“22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25
Contentment seems to be such an illusive thing at times, doesn’t it? We know that as believers we are supposed to be content with what we have and where God has us, and yet for most of us it’s a constant struggle. We always want more and continue to be less settled with what we have been given. Whether it’s our job, our house, our children, our spouse, the car we drive, the church we attend…and the list goes on. How do we live a life of contentment when the world around us clamors on in constant pursuit of more?
I’ve been reading through the book of James with a group of incredible young women this summer, and although I’ve studied this book numerous times before, it’s suddenly taking on a whole new meaning for my life. In particular, the above verses have had an increasing impact on my heart in the last 24 hours. I’ve never connected contentment with this passage before, but it’s becoming strikingly obvious to me just how related they are to each other.
The command here is simple. Do not simply hear God’s Word, but DO what it says. So, the first part of the command is this: be a hearer of God’s Word. Now for some, that sounds easy enough. You might say, “Well, I go to church every Sunday, and I listen to the sermon.” Or perhaps, “I am in a small group, and we read and study the Bible together every week”, to which I would say, “Great!” Regularly attending a church and being involved in that church are excellent ways to grow in your faith. The problem is that many people fail to do even that. For far too many people, the reality is that they’ve alienated themselves from any form of godly influence in their lives, whether it be biblical teaching, accountability, or active service. They’ve positioned themselves in such a way that they no longer “hear” God’s Word being spoken into their lives. I don’t know where you are at today, but faith begins with hearing the Word of God. Are you listening? Are your ears open to its teaching? Are you allowing yourself to be exposed to its truth?
Now we move to the second part of the command: Do what the Word of God says. This is the practical application part, one of the reasons I love the book of James so much. It’s all about godly living. You want to know what it looks like to live like Jesus? Read the book of James. So, we are to hear the Word, but we can’t stop there. We must resist with everything in us becoming the “in one ear and out the other” society that so many have already fallen prey to. We sit through a convicting sermon, perhaps we’re even moved to tears by the delivery of the message, but we walk out to our cars and drive off each weekend unchanged, failing to apply to our lives the living, breathing, active Word of God that can save our souls. We simply can’t miss this part. The fresh conviction that I received today as I poured over these verses is that true joy and lasting contentment cannot be had without hearing AND doing God’s Word. Any area of discontent in your life, any part lacking true joy can more than likely be connected to an area of disobedience to God’s Word. We know what it says, but we fail to do it. Thus, we lack contentment. Just previous to these few verses, James encourages his readers to consider it joy when they face trials of many kinds. This one always threw me for a loop because I just couldn’t understand how I would ever come to the point that I would be joyful about the trials I was facing. Then, it hit me. If I’m exposing myself to God’s Word – reading it, listening to it – and if I’m doing what it says, God’s blessing will be on my life, whether I’m in the midst of a trial or not. Being found in the middle of God’s blessing brings joy and contentment like nothing else can. That is how true contentment is found – by hearing and doing God’s Word.