If we do, we will find our lives enriched and new in Christ (Philippians 1:21). We must follow His example of confessing, believing and living as being dispensable vessels to be used freely to the purposes of our Father God (John 12:25; John 6:53; Ephesians 2:10; John 5:30; Mark 14:35-36).
6. Pray for Strength to Give Away
"When you feel that you haven't strength to face the day, pray for strength to give away, it's a tonic." Elisabeth Elliot shared that serving others is the best remedy to self pity and a lack of contentment over circumstances. It works!
Seek out ways to serve (Hebrews 10:24). Pray for opportunities to serve the Lord. He will supply the means. Perhaps you can visit the elderly, the sick, help a stay-at-home mom with her children, and purchase gifts to give away (2 Corinthians 9:7; 1 Timothy 6:18). You might simply need to help your mother carry a burden. Recognize that many others are suffering too (maybe with heavier burdens) and even if they are insensitive to your sorrows, treat these people as if they were Christ (1 Th. 5:11-15). Seek to make their burdens lighter in ways that mean something to them. Allow the Lord to use you as a living encouragement to others and realize that even if such actions are never appreciated, service offered to Jesus is of great worth to Him.
"For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10; Also see Revelation 2:19).
7. Discipline Your Life
Be disciplined in your life (1 Corinthians 9:14-27). Get up early enough to read the Bible and pray before starting the day. Give God the first of your time. Rehearse the blessings of the Lord. Journalize even the smallest answered prayers. You will find it must easier to stay focused on the attributes of God by being disciplined in your Christian walk.
Discipline your emotions and recognize that many times feelings have nothing to do with the reality of the situation. You may have a bad attitude that needs to be rooted out as Oswald Chambers said, "Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking. A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral...We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won't." Make a prayerful or even written commitment with the Lord to not allow circumstances or emotions to rule your life or thought process. Implement a practice of instantly running to the Lord in prayer when self pity or discouragement or even despair lurks in your mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Do not give the devil an inch in your thoughts, for he will take a mile (Ephesians 4:27). Offer those feelings to the Lord and tell Him you are incapable of shouldering the burden. Memorize the promises of God and better still, choose to believe them (Colossians 3; Ps. 37:5; Matthew 11:29).
8. Choose Righteousness—Everyday, Every Minute
"Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1Timothy 4:15).
It is not enough to have a track record of being a "good person." Everyday you have to make the decision to obey the Lord and to choose righteousness (2 Chronicles 34:31). We are often caught off guard with new happenings in this life. Where you fail, make no excuses but repent and with humility allow the Lord to guide in redemptive efforts (1 John 1:9). Take every thought captive and bring it to the altar of the Throne of Grace. Resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7). Watch and pray (Mark 14:38).
"Pray without ceasing. Rejoice evermore. In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Th. 5:16-18).
9. Cultivate Righteousness
Cultivate righteousness in your life. A taste for righteousness does not just happen. Paul had to learn to be content (Philippians 4:11). Ask the Lord to help you to love and value what He does and to have the motivation to seek His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
Invest in Christian resources that will exhort, encourage and teach you the paths of Christ. Purchase an audio copy of the Bible on CD, Nave's Topical Bible, Unger's Bible Dictionary, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, a Greek Lexicon, or any other study resources that will support your Bible study efforts. These resources are also available for free internet use on www.biblegateway.com. There are many devotionals available that a Christian can be exhorted by: Days of Praise (ICR), Morning and Evening (Charles Spurgeon), A Lamp Unto My Feet (Elisabeth Elliot), My Utmost For His Highest (Oswald Chambers), Daily Light, etc. Ask your pastor for suggestions.
Be selective with what you read when it comes to spiritual books—not all Christian authors are equal. I have been fortified in my Christianity by such authors as Elisabeth Elliot, Oswald Chambers, and Philip Keller. Elisabeth Elliot has many priceless lectures available on CD and the CD titled "Contentment" is well worth purchasing, www.elisabethelliot.org. A Christian classic that has encouraged me in contentment is Pilgrim's Progress and Christiana, both by John Bunyan, which are also available unabridged on CD by Hark! Audio.
I have found that learning about God's amazing abilities of as a Creator and Ruler of the vast universe has given me a better understanding of how wonderful He is. Feasting on the Lord's awesome majesty brings our "troubles" into perspective. DVDS I have enjoyed include: God of Wonders, available through Institute of Creation Research, The Wonders Of God's Creation (Moody Press), The Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution and Creation Proclaims series (Biblical Discipleship Ministries), The Journey To The Edge of Creation series (Moody Press) and many others.
10. Accept Today's Portion
Amy Carmichael wisely said, "In acceptance lies peace." Accept that your present lot in life is appointed by God. It may be miserable to your taste and even undesirable, yet, remember that the Lord has allowed it (Psalm 16:5-6). Also take rest in knowing that the Lord may change your situation overnight (1 Corinthians 2:9). Live today with one foot in front of the other. Tomorrow is not here and yesterday is gone forever. Do not miss out on the blessings of today pining about the unknowns of tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).
11. Live in the Abundance
Do not wait "to live" until something good happens (Ecclesiastes 2:24). Recognize that spiritual work is not segregated from your everyday life. Any work a Christian does, that is truly offered to the Lord, is spiritual work, whether that is cleaning a toilet, changing a diaper, or sharing the gospel. Bloom where you are planted (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 25:23; Luke 16: 10-12; Mark 9:36-37; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 25:34-46).
Develop skills that will enhance your Christian walk. Practical life skills will enable you to be a servant and enjoy life. Do you know how to sew? Pray that the Lord will enable you to share that skill. Perhaps you can teach a young girl the skill that wants to learn. Are you gifted in music? Perhaps you do not need the money; however, why not learn to teach others your skill? Give away your gift from the Lord, put it to work and forget about waiting around for the "proper setting". I have heard many young women say, "Well, I don't like teaching so and so...it's no fun" or "I didn't like the kids" or "I don't have to work." Just because you do not enjoy something does not always mean you are exempt from that duty or task.
12. Sit Still My Daughter—Wait on the Lord
Scripture tells us that when we have done all, to stand and wait on the Lord (Ephesians 6:13; Psalm 40:1-3). There are times we are just going to have to wait and stay busy moving from Point A to Point B (Isaiah 40:31; Galatians 6:9). Have an eternal perspective of what God is doing. He is fashioning us to live in eternal bliss in His presence (James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:7). The scriptures tell us that He fights our battles and through Him we are conquerors (Romans 8:37). Do not lose hope or heart (Revelation 2:10). Saturate yourself in the scriptures, feast upon His promises, do what He commands, seek Him with all your heart and you will find the treasure of being content.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).
"Sit still my daughter until thou know how the matter will fall" (Ruth 3:18).
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21).