Be Content and Change the World

Be Content and Change the World

This is a post I’ve been trying to write for about three weeks. I’ve turned it this way and that in my head, trying to reconcile two seemingly unrelated topics that kept coming to me as one. I knew I wanted to write about them both, but just could not figure out how to bring them together in a way that made sense. And today, as I continued to mull it over, I remembered a quote I’d read that perfectly explained it, and the two became one. So here it is: how to be content and change the world. The quote that finally clunked everything into place in my head is from George MacDonald. He says,

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thoughts, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”

When I first surrendered my life to ministry as a teen, I just knew I was going to change the world. I would become a household name alongside Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Jim Elliot, etc. (Nothing like a little fantasized self-glory to encourage yourself, right?) It wasn’t all for myself though; I was so excited to do great things for God and his Kingdom. To bring others the life-changing news of the gospel and encourage others to do the same. Though I was still focused on my own potential fame, God’s glory was still also high on my list.

Then I left for bible college and met others like me. Not the self-focused part (though there were some of those) but others who desired the same goals as me. To truly change the world for God. To enormously impact everyone around us and in the far reaches of the world.

I met James and was again excited as we began our Christian journey together. To make one another better and to better serve our God. When James surrendered to preach, I was less than enthused. I held no delusions about the pain and struggle that would come with that position. Welcome to the fish bowl! Our lives would be constantly scrutinized, as would those of our children. It would be exhausting, but still excitement began to bloom. I was so eager to implement all our ideas, to be the one people came to for counsel, to strengthen the spiritual walk of our congregants. I couldn’t wait!

And now I’m a stay at home mom. My bible degree began to feel a little pointless. Evangelism? I never leave the house. Strengthening others? I can barely drag myself out of bed for exhaustion. And a very dangerous feeling began to replace my optimistic expectations: discontentment. I began to live my life on auto-pilot and discontentment continued.

I got into the trap of dwelling only on the future. It’ll be better when _____. I can’t wait until _____, then we can really ________. Focus only on the future of our ministry left my current ministry abandoned. When I am only looking ahead, I miss out on the daily opportunities God gives me.

I knew I was discontent. I knew it was a slap in God’s face to be discontent with my life. Then I started telling myself an even more dangerous lie. I’ll be content when _______. But let me tell you: If you aren’t content now you never will be.

That’s not to say that you can’t prayerfully change your attitude. Begin to be thankful for what you’ve been given and dwell on your blessings and it is very hard not to be content. But if you are waiting for something in your life to change so that you’ll be content, it just isn’t going to happen.

True contentment comes when we have the mentality of Paul, as he wrote to the Philippians, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

Contentment supersedes any circumstance. “Content” is defined as “satisfaction with what one is or has”. That means contentment is right where you are. Contentment is trusting the circumstances of your life to God and having faith that He has a plan despite what you may be going through.

So what does this have to do with changing the world? Everything. We cannot change the world for God when we are pouting about our circumstances. I know it sounds trite, but God does everything for a reason. Joseph comes to mind. Joseph was sold into slavery by jealous brothers, propositioned by his boss’ wife, wrongfully accused of sexual assault,and imprisoned on the basis of those false claims. Why? So he could change the world. His circumstances, though often dire, drove him to the place of leadership from which he changed the course of history by saving many from starvation, including his brothers.

Joseph’s amazing world-change isn’t exactly what I want to focus on, though. Because for most of us, it’s the little things we do that change the world. Although Joseph is an excellent example of contentment, we don’t often see the results of our actions like he did. We may not know the difference we make until much later, if we ever know it in our lifetime.

Our ultimate goal as Christians is to bring glory to God. Some will do it by preaching to millions and seeing many repent and trust Christ for salvation. Some will do it by helping the impoverished. And some will do it by praising God in the little moments of the day.

I Corinthians 10:31 says, “whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” This shows us that the “little” things matter. We can change the world by giving God glory in all that we do. We can give God glory even when eating and drinking (or whatever we’re doing). Whenever we give glory to God, even in the mundane, those mundane things have the potential to change the world!

A little over a year ago I sat on the couch with my mom and watched the boys running around playing together. I was lamenting to my mom about this very thing. I thought I was going to change the world and here I sat, my day full of diaper changes and settling petty squabbles and feeling sorry for myself. “I was supposed to be changing the world, Mom!”. She looked pointedly to the boys, then back at me, before replying, “You are.”

Everything we do for God’s glory is world-changing. It matters eternally to Micah, to Isaiah, and to April, that I am content in where God has placed me. My contentment grants me the freedom to unashamedly and joyfully throw myself into “whatsoever I do” to bring glory to God. Praying and reading bible stories to my kids matters. Sitting by myself and spending time in prayer and meditation matters. Writing these blog posts (hopefully!) matters.

Even if I never see the reaping, I will continue to sow. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” My “due season” may not be in this life. But one day, I will step into eternity. One day, I will see why all the mundane tasks mattered. And if I live my life content where God has placed me, no matter how many times my circumstances change, I will change the world.

I’ll end with the same quote I began with,

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thoughts, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”

-George MacDonald

Now be content. And change the world.

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