Pastor’s Note: The presumption of Contentment

“Just a little bit more” was John D. Rockefeller’s famous response to the question, “how much is enough.”  For the record, it’s estimated that he gave $550 million to charity (he tithed 10% to his church) over the course of his lifetime. At the time of his death, his fortune was over $1 Billion.

Test No. 1: Contentment in our Wilderness Wandering

Deuteronomy 8 is a stern warning for ‘wilderness wanderers’ through all generations (see Psalm 78; Nehemiah 9; 1 Corinthians 10 and Revelation 12).  The warning is twofold. The first warning is against the temptation to complain at the way God provides in the wilderness.  The generation of Moses put it this way, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19). In their hearts, the answer was a resounding ‘no.’  If we are honest with ourselves, in our times of testing and trial and the resulting lacks (Deuteronomy 8:2-3), we too wonder if God is really able to provide for us.  Deuteronomy 8 says, unequivocally, ‘yes He does!’  The shoes didn’t wear out; the clothes didn’t either. They lacked nothing (Deuteronomy 8:4; Nehemiah 9:21).  So this is the first test of contentment in the wilderness journey we call our walk with the Lord:  Be content in the little and in the way God chooses to provide.  These are hard but precious lessons, but He does create a table in the wilderness!

Test No. 2: Contentment in our Abundance/Promised Land

The other test, you might call it the ‘promised land’ test, is equally hard, if not harder:  Be content in the times of abundance.  “When you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 8:12-14).   Contentment is in knowing that the Lord is the source of your deliverance and of your blessing.  Moses goes on to say, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Instead, “you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:18). So contentment comes in never forgetting ‘who does what to whom’ and the remembering that times of wants and abundance are from the Lord.  He remains the source of the provision, whatever size this provision ends up being.

True Contentment in Christ

There is a yet a deeper contentment the Lord wants us to gain, one that transcends our physical needs.  The ultimate lesson comes in Deuteronomy 8:3: “that he might make you know that not by bread alone, shall man live; but by everything that comes from the mouth of God, shall man live.”  When we look in the mirror and reflect honestly, every one of us have sometimes wanted, “just a little bit more.”  We have presumed that contentment is predicated upon physical provision.  To be content in Him has a far greater reach.  The true test of contentment comes from feasting on His Word. In fact, everything that comes out of His mouth becomes the real feast in the wilderness.  Jesus as God incarnate understood this perfectly well when He countered the ‘tempter’ in the wilderness.  At the time of His great physical need, Jesus was able to say: my contentment is not found in meeting my (very real) physical need of food.  My true contentment is found in God Himself and His Word (Matthew 4:1-4; 1 Peter 1:23-25).  So whatever state we’re in, whether in want or in abundance (Philippians 4:12), we know we will always have a great table prepared for us in the wilderness of our lives, whether the faucet has been turned on with high pressure, or reduced to a mere trickle.

Reflections for the week:

The real question for either the test of abundance or want actually remains the same: Have we forgotten the Lord and His promises by focusing solely on the provision (or lack of it)? True contentment will come from feasting on His Word and His promises in the Gospel (forgiveness of sin, comfort, etc.).  The answer is a true banquet with endless supplies (listening to Him and His Word, Isaiah 55:1-2).   He has indeed spread the table in the wilderness for all us as we feast in Him, in the Living and abiding Word (1 Peter 1:23). We will have always more than enough.