There’s no question that the Bible commends contentment as a godly virtue (Phil. 4:11-12). It is a rare jewel worthy of an earnest pursuit.
But does the pursuit of contentment mean that we never reach for something more? That we never aim for something greater? That we never seek to do more, or to be more, or to better our condition? Does contentment mean that we simply accept everything as it is and become indifferent about the circumstances in our lives?
This is not what Scripture teaches.
Grace Excites Our Efforts
It is clear in Scripture that we are saved, not as a result of our good works, but on the basis of Christ’s finished work (Eph. 2:8-9). It is equally clear that we were created in Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 emphasis mine)
When genuine grace enters the soul, it produces a desire to do something for the glory of God and the good of others. And this is the opposite of complacency.
The same apostle who wrote “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11) also wrote, “but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).
Contentment is not opposed to effort. Contentment does not mean the absence of hard work. There is a way to pursue contentment, while at the same time not settling down in the lounge-chair of complacency. That way is by grace.
Charles Spurgeon put it this way:
“The assistance of divine grace is not given to us to put aside our own efforts, but to excite them. God comes to us to work in us—what? To work in us to be indifferent? Ah, no! To work in us to will with resolution and firmness. Does he work in us, having willed, to sit still? Ah, no! He works in us to do. The direct effect of the influence of grace upon the heart is to make a man active, and the more grace he has the more energetic he becomes.”
If we are not careful, we can easily hide complacency under the veil of what we call “contentment.” We relax. We slow down. We take it easy. We settle in with the rest of the world. We forget that we are pilgrims and strangers on a journey to our heavenly home. We gradually and imperceptibly become complacent, and all the while we comfort ourselves with the thought that we are “content.”
So, how can one pursue contentment without becoming complacent?
We do this by exercising the freedoms we have in Christ, namely:
The freedom to pray:
What a privilege we have in prayer! Prayer acknowledges God’s Sovereignty over all things and seeks the favor of God.
To pray is to throw off indifference and to engage our Heavenly Helper for the grace He loves to supply.
Prayer causes things to happen, because in this world God has ordained to answer prayer (Luke 11:9-13). So, when we pray, we are pursuing contentment and battling complacency (see Colossians 4:12).
The freedom to use our gifts to serve:
The Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus is littered with exhortations to awaken God’s people from apathy and to arouse in them a desire to be active in good works.
Paul exhorted Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7). God’s people are to be “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1) and to devote themselves to good works: “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)
Jesus came to redeem us from our sins and to make us alive and active in our service.
To devote yourself to good works is the opposite of complacency, and to serve others with our gifts is evidence of the grace of God (Titus 2:11-14).
The freedom to entrust the results to God:
We ask. We seek. We knock. We strive. We labor. We work. But then, we trust.
And when we trust, we en–trust the results of prayers (and our labor) to our Heavenly Father who knows what’s best for us.
There is so much need in the world and we have so little time before we will ultimately enter our heavenly home. Let us make the most of the time we do have.
With hearts content in Jesus, let us shrug off complacency. With freedom, let us devote ourselves to prayer and to good works, and may God receive all the glory for the good He accomplishes through us!