Developing Contentment

To be covetous is to be literally obsessed and driven to obtain what you do not have. When believers covet, they focus on what they do not have rather than being thankful for what God has done for them. This sin of the heart and of the mind drives an individual to want something at someone else’s expense. Proverbs 14:30 states, “Envy is a cancer in the bones.” You can tell you are slipping into covetousness when you begin to spend too much time thinking about things.

There are two negative effects of coveting. First, coveting drives people to obtain what is coveted in inappropriate, unwise, and at times illegal or immoral ways. Second, obsessing on what others have denies our faith in the Father to provide for us equally well. There is no need for a covenant child of God to ever covet because what he has done for others He will surely and gladly do for us.  All we need to do is ask instead of worrying, fretting, or coveting.

Andrew Carnegie was asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” Contentment, in contrast to covetousness, is to be satisfied with what you have. It is not laziness or a lack of ambition, but being grateful for what you have at every stage of life rather than bemoaning what maybe missing or is yet to come. Who can forget the story about a thirteen-year-old surfer named Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack? She has maintained a positive outlook on life, choosing to see her possibilities rather than the limitations that are the result of the injuries. An old rabbinic teaching says, “Who is wealthy? The one who is content with his life.”

The ability to rest contented in God is priceless. Every believer can develop contentment in his or her life by overcoming three hindrances to contentment. The first hindrance to contentment is the competitive spirit. The Bible warns us about comparing ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12). James 4:1-2 teaches that the root of strife, fights, and quarrels in the believer’s life is coveting. The key is to be the best you can and focus on yourself, rather than trying to beat the other guy.

The second hindrance is the materialistic spirit. “I saw a man who had no family, no son or brother. He always worked hard but was never satisfied with what he had” (Ecclesiastes 4:8, NCV). Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep you lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” It is interesting that this often quoted Scripture is directly tied to the concept of contentment. We don’t have to worry about stuff because God will always be there to provide for us! Materialism is trying to fill a spiritual need with something physical or material such as property, relationships, money, or even power. Many people have acquired all this and yet remain discontented, anxious, and covetous.

The last hindrance to contentment is the empty spirit. Every human heart was designed for God to dwell there. The empty spirit is a heart that is not filled with God and his word. “If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment” (Job 36:11, NIV). There is no real prosperity or contentment without a relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. The Apostle John tied well-being and health to the condition of one’s own soul (3 John 2). Paul said he learned how to be content, at rest, and at peace in any situation—the impact of the strength that only comes from walking with the Lord (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV). When the human spirit is empty, people will covet, slash, burn, steal, and manipulate to acquire what they desire. They are driven by emptiness. Fill yourself with God and there will be no room left for covetousness.

Rest in God

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exodus 20:8-9, 11, NIV).

Few concepts are as difficult to get a handle on as the Sabbath. How does the Sabbath apply to Christians today? What biblical principles for living can the believer draw from the fourth commandment?

To understand the relevance and applicability of the Sabbath for believers we must first understand what the Sabbath meant to the Hebrews. The Old Testament concept of Sabbath meant the complete stoppage of all labors to worship the Lord and reflect upon his goodness (to literally rest in God). The keeping of the Sabbath was a sign that a person was in covenant with God—to keep the Sabbath was to demonstrate your faith.

Technically, Sabbath is the cessation of activity, intermission, or rest. It is to take a break for a specific purpose and agenda—to draw close to God. The Sabbath requirement was God’s way of corralling his covenant (but not born-again) people into fellowship with him. In this sense, the Sabbath represents “sacred time,” or set aside time for God.

For believers today, the Sabbath commandment (a type of spirituality) finds its total fulfillment in the work of Jesus Christ. Paul said, “So do not let anyone make rules for you about eating and drinking or about a religious feast, a New Moon Festival, or a Sabbath day. These things were like a shadow of what was to come. But what is true and real has come and is found in Christ”(Colossians 2:16-17, NCV). Paul also explained that any future keeping of this type or shadow of Jesus is now strictly a matter of personal conscience and conviction: “In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter” (Romans 14:5, NLT).

The Scriptures teach that the true Sabbath rest is a relationship and lifestyle rather than a certain day of the week. Jesus called out to the world to come find rest in him: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:28-30, MES).The rest God promises is ultimately found in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ: “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1, NIV).

Jesus repeatedly ran into opposition from the Pharisees over his ministry activities on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not something that people were ever to serve. It was an opportunity for God’s people to enjoy complete restoration. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath. And I, the Son of Man, am master even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, NLT).Therefore, it makes perfect sense that Jesus would teach on the Sabbath, encourage on the Sabbath, make provision on the Sabbath, and heal on the Sabbath. In other words, the Sabbath rest found in our personal relationship with the Lord is for the total restoration of man, not for the codification of more religious activity.

The true, genuine rest of God on earth (only a glimpse of what waits for us in heaven) is not accessed through a certain day of the week, but through faith. We enter the rest of God by faith. The writer of Hebrews declared that the message of the gospel is of no value to those that hear but fail to combine what they hear with faith (Hebrews 4:2). Our rest on earth (and in heaven in the future) is compromised when we fail to develop and maintain the spirit of faith: “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19, NIV).