Ken Smith., President, President and Founder, Christian Stewardship Ministries
Summary: How can we overcome discontent? Pastor Smith looks at this common malady and our need to rely on God, especially in three vital areas of our lives—our personal relationships, our work situations, and in our personal finances.
Are you discontented? Dissatisfied or unhappy? Or rather, are you fulfilled? To be fulfilled is to be content. What makes us discontented? Usually our lack of fulfillment centers on our circumstances. Poor relationships, a lousy job, stretched finances or low self-esteem can lead to discontent.
We could meet these challenges by identifying them, deciding what needs to change and then establishing action steps to convert discontent into fulfillment. But the Bible offers a somewhat different solution.
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 that overcoming discontent is a matter of relying on God: ?I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.?
But how do we learn to rely on God? It is very simple. Not easy, but simple. All we have to do is find out what He wants us to do in the area where we feel discontent, and then do what He wants.
To find out what God wants, all we have to do is ask Him. All too often, when we remember to ask the Lord, we do not wait for His answer. He may be trying to tell us, but we have already gone on to something else. Or if we do listen, we usually are not willing to do what He says. We have not learned to rely on Him—to really trust Him—for the solution.
The Lord will not solve every challenge the way we would prefer, but if we do what He asks of us, we can be content. Even in the midst of disappointment, because things did not go our way, we can be fulfilled knowing that we have done what God desired. There are three common areas of discontent: relationships, work, and finances. God can bring us peace in each area.
Problems in our relationships with those closest to us can be the most painful of all. We can be dissatisfied in marriage, discontented with the bond with our children or our parents, and also disappointed in our relationships with friends and colleagues.
Finding fulfillment in relationships means turning first to God, expecting Him to resolve the problems. We must ask for His solution and wait patiently until we hear it. Then comes the hard part—doing what God requires.
Often this is as simple as asking someone for forgiveness. Nine times out of ten, that is all that is needed. The other person will bend a little, and the relationship is restored. It is not a matter of who is at fault. What matters is who will take the initiative in seeking forgiveness.
However, in the most extreme cases, the other person may not be willing to forgive. If we have asked for forgiveness and done all that God has shown us to do, then we must leave the broken relationship with the Lord.
I had to do that with someone who had once been a very close friend. I gravely offended my friend, and the relationship was broken. Soon after I became a Christian, I asked for his forgiveness, but he cursed me instead and has rebuffed my other attempts to reconcile our friendship. Now I must leave this relationship with God.
Of course, we can and should pray about broken relationships—as I do about my lost friend. Yet the results remain with God. And our contentment must rest in knowing we have done everything God wanted us to do.
2. Work situations
A few of us have jobs we would not trade for anything. But many have jobs we are not crazy about. Some have jobs we really want to leave. And a few have jobs we must escape to preserve our sanity.
To find fulfillment in our work, we must rely on God and do what He says. There are five ways God usually works.
God can supernaturally change our attitude toward a job. Or we can find aspects of the job that enable us to feel content even when the job as a whole is not fulfilling. We can find contentment through the job’s indirect benefits—things outside the day-to-day work that the job makes possible. We can seek to have the job changed. Or we can change jobs.
However, the key to fulfillment in work remains finding God’s path. This may mean taking some risks, relying on God at a deeper level than ever before, and asking questions we often do not want to ask. It could even mean being willing to risk being dismissed or quitting without knowing God’s plan for our provision.
Job contentment comes from obedience—staying where we are when God directs us to do that or being ready to move when He calls us to go.
3. Personal finances
Who does not wish they had more to spend, or less to manage? The key to contentment in personal finances is to realize that what we have is not ours, but God’s. We are stewards, and we must develop a spending plan—a budget—that recognizes the limitations of our resources and God’s priorities for our spending. Then we must commit ourselves to exercising the self-discipline to stay within the plan.
When I became a Christian, I was in debt. I had no budget. I did have great anxiety about my finances. However, I soon discovered the biblical principles of managing money and learned how to apply those principles to my situation. At this point, I no longer struggled with trying to understand what God wanted me to do differently, but whether I was willing to do what He wanted.
I chose to be obedient and trust the Lord with my financial future. I increased my giving. I stopped borrowing and using credit cards. I paid off everything I owed and began to save money. At the same time, my income increased, my spending decreased, and the balance between income and outgo gave me—and when we married, my wife Pat—maximum contentment.
In short, I am convinced that the antidote for discontent is converting areas of disobedience to God into obedience. As we seek His direction and obey His leading, the result will be contentment and fulfillment.
CSM is a ministry dedicated to assisting Christian individuals, families, ministries, and Christian-owned businesses to achieve their potential in the area of stewardship. Want to know more? Log on to www.csmin.org