I’ll admit it: I sometimes struggle with discontentment. It’s why I include a prayer for contentment in my prayer list. I could be more gifted. My church could be more successful. I could have more money. We — especially those who are leaders — live in the land of more. There’s never enough.
But I recently heard Ed Stetzer say that he sometimes wished he was a simple church planter. Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism at Wheaton, a sought-after speaker, author, and pastor, sometimes wants what I have more than what he has. In some ways, my life is better (or at least simpler) than his.
On the way home from a trip recently, I sat on an airplane and typed these words into the Notes app on my phone:
I have the incredible privilege of planting a church and training church planters! And living in Liberty Village. And being married to Char.
I wrote this for a reason. I want to focus on what I’ve received rather than on the things I lack.
Ten years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be enjoying ministry so much. The work is challenging, the most challenging that I’ve done in my life. I wouldn’t call our church plant a success story, at least in the conventional sense. We’re planting in a challenging environment, and having the time of our lives. I also get to help other church planters. We’re blessed.
I could go on. I don’t deserve so many of the other blessings I enjoy. I have commentaries and Bible study tools that would be the envy of almost any pastor just a few decades ago. I can listen to the best preachers using technology that didn’t exist until recently. I have access to the leading experts in and scholars in my field. I can listen to the best live music in the world. I can travel almost anywhere within a day. I can stay at home and eat amazing food from almost any culture. I live more comfortably than the kings of centuries ago. I live better than Rockefeller did.
I have all of these and more, and I deserve nothing.
So, I’m learning to be content: content because God’s given me so much; because I deserve nothing; and content because one day I will lose the blessings I get to enjoy today.
Yes, I could rehearse all that’s wrong with my life. I have plenty of problems too. But I’m learning to be content “in whatever situation…I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12).
It’s no accident that Paul’s famous words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” come right after his statement that he’s learned to be content. It’s a promise that’s often taken out of context, because it’s about contentment.
Being content in a jail cell was a result of divine enablement. So, I’m learning, is contentment in the middle of unbelievable and undeserved blessing.
Father, forgive me for complaining when you’ve given me so much. And, by your power, teach me to be content.