The Bible teaches us to “be content with such things as ye have” (Heb. 13:5), and instructs us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Still human nature, personal desires, and popular culture can make contentment a huge challenge. Even the Apostle Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11). He LEARNED! In this special interview, we explore some of the secrets to contentment. Watch the full interview or read the transcript below!
What does it mean to be content?
When you talk about being content, you should think of the word content — like a glass, or something that holds something together. When you think about content you’re thinking of that thing being filled up with something (ex. water, pop, milk) and therefore you have satisfied the level you’re trying to reach because of the content. It’s not just filled, but what is it filled with it? That makes me content, satisfied, not looking for excess or something more.
What usually keeps people from being content?
Their heart. The Bible says the heart is desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jer. 17:19) and where a person’s treasure is is where their heart will be also (Mat. 6:21). A lot of times people’s heart goes after things God doesn’t want them to have sometimes ever and sometimes at that particular time. Because of their heart, they often want something that God doesn’t want them to have. That’s one thing.
And the way the heart can get off is not just wanting something God doesn’t want us to have, but oftentimes we see what other people have, and we measure ourselves by the Joneses, and it doesn’t mean that they’re saved.
If we’re looking for something that’s bad for us, that God doesn’t want us to have, that’s how we go from being content. Lack of faith, lack of trust in God, that He’ll do what the Bible says — “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psa. 84:11).
1 Timothy 6 teaches us to withdraw from those who suppose that gain is godliness and be content having food and raiment (clothes). How is that message of contentment different from the prosperity messages so many preach today?
First of all, we have to have God’s perspective if we’re going to be content. We have to understand what is important in the mind of God. The Bible tells us “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
The scripture that you referenced is 1 Timothy 6. He goes on to say “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). He said, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim. 6:8-9).
When he says that in verse 9, it shares those who are not content and why. The reason why is because they want to be rich in this world. That is a contradictory message that comes from too many pulpits, where they equate wealth and godliness and their wealth is about money. In Proverbs 28:22 it says, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.” A person who not just wants to get rich, but even get rich quick, is worse than one who has the desire to be rich. They’re going to come into poverty. Now, from the pulpits what do we hear? We hear a message that is contradictory to the Word of God.
When you consider the apostles and disciples (Mat. 10:10), He tells them about having their “meat.” Luke 10:7-8 – when you look at what the hire was, what they were supposed to be content with having, it was simply their food and their raiment. But that’s different from so-called prophets’ messages today. Even in 1 Timothy 6:8, again food and raiment. 1 Timothy 5, where it talks about double honour that is due unto the elders, it says, “especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:7). The double honour is not just for those with a microphone; it is also for the elders, the older people in the church. In 1 Timothy 5, he dealt with widows earlier and now the elders are the old men. But what you hear from the pulpit is like the preachers are supposed to have a million dollars from that. That’s not the case, and that never was the case. In fact, Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Peter had rabbit ears if he pulled out his pockets. Elisha refused an offering (2 Kings 5:14-19), and the list goes on and on in the Bible. It’s a totally different message than what you hear nowadays from the pulpit, where they equate godliness and relationship with God with money.
Can you explain what “godliness with contentment is great gain” means in 1 Timothy 6:6?
When you talk about a prophet, it’s p-r-o-p-h-et, and nowadays all the fake prophets talk about is p-r-o-f-i-t. The fishers for men (what Peter became) have become panners for gold. They want a profit. In this scripture, in 1 Timothy 6, he actually gave examples of godliness using the antithesis, the opposite argument. He talks about folks who are proud, they know nothing, questions, strifes, envy, railings, surmisings, “perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. 6:4-5). Get away from these people who have intermingled pride and sin, and tried to make it look like that has to do with godliness. Godliness is about being God-like.
Who do we have as an example of being on earth and being godlike? Who’s our perfect example of being godlike on the earth? JESUS! Where was Jesus born? Not a Ritz-Carlton. Jesus was born in a manger, a barn. When it came time to offer the sacrifice at his circumcision and time of naming, they didn’t bring a lamb. They brought the turtle doves (Luke 2:21-24), which, if you read in the scripture, was only allowed to be offered by those who were in poverty (Lev. 12:6-8). If Jesus is our example of God on the earth, and He came and was poor, evidently then our godliness has nothing to do with our worldly, material gain. In fact, He addressed it in Philippians 2. The Bible says,
- “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Phil. 2:5). Christ speaks of His suffering name.
- “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” (Phil. 2:6). It was not something that He was trying to attain, because He was already in the form of God. That was how He was and who He was originally.
- “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant…” (Phil. 2:7).
Godliness – Jesus is the perfect example of godliness. Those who teach gain is godliness, Paul said (1 Tim. 6:5), from such withdraw thyself. You’re around the wrong people and you’re in the wrong church if they have people prophesying and the focus is on money.
How is godliness with contentment great gain? What is the benefit of godliness with contentment?
A vessel, once it’s full, there’s not room for anything else in it. When you talk about godliness with contentment being great gain, again, content – a vessel. If my vessel is full of God stuff, anybody who ever reaches that level is a person that becomes satisfied. The issue is when there is room in the cup, and you want something more and need something more in your cup, that’s when the deficit for God occurs.
If you got the Holy Ghost, the day you got the Holy Ghost, it was rivers – not a river, but rivers – flowing out of you, when you got the Holy Ghost, you weren’t looking for money or anything else at the time because your content was full of god-liness. It’s not until you start looking on the outside, your expectations change, you go after something more. Godliness with contentment is great gain. The more I have of God, the less I have of me, the more Spirit, the less flesh, the more life, the less death, the more spirit, the less dirt in my vessel – the more I’m satisfied.
Have you ever had a time where you were not content?
Sure, yeah, I had a time when I was not content, when I was looking for, expecting some things God wasn’t ready for me to have. I can tell you, that’s when mistakes were or a mistake was made, but God was so gracious that He prevented some mistakes.
Even now, in recent history, I’ll give you an example: when I had my eye surgery, retina surgery, I told God how to do it. I asked God once the surgery was done, “Do a quick work. Let it heal.” Unfortunately blacks have 15 times the rate of forming keloids, when they scar, than people of European descent do, so my eye healed very fast. It amazed the doctor how fast. Because of the way it healed, I have no center vision, because the keloids formed a layer of collagen in my eye when it was healing, and pushed the retina off of the back of my eye. The doctors said the worst things that could have happened is for it to heal fast, but I was telling God let it happen fast.
Sometimes that is what we do because we have it in our crystal ball (because it’s not in the Word of God), I want to be married by this time, have this amount of kids by this time, I want this, I want that, I want this job or that job, I want to live here or there. Those things or similar things crossed my mind and there were times I had to put myself in check and get back to being content, because every time I didn’t, it was an error.
What has helped you be content or grow in contentment?
What has helped me grow in contentment is my relationship with God, where I’m looking for God for the answers, because now I have history. “Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5). There are some experiences that I’ve had and my relationship has grown with God so now it is easier for me to be satisfied and to be able to exercise patience.
The day that you’re born, if you were born an hour ago, and they say wait an hour before you get your milk, that baby doesn’t have the patience an adult has. That hour represents that child’s entire lifetime he or she has lived. Once you walk with God and learn some experience, you learn how to wait and that you better wait. Now to wait an hour to get a steak is not a problem.
Paul in Philippians 4 speaks of learning in whatsoever state to be content. What tips would you suggest for someone who wants to learn to be content?
Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned.” He’s letting you know that it was not something that just happened automatically. What we know from Paul’s life in 2 Corinthians 11-12 that it was given to him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, so he wouldn’t be exalted above measure (2 Cor. 12:7). He had to learn, and he got some spankings along the way, to get to this place, to learn to be content. In 2 Corinthians 11, he talks about all the stuff he went through (shipwrecks, beatings, etc.), so now in Philippians 4:12, he says, “I know both how to be abased [low], and I know how to abound… I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” But then he says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And that’s what he’s talking about – what he has learned. So many times we use that scripture out of context, using it relative to casting out devils and healing the sick, but Paul was using it here relative to the things he goes through – in life, I’ve learned how to go through without getting stuck. I’ve learned how to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil (Psa. 23:4). I have learned how to be content with just having God on my side.
Can you talk about Hebrews 13:5? It says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
If I was going to preach from that I’d go to the book of James where he says the whole course of nature is set on fire by the tongue (James 3:6). That’s what controls the course of nature, and the tongue is set on fire by hell (James 3:6). If my conversation is about gain, worldly gain, if my conversation is about stuff that God doesn’t want me to have ever or that He doesn’t want me to have right now, that’s just wetting my palate to want something that’s not for me.
If we sit around and all we talk about is that St. Elmo’s porterhouse steak, or Smith & Willensky’s cajun ribeye, or the blackened fillet at Peterson’s, or getting the ribeye at Harry & Izzy’s — as I talk about it, I’m getting hungry for real for a steak. The more I talk about steak, the more I’m getting hungry for it. There are some things God doesn’t want for us to have, but we still desire, lust after, therefore it falls into the category of covetousness. I covet, I want, I wrongly desire something God doesn’t want me to have, so I have to be careful about my conversation. And I have to make sure what I’m doing is without covetousness – my walk – because, again, in scripture, usually conversation refers to your walk more than your talk. If I’m always around it, going after it, I’m going to have a desire for it, and so, as opposed to that, I’m hanging around God, I’m getting the Word, doing the things conducive to holiness. Like I said earlier, after 58 years, I’ve learned nobody can do me like Jesus so I’ve learned to be content.
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