“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

We have discussed that there are many  things Christians ought to learn during their walk of faith.  So far we had covered the following lessons.

Lesson 1 : Learning To Fear God
Lesson 2: Learning To Do Good And Be Honest

Lesson 3: To Learn Righteousness
Lesson 4: Learning To Be A Good Samaritan
Lesson 5: Learning Obedience In The Midst Of Suffering
Lesson 6: Learning To Show Filial Piety At Home

Lets look at the 7th Lesson

Learning Contentment

“Not that I speak in regard to need,
for I have learned in whatever state
I am, to be content:  I know how to be
abased, and I know how to abound.
Everywhere and in all things I have
learned both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ
who strengthens me.” – Paul (Php 4:11-13)

Paul said that he had learnt to be contented in all situations, he has learnt how to be abase as well as to abound, that is not an easy feat. For when a man is abased, he often  suffer from inferiority complex and he would murmur against God. On the other hand, when a man is in abundance, he is in danger of becoming proud and indulgent.

That is why we need to learn contentment, for a contented man knows how to rely on God in every situation. He can rely on God during the period of blessing and use his resources to serve God.

Paul was able to learn contentment for he knows how to rely on God, he can do all things through Christ who strength him. Other translation of the verse reads

“I can handle all situations through Christ who strengthen me”
“I can adapt to all situation through Christ who strengthen me”

Contentment Is A Strength From God

Reading the numerous translations tells us that the strength of Paul is not from his own willpower. It is a strength given to him by God so that he could adapt to all situation.

That is why we need to learn contentment especially when we encounter difficulties. For even if we think that our situation is dire, there  will always be others who were in a worst situation. There is a need for us to trust that Jesus will help us, he will give us the strength we need to overcome these difficulties.

It is  necessary for us to learn contentment and not to murmur against him, for we need to learn to rely on God in times of difficulties.

Godliness And Contentment Are Different Qualities

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it
is
certain we can carry nothing out.  And
having food and clothing, with these we shall
be content. “-Paul (1 Tim 6:6-8)

Godliness without contentment is incomplete. Contentment is not a quality that is inborn within us, that is why we have to learn contentment. We need to understand that being godly does not equal to contentment.

Godliness is a great gain only when it is accompanied with contentment. For a godly man without contentment risk losing his faith. The bible had examples of many Godly man who fell from grace. Most of them fell because they are not contented with what they receive from God.

Examples Of Godly People Without Contentment

These people did not become discontented because they were placed in a harsh and difficult surrounding. For if they are in such a surrounding, it would be fair for them to ask God for a better surrounding.

In fact they fall even when God place them in a wonderful and great surrounding. They fall because of their greediness and they wanted to be something more.

Let us consider Adam and Eve, God had place them in a perfect garden. But the book of Genesis records of their fall from grace.

“So when the woman saw that the tree
was good for food, that it was pleasant
to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make
one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She
also gave to her husband with her, and
he ate. “ – Moses (Gen 3:6)

They sinned not because the fruit was beautiful, for we know all fruits are beautiful in the garden of Eden. They ate the fruit not because of hunger, for God has given them lots of fruits as food in the garden. For it was recorded in Genesis

“And out of the ground the Lord God
made every tree grow that is pleasant
to the sight and good for food. The tree
of life was also in the midst of the garden,
and the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil.”- Moses (Gen 2:9)

Since God had created all the trees to give forth fruits that are pleasant to the eyes and good  for food. God permitted Adam and Eve to eat from any fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Sadly, they were not contented even when God created many fruits for them to eat. They went against God and took the forbidden fruit to fulfil their lust. For the sake of one fruit, they lost the entire garden

Discontentment Is The Reason Behind The Fall Of Man

This is why godliness with contentment is great gain.

Yet there are people who thinks that God was being cruel for forbidding them to eat from that tree. But was God being cruel and mean? God did not give man 1 tree for food. He had given them the garden.

But yet some may argue and ask “since God has given man the will to choose why judge them when they exercise their right to choose?” That is why many accused God of being a fraud and that free will given was a scam. They accuse God of laying a trap for man to fall right into it.

But in fact we have misunderstood God. God did not plant the tree their as a choice for Adam. He told him not to eat it, for the day he eat of it he will die. God gave this command to Adam and it is a matter of life and death.

That command is not a choice, and it was meant to be followed. If one follows the command of God and not eat the fruit, they will live forever, but if one were to disobey God and eat it, he will lose eternal life.

Does The Fruit Really Make One Wise?

Yet some will argue that the temptation of the fruit is too great, for by eating it one could be like God. Therefore they defended Adam by saying that the risk is worthwhile for the sake of knowledge.

But by eating it, we are accusing God of wickedness, for by eating the fruit we are in fact declaring that “God forbid man to eat the fruit for he did not want man to be like him knowing good and evil.”

We have forgotten that those were the words of the devil and the devil will never tell us the truth.

The truth is that when Adam and Eve took of the fruit, they have disobeyed God who had given them the beautiful garden of Eden. They chose to obey the words of the devil and doubt the goodness of God. But in fact the devil was lying, for God had already given them the knowledge of good and evil.

Let us look closely at the tree and not be deceived.

The Purpose Of The Tree Of The Knowledge Of Good And Evil

But if we were to think in this direction, we would arrive at a difficulty.

“Why then did God create the tree and forbid man to eat from it?”

Many of us will think that is a temptation. It is just like putting a cake before the kid and telling them not to eat it. As the result some people thinks that God did it so that he could trap them and judge them later.

But is that the true intention of God? If no, why did he plant the tree in the first place?

God did it to allow him to see if man are good or evil. The Chinese bible gave the tree and interesting name.  “分别善恶树” which means “The tree that discern good and evil”

The fruits of the tree will determine if you are good or evil. If one were to obey the words of God and not eat the fruit, then he is  good.  On the contrary if one disobey God and eat of the fruit. It proves that they are evil. For if we believe that God is good and his commands are good, we will choose to obey it willingly.

The same concept applies even today, when we look at the 10 commandments of God. If we think that God is good we will obey them willingly. These commandments are there to determine if we are good or evil. If we follow the commandments and keep it, we are good and if we choose to disobey then we are evil.

That reminds us of a conversation between Jesus and a young ruler in Matt 19:16-17

Young Ruler: “Good Teacher, what good thing
shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus: “Why do you call Me good?
No one is good but One, that is,
God. But if you want to enter into
life, keep the commandments.”

There was a young ruler who came to Jesus and called him the good teacher. But Jesus asked “Why do you call me good? for no one is good except for God”. Indeed there are many things which the world perceive as good, but they may not be true goodness. There are many things that appear good but in fact were hypocrisy.

That is why Jesus told him “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” For the commandments of God is good, and it can allow us to enter eternal life.

Keeping The commandments is doing Good

Though we know that the commandments of God are good, we find it hard to keep them. But if we were to read them, we will find that the law of God is reasonable and his commandments are good.

The first 4 of the 10 commandments pertains to God they teaches man these things
1. To worship God only
2. Not to worship Idol
3. Not to use his name in vain
4. To keep the Sabbath

The next six pertains to man
5. To respect our parents
6. No murder
7. No Adultery
8. No  stealing
9. No false witness
10. Do not covert

These are rules  set up to protect man as well as their property. Any man who broke these rules are indeed evil. They will bring harm to others, destroy marriages and even bring harm to people by killing and robbing them. These are things everyone will agree that a man should not commit these.

That is why it is a good thing to keep the commandments. if we choose to obey it, we are good. We will receive blessing as well as eternal life.  But to do this we need to have that understanding that God is good his commandments are good. We need to know that these commandments are given so that man could receive blessing and preserve our lives.

Discontentment Of King David

We need to understand that even godly people can break the commandments of God. We often have a misconception that since these people are Godly they will not break the commandments of God. That is why we feel indignant when we hear of scandals where we find godly man doing ungodly acts.

But have we considered why they choose to go against God?

The real reason behind the problem is a lack of contentment.

Let us consider the example of King David, everyone will agree that he is a godly man. Why then did he commit adultery? We know that he had more than 1 wife, and that is why God rebuke him for his lack of contentment. This is evident in the rebuke God spoke through prophet Nathan

“You are the man! Thus says the Lord
God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over
Israel, and I delivered you from the hand
of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house
and your master’s wives into your keeping,
and gave you the house of Israel and Judah.
And if that had been too little, I also would
have given you much more!  Why have you
despised the commandment of the Lord, to do
evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the
Hittite with the sword; you have taken his
wife to be your wife, and have killed him
with the sword of the people of Ammon.
Now therefore, the sword shall never depart
from your house, because you have despised
Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite
to be your wife.’”- Nathan (2 Sam 12:7-10)

It is possible for a godly man to sin when he is lack of contentment. That is reason behind the sin of David. It made him commit murder and adultery. He was not contented with everything God had given him.

There are some around us who are not contented with what they have, they yearn for more power, more status and more authority. They are not contented with their wealth and they wanted more money. They are not contented with their virtuous  and pretty wife and they wanted more.

Contentment is not about material wealth only. It applies to power, fame and authority and these are all potential pitfalls in our lives. That is why Paul said “Godliness with Contentment is great gain”

The Exhortation From Hebrews

The Author of Hebrew also reminds us

“Marriage is honorable among all,
and the bed undefiled; but fornicators
and adulterers God will judge.

   Let your conduct be without covetousness;
be content with such things as you have.
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave
you nor forsake you.”-Author Of Hebrews (Heb 13:4-5)

Over here we find that he did not mention about greed and power. For Christians do not fall often from a lust of power. Most fell from grace due to a lust for wealth and a lust for woman. That is why he reminded Christians to respect the institution of marriage. For  God will judge all fornicators and adulterers. He also remind us not to be covetous, for if we desire to get rich quick,  it is a warning to us.

That is a warning telling us that our heart is easily attracted to riches and all of us are at risk of being snared and tempted to sin. Therefore we need to re-aligned our hearts and not allow it to control us.

The Secret To Contentment

When one is not contented, he will never be happy with whatever he received. They are satisfied initially, and that is because they felt the contentment at the beginning.

For example, in the past we may have said to ourselves “If I marry the one I love, it would be satisfying, it doesn’t matter what hardship we encounter, we would remain  blissful even if we only live in a small shack with a small car and some form of saving”

When God granted our request and bless us with wife, a small shack, a small car and some savings, we may be happy for a while, but why did we become dissatisfied after a while? How did that happen?

It began when we start to murmur about what we have, when we complained about how small the house is. When we complained about our wives and her weakness. then we start to nurture dissatisfaction and eventually it will lead us to commit sin. It will drive us to covert the wealth of others and even commit adultery.

That is why the Author of Hebrews remind us to be contented, for we need to be thankful and contented with what we have, for there are many others who did not receive them. We may be poor compared to the rich and famous, but we are indeed better off than many others in the world.

Contentment will only come when one choose not to compare with others. For if we start comparing we will never be contented. Therefore we must learn to be contented with what we have.

The Millionaire Challenge

There was once a millionaire who published an advertisement on the newspaper.

It reads :
“I have one million dollars, and I will give it
away to whoever who can prove that they
are contented and happy with their life”

Many came and tried hard to prove that they are happy and contented, but at the end of the day, no one gets the million dollar prize and none of them dared to protest. The reason was because they are unable to answer a simple question posted by the rich man.

“Since you said that your happiness and contentment are for real, why then did you still want this prize money?”

We may be Godly, but are we contented? Godliness without contentment is not a great gain. Therefore Christian ought to be contented because of Christ.

Conclusion : A Reason To Be Contented

Actually there is a reason for all of us to feel contented, it was once spoken by the King David in a psalm

“Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
  That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness
of Your house,Of Your holy temple.”- David (Ps 65:4)

We have done nothing of merit to qualify us as the children of God. But God had chosen us to be heirs to his grace and salvation. That is why we need to strive to remain in the house of the Lord. For he had blessed us with the Holy Spirit and it is a guarantee to our inheritance in heaven. The Holy Spirit testified that the promises of Christ are real.

Let us learn to be contented with the good things God had given us. For we are more blessed than King David in his days. Even though he received the promises of God but he did not have the Holy Spirit like us. For the Holy Spirit only dwelt among men in the New Testament.

We know that the temple that King David laboured hard to build was eventually destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon. Even though the temple was rebuild by Zerubbabel, that temple eventually fell prey to the invading Roman army. The saints of the Old testament did not place their hope and trust on the things that lies before their eyes. They believed in a Kingdom of God which they had not seen with their eyes. They are contented just believing in it.

Today we have the Holy Spirit living with us, and we know that it is true. That is all the more reasons why we must learn to be satisfied and contented. David once wrote about his wish in a Psalm

“Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword,
   With Your hand from men, O Lord,
From men of the world who have their
portion in this life,
And whose belly You fill with Your
hidden treasure.
They are satisfied with children,
And leave the rest of their possession for
their babes.

    As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”- David (Ps 17:13-15)

David asked God to make him different from the people of the world. For those people are satisfied with material procession and children. But David choose to be contented just to awake in the likeness of God

A man who is only concern for earthly treasure is at risk to harbour a heart of discontentment and greed. That is why David wanted God to change his attitude. So that he will look ahead and see the more beautiful city in heaven.

That is the home that all saints since the time of Abraham look forward to. That is why they are not just Godly, they are filled with contentment with what they have. That is the reason why they are able to keep their faith and walk with God till the end.  e end.

Let’s us emulate them and learn to be contented.  May God help us.

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