The Bible says, “Do not live for money—be content with what you have; for God himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or desert you’, and so we can take courage and say, ‘The Lord is my Helper—I will not fear.’ What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
It’s so simple to realise anyone can practice appreciation for what they already have—especially things that cost nothing, like reading a good book someone loaned you, or a day out with the grandchildren or a walk in the sun.
I heard of a woman who believed that if she could have her own new car, she would be happy. Her husband gave in and even though they couldn’t afford it, they got the new car. She was thrilled—for a while anyway. But the feeling didn’t last. Their house needed a new coat of paint—surely then she would be happy? But that didn’t work either. She had a pattern of thinking ‘things’ would make her content.
Others think that happiness lies in a new job, or more money, or an exotic holiday.
Learn to Be Content
But as I said in Part 1, the Apostle Paul had learned he could be content no matter what the circumstances—you can read this in Philippians chapter four.
Contentment really is a gift worth seeking—an attitude worth learning. God can teach us how to be content all the time. Proverbs 23:4-5 “Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird”.
Theologian and Christian writer Henri Nouwen has referred to the contemporary situation of the church and the state of the world we live in:
Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world.
The American poet Douglas Malloch wrote:
If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley—but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or you fail—
Be the best of whatever you are!
Sometimes we’re never content with what we have. One day Lord Congleton, a former missionary, overheard his Christian servant remarking in the kitchen: “Oh, if I only had five pounds I would be perfectly content”. Thinking over her statement, he decided that he would like to see someone who was perfectly content, so he went to the woman and said that he had overheard what she’d said in the kitchen, and he wanted to do something about it. So he reached into his pocket and lifted out a five-pound note and gave it to her, for which she thanked him very gratefully. Congleton went out the door of the kitchen, and for a moment he paused at the door unknown to her, and as soon as the woman thought he had gone she began to complain: “Why on earth didn’t I ask for 10 pounds?”
Learn to Live With Your Circumstances
Contentment comes not because we have conquered our circumstances, or we have learned how to change our circumstances, but we have learned how to live with our circumstances.
A man on one occasion was justifiably proud about his garden, until one year he found a heavy crop of dandelions appearing all over the lawn. He tried everything he had ever heard of for getting rid of them but without any success. At last he wrote to a school of agriculture giving a list of the remedies he had tried, and he ended with this appeal: “What shall I do now?”
In due course the reply came: “We suggest that you learn to love them”.
I’m not suggesting that you love maybe what’s happening to you; I’m not suggesting that you even embrace it in love, but there is a joy and contentment that transcends life’s circumstances to the extent that you can learn to live with the peace of God in your heart through these circumstances.
The reason why material things can never make people content is because they’re never able to get enough of them to satisfy their need and, really, their greed. John D. Rockefeller, the great multimillionaire, was asked how much money would be enough to him. He thought for a moment, and then he said: “Just a little more than one has”. Isn’t that it? Just a little more than one has—and the world’s wealthiest man has yet to say: “I have enough to be satisfied”.
God really is the source and supply of contentment. Jeremiah Burroughs, a popular preacher back in the 1600s, says in his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, “Contentment is realising that God has already provided everything we need for our greatest happiness.”