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.
4 thoughts on “Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain”
Angela, I decided to give up on sugar several years ago now, in fact nearly 10 years ago, how time flies!! I won the battle because I convinced myself that sugar was killing me & that I did not enjoy the taste of it. So I suppose that I partially hypnotized myself but not deliberately. I just kept telling myself that each time I saw sugar in cakes, biscuits/cookies, icecream etc. Surprisingly it didn’t take me long before I was able to view the items in shops or at suppers etc & not be tempted because I was looking at them as death to me.
However, it wasn’t long after before I discovered that I was gluten intolerant thanks to my thyroid condition turning out to be hashimotos which is an autoimmune condition. I had already guessed that I probably had this condition because I had noticed for maybe a year or two beforehand that every time I ate a sandwich, then an hour or so later & started feeling that the bread was reacting by causing acid in my stomach. So I started toasting it but again I had repeating & sour bile coming up. This also started occurring when eating wheatbix for breakfast which I had always done most of my life. Winter came & I started on hot rolled oats & the same issue started. Still I hadn’t put two & two together until I read about Hashimotos & the penny dropped. So I saw my doctor & asked for the test to be done & sure enough that was my problem.
Later, I looked at the glycemic table which indexes how much sugar is in food products, the higher the number the more sugar there is which is deadly to your body & flour is one of the highest, so when you eat foods with flour, like pasta, your glycemic levels rise up very high, very fast & then you suddenly drop down & the reaction of your body is to tell you that you need more food – sugar. So the secret is to eat foods that are low on the table & your levels will stabilize & you will feel a lot more healthy & fasting isn’t so hard either. We tend to eat too much food which puts a lot of stress on our bodies. I now only eat when I am actually hungry & fast the rest of the time – but try to keep the water up as it is needed.
So I would suggest to you that maybe the Lord is trying to help you learn to eat more wisely so that you operate better & stay healthier & calmer in your daily life. You will probably shed a few pounds but long term you will be healthier. I haven’t been near a doctor since 2014 when I went to have my test on the thyroid done. I get most of my information through the internet using the knowledge of alternative health providers who are nearly all American doctors as we are not permitted to use them in Australia thanks to the Drug companies & Medical association. Two of my favourite go to doctors is Dr Eric Berg, also very critical to my health was Dr Mary Newport. I still take coconut for my health as it saved me from dementia back in 2014. These days usually when something goes wrong I ask the Lord where am I going wrong & within a few days a video will pop up in my feed with the answer from one of these doctors. So God is good at guiding us in our health if we go to Him first & ask Him to help us.
Blessings to you & thank you for your blogs. I needed to read that exert from William Barclay, it was an eyeopener to me about my ‘daydreams’ Ooops!!! I hadn’t realized that it led to discontentment. “If only…” You fill in the rest! now I am laughing!!! Louise
Wow! Thanks so much for your testimony, Sister! I had no idea cutting out sugar could make fasting easier. God is so good to us to give us just what we need right when we need it. I will check out those doctors you mentioned. Thank you. May God bless you and keep you!
Angela, good for you for adhering to what God’s asked of you when it comes to eating sugar. It’s not easy to eat a healthy diet, but it is beneficial to keep us persevering for Him. My issue was coffee. I love the stuff, but it was killing me. I went through the same throes of disbelief and would have gladly given my life over for God as long as I could still drink my daily cup (or three!). But I solely stick to tea now and might have one coffee on the weekend. I’ve found how much more enjoyable coffee is when I don’t abuse it and how much more enjoyable it feels to have self-control!
I’ve been walking a similar path in recogonizing all of my undeserved blessings and truly being content with every ounce of goodness God has given me.
This was a beautifully insightful post, and I’m so happy you shared it! 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing your story. It feels so good to know that others are facing the same hurdles but are persevering with the Lord’s grace. Thanks, too, for your encouragement that my blogs are helping. God bless you!