WOW! It is hard to believe it is February already. Month number one of 2013 is gone, kaput, over, in the history books. January flew by. A brand new month starts today. And so this is as good a time to think about your level of contentment and discontentment. For this is part of the motivational energies of your life.
Some of the most "remembered" and least experienced words of the Apostle Paul are what he said on contentment.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether will fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)
But those words must be considered with caution and understanding, and not become a NORM that is always true in all times and every situation. Here is where biblical balance comes in - for there were MANY things about which Paul was not content.
In fact, he talks about his discontent in Philippians as well.
"I want to know Christ . . . That that I have already obtained all this . . . but I press on to take hold . . . Forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal . . . " (Philippians 3:10-13 - read the entire section).
Paul is NOT content with his own spiritual progress in knowing Christ. He is discontent and he wants to know Christ better.
In Colossians 1:28-2:2 Paul talks about how hard he works and how much he struggles on behalf of the Christians in that city. Paul is NOT content with their current level of maturity. So Paul works VERY hard to help them become more mature. His discontentment with their spiritual experience fuels his devotion and hard work on their behalf.
Borrowing an idea from Ecclesiastes, I would suggest that,
There is a time for contentment
and there is a time for discontentment.
There are some things about which you should be quite content, even thankfully content. Then there are other things about which a holy discontent is vital. And if you are content about those things - you may actually be complacent . . . a very different thing indeed, from contentment. "It's not a very big step from contentment to complacency." Simone de Beauvoir
Here are a few more thoughts on discontent.
Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure. Thomas Edison
Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress. Mohandas K. Gandhi
The world owes all its onward impulses to men who are ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Just like there is a difference between contentment and complacency, there is a difference between discontentment and discouragement (as seen below).
Where do you have the experience of a holy discontentment?
What needs to change (or begin to change) in February?
How about those "January Resolutions" you made? You were discontent about something that led to a resolution. How is it going?
What dreams do you have that are energizing your life and labors?
The practice of holy restlessness and divine discontent can be profoundly motivational. May you have much grace and wisdom to have these experiences.
And one more for the road . . .
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International