With nearly a month since Christmas and a few weeks into our New Year resolutions, it is a good time to stop and consider what, if any, lasting impact these have had on us. After Christmas people commonly ask, “Did you get all that you wanted this Christmas?” The question implies that if we did, we should be happy and content. Similarly, we make New Year resolutions hoping that these changes will make our life better. So are you more content now than you were a month ago?
Experience tells me that it is unlikely that your level of contentment has improved because contentment does not come from stuff or even life changes. While retailers tells us that their product will make us new and our trainers tell us that real change will only come if we keep our resolutions, the truth is that these will do little to provide us any real relief from our discontentment. Rather than relief, they commonly only heightens our need. If we want to be content, we need to look to Christ.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers that the only place to find meaning and hope in this life is to look to God. It is only as we see and understand who the Christ is and what he has done for us that we are able to solve this puzzle of contentment. In the gospels, Jesus repeatedly declares how great the Father’s love for us is, and knowing this sets us free from the pursuit of things. How? By knowing that, “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” (Matthew 6:32)
How would our lives be different if we lived believing this? Jesus does not mean that we are to be idol in this life, but he does mean that we do not need to be consumed with the pursuit of things to give our lives meaning. In fact, earlier on in Matthew 6 Jesus told his followers, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (19-21)
What are you pursing? Where are you looking to find contentment? Jesus says that your answer will reveal what you treasure. Unless your treasure is in the eternal things of God, your hope will be fleeting and contentment will allude you. When our greatest desire is for comfort, we will avoid anything that threatens our comfort. If it is power or prestige, then we will strive for positions that give us recognition and avoid situations that are not self-promoting. When we place our hope in these things, we are placing it in a fragile container where moths and rust can destroy and where thieves can break in and steal.
So what is the alternative? We are to look to the eternal things of God that cannot be destroyed; it is here that we will find real contentment. When our hope is in what God has done rather than in what we must do we can find absolute contentment.
Paul testifies of this to the Philippians. When Paul first went to Philippi, he was beaten and arrested without a trial. Paul and his companions faced similar opposition in many of the cities they went. Yet he tells the Philippians, “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.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
The answer to our discontentment will not come from stuff, nor from bringing change to our lives. Real hope, hope that will not disappoint us, comes only from God through Christ. He will satisfy all our needs and allow us to be content even in the places of darkness and lack. How? By revealing to us that our greatest need is to know Christ. As we accept what Jesus has done for us on the cross by faith, we not only become his child but we also become righteous thereby having all we need.