Thanksgiving is upon us once again. People are preparing for a week of celebration. Around America this Thursday, millions of people will pause and give thanks. Contentment is elusive for many because they view it from the perspective of how things are going outwardly. Contentment is not a matter of outward circumstances but a state of mind, heart, and soul on the inside.
Godliness with contentment is great gain. “The word for contentment in the Scripture means a frame of mind which is completely independent of all outward things, and which carries the secret happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things.” (William Barclay)
We can only find contentment when our hearts are rooted in eternal things. The hunger for more and more, new and improved, works against real contentment. True riches are found in God. His people are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness and fight the good fight of faith.
Warren Wiersbe provides important perspective on the danger of taking what we have for granted.
“I have felt for a long time that one of the particular temptations of the maturing Christian is the danger of getting accustomed to his blessings. Like the world traveler who has been everywhere and seen everything, the maturing Christian is in danger of taking his blessings for granted and getting so accustomed to them that they fail to excite him as they once did.
Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everybody would stay up all night to behold them. We have seen the stars so often that we don’t bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
The Israelites in the wilderness got accustomed to their blessings, and God had to chasten the people (see Num. 11). God had fed the nation with heavenly manna each morning, and yet the people were getting tired of it. “But now our whole being is dried up,” they said, “there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (v. 6).
Nothing but manna! They were experiencing a miracle of God’s provision every morning; yet they were no longer excited about it. Nothing but manna!
One of the evidences that we have grown accustomed to our blessings is this spirit of criticism and complaining. Instead of thanking God for what we have, we complain about it and tell him we wish we had something else. You can be sure that if God did give us what we asked for, we would eventually complain about that. The person who has gotten accustomed to his blessing can never be satisfied.
Another evidence of this malady is the idea that others have a better situation than we do. The Israelites remembered their diet in Egypt and longed to return to the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. They were saying, “The people in Egypt are so much better off than we are!” Obviously, they had forgotten the slavery they had endured in Egypt and the terrible bondage from which God had delivered them. Slavery is a high price to pay for a change in diet. Warren Wiersbe, “God Isn’t In a Hurry,” (Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI, 1994), pp. 77-78
The book, Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick is the story of the Pilgrims coming to America in 1620. Their governor and spiritual leader here was William Bradford. We know him best for leading the first Thanksgiving. But notice how Bradford’s view of living a thankful life included having an eternal perspective:
In the winter of 1657, Bradford began to feel unwell. His health continued to decline until early May when a sudden and marvelous change came upon him. “The God of heaven so filled his mind with ineffable consolations,” Cotton Mather wrote, “that he seemed little short of Paul wrapped up unto the unutterable entertainments of paradise.” That morning Bradford told those gathered around his sick bed that, “The good Spirit of God had given him a pledge of happiness in another world and the first fruits of his eternal glory.” He died the next day.
Seek the Lord, find contentment, and joy can be yours now and eternally!