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The Curriculum of Contentment

Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)

Much of the business world works hard to breed discontent so that we will buy products and keep the economy vibrant.  If an advertisement tells us that something is new and improved, we are supposed to feel that we have less than the best and must go out and buy the next thing.

The poem captures the idea:

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted;
the warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted;
the colourful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted;
the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter, but it was spring that I wanted;
the warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted;
the freedom and the respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted;
to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted;
the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted;
the presence of mind without limitation.
My life was over;
but I never got what I wanted.

All the world lives in two tents – content and discontent.  You will notice in this passage that Paul says, “…I have learned to be content…”  The word “content” is a very interesting one.  It comes from a Greek word autarkes which means ‘to have all needed within’.  It means ‘independent of external circumstances’.  It was used to describe a city or country that needed no imports.  They had all they needed to sustain life.  It is a vivid picture of the believer who has Christ dwelling within.  He is the All-Sufficient Saviour.  All joy, all peace, all wisdom, all meaning, value, purpose, hope, fulfilment in life now and forever is bound up in Christ.  Warren Wiersbe states:

The word “content” actually means “contained.”  It is a description of the man whose resources are within him so that he does not have to depend on substitutes without.

Paul expresses it in his own words in verse 13:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

Charles Wesley expressed it in this way:

Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find.

Is discontentment your default setting or have you learned to be content?

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