Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
The Christian virtue of contentment is expressed in Scripture with a word that is, to say the least, surprising. Contentment is translated from a compound Greek word meaning “self” and “sufficient.” Literally it means “to be sufficient of one’s self, to possess enough to need no aid or support,” hence, “to be independent.” How surprising, in light of the fact that Scripture on every page instructs us that we are dependent upon God! We live and move and have our being in the God who is near to every one of us. And the Christian depends upon the unchanging faithfulness of God for faith, preservation, and all things. How can it ever be said that it is a virtue for the child of God to live and confess that he is independent and self-sufficient?
Contentment means that our inward state of heart and mind and soul is completely independent of the outward circumstances of life. How often it is true of us that the outward circumstances of life determine how we feel. If our way is pleasant and easy, if we have more of earthly things than we need, and if there are no troubles and problems, then we are happy and content. But if there are pain, operations, oppositions, and persecutions, then we are dissatisfied and ready to rebel. This is the very opposite of contentment. How we feel must be independent of the circumstances of life, not determined by them.
Contentment has to do with the mind; with our minds we know that all things are well for us. It has to do with the will; we do not want things to be different from what they are. It has to do with the soul; because the mind knows and the will is satisfied, the soul is at ease, filled with peace and joy.
True contentment is grounded in three great truths. First, that everything that befalls us in this life comes to us from the hand of our heavenly Father. Chance or fate have nothing to do with it. There is not a single aspect of our life that is not known by God and that was not determined by Him before the world was created. Second, contentment comes only to those who know that their way was determined in love, and the hardships of life are the loving chastisements of our Father. And finally, contentment belongs to those who believe that may afterwards receive us into glory. All our days, God leads us according to His counsel that He may afterwards receive us into glory.
Thus the Scriptures come to us with many exhortations: be content with your wages (Luke 3:4), with raiment (I Tim. 6:8), with such things as we have (Heb. 13:5). Paul writes from prison, after a life crowded with affliction (II Cor. 11), that he has learned, in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content. Have you and I learned this? Let us apply ourselves assiduously and faithfully to the learning of this kingdom lesson.