Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. It is opposed to dissatisfaction, and by submission to the hardships of life disarms them of half their power. It is too sensible to aim after impossibilities, or to increase the infelicities of life by fretfulness. A just mind is necessary to it, one who sees things as they are instead of through the distorting medium of a jaundiced eye. The injustice of mind accompanying pride produces peevishness, and that accompanying ambition petulance.
2. It is not, however, indifference or stupidity, although these sometimes pass for such. Minds too sluggish to think, hearts too insensible to feel, souls too selfish to do either, have neither sensibility nor sense to complain. But contentment can feel, hope, sigh; but its feelings are not allowed to run into fretfulness, and its sighs are often exchanged for smiles. If it cannot have what it would it will not brood over its disappointments, but brighten them by sweet submission.
3. It has no kinship with fatalism. When the calls of duty come in conflict with the desires for cherished sinfulness, it is no uncommon thing for a foolish sinner to say that his plans and actions can alter nothing; the real meaning of which he is too lazy to plan or act at all; so he misnames his vice the virtue of contentment. Paul's contentment, however, was to work, plan, pray. He did not submit beforehand, because he did not know beforehand; but when the event came he said, "I am content," i.e., with the ascertained will of his Master.
II. THE MODE OF ITS ACQUISITION. "I have learned," i.e., as a lesson, and with difficulty, too. If we trace its experiences we shall find —
1. A sensibility to the Divine hand. He saw God in his trials, and said, "Thy will be done." It is a very different thing to submit under the ills of life through a realization of their Divine appointment, and to submit from sullenness or stupidity, See, then, in them the God of all wisdom and goodness.
2. He hoped in God. No man can be contented without hope. This leads to contentedness in certain expectation of deliverance, if not here, by and by. "I know whom I have believed," etc.
3. He had his treasure in heaven; and if we have we can say, "Our light affliction which is but for a moment," etc., and so be content. And even in prosperity this consolation is required; for amidst abounding riches there is dissatisfaction. Something more is wanted.
4. He had experiences which tried him. His content did not arise from tuition, faith, hope, heavenly mindedness, alone or together. His painful experiences gave strength to his contentment, and made successive trials light and met more willingly. They taught him to say, "When I am weak I am strong; I can do all things through Christ," etc.
III. THE REASONS WHICH ENFORCE IT.
1. The power which has allotted our state. God reigns. An inscrutable wisdom and overruling providence is at work. How unreasonable, then, to complain when trouble comes. It is either a deserved chastise. merit or a healthful discipline. Discontent is an injustice in high quarters. Take, then, your happy place, it is your heavenly Father's appointment in love.
2. Contentment is safety. How many have suffered irretrievably through wandering from their allotted path, or wishing and striving to do so. The humblest cottage is better than a fever-stricken or earthquake-shaken palace.
3. Contentment enhances our enjoyment and diminishes our miseries. Evils become lighter by patient endurance, and benefits are poisoned by discontent.
4. The miseries of life are sufficiently deep and extensive without adding to them.
5. Contentment is the means of receiving new lessons about God.
(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.