Contentment is more about what a person wants than what a person has. That is, if I want money and do not have it, contentment might elude me. However, if I don’t want money, it really doesn’t matter if I have it or not for my contentment does not depend on money.
Some “I wants” are legitimate, such as food, but not too much or the wrong kind. As for matters of the spirit, sin is never a legitimate want. However, if I want to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (which is a good thing), I must not forget my motives. If I want to be the “greatest in the kingdom” then that growth will not be happening. I may experience a holy discontentment, a desire in my heart that longs for more of Jesus, but not even realize that my reasons for wanting it (self-glory) are faulty.
I’ve noticed also that this particular desire requires effort. I won’t grow without action. Because I am naturally lazy, I might conclude that the effort is too great and instead of seeking Him and growing, I could decide to stop wanting that goal and try to be content the way I am.
Today’s devotional reading is about temperament and how it affects desires of the heart. That is, what kind of a person I am will affect the way I live my Christian life and what I want for myself. The author of the reading uses Peter as an example and reminds readers of the time Jesus walked on water and Peter decided he should do the same.
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28–30)
Peter had a reputation of wanting to be the “greatest in the kingdom” so this may have motivated his actions. From the text, it seems the other disciples had no thought to leave the boat. As common sense fishermen, they knew the difference between solid footing and water. But Peter was Peter, reckless, headstrong, and impetuous. He acted on impulse without thinking or waiting for reasons.
Oddly, as the devotional reading says, this was also a glory in his character. It made him do what no one else would do with daring and enthusiasm. But his motivations were all about Peter. He was not content to be like the other disciples. He wanted to be the best. Perhaps he learned a valuable lesson that day!
His daring, apart from the work and control of the Holy Spirit, brought him to danger. He jumped out of the boat thinking if Jesus can do this, he could too. In self-forgetfulness (a good character quality), he wasn’t afraid until it became obvious that his faith didn’t match his actions. He wanted greatness but sought it in the wrong way.
The practical value of this observation is that even good and godly qualities and “I-wants” can be a snare. I need to check my motivations before doing things, even things for God. I’m not usually impulsive and self-forgetful like Peter, but I am creative and have desires for excellence and maturity my life. If I don’t think about the why of what I do, or if God is leading me into my actions, I could be aiming for contentment and satisfaction like Peter — and find out that my goals look good but are self-serving.
The devotional says we need to be saved not only from sin, but from ourselves and from self-effort in the Christian life. What I want might be a legitimate desire, but what I do because of it needs to be directed by God, not by what I want. Sinful pride can sometimes be disguised to look like holy zeal. Even God-given qualities can make me crash if I use them for me instead of for Him.
Conclusion? My motivations, giftedness, and temperament also need the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, I am sunk.