Life hacks are simple shortcuts to help get everyday tasks done more efficiently. But Christian contentment is the ultimate life hack. In this episode, we explore what contentment is, how you can get it, and how it allows Christians to change their attitudes without changing their circumstances.
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Welcome to the Redeeming Productivity Show.
This is the podcast that helps Christians get more done and get it done like Christians. And I’m your host Reagan Rose.
Well, in this week’s episode, we’re going to be talking about the subject of Christian contentment. Namely, why contentment is the Ultimate life hack.
More on that in a minute, but before we get into it in earnest, I just wanted to tell you that I am back at it with a video version of the podcast. So a lot of you—I know most of you—listen to this via audio podcast on Apple Podcasts or something like that. Well, there’s also a video version on YouTube and there has been going back for quite a while actually, but I stopped doing them when it got too hot. Because I shoot this in the garage and it gets too hot in the garage. And so it was, it was too hard to make it pretty and not be sweating. So now it’s cooled off a little bit. So I’m back at it. So if you are not subscribed to the YouTube channel, go on YouTube, go to Redeeming Productivity, just search it or just click the link in the description here.
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Okay. Let’s get into the topic of today’s show.
So earlier this week I tweeted, I tweeted, um, a tweet. I tweeted a tweet that just said that “contentment is the ultimate life hack.” And over on my Instagram, I shared a little bit more about what I meant by that. And I figured, you know what? I should do a whole episode about what that means.
So why would I say that contentment is the ultimate life hack? That’s what I want to talk about today. And so we’re going to do three things, hopefully, depending on how long this takes. I might have more material than I have your attention. So I might split this up, but we’ll see. So three things we’re going to do. We’re going to say, why contentment is the ultimate life hack. Then we’re going to look at what exactly contentment is, biblically, where I get a little theological on you. I looked up some Greek words. So hold onto your hats lady and gents. Lady and gents, because there’s only one lady who listens to this and it’s my mom. And then lastly, we’re going to answer a question—and that is one that often comes up. You might be wondering at the end of this episode as well. It’s if I get too content…does contentment kill ambition? Will it kill my drive to be productive if I’m actually content? Hmm. Interesting question, Reagan. Yes. Thank you. I made that up and we’ll answer it shortly.
Okay. So let’s dig in.
Why is contentment the ultimate life hack? Well, you know what life hacks are, right? Like someone’s like, here’s a cool way to open a jar with just your teeth or, um, you know, here’s a simple way to save 10 seconds tying your shoes. I don’t know. You remember life hacks they’re really popular in like the 2010s and still people will do like “10 Smart Life Hacks”. But when I think about life hacks kind of the goal of them is to, help you save time. They’re shortcuts. Right? They’re shortcuts. That’s really what they are, to doing common things.
So why is contentment the ultimate life hack? Well, I’ve got four reasons. The first is that contentment, true biblical contentment, changes your attitude without you having to change your circumstances, right? So when, when people say, well, I’m unhappy. They think, well, if only I had X, if only I achieved this goal, or I did this thing, then my attitude would change. Then I would be happy. What contentment does, is it short circuits that whole, “trying to get at the goal in order to change your attitude,” by simply changing your attitude from the beginning. So that’s the first one: Contentment’s the ultimate life hack because it changes your attitude without forcing you to change your circumstances.
And second it is, as I just alluded to, a shortcut to happiness. Basically, I think this can happen to Christians—and I think a lot of people who do not know the Lord. This is kind of what drives them, they have these ambitions, they have these goals, they have these big projects that they’re driving towards and they want to, they want to achieve, you know? Whether it’s a promotion or they want to start a company or they just, they want to have kind of their house in order or whatever it may be. But what they really want is not that goal. What they want is the felt outcome of that goal, which is happiness or a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment or, or joy. Right? And if you are content in Christ, if you cultivate the virtue of contentment, you actually have a shortcut to happiness. You achieve the real outcome of the goals that you’re after, which is satisfaction, without actually even achieving those goals. So it’s a trick; it’s a shortcut. You think that if you achieve that thing, you’ll be happy. Well, guess what? In Christ, you can be content in whatever circumstances without having to accomplish some giant thing.
Third, why is contentment the ultimate life hack? Because it puts you in a right relationship to providence. It puts you in a right relationship to providence. And I’m going to talk about this a little bit more in a minute. What exactly, I mean by that.
Then fourth, contentment is the ultimate life hack because it smashes sinful anxiety. It puts you in this, this kind of position toward your goals that is peace-based instead of like desperation-based. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more in the, in the final section here as well. But it smashes sinful anxiety. When you cultivate contentment, you are able to go about your goals. You’re able to be productive, able to strive without having to be stressed out or anxious in a sinful way.
Okay. So contentment’s the ultimate life hack. I just gave you four reasons, but what is contentment exactly? What is contentment and how do I get it? How do I learn it? Well, there’s several verses in the new Testament of the Bible, there’s several passages that speak of contentment and they all use variations of the same Greek word, which is arkeo. And it can either mean like “sufficient” or “enough” when it’s used in active voice, or when it’s used passively, it can mean “content” or to be “satisfied”.
So it’s kind of both sides of it. It can be a thing that is sufficient or it is enough. Or the effect of it, you know, when it’s applied to you, is that it results in you being content or satisfied. So arkeo, and we see this like in 2 Corinthians 12:9. These are all actually really well known verses you probably—if you’ve been a believer for awhile—these are probably versus you kind of maybe have memorized at one point or at least heard a lot. So like 2 Corinthians 12:9, it’s when the apostle Paul is recounting God’s message to him. And he says, “my grace is sufficient” It’s arkeo for you, it’s sufficient for you. It’s enough. “for my power is made perfect in weakness.“
Or we also see it in the passive side in 1 Timothy 6:8, where he writes, “But if we have food and clothing with these, we will be content.“ There will be enough if we just have food and clothing. It will be enough. We don’t need more than that. Hebrews 13:5 also says, “keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have for, he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.‘“ And then one more, just for good measure, Luke 3:14, it’s talking about when the soldiers were talking to Jesus and they asked him, “what shall we do?“ And he said to them, “do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations and be content with your wages.“ So again, content, content.
So we might say this: To be biblically, to be content, that it’s a state of being satisfied, of feeling that you have enough. And even in those passages I quoted, you know, if you just have food and clothing or the soldiers who have been converted and they, and they wanted to know, well what should we do? He said, don’t extort people just be content with the wages that you’re getting for your work. And it’s this attitude of being okay with present circumstances of being content in them; being satisfied.
And contentment is more than just like a personality trait. Like, I think we all know people in our lives that are kind of like at peace. You know, they seem pretty content. You want to like order a meal or something, and you say, what do you want? They’re like, “I don’t care, whatever you guys want.“ Or somebody—another food related one—they get their order wrong at you know McDonald’s or something. And they’re like, “Oh, you should send that back. You should, you should, get them to correct that“ and say, “no, this’ll be fine. I don’t mind.” They’re so content. Well, some people, you know, I think are more given to this to be kind of, you know, they’re not as needy, you know. They are content with circumstances.
But it’s more than just a personality trait, contentment, biblically. It has a source. It’s more of a, a view. It’s more of a belief. It’s, it’s actually an act of faith. It has a view towards, towards Christ. And God is the reason that your content. It’s not, it’s not that you’re just a contented person. It’s that you have an understanding. You have a belief, you have a theology that allows you to be content, even in bad circumstances.
There’s a great book by Jeremiah Burroughs. It is called, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, who was a Puritan. I have read this book, I think two or three times already. And it is very convicting and it is very helpful in teaching you to become more content. And he deals with contentment from all these different angles and basically how you can learn it. But in that book, Jeremiah Burroughs has a great description of Christian contentment. He says, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.“ I love that. It’s, it’s not, it’s not, not this kind of like Buddhist disconnection from reality where you’re kind of floating above it all, you know, “Om, om” or something. That’s not Christian contentment. Christian contentment is this inner, what did he say? A sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. And it freely submits to and delights in God’s fire God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. You see what that is? It’s a disposition towards God’s providence, right? It’s a disposition toward the fact that God’s in control of things. And though these circumstances might be bad, my plans might have been thwarted, some tragedy may have fallen me, but I know the God whom I serve. And because I know Him, that He is a fatherly caring God who is in control of all circumstances, I can trust that even in these bad situation, God still loves me. And I will submit to the circumstances of providence. And not just submit to them. He says, I will delight in them because I’m content. I will delight because I will say to myself, self, this is not what you planned. This is not what you wanted. But these circumstances are what God has brought. And God loves me. He cares for me. He wants the best for me. And therefore these circumstances are the best for me. And so I will praise that wise God, and I will delight in these circumstances. And I will find a way to be thankful for this providence, though it may be bitter in the time.
Contentment is this ability to meet the events of life, not by being disconnected, kind of, and just letting, letting them wash over you and not caring because you’re apathetic. That’s not what it is. Contentment is not apathy. Contentment is meeting the circumstances of life, armed with a knowledge of who God is and that he cares for you. And with that knowledge trusting fully that those things are true. It’s meeting head on the circumstances of life with a peace and even a delight that God has brought them about. Contentment is you trusting that in any situation God’s will, is the best for that situation. And so you will have a peaceful spirit, which can say with all honesty and all sincerity, “as the Lord wills.“
So that’s what contentment is. The next question is how do I actually cultivate contentment? You say that rare jewel you’re talking about Reagan, I want that jewel. And that is, you know, that’s why Burroughs calls it the rare jewel of Christian contentment, because it’s valuable. And it also really is rare. A lot of people do not have this. It is a precious thing to have. And so seeing what it is, seeing that, yeah, wow, this is the ultimate life hack, I can be content without striving my whole life.
So like so many people do this thing where they think, “Oh man, if I just end up with the perfect career,“ “if I could just be the boss,“ “if I could just have this product launch, take off,” “If I could, if I could just have my family perfect. And all my kids be polite and all of them graduate with good grades and go on to good colleges and be sent out of the home, then I’ll be successful. Then I’ll be happy. Then I’ll be content.“ You know, “if I could just make enough money, then I’ll be content.“ Now here’s the trick: Contentment is the ultimate life hack because it allows you, without having to achieve all those things, to already have that outcome, to already be happy, satisfied, to say it is enough—What I have right now. Because this is what God has deigned to give me at this time. That’s pretty awesome.
So we know what it is. We know why we want it now. How do we get it? If content, how do we get contentment? Well, contentment can be learned. I think it is incredibly important to recognize, as I said that before, that, you know, it feels like some people are just kind of contented, peaceful people. Well, maybe some people are more given to it. But it’s clear from scripture that it can be learned. Philippians 4:11–13. This is the apostle Paul. Again, he says, “not that I speak from want for, I have learned to be content.“ I have learned to be content. It was something he could learn, “in whatever circumstances I am in. I know how to get along with humble means and also how to live in prosperity. In any, and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering.” And you say, Paul, what is this?
What, what did you learn? How did you learn contentment? Whether you have a lot or have a little? He says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.“ The secret knowledge, as it were, that enabled Paul to endure and face anything with God almighty was that he recognized that God was able to strengthen and sustain him with any challenge he met, whether it’s temptation to despair through tragedy or temptation or to idolize riches and comfort when circumstances are good. No matter what, he knew how to be content in those things. Because the secret to contentment that he learned is that he had to walk close with the Lord who would provide the strength in all of those circumstances. That’s how you become content.
How will you be contented person? By walking closely with the Lord and trusting in his strength.
But not only can contentment be learned, contentment also comes through fearing the Lord. Proverbs 19:23 says “the fear of the Lord leads to life. Then one rest content untouched by trouble.“ So the fear of the Lord allows you to be content. If you begin by putting God first in your life, by fearing him above all other things, whether that is other people or fearing bad circumstances of “what if this happens, what if this happens?“ Or “what if I fail? What if this?” If you put Christ first and you fear God most, contentment will follow that. You will be able to rest. Why? Because again, you’re resting in His strength. You’re resting in a trust in Him.
And that’s, that’s the last point I want to make on this point, which is that contentment comes through faith. It can be learned. It comes from fearing the Lord. And ultimately it comes through faith. Namely, believing that God really is sovereign. He’s powerful. And he is favorably disposed toward his children. It’s an amazing thing. Once you realize that God actually desires good for his children and he hasn’t just saved us to, to forget us or, or, or that he has kind of begrudgingly saved us. And He’s like, “alright, you know what? Um, you’re saved, but just chill on earth for awhile until I perfect you. And you know, we can be in heaven and then maybe I’ll talk to you.“ No, he wants good for us. God wants good for us. He looks on you—if you are in Christ, if you’re Christian, if you’ve repented of your sins, put your faith in Jesus Christ—God, the Father, the One who is in control of this whole universe thing, He looks on you favorably because you are in Christ. But sometimes even Christians (I know I’m guilty of this) sometimes we’re tempted to believe that maybe God wants good for us, but He’s just, you know, not really able to bring it about. You know, maybe He’s kind of like, “yeah, I really would love good stuff for you, but you know, bad things, bad things happen sometimes.“ But no, that’s not true. God is sovereign. He’s in control of the circumstances. He both desires good for us and He is always able to, and is in fact always bringing it about in our lives, through orchestrating the means of our circumstances. That’s a complicated way of saying God’s in total control of everything. Even the bad stuff that happens to you. And even the bad stuff and happen that happens to you He is orchestrating for your good, because he loves you. And that’s just Romans 8:28. Isn’t it? I mean, this is basic stuff, guys.
Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.“ So if you, if you love God, if you’ve been called according to his purpose, which is to say, if you have been saved, you’ve been redeemed by God. Then all things are working together for your good. The only way that’s possible is because the following premises are true. And that is that God is in control of everything. And he loves you. Therefore, all the circumstances that happen to you are working for your good, and you can trust that that’s true. How’s contentment relate to this> Contentment is actually believing that actively, even in the face of circumstances that would tempt us not to believe that those things are true. Contentment is your reaction to that reality. It’s the result of your faith in trusting that God is in control and he cares about me that he’s working all things together for my good. You believe that that’s true. If you believe God’s always working all things together for your good, well, you will be content. You will not be restless. You will not be fearful or anxious because of the risk of things happening to you. Or you will not despair because bad things happen to you.
And likewise, it’s just, Paul had said, when good things happen to you when your plans are succeeding, when things are going really, really good, you might be tempted in the opposite direction, which is to trust in yourself and to forget about God and think, “wow, look what I’ve done for myself.“ But even then you won’t be content. You won’t be satisfied. Even when, if your house is full of riches, you have all the things you ever wanted in life and everything’s working out great, you will not be content. If you are not trusting in the Lord and trusting that all that you have is yours by his good hand. And as Job said, “the Lord gives and he takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.“
I think that’s one of the big things that can happen to us. You may, through God’s blessing you, through the means of your being productive, and you striving hard in life, you may meet your goals and they may be satisfying for you. But my point is that they won’t stay satisfying. They won’t ultimately be fulfilling to you because you weren’t meant to be fulfilled by those things themselves. You’re meant to be satisfied in Christ. And sometimes what can happen to us is that we get everything we want. And then we start to get anxious. We start to get anxious because we wonder “what if it all goes away?“ “What if there’s a downturn in the housing market? And I, and I lose my house.“ “What if I get fired from my job?“ You know, “I got all the way here but I could lose it all in a minute.“ “What if somebody sues me or what if one of my kids turns on me and they turn out to be a real rascal and, and run off and I’d say, well, all my parenting, what was that for?“ See what I mean? If you don’t constantly walk close with the Lord and be believing that He desires good for you and all that He brings about is good, and he is in control of it, you won’t be content, whether you have a little or a lot. And that’s what makes it the ultimate life hack. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
And then finally, on this point, I would just add this contentment comes from knowing that all you really need is Christ. All you really need is Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13:5 says, “keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have.“ I read that one earlier, but did you notice why he said that that? It is because these are temptations, right? Especially somebody who’s kind of driven, right. Oftentimes we’re, we’re seeking to better our lives through our work monetarily. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But the problem Scripture states is the love of money. So he says, keep your life free from the love of money and be content with you, have. Why? Well he appends the reason. He says, “because I will never leave you nor forsake you.“ So Christ said the same. You can be content with what you have and not idolize riches or whatever else in life, if you are fully satisfied in the fact that Christ is yours, that he will never leave you for sake, you will always have Him. Those things they’ll come and go, money comes and goes, relationships, come and go, successes, come and go. But Christ is with you always. And if He is your joy, if He is the true source of your contentment, well there’s nothing to worry about. Cause He’s not going anywhere.
Finally, the last section here. So we have a little bit more time. I want to quickly kind of get a, maybe a really high level overview about contentment and its relationship to ambition. And maybe I’ll do a followup thing, a blog post or something about this that goes a little bit more in depth. But as I’ve been thinking through these things, thinking about the importance of contentment, and how do I cultivate it, and how it’s kind of like this awesome way to get the results of achieving my goals, which is kind of happiness, contentment, whatever satisfaction without actually achieving them—So as I’ve thought through all that, one of the things that keeps like ringing in my ear is, and maybe you’re thinking this too, “If I become content with my present circumstances, is that going to like, just absolutely destroy my ambition? Does that mean I’m not going to really accomplish anything with my life?“ And I can see, you can see the rationale here. You think, “well, if I’m content, then I’m not going to need to get off the couch. I’m not going to strive for anything. I’m just of kind of float through life, you know, all happy, like just big, big kind of pleasant, smile on my face. And not really have any drive to do anything.“ So you might even be worried in that sense. If I become too content, maybe I’ll stop being hungry. Maybe, you know, like, I don’t know who says this, but I always see like the entrepreneur, like stuff on Instagram or like the memes and stuff. They’re like always “stay hungry!” “You’re a tiger!” I don’t know if they say “you’re a tiger,“ but I’ve seen that thing about “always stay hungry.“ And they’re saying like, you know, “don’t be satisfied because if you get satisfied, then you’ll stop being ambitious. You’ll stop climbing, you’ll stop kinda clawing. And therefore you won’t be successful.“ And you could see productivity-minded people hearing this and saying, “well, if I cultivate contentment, maybe I won’t be ambitious. And maybe I won’t succeed at things.“
But true Christian contentment doesn’t make you into like a passive person who has really no desires to do anything, just like a big kind of flubber that just kind of oozes through life, but doesn’t really try to achieve anything. No, it just gives you the right attitude toward ambition and goals and success. Because again, the Bible does not condemn ambition. It doesn’t, it condemns vain ambition, Philippians 2:3–4, right? Vain ambition. But what that is is that’s talking about selfishness, a selfish attitude that puts your own desires above others, and it doesn’t seek to serve people that’s what’s condemned. And that is sort of that attitude you see there in James, which is “I’m going to make a profit. I’m going to do this. And we’re going to, I’m going to go to this town, to this town and…” It’s self, self, self, self, self that is condemned, but ambition itself, the desire to, to achieve something? No, that’s not condemned. I mean, read the Proverbs.
Far from killing ambition, actually Christian contentment puts you in the best possible position to meet the challenges of life. Even as you pursue your goals with an attitude of, “if the Lord wills.“ And this way, a productive Christian who is resting contentedly with the Lord is actually in the best position to be productive, to achieve things. Why? Because when you’re content, you’re operating from a position of peace, rather than desperate striving, right? You’re not asking of your goals. You’re not demanding of, of these things. You’re not seeking that they would be the thing that made you happy. You’re already happy already content in Christ. So you’re able to seek these things with kind of this attitude of, “okay, if the Lord wills, we’re going to go do this thing.“ And if, but if it doesn’t work out, you, it doesn’t destroy.
You, you know, it might be hard, but your contentment wasn’t from succeeding. That thing, it was from knowing and walking with Christ. And it also means when we’re content that we’re seeking to line up our goals with God’s will, right? “If the Lord wills.” And that results in actually fewer frustrated plans. It’s when we do that vain ambition thing where we’re just kind of setting these goals irrespective of God, and we’re kind of like, “God, can you please go ahead and, uh, bless this for me,“ right? You come to him afterwards and look for the stamp of approval. I made this huge plan. Irrespective, never thought about you once, but God it’s gonna make me rich and now I’m going to pray about it so that you will a stamp of approval on it and make it happen. That’s not the right way of going about it. But when you’re content and you’re drawing that contentment from knowing Christ, even the plans you make from the start, you’re doing them in a way where you’re seeking to honor God, where you’re seeking to fulfill His will. Even the plans you make will be better when you’re operating from contentment.
Also, when you are operating from a place of contentment, you will be well equipped to meet the adversity that meets people in any endeavor. Whether you’re starting a business or whatever you’re doing, you’ll understand that the Lord’s love loves you and that He’s sovereign over the circumstances. And so when trials arrive, you can meet them with contentment.
And also when you’re content, you’re depending upon God’s strength, not simply on your own strength or your intelligence or your creativity to overcome issues. When you’re content, you’re actually resting in God’s strength and that gives you the ability to overcome things.
So finally, I want to just kind of close with a little bit of a question that relates to this issue of contentment being the ultimate life hack.
What is your ultimate ambition?
And be honest with yourself, what is it you’re really seeking out of life? You know, if someone asked you, what are your goals? What are the things you’re after you might say, “Oh, I want to, I want to, um, you know, have just a great family that, you know, have three kids that love the Lord.“ It might be good things like that. Or, you know, “I wanna, I wanna start a business and make a million dollars.” Or you want to become a great photographer or something like that, right? You have these different goals. And my question is, what’s your ultimate ambition? What is your ultimate ambition?
And does this pop into your head when people ask you what your goals are? Because we’re actually, we’re told what our ultimate ambition is supposed to be, and that is to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. If that’s our ultimate goal of what we want is to kind of God, what we want is to be righteous, we will succeed. That’s a right goal. And we will succeed in that. Because it’s at blessed. Jesus said, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied.“ That is a goal that will always be met. Those who seek righteousness. And if your life is built around honoring Christ, if it is built around seeking his kingdom and seeking his righteousness and wanting to honor Him and glorify Him with your life, whether kind of your sub goals under that are raising a family or being successful at work or doing these other things, as long as those really are just kind of sub goals—They’re meant to be a vehicle by which you would honor Christ and glorify Him—that is an ambition that is worth pursuing. That is an ambition that is worthy of your effort and work and is not at cross purposes with God. And it is something which He will indeed bless over and over again. You’ll find Him blessing it. And so I would encourage you to really take an honest look, what is it that I’m seeking in life? Why am I wanting to be more successful? Why am I trying to be more productive? Is it ultimately that I want to serve Christ and glorify him? And if it’s not, do some soul work, spend some time with the Lord and get that straight. Because if your ambition is vain, if it’s just for yourself, it’s not going to be blessed.
And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to satisfy you because no contentment doesn’t kill ambition. In fact, it is the ultimate life hack. Because when we’re content in Christ, you’re not deriving your happiness from future success. But from that settled, quiet knowledge that you are in Christ, your future is secure. And the work you do now is simply your opportunity to bring him glory while you’re here. So we work and we work hard, but we always work with that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. That’s Christian contentment. And that is the ultimate life hack.
Well, that’s all I have for you this week. Please do. If you’re not subscribed, go ahead and subscribe. Give us a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts if you listen on there, it helps other people find it. Check out the YouTube channel. And if you’re interested in supporting the work of Redeeming Productivity, helping me to produce more of this stuff and even more videos and whatnot, please do consider supporting my work on Patreon. That’s patreon.com/redeemingprod. And there’ll be a link to that in the description.
All right. Well, that’s it. I will see you again here next week, but until I do remember this, that in whatever you do, do it well and do it all to the glory of God.