Most everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It involves a snake, some fruit, and a very bad curse that has lasted over six millennia and is still going strong today. While Christians have passed out from under the curse of death by the blood of Jesus on the cross, there is still a lot we can learn from the dynamics of that scene. Amidst the multitude of blessings that He provides, when God says “No,” it’s for our own good. And it’s just the thing the enemy will use to try to tempt us. This week, God showed me how this very scenario was playing out in my own life and why the Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain.
What Did God Really Say?
God placed Adam into the garden that He, Himself, had planted and watered. Adam’s job was to “dress and keep” the garden, and God gave him a few words of instruction on his first day.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ’Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’”Genesis 2:16-17
Did you notice how God started with the many blessings and freedom given as the provision of God? The warning came second. As we all have the benefit of hindsight on this, it is fair to say that it was an important piece of information. Now, in the very next verse, Genesis 2:18, the Bible says God made Adam a helpmeet, a wife he later named Eve. At that moment in time, the couple had every blessing. They had a great life working the land and enjoying each other and the presence of God Himself in the garden. They were content with the life God had given them until the serpent showed up.
The Serpent Twisted God’s Words
“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’”Genesis 3:1
See what that snake did there? Instead of focusing on the blessings, the enemy stirred up discontentment. He turned a positive into a negative, insinuating that God was keeping something good from them, something they deserved that would make them happy. The enemy’s “half-truth” (and whole lie) that they would not die when they ate the fruit is kind of his calling card. Maybe the couple didn’t drop dead the moment the fruit touched their mouths. But spiritual death was instant, and physical death started on that day, the deterioration of their bodies.
The Bottom Line for Them and Us
Eve ate the fruit and gave it to her husband to eat because she wanted more. More than God provided, and more than God meant for her to have. She didn’t understand the whole picture and couldn’t even imagine the consequences. She just bought into the lie that God was mean for withholding something the devil told her was good. In the process, she ignored the blessings of the many good things God had given them to legitimately enjoy.
Fast forward to today. The devil is still telling those same lies. How many of us have blessings to spare, but there is that ONE THING we can’t have that keeps tormenting us? Maybe it is something that the Lord has told us to let go or put down. Maybe it is more money, better health, or something else that we have prayed for that just hasn’t come.
It’s a desire that we have that the enemy pounds us with day after day. “Other people have it, so why can’t you?” “Why doesn’t God want you to be happy?” “What would be the harm if you just have a little bit?” “If you could only have this thing, you would feel so much better.” On and on. If we allow it, God’s blessings and provision can be crowded out of our minds, and a spirit of discontent can settle in, front and center.
After serving the Lord for a few years, He made it clear to me that there would be three things that I would need to give up for Jesus. The first one involved losing an item of convenience. The second one was a lot harder and was about changing my whole lifestyle in a certain area. I knew the third one was going to be the hardest of all. As I waited for God to reveal it, I remember thinking, “Maybe I will have to give up my job for Jesus. Maybe I will even lose my life and be a martyr for the cause of Christ. Whatever it is, as long as it’s not giving up sugar, I’m good with it.” I will give you one guess what it was.
God “asked” me to give up sugar. Let’s just say that it has always been “my thing.” It was an idol and an addiction, and He has been dealing with me little by little over the past couple of years. Imagine a one-year-old holding a penny in her fist as her mother patiently pried back finger after finger to get it out before the baby could swallow it and choke. God just got my very last finger off the penny.
I’m down to sugar-free treats for special occasions, and this week has been particularly difficult. It’s the second to last week of school and my birthday week. Cupcakes, cookies, cake, muffins, and donuts – you name it – have all been available this week for parties at my school. My teaching team even forgot my no-sugar rule and brought me giant gourmet cupcakes with fluffy frosting and caramel, chocolate, or fruit drizzle for my birthday. (Insert facepalm here.)
The Enemy Has Been Relentless
I haven’t had a single bite of sugar, but I have felt like a rock being pounded by waves. The thoughts just kept crashing over me. “Other Christians have sugar all the time, so why can’t you?” “Why doesn’t God want you to be happy?” “What would be the harm if you just have a little bit?” “If you could only have this dessert, you would feel so much better.” I tried stuffing savory snacks, but no amount of popcorn, nuts, or rice cakes could fill the void. I just ended up with a stomach ache. Then God showed me my garden.
I Saw God’s Blessings
It started with a Facebook friend I don’t know in real life. I have seen her posts occasionally over the past few years. But of the hundreds of friends on my list, hers were the ones I started seeing repeatedly in the last week. She was asking for help. She couldn’t find a job. And then it was boyfriend trouble, money trouble, and then car trouble. Facebook showed me the whole saga of her car conking out on the freeway, her being stranded and needing a ride, someone promising to help, the person letting her down, and then her continued, anguished, and then angry pleas for help on social media. No churches would help her. Nobody would help her.
Finally, I just had to ask the Lord if He wanted me to offer her money. For some people, help can be a lifeline. For others, it can be like trying to save a drowning man who drags you down with him. I asked my pastor’s wife to pray for my wisdom and direction. After all, I told her, God has given me so many blessings. He really has set me up for success in every single area. I have so many people who love me, a good job He provided, a house, a vehicle, and a church family. I deserved none of those things, but God gave them freely. It could have been me making all those posts asking for things I don’t have that I need. It is simply the grace of God that I am where I am today.
Then I went to my prayer closet. I’m in 2 Samuel right now. When I got to 2 Samuel 7:20-21, I stopped, checking the commentaries for the verses that were popping off the page. It was practically my exact message to my friend. David was expressing his deep gratitude to God for giving him what he didn’t deserve and couldn’t earn. God had designed goodness for him in his life. Not only that but in His great kindness, the Lord had made sure that David could both see and understand His love and care.
My Own Life As a Garden
Then I thought of my own life as a garden. There are so many blessings, and God has taken great care to place me right in the center of them. I have a calling and my own set of instructions. Those tormenting thoughts and feelings that seemed so real and distressing in the past week were likely just the serpent bringing his lies. Like Eve, I don’t see the whole picture or understand all the nuances. Unlike Eve, I know that listening to the serpent is a bad idea in any scenario. Plus, discontentment is the opposite of peace. It shows a lack of trust in God’s provision and a disrespectful desire for more than God has already graciously given.
Godliness With Contentment is Great Gain
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”1 Timothy 6:6-8
Bible commentator William Barclay once said, “The word here used for contentment is ‘autarkeia.’ By it, they meant a complete self-sufficiency. They meant a frame of mind which was completely independent of all outward things, and which carried the secret of happiness within itself. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things.”
In other words, if we are seeking happiness in material things, situations, or freedoms outside of God, we will find ourselves discontent without them. Plus, if we are honest, even when we get those things, there is often still a lingering sense that our needs are still not being met. That’s because we are trying to fill spiritual, eternal voids with physical, temporal items. It doesn’t work.
Revisit Your Blessings, Resubmit Your Heart
For me this week, imagining myself in that garden has helped. I revisited my blessings and appreciated God’s goodness in both His provision and protection from harm. I again submitted to His will for my life, acknowledging that while I don’t know everything, God does. For all of us, He sees every situation clearly and makes the decisions we would make for ourselves if we knew all the details. He loves us, wants what is best for us, and desires (and requires) us to trust Him to meet even our deepest needs. Godliness with contentment is great gain. When we find our fulfillment in what the Lord has chosen to give us, we can always be satisfied.
William Barclay also wrote a book about this topic. Here is an article that breaks it down: “How to Discover the Secret of Contentment.”
Like articles about how to please God? Try How to Empty Yourself and Fill Up With God. Or, try God’s Like Button: How to Know God Is Pleased . Please subscribe to my blog via email on the upper right corner. Also, check out my YouTube channel. I have a playlist of my blogs being read out loud.