(Part 3 in a series of letters called Ramblings from your Grandparents)
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.”….I Timothy 6:6-8
We don’t hear much anymore about this wonderful virtue. In fact, we are often encouraged to not be content with our lot in life but to keep striving for a better job, a better house, more money. You young people are attending schools where they are constantly telling you you must go to college, get an education so you can have more, do more, be more. Again, we believe in good education, but it is NOT the answer to life’s problems….Jesus is! A comfortable bank account is not the answer to life’s problems….Jesus is. A prestigious job is not the answer to life’s problems….Jesus is! Power or fame is not the answer to life’s problems….Jesus is!
We love to see each of you strive for excellence I\in whatever you do. To do other than your best may indicate laziness or lack of responsibility or direction. If we are to be the best possible children of God, we will want to excel at whatever we undertake. Paul said it best:
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” ….Colossians 3:17
Why would any of us want to do less than our best on God’s behalf? Our every breath, every word, every action should be to honor God Who created the universe and all that’s in it and Jesus Who died so we could be forgiven and rose to life again so we can have hope!
We have seen people ruin their lives because of discontentment. They have had everything: comfortable home, good wife or husband, good job, loving and obedient children, adequate food and clothing and a personal relationship with Jesus….but have let discontentment eat at them over some trivial pursuit that would not enhance the quality of their lives; nor even more importantly, bring them closer to God. The one lacking ingredient was contentment. Contentment does not just happen; it, too, is a choice we make.
“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. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength.” ….Apostle Paul, Colossians 4:11-13
When I was a reasonably young wife and mother, busy with husband, children and responsibilities outside the home, I had my first and only real battle with discontentment. I wanted something changed in the circumstances of my life. I fumed and fretted privately to myself until I could contain my selfishness no longer. I drew Grandpa into the picture and later others who were in a position to change this circumstance, and finally I got just what I wanted. Too late I realized that along with getting my way I also got some things I really didn’t want. The new set of circumstances was far more difficult to live with than the old. Too late I saw my discontentment as selfishness and self-pity. I longed for things to be as once they were….but that was not possible.
I can honestly say I have never been discontent again. Perhaps life is not as I would wish at times, but I know it could always be worse. Even when Grandpa and I have faced really difficult challenges of life sometimes unable to see “light at the end of the tunnel,” I have refused to chafe against God. The lesson I learned years before had taught me that no matter what the circumstances I find myself in, no matter how difficult or trying or painful, there is always something harder to bear lurking in the shadows. And so I thank God for today, just as it is. I will let tomorrow take care of its own pain. I will not borrow trouble from the future for it may never come; and if it does, God will be there to help me through it. I believe that with all my heart.
A long time ago Grandpa and I met a lady with whom I ended up spending a lot of time. Her name was Ellen. She was a dear soul and became a good friend. She knew nothing of God’s Word but was tired of the life she had lived for so many years and eager to learn of Jesus, a God-man Who died for her. In time she accepted Him as her Savior and was buried with Him in baptism to “rise to walk in a newness of life.” She knew so little of Christian living. Her whole life had been consumed with every kind of wicked thing. But Ellen was a new person and it was such fun watching her grow in Christ, to see the sweet lady who emerged under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.
One day Ellen made a comment that brought me to a standstill. :”I have been such a sinful person; but you, Nancy, are perfect.”
“What was that you said, Ellen? Perfect? Oh, no, I’m not perfect,” was my quick reply. “Oh, yes, you don’t have any sins,” Ellen insisted with all seriousness.
“Yes, Ellen, I do….trust me, when someone has walked with Christ as long as I have our sins are often more refined, harder to see, because they are the sins of the heart. I can camouflage mine with outward sweetness, but I battle Satan just as anyone else does.”
It was hard for Ellen to comprehend because my sins were not so visible as her gaping ones. Discontentment is one of those more refined sins; but it, like any other sin, can only be hidden so long. If we let sin eat away at us it will eventually consume us and tragically it sometimes takes our dearest loved ones with it.
I don’t know what the future holds for each of you. Experience warns me that some of you will face sadness, discouragement, illness, sorrow, near-poverty, as well as joy and honor and fulfillment. I have no way of knowing who or how much or when; but tough times are as much a part of life as easy times. I know how difficult it is to learn from someone else’s experiences. I’m sure my parents knew about contentment, but I had to learn what a blessed thing it was the hard way. Grandpa says “If you can’t listen, you have to feel.” His mother would tell him that concerning the behavior of him and his brothers in church services If they didn’t behave as she motioned or nodded a command, then they would have to “feel” when they got home. I don’t remember if anyone ever really tried to tell me about contentment, but I certainly had to “feel” before I knew its worth.
Many of life’s lessons you, too, will have to learn on your own. It is not necessary, however, to wade through garbage to fully appreciate how putrid it smells or how ugly it is. One of our motivations in writing these “ramblings” to you is to help you “listen” so you don’t have to “feel” so much. And so, our beloved grandchildren, we pray you will not wade through much sin to find out how painful and putrid and deadly it is. Lean on God’s Word and the direction of the Holy Spirit and keep yourselves unspotted from the world!
Contentment! It is not something that just happens, it is a choice we make!