After I wrote this post about a week ago on finding contentment, I've been thinking alot about the difference between being content with my life versus being complacent in my life. Honestly, I want more. I want more from my job, my marriage and my ministry. (Note: I know I don't have an "official" ministry currently because I've just started attending a new church, but I know God has plans for me somewhere - and do we ever stop "working" for Him?).
But is wanting more a bad thing? That depends. Don't you love that answer? Think about this statement for a minute: We should be content with where we are, not who we are. Now let's take a look at some Webster definitions, shall we?
content: happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different; satisfied.
Paul says in his letter to the Philippians that he has learned in whatever "state" he was in, to be content. (Phil 4:11-12) In the context of the passage, Paul is talking about his physical surroundings and what he physically has, not his mental state of being. Paul has learned to be content whether he was hungry or full, in a prison or in a palace. Not that I think he will find he was ever in a palace, but you get the illustration. Paul is satisfied wherever he is because he was in the constant practice of letting go of his situation and giving it over to God's control so he could have that peace that passes all human understanding.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7
Remember, Paul did not learn or find contentment in his own strength. He found it through God and His Word.
But just because Paul was content wherever he was in life doesn't mean that he was smug with his own 'bad' self. Paul knew that he needed to continually work towards becoming more like his Savior. In other words, Paul was content without being complacent. Paul was not into smugness. Let's look at a couple more definitions.
complacent: satisfied; esp., self-satisfied, or smug
smug: narrowly contented with one's own accomplishments, beliefs, morality, etc.; self-satisfied to an annoying degree; complacent.
I had to throw out the definition of smug, didn't I? I think I like it more than the word complacent. Smug. Has as nasty little ring to it, doesn't it? I don't want to be smug. Smugness and complacency both have one thing in common that isn't mentioned in the definition of the "content". Did you notice it? Self. They both imply an element of pride. Herein lies the distinction between contentment and complacency.
We need to be content with the things around us that we cannot change by giving them over to God in prayer. Since the only thing we can change is ourselves, we need not be content with who we are. Paul says
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
We need to renew our minds daily (2 Cor 4:16) by taking time to wash ourselves in God's Word. We need to press on towards the mark for the prize of God's high calling for us. (Philippians 3:13-14). Remember, the bible is not saying that we need to constantly beat ourselves up for not being like someone else (that is another post all together). We need to be forward-looking. What's past is past. Our future is what is before us now. Let's look for ways we can be obedient to God so He can make those positive changes in us for His glory. Let's be content but not be complacent.
Thank You once again for being so faithful to speak to us from Your word the truths about how to live our lives better for You. Show us ways we can be content in our situations, no matter what they are. Help us to see the blessings around us rather than the "curses". Be with us and guide us into becoming more like You every day. Protect us from Satan's attacks of insecurity as we press toward Your mark for the calling You've placed on our lives. In Your Son's precious name we pray. Amen.