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Pastor Jay's Blog

Thankfulness Verses Contentment

It is a wonderful providence for us that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. There are few things we need more during the holiday season. We need the clear view that what we have has come from outside of us and therefore thanks must be raised to the Lord.

But even here we can go wrong. Thankfulness can become a pathway of deceiving ourselves. What do I mean?

Thankfulness can be very myopic. We are thankful for our family, for our jobs, for our health. We are thankful for our country or our friends or our car. We can be thankful for these things and think that we have checked the thankful box on the godly-living list. And that is true in a narrow sense. The thankfulness is real. But this type of thanks is not enough.

The Bible doesn’t just say we are to be thankful; it says we are to be thankful “in everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “for all things” (Ephesians 5:20). Myopic thankfulness can be so deceiving. It is bringing a part but not the whole. It is like Ananias and Sapphira who brought part of the money for the land they sold, but then they said they were bringing the whole price (Acts 5). God doesn’t like it when people try to flim-flam him.

What do you call total thankfulness? What do you call holistic thankfulness? There is a word for that, and it is “contentment.” Thankfulness can be granular, but contentment is universal. Thankfulness can be specific, but contentment is generalized. Thankfulness can be precise and detailed, but contentment is broad and sweeping. Thankfulness can just be gratitude to God, but contentment is trust in God.

You can’t have contentment without thankfulness, but you can have thankfulness without contentment. That is the danger I am speaking about here.

Contentment is full strength thankfulness. Contentment is what happens when you obey the “all” and “everything” of the above verses in Thessalonians and Ephesians. Contentment is the goal. As Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13, contentment is what happens when Jesus strengthens you to believe God’s word about his sovereignty and his fatherly goodness in all the situations in which you find yourself and which you don’t understand.

So, evaluate your thankfulness this year. Are you looking over your whole life, or just at the good stuff that is easy to be thankful for? Like Jesus said about loving brothers, even unbelievers do that (Matthew 5:46-47). Unbelievers will have a kind of thankfulness for good things even if it doesn’t find its true target in the Lord. But what about you and how you are viewing the rest of your life? What about the hard stuff and the painful stuff? Can you say that the Lord has put you in that hard spot or given you that difficult thing and it is right for you to be there or have that? Can you be thankful for it all? Every bit of it? You don’t have to understand it. In fact, most of the time you will be kept from understanding it just like Job was kept from understanding. But if you can look at it all and then look past it all and say God is doing it all, and then say that God is good and this is wise, then thankfulness is going all the way into active trust and the flower that blooms is contentment.