I’ve been in vocational ministry for most of my adult life. My previous job was a career that constantly taped over low pay and mission with “not a job but a ministry”. I loved the mission and bought into that mindset. I’ve been a pastor’s wife for going on six years now too. I think my biggest challenge with these roles, as most would imagine, is contentment. If you have been in the same boat this post is for you.
The word contentment can sometimes sting when you feel like you’ve sacrificed so much in the name of ministry. But being discontent is not the answer either. That’s where the question, How do we stay content when in ministry? Enters the conversation.
It is so easy to become discontent during this time of the year. The holidays are upon us. Our wish lists are long and even longer are the items in our Amazon cart. How do we stay thankful especially when we find ourselves in ministry? The funny thing is that unchecked, this feeling of discontentment can happen to us in seasons of plenty and seasons of having less. I know I have experienced this.
In this blog post we will look at what scripture has to say about contentment, what Biblical contentment doesn’t mean, how to fight against ungodly ambition, and the heart of the Lord.
Contentment comes when we focus on what we do have verses what we don’t have.
1. 1 Timothy 6:6–10
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs
Verse seven talks about having an eternal perspective.
2. Hebrews 13:5
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you
Trust in God’s provision.
3. Philippians 4:11–12
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:19
The context is obedience to God and service to others. Instead of trusting in his own self sufficiency, Paul is trusting the sufficiency of God.
4. Psalm 37:3–4
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart
He will give us the desires of our heart. And sometimes this may mean even desires we didn’t know about. It could also mean that as we get closer to Him we will understand ourselves more and Him more. Our desires may change and align with His perfect plan and therefore what is best for us.
Ways to focus on contentment
- Take a social media break. This includes Pinterest.
- Delete shopping apps.
- Ask yourself what you need verses what you want.
- Pray about your real needs. Sometimes discontentment can come from real needs. Understanding that God really does care and wants to show up in your life as your provider can give you peace instead of discontentment.
- Think about who you are surrounding yourself with. Are they people who are content? Do they understand your financial situation? Or do they make you feel unheard or ashamed for where you’re at financially?
Don’t Feel Guilty for Having Real Needs
I remember having a conversation with someone who was in bi-vocational ministry. This individual had a very, very well-paying job along with doing part-time ministry. I was in the trenches of full-time ministry and was the primary breadwinner for my husband and I, as he was a youth pastor. When I was sharing my concerns about taking on more work for essentially “free”, this peer told me to check my heart. I was really thrown back. I took this moment to swallow my pride and ask myself if I was struggling with a heart issue. Looking back I don’t think I was. I had real needs and shame on people in the church for not understanding what ministry life is truly like.
Being in “ministry” for a majority of my professional life can make it hard for me to understand God’s plan in times of real need. Finding contentment in those times is so hard. What I’ve found personally is that God is not like this individual, blinded to real need.
I have to be honest, lately I’ve been rolling my eyes at passages of scripture where Paul is asking for money and then saying that he is content either way. I don’t know why it’s been hitting me in a weird way. But as I was writing this I started to appreciate that He says he DOES know what it’s like to go WITHOUT and to have plenty. Paul understood what it was like to have needs that were not being met. That’s more than most big mega-church American pastors can say today.
This is why surrounding yourself with people who understand the sacrifices of ministry and those who do not compete or compare monetary things is so important for you to strive for godly contentment. Keep your eyes on what God is doing, His character, and remember when He’s been faithful in your life.
Assess your actions, attitudes, and motives when it comes to why you are doing what you are doing. Discontentment can come in so many other areas. The American church sees way to many pastors paying into ungodly ambition. This is where growth and numbers are more important than the spiritual depth of a church. I personally never want to be a part of that group and love the small neighborhood church that John and I are a part of.
The Heart of God and Contentment
As I am writing this post Maverick City Music is singing about what is not our battle but God’s and that He is still a strong tower. He is still a strong tower. It’s in the song “God’s Problem”. Lift up your discontentment to the Lord. He understands what you need even before you ask.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and they are saved.”Proverbs 18:10
In Matthew 6 we read right away not to do good things to get recognition, which goes back to ungodly ambition.
6 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
And in verse seven we read that God knows what we need before we even ask of him. We don’t need long prayers, more good works, we don’t need to live like martyrs. But what we do need to do is to come to him with our needs, trust in His faithfulness, forgive others, and have a kingdom perspective.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c]
In verses 19-21 we are reminded again not to store up riches here but in heaven. Another perspective talking about having a kingdom perspective.
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
And verse 24 says you cannot serve two masters. You either end up serving God or money.
The chapter ends with two examples of how God provides for his creation: the flowers and the birds. And a reassurance that God knows your needs. Keep your eyes on Him.
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[e] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need
Lessons on Contentment from Matthew 6
- Keep your eyes on the kingdom of God
- Serve God; not money.
- Live righteously but for Gods glory, not your own and he will give you what you need.
- Don’t do good works or even pray for the recognition of others. This will for sure give you discontentment. But instead, do it in secret for only God and you to know about.
- Store up treasure in heaven not here on earth
- Godly contentment recognizes that our needs are God’s battle to fight.
Ministry is hard. Vocational ministry feels almost impossible. Monetary contentment comes when we keep from comparing ourselves to others, avoid people who do not understand the sacrifices it takes to be in ministry and look to God as our provider. Ministry contentment requires the same ingredients when fighting ungodly ambition.
Focus on God my friend. He sees. He also provides. He is faithful. Keep your eyes on Him as you strive to focus on His abundance in your life, the ways he has been faithful, and His character. He is a strong tower and will fight your battles.