Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The secret of contentment ................................ Parables 041

Two girls hurried across a downtown street on one of our cooler November mornings. One of them wore light shoes, a light weight V-neck sweater, and cotton slacks. No hat. No gloves. Her 3/4 length winter coat was wide open as she faced the biting northwest wind.

As they passed, she remarked to her friend, “I’m just freezing. I’m going to have to get a new coat.”

Maybe she thought that heavy boots, and thick gloves and mitts are unattractive. That I understand. What I don’t understand is being cold, having a coat to wrap up in, yet not bothering to do so.

Is it laziness? Ignorance? I don’t think so. It is more related to habit, and to a way of life. Many of us have become so accustomed to buying something new to fill the slightest need, that it is abnormal to consider that we may already have all that we need.

It is called affluence, the good times, with high wages, plentiful jobs, and an ample supply of “discretionary income,” money to spend after the necessities have been taken care of.

No wonder that the economic slump has upset lifestyles. People are faced with situations that they have never before faced. Adjustment is not easy. Many don’t know how to make last year’s coat, or car, or suit, do for this year. They don’t know how to take the seams in, or let the hems down. They don’t have 1001 ways to cook hamburger, or 500 variations on macaroni and cheese. Pride battles with practicality, and charge cards are at war with common sense. The wounded are everywhere.

Paul, a great man of God, said this, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11,12)

He learned a secret. What a secret that is, in days of rising costs and having to cut back. If Paul had been so minded, he could have sold his secret. In fact, today, an ad in TV Guide would make him a millionaire.

But Paul wasn’t interested. His secret was not for sale. Money cannot buy it, just as money cannot buy the contentment that he described. His secret was a gift to him, and he shared it freely with anyone who wanted it . . .  His “secret” was, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

He wasn’t talking about the physical strength needed to do up a coat. Instead, he meant the special kind of inner strength that enables a person to wisely use the resources at hand, to live “a little leaner,” and to be content in any lifestyle. The inner presence of Christ in Paul’s life kept his heart at peace.

The young lady can be thankful that she is still in a position to consider a new coat. Some of her neighbors are not so fortunate. However, both could have a wealth that has nothing to do with purchasing power. Instead, it is the wealth of Paul’s secret.

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