DISCIPLINE OF CONTENTMENT
The story is told about a man who was having a difficult time to meet the needs of his family. They were living in utter poverty when one day, strolling through the forest, he stumbled upon a magical hen. This hen would lay an egg of pure gold each day. He captured the bird and began selling the eggs to get enough money to look after his family. Slowly enough he rose out of poverty and was one among the rich people of his village. Then one day he decided, "Why wait for the hen to lay an egg each day? Iíll cut her stomach open and gather all the golden eggs and become the richest of all." Sadly, when he did that, the hen died and he was left with nothing but a tandoori chicken.
Aesop also tells a fable about a greedy dog, who wanted to snatch the bone from its own reflection in the water; when the dog opened its mouth to grab the second bone, he lost what he already had.
Both these stories have something in common; they highlight the attitude of discontentment that is prevalent in society today. Whether it be a common man, who desires to have just one more minute of sleep each morning, or a Shah Rukh Khan who spurs people by saying, "Thoda aur wish karo," in the Dish TV advertisement, the attitude/discipline of discontentment is wide spread in our world.
The Bible, however, gives us exactly an opposite picture and spurs us to be people who are content with what we have. In a world often discontented with what it has, the Bible asks us to be content in our lives. So let us look through the Scriptures, especially the life of the man who popularised contentment to learn from him the discipline of contentment.
Always Be Thankful
The man who popularised contentment can be contacted in Philippians 4:11-13. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" and "in any and every situation." He was the churchís most celebrated jailbird. Yes, you got it right; we are referring to none other than the Apostle Paul. Paul had been imprisoned many times for faithfully preaching the Gospel. Yet instead of groaning and complaining, he learned to be content. How could he do that? By practising the art of praise in a situation that would naturally breed complaints. He was the apostle who suffered the most for the sake of the Gospel, yet was full of thanks for God. We can read his own description of his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. Yet he goes on and reiterates (12:10), "I delight in..." He was always thankful to God, and was all praise for God. Our modern jails are luxurious palaces, in comparison to the Mamertine prison in Rome where Paul was incarcerated. Lacking doors, lights, or any other comfort, it was a cold, damp cave with one opening at the top through which the prisoner was lowered. After he was placed inside, only sparse food supply was passed through the opening. Yet, whether in stocks or in that jail, Paul had learned to be content.
Your prison may be an overcrowded apartment with more children than bedrooms, an office without windows, a roommate who refuses to listen/change, a support or income that barely meets your needs. Whether privation or predicament, have you learned to be content? You can never have contentment by wanting to change your circumstances. To the contrary, satisfaction is learnt by developing a thankful attitude, where you are. Your present circumstances may not be jannat, but theyíre your training ground. Learn to be thankful and praise God, like Paul did in every circumstance.
God Is Able To Meet All Your Needs
Paul was content also because he knew and believed that the God he served was able to meet all his needs. Therefore, he went on to say, "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (v.13). He was assured by God when he went through a tough patch in his life, "My grace is sufficient for you" (2Cor.12:9). He trusted the words of his Saviour and believed His words in Matthew 6:25-33, firmly trusting that his God can meet all his needs. Therefore, he went on to say, "God works for the good of those who love Him" (Rom.8:28). We all know this fact, right? We all very zealously sing, "My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory." But do we really believe that He is in fact going to do that? Our Saviour assures us, just as He assured Paul, "Your heavenly Father knows your need/knows what you need" (Matt.6:32). Contentment can only come to our lives when we leave aside our worries and trust, believe that our God knows our needs and that He is able to meet each and every one of them.
Paul learnt the discipline of being content. He was a spokesperson of that cause. God, today, wants each and every one of us to learn the discipline of contentment and be content in a discontented world. Let us learn to be content as quickly as possible, so that God can speed us to where He wants us to be.
I know that Iím in need,
I know that Iím not fine,
But God shall look at me,
And supply my need in time.