Philippians 4:11-13 “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: every where 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.”
Recently I was driving down a country road, and I saw the most amazing sight. (Well, it was certainly amazing to a city girl. I cannot judge how impressive it would have been to a farm girl.) I was driving past a field in which many types of animals were grazing. As a got closer, I saw a goat close to a barbed-wire fence. I thought, surely, the animal was dead. I had never seen an animal in this position! Its hind legs were straight as though it were standing; but the front legs were completely tucked under, so that its shoulders were flat against the ground. Its neck was stretched out farther than I thought possible, for a goat, and its head was under the bottom wire of the fence. I thought it was caught in the fence until I drove past it and saw its lips moving. It was then that I realized the goat had put itself in this crazy position on purpose to reach out as far as possible and eat the grass about a foot outside the fence. Wow! Talk about flexible. I began to laugh at the funny sight when I realized the most amazing part. This goat was going to all this trouble to reach the far-away grass, when it was standing in a field full of the exact same grass! Not the brightest animal I’ve ever seen.
Of course, it wasn’t seconds before the thought hit me, “I wonder if I ever look that silly and ridiculous to the Lord.” He has given me everything I need, but there are times when I have given all my energy in search of the “grass that is greener on the other side.” That was a humbling thought. Since the morning I saw that goat, when tempted to envy or become discontent, I have kept my thoughts in check by saying to myself, “Molly, stay in your own yard!”
Contentment with what we have is not natural to our sinful human nature. That is why Paul tells us in Philippians that we “can do all things through Christ.” We need His mind to live a contented life. This is something we must conquer each and every day. Contentment is a vital component of the Christian life. Its opposite –lust and envy, destroy our usefulness for the Lord.
Consider our time at church. Our church attendance is not simply about us and getting our spiritual needs met. Much of the purpose of meeting together as a church family is so that we can encourage one another. Going to church is actually a ministry of helps to edify and lift up fellow Christians with our words and deeds. (Hebrew 10:23-25) But, this purpose is destroyed when we go to church and look at one another with envy and lust. While standing to sing the congregational song, are you checking out what the other ladies are wearing, wishing you had their new outfit? Are you wishing you had their figure instead of yours, their vehicle, their hairdo, their personality, their position in the church, or worse, wishing you had their children or their husband? These thoughts are not what Christ had in mind when He started the church!
We can fall victim to discontentment so quickly and easily. We wake up in the morning and all is right with the world. Then we watch a little T.V., noticing the beautiful, perfect lives of the actresses, as well as their awesome hairstyles and clothes. A little later in the day, we open the mail and look through the catalogs. Again we see all the things we can’t afford and the pretty (airbrushed) models who fill the pages. We spend some time scrolling on social media, looking at the “perfect” lives of others. Next we talk to the friend on the phone (or maybe a colleague at work) who always reminds us of all the great things her boyfriend/husband buys for her or does for her. (The green-eyed monster is also talking in our other ear!) Before bed, we end the day with a romance novel (always written by a woman, you notice, because no man in real life actually thinks or talks that way!) After we have filled our minds with all the things we do not have, how can we possibly hope to be content with our normal, real, average lives? We are angry at our husbands for not providing for us, and they don’t even know what they did wrong!
Where the devil blinds women most is in the area of comparison. Remember the goat illustration? The grass we are standing on is just as green as the grass outside our reach. Satan dupes us into thinking that, if we try hard enough, we can obtain happiness through the accumulation of things we do not have. My former pastor often reminded our church members that we are about as happy now as we ever will be. In other words, if we are not happy in the house we live in, we would not be happy in a mansion. If we are not happy with the family God has given us, we would not be happy with any other family. The same goes for our careers and any other part of our lives. Contentment is a state of the mind, and is not caused by circumstances. When Paul wrote about contentment, he was in a prison cell. God wants to see your attitude with what you have- the job you have, the finances you have, the car you have, the health you have, and the family you have. He has already given you everything you need to be happy on any given day.
Let’s not allow the devil to work his way into our marriage or our other ministries by destroying our contentment. We must stay in our Bibles and on our knees daily to get the strength we need from Christ to remain content. The grass is greener INSIDE the fence!