|Posted on April 11, 2021 at 12:05 AM|
This week I heard a quick news brief that said that California might be “opening back up” by June. That was such exciting news! I know we’ve all looked forward to everything around us returning to what we’ve always called normal. I mean, who really likes change?
But it got me to thinking. Before Covid, I could hardly wait for a little vacation. I would run from one task to another, craving the opportunity for a little ‘alone’ time, or a day when I really didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.
As much as I love church, if I’m completely honest there were Sundays that I just yearned to sleep in a bit and ‘watch’ a great teaching on television – in my pajamas! And let’s face it, a few weeks off work was really not a great ordeal, aside from the pay thing.
I would certainly be lying if I said my house had ever been cleaner than it was about three weeks into the quarantine. All my closets were shipshape, my garage looked amazingly organized, and there was not a single dust bunny anywhere!
But then what? It’s true -- the grass is always (we think) greener on the other side of the fence. That old proverb, traced back to the poetry of Publius Ovidius Naos (43 BC-17 AD) actually means ‘the harvest is always more fruitful in another man’s fields.’ It’s interesting that this saying is popularly quoted in nearly every culture and language, and it has different meanings to different people. But the overall concept explains so much about human nature.
The reality is, we are always yearning for what we don’t have, and chasing after something we are convinced will make us happy. And we’re much more alike than we think. Whether what we want is a new car or bigger house, or just another goat added to the herd. It’s not, as we sometimes think, just a matter of wanting to keep up with everyone around us or even being envious of what someone else has. Many times our discontent is deeply embedded in our own hearts, regardless of the circumstance of our life.
It’s not a problem developed in this fast paced and competitive world of today. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes “… I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.” He’s thanking the church for their gifts and support but placing the glory squarely where it belongs – with God.
Paul had sacrificed greatly to further the gospel. He was writing this letter from prison, likely knowing that the eventual outcome of his choice to follow Christ could cost him his life. Greco-Roman thinking of that day emphasized the belief that one should rely only on oneself – not unlike today’s culture.
But Paul knew that his satisfaction and happiness was not limited by his human capability or frailty. His very survival, his every need, was placed where it belonged… on Christ. And that wasn’t just a statement of material or physical desires. Paul realized what we all should, that our contentment and our emotional fulfilment rests solely and safely in our dependence on God.
Galatians 2:8 tells us that Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. His assignment was to work in hostile territory, among those who didn’t share his faith or his mission. Even as he seemed to be successful in spreading the message of Christ, Christianity was outlawed and Paul was re-arrested. But even in his last days before being martyred at the hands of Nero, Paul spoke of contentment.
In 1 Timothy 6 he simply says “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction… flee from all of this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.”
Pandemic or no, social distancing or not, in isolation or out, we must keep our eyes focused firmly on the fact that our happiness and our true contentment is never going to be satisfied by anything available to us in this world but only on the grace of our loving and ever-concerned Father. And we are in good hands because that is the secret to contentment!
Be blessed, my friend, God is on the throne.