by John Reiss
CGG Weekly, August 13, 2021
"To be content doesn't mean you don't desire more; it means you're thankful for what you have and patient for what's to come."
Romans 1:20 tells us that we can learn a lot about God by what He has created. Nature, Paul tells us, testifies of the attributes and character of God, and a metaphor from nature—a tree in a forest—can help us comprehend an aspect of God's Plan.
The writer of Hebrews explains that faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Substance is made up of two parts, "sub-" and "stance," which together mean "that which stands under." In this way, faith is the foundation that provides support throughout our Christian lives.
According to Strong's Concordance, the Greek word underlying "faith," pistis (#4102), is generally a moral conviction or belief in the truth of something. For Christians, it denotes our conviction and reliance on the truth that God exists, is actively working with humanity, and will bestow eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. It derives from peithō (#3982), a verb that means "to convince by argument, to persuade, to pacify, to conciliate, to agree, to believe, to have confidence, to obey, to trust, and to yield."
We live in a world turned upside-down by increasing numbers of people rejecting absolute truth. Most cannot truly see God, but nature proclaims His faithful glory every single day. At the risk of mixing metaphors, we understand that God is our Rock, and in our calling, He has persuaded and convicted us of His reality. This belief motivates us to trust in His power and wisdom.
Not only can we be in awe of His dominion over creation, but this same creation also testifies to us that we can have faith in His unchanging and faithful character. We can count on it for our salvation, both now in this life and forever in the next.
Words fall short, but a faithful person recognizes how completely beholden we are to the heavenly Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Faith in God's future for us is so important because it involves something more than the greatest accomplishment that any man could ever devise, much less execute. Without such faith in the Most High God and all that He is, how can we even properly thank Him?
Recall the link between pistis, "faith," and peithō. An intriguing usage of peithō is "to tranquilize," which means "to make calm or still." When an animal is tranquilized, it is chemically made to calm down and lie still. Similarly, when a person comes into a state of tranquility, he is calm, composed, comfortable, and still, all agitation and stress appeased, placated, mollified, or soothed. The words' connection suggests that genuine faith produces tranquility or contentment.
A Christian can be content because his faith and trust are in the power and trustworthiness of the supreme God. Although it may not seem like it to us at times, the world is not spinning wildly out of control. With a fantastic purpose in mind, our heavenly Father has everything planned out, and He is constantly at work to guide events in the direction He desires. Moreover, He has privileged us to understand and participate with Him in His plans! As His children, He is training us to have a part in running the Family business.
Our faith, trust, or reliance on God is one of the key absolutes we need in this endeavor. It is the trunk of our metaphorical tree. If faith is the trunk of the tree, then we can imagine contentment—a state of calm, happiness, and satisfaction—as a branch coming off of the trunk. Contentment is not having an unrealistic, pollyannish, naïve view of our lives and the world around us but a confidence that God will work out everything for good in the end despite the worrying circumstances troubling us. Because we trust in the power of God, our lot is satisfactory, and we never need to fear or even doubt.
Paul sums it up well when he writes in his letter to the Philippians:
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Philippians 4:11-12)
Because God provided everything Paul needed, both physically and spiritually, he finishes his thought by declaring, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (verse 13).
According to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word for "contentment," autarkeia (Strong's #841), describes "a perfect condition in life in which no aid or support is needed." It adds that it is "a sufficiency in the necessities in life" and "a mind contented with its lot." Contentment is having a realistic point of view with an optimistic attitude about the outcome.
This perspective is more than possible if we understand that our current trials are preparing us for our eternal occupations in the Kingdom of God. Believing that God is using the often tumultuous process of sanctification to transform us into His glorious children should provide us with unparalleled serenity and excitement for our future roles in His Kingdom.
Preparation for high office is rarely easy. At times, the lives of such future leaders are very hard. But the best leaders are those who have started in the lowest positions, done the grunt work, learned the ins and outs of a business, taken their knocks, bided their time, and only then moved up to the executive floor. Our lives of trial confirm we are struggling through these lower stages right now.
We are, in a way, like Solomon. Though a prince of Israel—one of some twenty children and right about in the middle of the pack—he was a mere spare with little hope of taking the throne. Undoubtedly, one of the oldest brothers would succeed David—Amnon or Daniel or Absalom or Adonijah. Yet, his aged father ordained him to sit on the throne of Israel (I Chronicles 23:1)! It was an incredible promotion, but God knew he could do the job (see II Chronicles 1:7-12). Similarly, we were going along on our merry way, oblivious, and suddenly, God called us to be a part of His Family, to live and reign with Him in His Kingdom! He is confident that He can prepare us for an even higher position than Solomon had (Philippians 1:6).
Faith offers us assurance and confidence that He will bring His plans for us to pass. We can rely on Him—completely trust Him—regarding the outcome of our lives and be content.