“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.”

– Jeremiah Burroughs.

Contentment doesn’t come easy. I’m inundated with everything new – electronics, cars, houses,  gadgets – you name it; a constant stream of advertisements calls my name, begging me to buy the latest, which, according to the advertisers, is always the greatest and I’m the lesser for not having it.

As a result, it’s easy for thoughts of discontent to seep in when you see something newer than what you have. And advertisers seem to know the human condition well and do a good job of getting into our hearts and minds, finding ways to present each new thing as a need. You need this new phone because it has more memory, a faster processor, or a better camera. But most importantly, you need it in order to keep up with society, remaining on the cutting edge of progress, not getting left behind.

In other words, this is consumerism run amok. And buying into today’s consumeristic mindset is a sure-fire way to kill your contentment – which is hard fought and easily lost. All it takes for an advertisement to do its job is make you think three little words: I deserve that.

Deserve. A word that means a person is worthy of punishment or reward because of what they have done or who they are. A word modern society has done a good job of instilling into our minds. We are told we deserve to treat ourselves with the latest iPhone, the newest laptops, to increase the limits on our credit cards in order to keep up with the stream of new things flowing our way.

It’s easy to blame society for all our ills today. The rising number of people in a rising amount of debt can easily be blamed on our consumeristic culture. Rightly so.

But, it’s also easy to forget a culture is made up of people. We wouldn’t be in this consumeristic culture if more of us had more self-control and didn’t impulse buy so much or go into increasing amounts of debt just to say we have the latest and greatest gadgets. When we blame the culture we also implicate ourselves in some manner.

Jess and I are car shopping. Planning on downsizing from two cars to one, since mom and dad moved to Commerce. Jesse already isn’t a fan of driving and with her disability, she much prefers the passenger’s seat to the driver’s. Mom and dad are both a mile or two away, and, Lord-willing, after the renovation is finished, we’ll all be under the same roof. So we’re looking for something reliable, something I can drive into work each day but also something that will take a yearly road trip to visit family.

While looking, I began to feel the tug. I knew what we needed, but I saw other cars, more expensive, that had more and better features. If I worked more overtime, we could afford one of those upgraded vehicles.

But are those thousand-dollar features needed? Could I live without them? Do I want to work all this overtime, away from my wife, for a couple extra features I don’t need?

I admit, those questions weren’t the first to come into my mind. My first thought was yes, I need this. The Rav4 XLE is nice, but the Premium XLE has more stuff. Instead of being content with the car Jess and I already decided on, I was pulled by desire for the extra things, toward excess, more than willing to spend more time on overtime than at home if it meant driving around with more stuff. Thankfully, Jesse reminded me we don’t need to spend that extra money for those extra features. They are nice, but they’re not needed, and I don’t need to work more overtime and be away from home longer than I need to be.

Last Sunday, my pastor, David Ferguson, preached over prayer. Acts 4:23-31. In it, David mentioned how so often in the prayers we read in the Psalms and whenever most anyone prays in Scripture, they spend most of their time praising God for who he is before they ever mention themselves or their needs. And that leads into our topic today. When Christ taught his disciples how to pray, the model is to first praise God for who he is – his holiness and his being. Then for his kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When we begin to pray for us, it’s for the things we need the most: food and forgiveness.

Now, I don’t think it’s wrong to pray for a job promotion you’re up for or anything like that, but Christ’s model for prayer shows us what we pray should be, on the main, for more important things. Praising God. Desiring his kingdom. Our daily bread and need for forgiveness.

The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy in his first letter our desire to be more like Christ trumps all else, which is where our true contentment lies. “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

I am reminded to be content with what I have and to pray for things I need, not what I merely want – even if that built in seat-warmer would have felt nice in the winter. That’s why I put that quote from the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs up top. To be content as a Christian means my entire being submits to and delights in God, no matter what the circumstance.

It’s not something every Christian has. It’s not something I exhibit all that often – just ask friends and family. But it’s something that, by God’s grace, I should strive to pray for every day.

Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce  Community Church C3).

He can be reached at jhamrick777@gmail.com  

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