This phrase is very common in our culture and cannot be more fitting for the topic in which I write about today. Contentment is defined as one who is in a state of happiness and satisfaction. Many of us would say that we are content with our lives, but I can guarantee that an analysis of our financial records will prove otherwise. Every American is in a pursuit of life, liberty and happiness–the “American Dream”. Most of us have spent our entire lives chasing after newer, bigger and better things. We need more square footage. We need more trunk space. We need more savings. We need more clothes. Every year there is a new something that replaces an old something that everyone has got to have. Though the “American Dream” was rooted deeply in the Word of God, today it is nothing more than a ticket to wealth and prosperity. Today the “American Dream” is a poison to the believer because it is a hollow and deceptive philosophy. (Colossians 2:8) and many Christian Americans have been taken captive by it and are in bondage to it. The only key that will unlock these chains is contentment in the provision of God.
Who Doesn’t Like Chick-fil-a Biscuits?
In Numbers 11 we find the Israelites 2-3 years into their journey out of Egypt . God, manifested as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, has been their guide on this journey. They have witnessed God’s power and glory repeatedly, from the parting of the Red Sea, to the water from the rock at Horeb. Not to mention, they had also witnessed God’s glory and providence in the plagues that set them free from Egypt. In all of this we find the Israelites in a state of unrest and doubt. Numbers 11:1-9 paints a picture that many of us find ourselves in. The Israelites are not happy with the way things are going and they are tired of eating manna. Now the problem wasn’t that manna tasted bad. The very description of manna in these verses reminds me of Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits. The problem that the Israelites were having was that they wanted variety. Imagine eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for two to three years. Some might even begin to sympathize with the Israelites. The problem here wasn’t a lack of faith, although they had plenty of that, the problem was that they were saying to God that His providence wasn’t sufficient enough. They were rebelling against His sovereignty and basically telling Him that He didn’t know what He was doing. All the while they begin to long for the days in which they were slaves. They would rather have variety in their food than freedom. That is a twisted way of thinking. It was this thought process that caused God’s anger to burn against the children of Israel.
Are You Content?
How many of us can relate with this story? How many of us think about the purpose and calling God has placed on our lives and reject it because we know that it will require us to give up some of the luxuries that are presumed to be a standard for living in our country. We would rather be able to go on lavish vacations and have the ability to go out and buy whatever our heart desires than live in the providence of God. We read about great men of faith like George Muller and Rich Mullins who lived completely in the providence of God and desired nothing more or less than what God intended for them, and we have a deep yearning to live like that, but when it comes down to choosing His provision over our own, we choose ours every time. Now I know that many are probably thinking, “God provided my job and the compensation that comes with it, so why can’t I enjoy the fruits of my labor?” I’m not saying that you can’t. The issue is, if you were to remain where you are at today for the rest of your life would you be content? Better yet, if you were called to have less and live contrary to the present cultural standard, would that be enough? Discontentment is out right rebellion against God’s sovereignty and the penalty is very heavy. Yes, we have been set free from the law of sin and death, therefore there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-2). However, just because God has forgiven us of our rebellion doesn’t mean there won’t be natural consequences.
Are You So Blessed It’s Coming Out Your Nose?
Jumping over to Numbers 11:16-25 we see God’s response to the cries of the Israelites. You can almost hear God in the background saying, “Be careful what you ask for my children, because you just might get it and it won’t be good.” God hears the cries of the people and He gives them what they want. The funny thing is that He doesn’t just give them a little, He gives them a lot. God promises the Israelites that He will give them so much meat that it will be coming out of their noses. I find this statement quite funny, but let me assure you, this is no laughing matter. You do not want to hear this coming from the mouth of God. Reading on in Numbers 11:31-35 we see that what the Israelites thought to be provision from God was really the wrath of God. The meat they desired became the very vessel God’s wrath. Some might be thinking, “Wow! That’s a little harsh.” It’s not harsh, because God is trying to correct the character of His people. The Israelites cried out for freedom in Egypt and now because things are a little tough they long to return to a place of suffering. It is not harsh, it is the role of a loving father. God seeks to correct the negative behaviors and characteristics of His children so that they may bring Him honor and glory. I am not saying that we can’t ask God for things. There is a difference between crying out to God in our suffering, and complaining to God out of an ungrateful heart.
The Difference Between Complaining & Seeking
In Hebrews 11:10-15 we see Moses making a pretty pointed outcry to God. The difference between Moses’ outcry and the people’s complaint is that Moses is casting His cares on God. Moses is frustrated with the situation and is running to the one who holds the universe in His hand. Moses is lodging a complaint, but it is a complaint that does not challenge the provision of God. Moses has retreated into the council of the Lord and is seeking answers to His questions. Moses is crying out in anguish for the load in which He carries is to heavy. He has grown tired and weary and is in need of renewal and hope from His heavenly father. I preached a sermon on this very thing where I looked at the mountain top experience Elijah had with God (1 Kings 19). Elijah did the same thing. He cried out to God in his weariness and sought out the giver of life. Neither of these two sought to position their desires against the will of the Father. They were confused, they were heavy burdened, but they were not challenging the authority of God. Instead of longing for the comforts of the past they both longed for death. Now this might seem negative, but it it’s not. What they are longing for is to enter into the eternal resting place where they will no longer have to feel the pain of their suffering. They are longing to be with God. We see this perfectly in Philippians 4:6-7. Paul shows us that when fear, doubt, worry and/or anxiety sets in, we become discontented with the circumstances of our life. Instead of complaining about it, we should draw closer to the one who is in control. The same idea is portrayed through the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34.
Contentment is a difficult thing to find because it requires something outside of ourselves. Left up to our own devices, we are selfish and greedy. We desire and want all the glittery things of this world. Self preservation is ingrained in us and as a result we desire to preserve ourselves from pain and suffering in any form. Even if that pain and suffering comes from the providence of our heavenly Father. The key to contentment is deeply rooted in faith. Our contentment in this world is linked to how much we trust God. We can see this to be true in the story of the Israelites. Their faith and trust in God was almost non-existent. They doubted God at every turn and therefore could not trust that God knew what He was doing and be content. Contentment is based in knowing that God is in control, not in our circumstances. If manna is what God wants you to eat then be grateful and endure. We see this in Philippians 4:11-14 where Paul lays out this very idea. Verse 13 is not a ticket to super human strength, it is a statement of trust in God’s providence and ability to provide the very things that Paul would need in order to accomplish the task set out before him.
Think about your life today, if nothing changed, would you be content? Why or why not?
“Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.”_