The enemy loves to work within our misunderstanding. A simple lack of clarity or a mere misconception about a particular point can create the space for him to do a lot of damage in your life.
For example, we’re supposed to be walking in joy as believers, right? But if you mistakenly equate joy to happiness, you’ll be frustrated and confused when you inevitably find that you don’t feel like smiling and skipping and singing 24/7. You may start to feel deceived, like you’ve been duped by those who speak for God, or even by God Himself. Or you may start thinking something’s wrong with your faith, that you’re not a good enough Christian because you don’t feel like you thought you were supposed to feel. You may eventually end up deeply disappointed in God and find yourself growing more and more distant from Him.
But joy isn’t happiness. It’s not a simple emotion. Joy is a spiritual disposition. It’s a rejoicing state of mind that grows from your walk in the Spirit. If you think it’s just a feeling, you’re screwed, spiritually speaking. A misunderstanding can really mess you up.
Here’s another good one for you: contentment isn’t the same as complacency. A lot of believers struggle internally because they confuse the two. They feel guilty for wanting more out of life because the Bible tells us to be content with what we have. They feel sort of ashamed that they’re not satisfied with their situation. They feel less than righteous, somehow not as spiritual because they carry some strong ambitions in their heart, some big things they want to accomplish, acquire, or achieve.
But being content doesn’t mean you don’t desire more than what you have. It doesn’t mean that you just stop at a certain point in life and don’t attempt anything greater or try to climb any higher. Being content doesn’t mean that you don’t pray and work for the things you want in life.
You can be content and motivated at the same time.
The word teaches us diligence and hard work to achieve our goals. Wisdom instructs that whatever our hands find to do, we should do with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul wrote about how he hadn’t yet attained, about how he was pushing forward to the goal that was still ahead (Philippians 2:13-14). And Jesus Himself told us about the rewards of hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness, never being satisfied with what we know (or think we know), but always seeking to go deeper in our knowledge and faith (Matthew 5:6).
The complacent person has no interest in expending the energy needed to maximize his or her potential. The content person finds satisfaction in the blessings of today, while still working toward a better tomorrow.
Don’t ever feel bad for wanting and working for more. Just learn to do it from a posture of contentment instead of a place of selfishness, pride, or greed.
Now, contentment is not exactly mankind’s default setting. We’re carnally wired to want more and more; our eyes are never satisfied. That’s why Paul said that he had learned to be content in all situations (Philippians 4:11). Whether he was on top or at the bottom. Whether he had everything or next to nothing. In any given circumstance, he had learned how to be okay, and his teacher was the Holy Spirit.
Like joy, contentment is a spiritual disposition. It’s a state of mind, a way of being. And every spiritual disposition is developed through spiritual discipline. It comes through spending time with God. Staying steadfast in prayer. Putting in work in the word. Denying your flesh through fasting. Being intentional about godly focus and godly fellowship.
The fruit of that discipline is a spirit that rests in the goodness of God and rejoices in His grace, however He decides to give it!
A contented spirit always finds something to be thankful for. When you have a lot, you thank God for the season of abundance, and you remember to honor Him as the Giver of all your gifts. And when you only have a little, you thank God for just having something. You focus on your riches in Christ and you look for the lessons to be learned in the season of lack. Contented eyes never strain to see the silver lining.
A contented spirit keeps material possessions in perspective. When you’re looking at things the right way, you know there’s nothing wrong with having and enjoying nice things, but you also realize that you can’t take them with you. It’s all going to be burnt up in the end. So you work hard and you enjoy the fruit of your labor, but you don’t let getting stuff cost you your family, your peace of mind, or your eternal soul.
A contented spirit finds its ultimate fulfillment in the sufficiency of God. That discipline that I mentioned a minute ago all comes down to your relationship with Him. He becomes your everything. He becomes your sustenance and your security, far more than anything in this world could ever be. God is enough, and as long as you’ve got Him, you’re good, no matter what else comes or goes in this life.
So dream about what’s next, but enjoy what’s now.
Ask for what you want, but appreciate what you have.
Work hard to get where you want to be, but be fully present in the place where you are.
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