November 7, 2000
The story is told about a complaining woman who griped about everything. Music was either too loud or too soft. Weather was either too hot or too cold. Other people were either too friendly or too aloof. She was never happy with life in general or any of its specifics.
Finally her pastor determined to find something that would bring a positive response. One Sunday morning, he stood at the door of the church shaking hands as the congregation departed. He noted a clear blue sky without a cloud or breeze. The air was perfect, not too warm nor too cool. Birds were singing but no flies or mosquitoes could be seen.
As the complaining woman approached, he remarked, “This is just a perfect day, isn’t it Mrs. Jones?”
Mrs. Jones frowned and said, “Oh, but I am certain it is raining some place.”
Mrs. Jones may strike our funny bone, but who likes being around a person who is always grumpy? These folks assume that contentment is within their reach only if everything around them is perfectly pleasing. Given the nature of life, little wonder they spend most of it griping.
The Apostle Paul said something interesting about contentment: “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.”
Notice that he said he ‘learned’ contentment. We are not born with it. A dry, well-fed baby is content, but it complains just as soon as its tummy is empty or its diaper is full.
Yet even Paul was not always content. Before he met Christ, he was so upset by the people with this new faith called Christianity that he determined to have them all arrested and executed. After he became a Christian himself, his life was seldom trouble-free, yet somehow, he learned to be content.
Note he also said that contentment is a secret, but as important as keeping secrets might be, Paul had no intention of hiding this one. He wanted others to be content too.
In 1 Timothy 6, he warned that falling in love with money would not do it. He said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Paul had an eternal perspective. He realized that no matter how much we accumulate, we cannot take it with us. We should be happy with the basics.
In another place, he said: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
Paul was absolutely certain that God was on his side. He knew that no matter what kind of situation he found himself in, the Lord would be there to see him through.
This ties with the rest of the first passage quoted above. Paul finishes it by saying, “I have learned the secret. . . . I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Those who know Christ know His presence and His power. They know that God is for them — more stuff, more friends, better weather will not do it. Paul looked much farther than that. For him, and for others too, God was with him – and that made everything else a non-issue.
He knew that contentment is not about having everything; it is about having God.