There are four things I pray for myself most every day:
1. Purity (both sexual purity and purity of motive)
I have met, and worked with, my share of frustrated, unhappy, angry, domineering leaders--but not a lot of contented leaders.
Some equate contentment with laziness, complacency and lack of ambition. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can be very content and very ambitious at the same time. Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry--yourself or God?
Over the last several months the theme of contentment has been on my mind, in my prayers and in my planning more than usual.
In some extended time with the Lord a week or so ago, I read through the book of Philippians in the Phillips Translation. In chapter four, starting with verse 10, Paul deals with contentment. These statements stood out to me: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” And, “Yes, I am quite content.” (Phillips)
I so want this for my own life and His ministry through me!
Here is what I am thinking about and praying about most days as it relates to contentment:
Who I am
This has to do with my identity in Christ. Who he has made me to be: my gifts, my capacity, my personality, my upbringing, my education. I am a composite of all of these elements—and perhaps others as well. I don’t want to be somebody else, but just want to be me. I love Romans 12:6 in The Message, “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”
My daughter Anna once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Gotta love it!
What I am
Now, I want to make an important distinction between who I am and what I am. Who I am has to do with identity whereas what I am has to do with maturity. I don’t want to be content with what I am, but desire to grow--deal with sin in my life and confess and repent when the Holy Spirit calls me out on something. I don’t want to ever fall into the trap of making excuses by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.”
Where I am
Where I am has to do with sovereignty. I believe that God is sovereign and has allowed me to be where I am. It’s too easy to say I would be doing better, be more effective or fruitful if I were somebody else or someplace else.
Acts 17:26 (ESV): “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators said, “Serve God where you are, because you can’t serve him where you aren’t.” Oh, to serve right here where I am and not be discontented or desire to be somewhere else.
What I’m doing
I want to be content with what he is allowing me to do and the opportunities he is sending my way for influence for the gospel and the kingdom. I want to begin each day with thankfulness for what lies before me and not be unhealthily desirous for something else.
I have heard many leaders say they are not happy where they are or doing what they’re doing, and are looking forward to something else, somewhere else.
Now, obviously there may come a time when the sovereign Lord of your life will give you something else to do and somewhere else to do it; but, until that happens, be content in your current situation.
What He’s doing
I can’t make someone grow or cause someone to become a Christian. I can plant and water but God makes it happen, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” ~ I Corinthians 3:5-7 (ESV).
I don’t want what someone else is has. I don’t want what God is doing through and for someone else. By his grace, I want to be content with what he is doing right now, right here, in and through me…nothing more and nothing less. I don’t want envy or jealousy, flowing out of comparing, to be a slap in the face of the one who has called me and put me where I am.
After 45 years of vocational Christian ministry I am finally starting to understand what true biblical contentment is all about. I hope it doesn’t take you that long.