Build Your Altars - The Altar of Contentment
Well, God hit me yesterday morning again in Sunday School. My aunt taught on contentment and all through the day yesterday I thought about the topic. And last night I got my Bible out and studied up about contentment.
I guess the best way to start this topic is to talk about why we as Christians should be able to build this altar of contentment. I think the number one reason we can be content is mentioned in Hebrews 13:5:
"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."
We can be content because we have a God that will never leave us or forsake us. No matter what happens in life we can rest assured that God will provide our every need. Psalm 37:25 talks a little bit about this:
"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
David said he'd never seen God fail his children. Never once from his youth until he was an old man. Now, I'm not exactly old, but I am OLDER than I was at one point in my life, and I can tell you that I stand by David's testimony here. God has NEVER failed me.
Yet, though I know God will provide for me, there is still that constant inner struggle with wanting more. Wanting a promotion. Wanting a bigger paycheck. Wanting a nicer car. Wanting a new house. The list could go on and on.
Of course the struggle with contentment isn't a new struggle. Obviously it plagued Eve. Otherwise why would she have eaten the forbidden fruit? It plagued Joseph's brothers who weren't content with being their father's second favorite. It plagued David when he peeked over to Bathsheba's roof.
Discontent leads us to sin. It leads us to gain things outside of God's perfect will for our lives. We see a little bit about this in the life of a man named Gehazi.
Now, you may not know much about Gehazi. He was Elisha's servant, and he was mentioned in II Kings 4-5. Gehazi had the privelege of working for a great man that God allowed to perform wonderful miracles. He even saw Elisha raise a boy from the dead in II Kings 4, but Gehazi's desire for earthly gain got the best of him in II Kings 5.
In II Kings 5 Elisha healed a man named Naaman from leprosy. Naaman offered treasures to Elisha to show thanks for his healing, but Elisha refused the gifts. Gehazi decided that those gifts shouldn't go to waste, and he ran after Naaman and claimed that Elisha had need of the gifts after all. So Naaman gave the silver and raiments that he had offered Elisha to Gehazi.
Gehazi thought he had done this in secret, but God had revealed Gehazi's sin to Elisha. Elisha was disappointed with Gehazi, because he wanted Gehazi to realize that God would reward his servant in His own time. Gehazi's desire for instant gratification ended up costing him greatly. Gehazi lived the rest of his life as a leper, and all of his generations faced the same fate.
Seems like a pretty steep price to pay for wanting a little bit of silver doesn't it? I think it shows just how serious God is about wanting us to rely on Him rather than on the things of this earth. We need to realize that earthly treasures can't bring satisfaction.
I mean think about it. Even if Elisha hadn't found out about Gehazi's little escapade, what good would the silver and raiments have done him? He had to keep them hidden because he wasn't supposed to have them.
Gehazi's treasure brought him nothing but trouble. Proverbs 15:16 talks a bit about this topic:
"Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith."
Had Gehazi feared the LORD, he never would have gone against Elisha's wishes and taken the gifts from Naaman. He respected earthly treasures more than he respected the God of heaven.
Gehazi didn't see things from God's point of view. Think of how great Gehazi could have been had he focused on God's provision rather than on earthly want. Elisha was a servant of Elijah, and when Elijah was taken up to heaven, a double portion of his spirit fell on Elisha. Had Gehazi followed God's will, he may have been chosen to be Elisha's successor.
I guess hindsight is always 20/20, but I can guarantee that had Gehazi had the chance to do it all again, he never would have taken the treasure. He would have been content in his situation simply because he knew that God was providing.
Paul looked back over his own life in Philippians 4:11:
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Paul didn't start out as a poor man. He had power, position, privelege. But when he met Christ on the road to Damascus, he realized that none of that mattered nearly as much as sharing the Gospel of Christ with as many people as he could. So he gave up the life of great position and became a missionary who earned his living making tents.
Yet Paul said that he was content. He'd seen the wealthy side of things, and he realized that earthly gain didn't satisfy. Only Christ could satisfy. So Paul was content.
But the thing that hit me most in this verse is the word, "learned." Contentment isn't natural. It's a learned thing. And where do we learn it? From the Holy Spirit. He guides us into the paths that we should go.
He teaches us to seek God's kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and not to worry about the things of this world.
Yes, the altar of contentment is an important altar to build. Discontent always leads to the path of disaster. And for some, like Gehazi, it's too late before they realize what happened.