Summary: So often we cry over what we don't have - never realizing that we might cry just as hard if we had it. It's important to learn to be content.
“Living A Joy-full Life: Live with Contentment”
Two little teardrops were floating down the river of life. One teardrop asked the other, “Who are you?” “I am a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him. But who are you?” The first teardrop replied, “I am a teardrop from the girl who got him.” Life is like that. We cry over the things we can’t have, but we might cry twice as hard if we had received them. (i) That’s why Paul had the right idea when he said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” But we all know that being content is a lot easier said than done. That’s why we need to listen to Paul’s teaching - so we, too, can learn to live with contentment.
Paul teaches, first, about THE SOURCE OF CONTENTMENT. “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for 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.” Paul LEARNED A LESSON ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES. He used his current circumstances as a reference point. Verse 10 implies that Paul had some low points in his imprisonment and might have wondered about the lack of love and support from his beloved Philippian church. But they had finally responded; he now realizes they weren’t able to any earlier. But he wanted them to know that even if they had not responded he would have been content. After all, during his adventuresome lifetime he had experienced both need and plenty.
He knew about NEED. (2 Cor. 11:23-29 GNT) “I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often. Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water. In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress.”
But Paul also knew about PLENTY. Prior to his conversion to Jesus Christ, he had lived a good, upstanding Jewish life and lacked little. He also knew the plenty in terms of God’s provision. (2 Cor. 11:32-33 GNT) “When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me. But I was let down in a basket through an opening in the wall and escaped from him.”
And through all of these circumstances Paul had learned about contentment. The word ‘learned’ means he was initiated into contentment. His circumstances, over time, all combined to teach him. So Paul wants us to learn from our circumstances. Have you ever said, or heard said, “I’m okay – under the circumstances?” Paul would ask, “Why are you under your circumstances? Why not get on top of them?” In other words do not let your circumstances control or dominate you. The word Paul uses for contentment means ‘contained.’ Paul teaches that the resources for contentment are contained within us. CONTENTMENT IS A CHOICE. There are two types of people in life. Some are thermometers. They merely reflect the temperature around them and react according to it. Others are thermostats and set the temperature using the resources within them. When it comes to handling the circumstances of life, we each have a choice to make.
Fanny Crosby, the great writer of Gospel songs, was blinded at the age of six weeks by a country doctor who thought he was treating her with eye-drops. Yet even at an early age, Fanny chose not resignation but contentment. When she was eight years old she wrote a brief poem: “Oh, what a happy child I am, Although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be.” (ii) Contentment is a choice. A Puritan sat down to his meal and found that he had only a little bread and some water. His response was to exclaim, “What? All this and Jesus Christ, too!” (iii) Contentment is a choice. Paul was in chains, awaiting a verdict on his life. His response? “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! ... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Contentment is a choice.