The Best Lesson
Philippians 4:11
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.

(Children's sermon): — The world is a school, and we have to learn our lessons in it. The best lesson we can learn is contentment.


1. Because it makes those who learn it happy. Nothing in the world can make a discontented person happy. There was a boy once who only wanted a marble; when he had the marble, he only wanted a ball; when he had a ball, he only wanted a top; when he had a top, he only wanted a kite: and when he had marble, ball, top, and kite, he was not happy. There was a man once who only wanted money; when he had money, he only wanted a house; when he had a house, he only wanted land; when he had land, he only wanted a coach; but when he had money, house, land, and coach, he wanted more than ever. I remember, when I was a boy, reading a fable about a mouse that went to a spring with a sieve to carry some water in it. He dipped the sieve in the water, but, of course, as soon as he raised it up the water all ran through. He tried it over and over again, but still no water would stay in the sieve. The poor mouse hadn't sense enough to know where the trouble was. He never thought about the holes in the sieve. The fable said that while the mouse was still trying, in vain, to get some water in the sieve to carry home, there came a little bird and perched on a branch of the tree that grew near the spring. He saw the trouble the poor mouse was in, and kindly sung out a little advice to him in these simple words:Stop it with moss, and daub it with clay, and then you may carry it all away.Trying to make a discontented person happy is like trying to fill a sieve with water. However much you pour into it, it all runs out just as fast as you pour it in. If you want to fill the sieve, you must stop the holes up. Then it will be easy enough to fill it. Just so it is with trying to make discontented people happy. It is impossible to make them happy while they are discontented. You must stop up the holes; you must take away their discontent, and then it is very easy to make them happy. If we were in Paradise, as Adam and Eve were, we should not be happy unless we learned to be content. Nay, if we were in heaven even, as Satan and the fallen angels once were, we should be unhappy without contentment. It was because Paul had learned this lesson that he could be happy, and sing for joy, when he was in a dungeon, and his back was all bleeding from the cruel stripes laid upon it.

2. Because it makes those who learn it useful. When people or things are content to do or be what God made them for, they are useful: when they are not content with this, they do harm. God made the sun to shine; the sun is content to do just what God made it for, and so it is very useful. God made the little brooks to flow through the meadows, giving drink to the cattle, and watering the grass and the roots of the trees, so as to make them green, and help them to grow. While they do this they are very useful. But suppose they should stop flowing, and spread themselves over the fields, they would do a great deal of harm. God made our hearts to keep beating, and sending the blood all over our bodies. While they are content to do this, they are very useful Let them only stop beating, and we should die.


1. Because God puts us where we are. God puts all things in the places where they are. The sun and moon and stars in the sky, the birds in the air, the fish in the sea, the trees in the woods, the grass in the fields, the stones and metals in the earth. He knows best where to put things. When people try to change what God has done, because they think they can arrange things better, they always make a mistake.

2. Because God wants us to learn it. This we know(1) from what He has said (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5).

(2) From what He has done. He has filled the world with examples of contentment. All things that God has made are content to be where He has put them, except the children of Adam. God has done more for us than for any other of His creatures. We ought to be the most contented of all, and yet we are generally the most discontented. The fish are content with the water; the birds are content with the air. The eagle, as he soars to the sun, is content with his position; and so is the worm that crawls in its slime, or the blind mole that digs its way in darkness through the earth. All the trees of the forest are content to grow where God put them. The lily of the valley is content with its lowly place, and so is the little flower that blooms unnoticed on the side of the bleak mountain. Wherever you look you may see examples of contentment. Only think of the grass. It is spread all over the earth. It is mowed down continually; it is trodden on and trampled under foot all the time; and yet it always has a bright, cheerful, contented look. It is a beautiful image of contentment.

3. Because Jesus learned and practised it. It must have been very hard for Jesus to be content with the way in which He lived in this world, because it was so totally different from what He had been accustomed to before He came into it. A bird that has been hatched and brought up in a cage may be contented with its position, and live happily in its little wire prison. The reason is that it has never known anything better. But take a bird that has been accustomed to its liberty in the open air, and shut it up in a small cage. It cannot be contented there. It will strike its wings against the cage, and stretch its neck through the wires, and show in this way how it longs for the free air of heaven again. Just so a person who was born and brought up in a garret or cellar, and who has never known anything better, may manage to be content there. But one who has lived in a beautiful palace for many years would find it very hard to live in a damp, dark cellar, among thieves and beggars. But Jesus lived in heaven before He came here. There He had everything that He wanted.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

WEB: Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it.

The Art of Divine Contentment
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