Like most spiritual applications to life, we almost always need to think in terms of the opposite of how things are naturally. If we want to mature, we need to be more and more dependent upon God. The way up in life is by humbling ourselves or bowing down to God. The way to find contentment in life is by being discontent about our growth and grace and want more of knowing God and enjoying fellowship with Him. In other words, to enjoy contentment we must be discontent with our spiritual growth and maturity because to be content with that aspect of life will lead to discontentment with our lot in life. Let me explain.
Philippians 3:8–15 (ESV) — 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Consider the discontentment of Paul’s life. He was not content with relying upon his own “earned righteousness,” although in the world’s standard he would have been considered a very righteous person. Instead, he considered that as rubbish as he found contentment in suffering because he was ever discontent with his own faith and maturity as he strained to know more of Christ. That discontentment led to a contentment that saw him through every condition in life.
Philippians 4:11–13 (ESV) — 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Notice that contentment in every situation is a learned trait. If we focus upon the situation, rather than upon the One who has promised to be with us in every situation, the Lord Jesus Christ, then we’ll go through life in a state of discontentment. If we, however, take the road of Paul and face every circumstance, relying upon Christ and His strength, never being content with mediocre closeness to Him, then we’ll learn to be content no matter what happens. In other words, contentment doesn’t fall from the sky in our laps nor does it just happen. Rather, it is learned by those who are discontent with the “status quo” of their faith, wanting more of Christ and who follow the inner longing produced by the Holy Spirit to pursue after God.
1 Timothy 6:6–7 (ESV) — 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
When we seek to get more and more of life we end up discontented. When we focus on godliness we find contentment and He has given us all things necessary for that pursuit, even the call to be discontent enough to be diligent about the pursuit.
2 Peter 1:3–10 (ESV) — 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
Are you experiencing discontentment in life? It is God, Who by His grace is pursuing you to follow that discontentment all the way to your life of faith in Christ, not being satisfied with what you have learned, or your past experiences, but go full into wanting more, being diligent in your pursuit of Him daily and the result will be a contentment that only His chosen know.