“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.”
1 Timothy 6:6, NKJV
We are probably so familiar with this verse, but what does it mean for each one of us? As we traverse through life, we seem to be always attempting to scale the next bound. Scientists pursue the next research breakthrough, investment bankers focus on the next lucrative stock or bond, and artists envision the next epic creation. There is nothing inherently wrong with striving for excellence in the marketplace. In fact, as image bearers of God, we ought to strive for excellence as a means to use our God-given gifts to glorify God and to point others to Christ (Daniel 5:11-12; Titus 2:7-8). But therein lies the risk if we are not careful – sometimes, our quest for excellence ends in a sad state where we compare ourselves with others. As I reflect on this issue of contentment, I was also led to ponder about God’s best for each one of us.
We need to guard against comparing “lots” in life. Scripture tells us that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16: 33, NKJV) There are no chance encounters and coincidences; a person may make plans but it is God who determines their outcomes. When we glance over our shoulder and wonder why God gave someone else a “better” gift or a “better” lot in life, we wrongly assume that we know best. God created us and knows us better than we can ever know ourselves (Psalm 139). He sees our life trajectories from the beginning to the end, has gifted us with a unique combination of personality traits and life experiences, and has placed us in different environments. I pray that I too can genuinely say as Paul said: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NKJV)
In our Christian walk, we should not be surprised by trials and suffering (1 Peter 4:12-13). In our “lot” in life, we will face pressures, affliction and persecution (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Consider the lives of Moses, or the Prophet Elijah, or the Apostle Paul in the Bible. Each with different personalities and backgrounds, and so intensely flawed, yet loved and equally used by God in effective ways. They received not only the spectacular mountaintop experiences but also accepted the deep lows and valley experiences. Throughout history, we see how God has performed transformative and redemptive work in the lives of His beloved children. As God did for Moses, Elijah, and Paul, He too will do it for us. I am reminded of this verse in Philippians: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, NKJV)
Do we believe that God gives us the best? Life is not a zero-sum game where once a “best” is given to a person, what remains is no longer the “best”. God knows our life course and has designed each person marvelously. There has never been any person in the past nor will there be any person in the future who will be exactly the same as you or me. What is best, is viewed from God’s eternal perspective, and He has specially gifted the best to each one of us.
By sister Rebecca Ang