A Feast Unending
Learning contentment in the small foretastes of an eternal feast.
In last week’s devotional, Adam Smith did a wonderful job walking through 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and why Christians ought to be thankful in all circumstances. As Adam noted, this includes both good times and bad.
Today, I want to speak of that other godly calling, closely related to thankfulness; namely, contentment.
Paul, writing to Timothy says this of contentment,
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:6-12)
Many of us will sit down for Thanksgiving dinner this week and list the things for which we’re thankful. Maybe we’ll mention our families, our friends, and our jobs. These are all good things to be thankful for! But being thankful does not necessarily mean we are content.
Though thankful, perhaps you wish your family was just a bit bigger. Though thankful, your friends could be more supportive. Though thankful, your job could certainly pay more, or provide more influence.
The beginning of contentment is recognition that all things--including our families, friends, and jobs--are gifts from God. Ultimately, they belong to him and his good purposes. Whether you have much or little isn’t the point. Our task is to steward whatever we’ve been given well (Matt. 25:14-30).
Is contentment for contentment’s sake enough? This is the gospel of the minimalists like Marie Kondo who have found a large audience in a consumerist society.
Our God is many things but frugal he is not. God lavishly pours out love, mercy, and blessing on his people. Moreover, he actually vindicates in the next life our thankfulness and contentment in the present one.
What I’m describing here is what we may call eschatological vindication. After describing what contentment looks like, Paul tells Timothy, “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” Life as a disciple of Christ will be joyous but also full of suffering, say the New Testament authors. How can we possibly encourage Christians to carry on?
We are hopeful not in the things of this world, but in the things to come. While exhorting believers to contentment in this life, the New Testament authors also point to an eternity of abundance in the next.
The image of eternal life with our Creator is that of exuberant feasting (Rev. 19:6-8), a cup overflowing (Ps. 23:5-6). It’s not an accident that Jesus’s first sign to symbolize the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God is turning water into wine (Jn. 2:1-12).
One day we will experience in full our inheritance as “heirs” of the King (Rom. 8:16-17). But not yet. We patiently wait for Christ’s second coming as those who waited on the bridegroom, wisely prepared for what we know will truly happen (Matt. 25:1-13). We tell all who will listen so that they might not miss it (Matt. 28:16-20). But in the meantime, we are content with our lot in life, enjoying the small foretastes of the long-awaited feast.
Robert Hasler is Director of Communications and co-host of The Will & Rob Show.