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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Contentment.

It was the apostle Paul who wrote "... I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content." (Phil 4:11).  But what is contentment?  Paul was not writing from some sun-drenched beach, with the waves breaking gently on the sand, and with a cool drink in his hand.  He was writing from a position of 'house arrest' - in rented accommodation, but with chains holding him to a Roman soldier.  He knew that his 'case' might soon be heard.  He knew that he might be acquitted.  He also knew that he could be beheaded - and that, in fact, is what happened.  Yet he can testify to being "content"!

The secret of that contentment was, of course, that he had found his total satisfaction in God. Regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself, his deep inner peace, and his assurance of the Lord's presence, were unshaken.   He knew, from personal experience, the truth of the words that he later wrote to the young pastor, Timothy, his 'son in the faith' (see I Tim.1:18; II Tim.2:1) - "There is great gain in godliness with contentment;" (I Tim 6:6) or, as another version translates the original Greek language: "... godliness accompanied with contentment - that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency - is great and abundant gain." (The Amplified Bible).  That inward sufficiency; that soul-sufficiency; is found only in the Lord Jesus, the Christ.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that that they will be able to find contentment in material things, and in financial riches.  The story is told of a wealthy employer who once heard one of his employees exclaim: "Oh, if only I had £100 I would be perfectly content!"  Knowing that his own great wealth had not given him this inner peace, he told her: "Since I would like to see someone who is perfectly contented, I am going to fulfil your desire."  He gave her the £100 and left but, even before he was out of earshot, he heard her remark, with more than a shade of bitterness, "Why on earth didn't I say £200?"!  The employer smiled.  He had made his point that money doesn't make a person "perfectly contented"!

In the past year or so, there seem to have been an inordinate number of 'celebrity' deaths - quite a few in just the past couple of months.  Some, like Victoria Wood, have died of cancer and, if reports are accurate, with dignity.  But others have died in more suspicious circumstances and, in a number of cases, narcotics of one sort or another have been involved.  These were people who appeared to have "had it made".  But neither fame nor fortune bring real satisfaction.  Decades ago, indeed, that was the 'complaint' sung by the group The Rolling Stones - with the 'rubbery-lipped' Mick Jagger - "I can't find no satisfaction".  I'll ignore the double negative - I know what they were singing.  

Of course, one doesn't have to be a 'celebrity' to be wealthy, and wealth is not the only method of measurement.  There are many highly-cultured, well-educated, people who are far from happy! there many who are wealthy, and even enjoy good health (something that cannot be purchased!) who are, nevertheless, dissatisfied. On the other hand, there are many who enjoy few (if any!) luxuries, and who may even suffer from debilitating health issues yet who, almost physically, radiate joy!  

How can this be?  I would contend that true happiness is not something that the world can give - although it tries to fob us off with imitations.  Soul-sufficiency; true contentment; deep joy; that is not dependant upon our situation or circumstances, is found only in the Lord Jesus, Who said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11).

True contentment will never be yours until you give Him first place in your life.

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