A traveler was making his way down a little-used back road in Oregon when his need for gasoline drew him to a run-down service station. The owner sat outside, absorbed in the view of the wilderness that lay before him. After filling the tank, making a couple of half-interested swipes at the dirty windshield, and taking his payment, he settled back into his chair.
“How’s business?” the driver asked as he stretched his legs.
“Suits me fine. I’ve never lost enough money to quit, and I’ve never made enough for anybody to want to buy me out,” replied the owner.
In those words is a hidden message of contentment to a world (and church) that seems to be increasingly discontent.
Discontentment can set deep roots in our souls. Our discontent may be fixed in fear — a fear of our inadequacy or even God’s insufficiency. It may stem from persecution from those inside as well as outside our circle of support. Or, it may be established by patterns of pursuing personal prestige.
There are, fundamentally, two kinds of discontentment. Holy discontentment is a God-given gift of the Spirit (that’s what gives us a desire to grow spiritually). But to be wholly discontent is a God-limiting, Spirit-quenching attitude that will stunt our spiritual growth.
What is striking about the faithful ones who have gone before us is the depth of their contentment in uncomfortable circumstances.
Consider Paul: He said “I am well content.” With what? “With weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10b; cf. also Phil. 4:11-13). He was content to be weak so that Christ could demonstrate the surpassing power of His strength.
But we live in a different time — pressures are so much more intense; basic needs are so much greater, we rationalize. Oh really? Hear other words of Scripture: “And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8). Our need is food and a covering for our body and our head. Nothing more.
How can we be so content with so little? Because those who are in Christ have so much more: “Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). We can be content because we may have little materially, but we have everything spiritually. As believers we have the presence of the Father, the salvation of Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit. We have adoption as sons and fellowship with the Father, we have the intercessory and advocating work of Christ on our behalf, and we have the Spirit indwelling, filling, and producing His fruit and gifts in and through us.
Or to say it more succinctly, as believers, we have in God and His Word, all we need for life and godliness (2 Pt. 1:3). We have every reason to be content. And we have no reason for ungodly discontentment.