"But godliness with contentment is great gain. " (1 Tim. 6:6)
The story is told of a king who could not sleep at night. He was told by one of his wise men that if he could sleep just one night in the shirt of a contented man, he would be cured. As you can imagine, he immediately sent men out to find this contented man, wherever he might be. But when they returned, they had to report that the most contented man in the kingdom had no shirt. And if you've lived any length of time at all, you already know this principle is true. The elusive treasure of contentment was in the man, not his shirt.
But perhaps you're someone who has learned to be content with discontent. You may see those who don't seem to have your drive, ambition, or aggressiveness in general as being uninspired...even lazy. But I would contend there's a difference between apathy and peace, just as there's a difference between drive and direction.
What I'm talking about is inner sufficiency, no matter what the outward circumstances may be. As Paul said in another place, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content" (Philip. 4:11). As I live and serve God, stewarding faithfully what He has given me, I can be content with where I am at any given point in time, no matter where I am, what I have, or who I am with. It's a component of what I like to call "Spiritual poise." I put the word "spiritual" in upper case, on purpose, because what I'm talking about is not "New Age Spiritism" but Holy Spirit indwelling.
Notice that in the verse, godliness + contentment = great gain. In order to have a balanced equation, both components are necessary. Obviously godliness would be a gain to anyone, but I, for one, believe that the addition of contentment is the ingredient that produces "great gain." You may consider this nit-picking, but I've seen too many Christians who considered godly living to be more of a chore than a joy. Instead of giving them wings to soar like an eagle, it seemed to clip their wings. As far as I'm concerned, godliness - contentment = great loss.
So, are you a winner or a loser? Do you possess both ingredients: godliness and contentment? They're both important and equally rare. For instance, are you content with where you are? Are you content with your husband or your lack of one? Are you content with yourself as God made you? If you answered "No" to any of these I claim the right to ask, "Are you content with God?" The writer of Hebrews tells us that the argument against any discontent in the life of a believer is the reality of God's everlasting promise to remain when everything and everyone else is gone (Heb. 13:5). You and I will never lack for provision, companionship, or peace as long as God lives. When you know and truly believe this, you'll be content.
I read something in an old book recently that was quote from a poor Methodist woman from the 18th century. I think it catches the essence of what I've been trying to say about contentment:
"I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul, than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but my own breath, with God in my soul and heaven in my eye...I rejoice in being exactly what I am--a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy. I get up and look for awhile out of the window, and gaze at the moon and stars, the work of an Almighty hand. I think of the grandeur of the universe, and then sit down, and think myself one of the happiest beings in it."