“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…”
The Apostle Paul penned these words from prison to the followers of Christ in Philippi who needed encouragement in their faith. Stripped of any dependence on worldly things and in bondage for his one true love, the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul arduously declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” (Phil. 4:13).
Many centuries earlier, King David penned similar words: “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good thing apart from you’” (Ps. 16:2). Another version says it this way, “You are my Master! All the good things I have are from you.”
Contentment. Simplicity. Satisfaction. Oh, what a world it would be if these characteristics were present in each of our lives—if we took to heart the truthfulness that Jesus Christ really is all-sufficient! Imagine a population, a people, whose very lives were reflections of the reality that all we really need is summed up in one word: Jesus. Everything else is simply icing on the proverbial cake.
Crossway Publishers came out with a book a number of years ago entitled Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Deviating from the author’s main theme, the title reminds me of the simple, yet profound concept of contentment. All of the wealth, the friends, the success, the accomplishments we tally up as we walk through life fall like ashes to the earth when faced with the everlasting reality that Jesus alone is enough and that everything in the world is as nothing without him. Scripture even goes so far as to assert that “…by [Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth…through him and for him…he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17).
First Timothy 6:6-7 reminds us, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.”
This reminds me of a story of an elderly Puritan who sat down to dinner to find one potato and a glass of water. He looked at his meal and with immense gratitude declared, “All this, and Jesus Christ too!” He was explaining in lay person’s terms the all-sufficiency of Jesus. Whether we have one potato or a ten-course extravaganza, whether one pair of shoes or a gaggle of automobiles, whether one loved one or a plethora friends, if we know the loving person of Jesus and the saving power of his work on the cross, we have it all. We lack nothing. Nothing.
Seventeenth-century Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs said this of contentment: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” My lay-person description is this: “I am more than okay with what you have given me, God, and I couldn’t ask for more. Thanks for being so kind and generous toward me!”
As we enter into the season of Christmas, let us all be a people who are satisfied with all that we have been given—for ALL of it was created through Jesus, for Jesus, and by Jesus. So if we know this great giver, than all of it really is just icing on the cake.
“In him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:28)