Contentment is a wonderful dream of many. Its ideal is pictured in placid poems. This is a state of mind and heart that will be found, if other areas of the faith are followed.

With contentment there's the sense of sufficiency. We have what we need, so we're satisfied. This world can't claim to possess contentment, for it's never satisfied. You will note many of the very rich live in great debt. They have so much, yet live beyond their means. They have much, but still crave more, and more is never enough. From this, you can see that things aren't the answer to contentment. The answer to contentment is found in the inner man, not the outward man.

Contentment isn't just an ideal, it's a necessity. All humans struggle with lack of contentment. Our fallen world and nature keep a constant battle in this area. Seeing the dissatisfied attitude as a definite hazard, we need to watch for and deal with it immediately. If we let it smolder, we'll find ourselves in grave danger.

If we want to see how unsavory this dissatisfied heart is, take a gander at Israel under Moses. The story of the wilderness trek boggles the mind. Here's a whole nation who saw God's miracles of provision in answering their prayer for deliverance. He abundantly took care of them, but on every turn they spurned His care. They murmured again and again. God judged them time and again for this constant murmuring, but they never seemed to learn. In fact, they only grew harder.

This is a major area of human failure. The level of failure is almost 100%. Out of the whole nation of Israel, at the time of the Exodus, only Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb held a pretty clean record regarding this issue. Even they weren't perfect, however.

Appropriate Discontentment
Contentment's a must, but there are times when it's appropriate to be discontent:

2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.    
Psalms 142:2

1 {A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.} Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.            
Psalms 102:1

Psalms 102 is an illustration of how some areas of discontentment are appropriate. God wants us to take our cares to Him. He cares when we're suffering and listens to our cry for help.

7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.    
1 Peter 1:7

Casting our care upon Him is one thing. Complaining and murmuring is another. The one's legitimate, the other's ungrateful and fleshly.

We need to observe our behavior to see it never spills over from being legitimate to despicable.
As you look at the whole of Psalms 102, you get the understanding of how God wants us to approach Him legitimately in this issue. He doesn't reprove us for this. Consider the opposite kind of complaint, and you can quickly see what's despicable.

The 23rd Psalm
1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.    
Psalm 23

This is a very familiar Psalm. We use it for comfort in our moments of trial, which directly relates to the area of contentment.

Unfortunately, all too often we go around singing the 23rd Psalm more like this:

1. The LORD has been rather negligent in His shepherding duties lately; hasn't He noticed I need a little more. 2. I don't like this barren looking field, it sure is greener on that other hill; not to mention, it sure gets boring sitting around this monotonous creek, waiting for Him to take us someplace more thrilling. 3. You know, He just doesn't seem to be very close lately; He's always getting on me about my attitude, having those irritating sheep dogs herd me back into this field. 4. When we passed through a creepy canyon the other day, was I terrified; Oh yes, I couldn't help but see the shepherd, but would He have been there if I had slipped? I just don't see how He could have gotten to me in time. 5. Ever since I have become part of His flock, I have gained some enemies; that's to be expected, since He's the biggest shepherd around, and others want to be top instead. Still, He's always messing about with me. Just the other day, He ran me and my companions through this stinky trough filled with water, supposedly to keep the flies off. 6. I've heard that this shepherd is the best one to be with, but I just don't see that it's all I want. I don't get my way very often, is this what Heaven's going to be like?

The above version is extremely disrespectful to our loving Shepherd. However, this is the very attitude so many of His sheep have. We complain about things He sees as best for us. We would run right ahead into destruction on our own, and complain about it when we're stopped. Seeing how unsavory the attitude of the discontented sheep is, we can take a warning and determine we will walk in the straight and narrow.

The Shepherd might respond to this wayward sheep like so:

1. Dear little lamb, you don't realize how those things you keep going after will really be your undoing? You only blame me for keeping you from certain destruction. 2. You longingly bleat, looking over at that other field, and yet you don't understand. That greener grass is a different strain, that would be your death, if you feasted on it. This stream also seems boring to you, but if you were around the noisy rapids, the sounds of your predators would be easily hidden, and put you at great risk. 3. If only you would accept my leading, you would be content. You would trust my actions, even though you may not understand them. 4. Your fear is your choice. If you had faith in me, you would have no fear, for I am well able to overcome all things in the care of my sheep. 5. You do not realize what abundant care I bestow upon you. That dip I gave you will save you from maggots destroying you. You only saw it as wet and stinky. Without My care, you would surely have suffered greatly. 6. If only you would surrender your will to me, you could see how good you have it. Indeed, if you don't, you would not find Heaven a very pleasant place.

Contentment Destroyers
How do we stay on the straight and narrow in the area of contentment? We can start by looking for the elements in our hearts that destroy contentment.
Some things that destroy contentment:
    *    Complaining                                  *    Lust
    *    Conversation                                 *    Money
    *    Covetousness                                *    Worry
    *    Fear                                              *    Idleness
    *    Focus                                            *    Busyness

* Complaining
Our first contentment destroyer is complaining. It's obvious a complainer isn't a content person. This is the very opposite. To be content means to not complain.
We get into the wishing state. We wish things were some other way. 'Why do my parent's make me homeschool?' I've heard of this one. Some children have been in the public school, then are pulled out or are in some special class in the public school. They miss the social playing, and aren't so hot for a more academic atmosphere. (This isn't a problem with the majority of homeschoolers, but it does arise.) Continuing on with this point, the child allows a state of discontentment to settle in. It's not long before it encompasses them. It's all they can think about. They're really living in a state of rebellion before their parents. They may outwardly be conforming, but inwardly, they don't trust the judgment of their parents. They don't honor their parents in their heart, so there can't be contentment.
In Psalms we find a notable picture:
14 That our oxen may be strong to labour; that there be no breaking in, nor going out; that there be no complaining in our streets.    
Psalms 144:14

This is a dream that I'm sure we would all love to see. 'No complaining' a major point of which is still lacking. We won't see this until after the Second Coming, but we can do our part to make it partially a present reality. We can refrain from our own complaining. I tell you, the world notices the person who doesn't complain. They wonder, 'What's he have that keeps him so content?'

* Conversation
Second, is conversation. This is something we need to really watch. If we divert from good conversation, it can quickly turn to discontentment. Pay attention to the majority of conversations you hear through the day. You will notice there's more complaining than uplifting talk. It's for this reason the apostle Paul exhorted us:

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.            
Philippians 4:8

It's a real danger, by listening to the wrong kind of conversation, that we'll pick up that negative attitude. Walk away from the complaining group, don't join in it. If you can see any way to turn the conversation around to uplift, do it.

* Covetousness
Third, is covetousness. If we're filled with covetousness, we'll be discontent with what we have. In the state of covetousness, there's not a day of true contentment. You gain what you covet, and before long, you're dissatisfied with it. You buy a new car, and shortly after, see what you think will be an even better one. The cycle continues and you're never satisfied or content.
Paul calls us to specifically watch for this destructive tendency:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.    
1 Timothy 6:6-8

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.    
Hebrews 13:5

* Fear
Fourth, is fear. It's also obvious, if we're filled with fear, we can't be filled with contentment. Contentment is a peace of mind. This is the state God intends for us to be in (2 Timothy 1:7). It's not a state of unrest or turmoil. Refuse to deal with the fear, and contentment won't be a reality.

* Focus
Fifth, is focus. This is the focus of what we continue to keep our gaze on. If we keep looking at the world, instead of God, we won't be content.

1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 
   Colossians 3:1,2

If we have our affections (focus) on heavenly things, we'll be able to say the 23rd Psalm with the heart it was originally written with. If our affections are on the things of this world, we can't but fall into the disrespectful alternative 23rd Psalm, as the Psalm of our true heart.

For many Christians, there's the intermediate ground. They're torn between two worlds. They want heaven, but also, want this world. There's an eye problem that occurs with a faulty 'point of fixation'. Our eyes are designed to have only one small point in sharp focus. If this proper 'point of fixation' grows wider, we begin to suffer many problems from headaches to blurred vision. This is like our spiritual life. If our focus stays to the pinpoint of God, all else will work right. Our vision will be right and we won't have the headaches of discontentment. If our 'point of fixation' grows wider, we try to hold, in the center of our focus, more than God alone. At this point, we no longer really see clearly, and a condition of ill health will set in.

* Lust
Sixth, is lust. Actually, in many ways this is the same as covetousness. Our flesh craves something, anything, then discontentment begins. Some discontentments are good, they push us to strive for the object of our lust. We are told to covet spiritual things (1 Corinthians 12:31). The dangerous lust, is that which focuses on this world instead of heaven. This is again the issue of focus. We naturally have certain 'cravings' that God has made a part of us. These are legitimate. For example, we crave food so buy it, eat and satisfy the craving. This is legitimate. If we have no way of getting the food and resort to theft, this satisfies the craving without the priority of having heaven in view first. A proverb addresses this illustration:

30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; 31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. 32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.    
Proverbs 6:30-32
This passage addresses two primary areas of lusting that mans prone to. The desire for food and the sexual drive are both proper, but we can see in this passage that it becomes criminal when they exceed their proper bounds. Allowing these lusts to create an upheaval of our moral base, will uproot contentment.
Paul suffered from about everything under the sun. He suffered from deprivation of food, clothing, shelter, warmth and comfort. In all this, he never resorted to thievery to supply his wants. Instead, we find this eye-opening statement from him:

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.            
Philippians 4:11
We can see from this verse that it is possible to be content, under any circumstances.

* Money
Seventh, is money. This has been covered in various ways under other areas, such as covetousness and focus. Money is a key robber of contentment. Money doesn't gain contentment. Often, it takes it away.

* Worry
Eighth, is worry. The issue of worry violates the principals of contentment in both the area of fear and its direct relative, lack of faith. If we don't trust that our Shepherd will take care of us, we worry. With worry, there isn't contentment, for we feel we're abandoned. For worriers, the 23rd Psalm is a perfect meditation passage. Learn it and muse on it often, when worry threatens to disrupt contentment.

* Idleness
Ninth, is idleness. This is very dangerous. We see a warning of this in relation to young widows:

11 But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; 12 Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. 13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. 14 I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some are already turned aside after Satan.    
1 Timothy 5:11-15
Paul shows how idleness leads to mischief. If we sit around with nothing to do, we'll drift into discontentment. You may have noted that many who live off welfare, and watch TV all day long, complain about the government and everything else. They're filled with discontentment. God does have a place for rest, but rest should never degenerate into idleness.

* Busyness
Tenth, is busyness. The opposite of idleness can also be a contentment robber. Some people fall into the habit of incessant working. They're often proud of the fact they work so much. This is also a fault. Man isn't designed to work incessantly. God created man to rest one day in seven. When this is neglected, our bodies and minds suffer. This neglect violates God's laws of health. It will naturally result in discontentment, as we abuse His temples. Contentment can only come as we continue fellowship with God, and fulfill the responsibilities we have towards our families. A sample of what kind of responsibilities is found in Deuteronomy 6:6,7. If we're always busy, we can't be available to teach our children how God wants them to live. This busyness is certainly nothing to be proud of.

The Reality of Contentment
Having looked at the areas that destroy contentment, we can avoid them and go in the right direction.Let's start by looking at John the Baptist. His preaching was noted for his call to repentance. In the following passage, I want you to note how his call to repentance specifically nailed discontentment, in the different groups of people:

10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.    
Luke 3:10-14

In verse 11, we have to overcome our natural discontentment to be able to do as he instructed. We hold on, because we're afraid for ourselves. We may need it someday, so this fear keeps us from giving. If there was no fear of this needing, we wouldn't refuse to give to him who has none.
In verse 13, we see theft listed. Again, we steal because we're not content with what we have. We wouldn't extort people, if we were content. Finally, in verse 14, we see a common problem today, dissatisfaction with wages. The Roman soldiers were noted for their complaining about low pay. We see this problem in many unions today. It's easy to be filled with discontentment in our workplace. We can always find some cause for dissatisfaction. Our decision is whether we chose to accept that burr under our saddle, or trust in God's leading and care. This passage boils down to the point that, as John called people to abandon these discontentments in their lives, it must be possible to live like this. There has to be a way of living in a state of contentment.
Now we know this is possible, here are the directions to obtain this goal:

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;    
Philippians 2:13-15

As I've said before, God's Spirit in us is the answer. We can strive on our own, but the Christian way is to let God do the working. Verse 13 shows us it has to be God's working in us. From this ground of allowing Him to do this working in us, we move on to verse 14. Here we see contentment has to be a resting point of our walk with Him. If we don't strive to be in this abode of contentment, we'll fall under the condemnation listed in verse 15. As murmurers, we naturally fall into disputes, for things aren't going our way. Out of this discontentment, we criticize whatever is a source of discontentment. We're intolerable of imperfect actions. From this response, verse 15, we're blameworthy, harmful and calling for rebuke. We don't shine as lights and hence, bring discredit on the Gospel.

This passage is a powerhouse in my books! It tells us how to be content, and it shows the loss if we don't follow through. The goal is possible. With contentment, many sins will go, for discontentment is the root of so many sins. Gossip and mean spiritedness always have their start here. We saw John the Baptist's lists that hit extortion, and lack of compassion. We also saw the whole list of contentment destroyers.

Contentment rests in God. If we seek Him with our whole heart, He will do the work inside that places us in that contentment. Bit by bit, God will work out of us the areas of discontentment and replace them with Himself. If we keep holding onto things in our lives, the task will take excruciatingly long. We'll only become more discontent. We will go downhill and end up in an even worse state. If we keep calling upon God through this refining process, we'll rise quickly to a victorious state of peace and contentment.
He's a loving Shepherd who has a goal for His sheep. Run toward the Shepherd, not away from Him.

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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