“I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in. I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little.” Do you know what the secret is? It is found in the next verse, “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13.
Parents everywhere, struggle to teach their children good manners. One of the more difficult lessons is learning to be happy with what you have. Do you remember the times when dinner was less than appetizing? I do; I once prayed, “Bless the hands that repaired this food.” And our mother’s would tell us, “Be happy with what you get, after all there are millions of children in China who would love to have what you’re getting?” I often wondered what would happen if I ever said, “Well good, box this up and send it to them, and make me a hamburger”? (Actually, I had a pretty good idea what would happen and that’s why I never said it!) On those occasions I think our parents were doing more than telling us they weren’t running a cafeteria. They were trying to teach us that contentment is a character trait that we need to develop. And as adults we still struggle with this grace.
Several years ago, Leisa and I attended the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch appreciation dinner in Long Island, NY. With us at our table were 4 other adults and one 11 year old boy. Since the Ranch now had a greenhouse, they provided the centerpiece for each table. That year’s lucky winners were determined by a piece of tape under their chair. The person whose chair had the piece of tape got to take home the plant. When the M.C. made the announcement, he began by having each person check their chair for the piece of tape. Well as luck would have it the boy found the tape. You should have seen his face light up with the excitement of winning something. And then you should have seen that expression melt to disappointment when it was announced that the prize was a plant. It is hard for an 11-year-old boy to get excited about a plant.
I have thought a lot about the reaction of that boy. And I wonder if I am really all that different from him? Oh, I am much better at masking my disappointments than he was, but does that mean I have really learned the grace of contentment?
What keeps us from really being content? A lot of things maybe, but probably the one main thing is that we have not learned to fully accept and trust the love of God. If I really trusted that God was in control of my life and that He gives me what I really need, then I could be happy with what I get in life, even if it is only a potted plant.
Trust and the contentment that follows have to be learned. Only when we learn to trust Christ; His love and his power over and in our lives, can we ever learn to, “be happy with what you’ve got.”
“Father God, I want to learn to trust your love for me. Help me learn to be happy with what I have, to learn to use what I have to your glory, and to stop being envious of what others have. Father, I want to want you more than anything this world can offer me.”