We’ve had the privilege over the past year of getting to know a young professional baseball player. Being drafted right out of high school and sent to our town to train, his parents made sure he was established with a local church. It’s been great for the church and for my wife and me to connect with the young man in all his glory and his struggles. Needless to say, his going from high school to the professional ranks has been quite an adjustment but he is working hard and doing very well. One of the struggles that he is facing, which is really a magnified snapshot of what we all face in life, is the struggle of being content with his grasp of where he is in the professional ranks of baseball yet avoiding the complacency of not presenting a quality effort in seeking to advance.
Too many times we go from one ditch to the other on this subject. On one hand we express discontentment with our job, our lifestyle, or a myriad of other things; yet on the other hand when we know what to do to improve or change the situation we are content with doing nothing. That’s complacency!
Look what the Bible say. On one hand Paul expressed his gratitude to the church at Philippi for sharing in his needs but wanted them to know that he had learned contentment in whatever state he found himself. (Important point! Contentment is something that is learned.)
Philippians 4:10–13 (ESV) — 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 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.
As contentment is a learning process of realizing we are not in control of everything in life, so we must understand that God is in control and we must rely upon Him to strengthen us to be content, otherwise we’ll be discontent no matter what. Like our young baseball player having to be reminded daily that he is making progress and it will take some time to learn the game before he can take on a “major league” role. No wonder we are reminded that godliness is the important key and combine that with contentment, there is great gain in life, relying upon the strength and help from the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV) — 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain,
Hebrews 13:5–6 (ESV) — 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
On the other hand, our young baseball player is given instruction and motivation to make sure he does not just sit back on his laurels, but continue to strive for excellence and improvement. Those who don’t follow such a course, rather a course of complacency, the Bible calls “sluggards.”
Proverbs 24:30–34 (ESV) — 30 I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 6:6–11 (ESV) — 6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. 7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, 8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. 9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
Proverbs 10:26 (ESV) — 26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him.
Proverbs 13:4 (ESV) — 4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
Proverbs 20:4 (ESV) — 4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
Proverbs 26:16 (ESV) — 16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
Complacency is not contentment and should not be mistaken for it, although some people excuse their laziness under the banner of “learning to be content.” You can be content or be learning contentment where you are while continuing to do what needs to be done to improve yourself and your situation. The difference is the approach. If you focus on results which are out of your control, then you’ll be disappointed often. If you focus on improvement and doing your best as you rely upon God, His word, and the strength and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you’ll have a reason to be content. If you are lazy and basically doing nothing but complaining about your situation, then you’ll never find contentment.
Which of the two is demonstrated by your life – contentment or complacency?
Our young baseball player keeps saying he never wants to be satisfied but to strive for excellence, to which his very wise coaches and mentors keep reminding him that having a high standard is fine, but to also focus on areas where he has improved and succeeded. Likewise, a Christian should have very high standards and realize whatever he/she does is for the glory of God, and He is not glorified with a half-hearted effort. However, the Christian should also realize that relying upon the promises of God and finding strength in His presence will produce a sense of contentment not matter what the outcome.