|Volume 17 Number 6 June 2015||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
Yesterday, I was visiting with a friend who was almost killed and paralyzed from the chest down when struck by a drunken driver. She, with great courage, faith and determination continued to study, write and go to school. After I baptized her, although she was a poor widow whose husband had been a Baptist preacher, she decided to finish her high school education.
Afterwards, she continued her studies in Abilene Christian University in Greek and Bible (having received her degree from a Junior College after she suffered the injury), then received her Master and Doctor of Ministry degrees. She is now working on a Ph.D. and a Th.D., almost ready to submit a thesis. She looked in her Greek Testament at 1 Timothy 6:6 and read, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain.” She pointed out to me what I had never noticed before. The Greek word translated “contentment” is “autarkeia,” which Thayer defines as “a perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed.” She was checking Thayer, Vine’s and Young’s Concordance for the various related meanings, and I suggested that she write an article about it. Since she is so busy with school work, attending to her own physical, mental and spiritual needs (she is in a wheel chair in her own apartment now) she may not get around to it for some time, so I decided to write one, which she can probably improve on when she does get to it.
We usually think of contentment merely as a passive state of willingness to “put up with” whatever state we are in, assuming that when Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11), he meant that he did not gripe and complain too much about it. Her short conversation about it suggested that we should consider its primary meaning as being more significant. That is, contentment comes, not because of a passive acceptance of whatever our condition may be, but because there is a “perfect condition of life in which no aid or support is needed” inasmuch as God has granted one whatever he needs to face life and conquer it! Can you imagine one who has suffered through years of privation and rejection, and months of physical and mental agony coming to a conclusion that she may be able to be content, not just because she will not complain of her lot, but because she has in herself, by God’s grace and power, sufficiency to carry on “independently of external circumstances” as Thayer puts it!
I think she is beginning to see what Paul meant about his thorn in the flesh, and “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9). For this word “sufficient” is the same root word, “arkeo.”
Because one has contentment—“sufficient strength, ability, power to do whatever needs to be done”—one may be content—“satisfied with his condition.” This does not mean to be complacent or self-satisfied, or unwilling to improve. It does mean an ability to joyously persevere, resting in God’s grace.
It is perhaps worthy of note that the same word is used in 2 Corinthians 9:8 where Paul indicates that when one does what God wants of him, “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye always having all sufficiency [autarkeian] in all things, may abound to every good work.”
One conclusion to which I have come is that “contentment,” from the Bible viewpoint, is not merely a passive willingness to bear whatever comes, but a vital, living, active power to overcome and conquer through the strength and grace of God! Indeed, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” for then “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). It is noteworthy that he said this only three verses after he had said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content [autarkes].”
Why Do We Serve God?
Adam B. Cozort
This morning, my two oldest sons (ages 5 and 3) began having a tiff. It had not yet translated into a full-blown war, and I wanted to squelch it while it was still in its primary stages. My boys love the computer and are enamored with every facet of it. So on top of the rebuke they received was a warning that if this back and forth continued there would be no computer privileges offered today.
Though that warning seemed to sink in rather quickly, what happened a short time later set another thought whirling into my mind. A little while after my rebuke, I was preparing to leave for the office. As I left, I admonished my sons to be good and helpful for their mother today (as I do almost every morning), and then my oldest son piped up with a statement akin to, “Because otherwise we will not get any computer time today.”
That statement stopped me in my tracks. I sat down for a few moments and spoke to my boys about the reasons we do things. I do not want my boys to be good so they can have privileges; I want my sons to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, because they love their mother and because they love God – regardless of whether any reward comes of it.
As I was talking to my sons about this, the impact of my statements was drawing my mind into another train of thought. In the same manner that I do not want my sons’ actions to be based upon the rewards of good conduct, so also in a spiritual sense should my actions not be based upon what God is going to give me.
Many times we use as bait the rewards of God in our desire to see people obey Him. However, even though God has promised the offered rewards to the faithful, it should not be our greed for those rewards that determines our actions. We (and with that I include myself) often make the choice of discipleship a question of which “rewards” one desires, the physical ones that last for a time or the spiritual ones that last for eternity.
My service to God should not be based upon who is offering the most goodies. It should not be determined by whether or not God is going to bless me with riches or poverty, whether He offers me recognition with physical honor or dishonor, whether He blesses me with health or hardship. My service to God should be predicated upon one question: “Is it the right thing to do?”
Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When I understand all that God through Jesus has done for me (Philippians 2:5-11), when I comprehend the lengths to which God has gone from the foundations of the world to see to it that I have the opportunity to remove my sins and be pure and holy (Ephesians 3:7-11), when I recognize the truth and goodness extended to me by God through His Word for my benefit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), only then the decision before me should not be based upon the rewards for obedience. Instead, my obedience ought to be based on whether I love God enough to put my trust in Him. Serving God is the right and just response for all that has been done on my behalf. God has earned my service and loyalty, not through His offered rewards, but by His wondrous deeds.
Sometimes we get too caught up in the greed-based observations of what the rewards will be for service to God. It does not mean that we should not look forward to those rewards, nor should we show a lack of appreciation for their proffering by the Creator. Nevertheless, the rewards received should be a byproduct of faithful service, not the motivation for it.
As we live our lives in service to God, let us always keep our motivations in perspective. We serve Him because we love Him, because He has earned our service and loyalty with His actions, and because it is good and right in every respect. Additionally, let us be thankful for the rewards that He has offered to His children. Though their offering is not the main thing, they are yet other examples of the love and care that God has for His children, and with thanksgiving we find pleasure and peace in those promises.