During the days of Paul, the city of Corinth was a metropolis of wealth and immorality. A place in desperate need of the church Paul founded. This early church struggled in the midst of a pagan culture, so in response to the confusion of its members Paul wrote letters of both encouragement and instruction. One of the many issues Paul addressed, were the feelings of discontentment that plagued some of those who were still being influenced by a society who glorified the idea of “more”.
Paul urged the people to be satisfied where God had placed them by saying, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise, he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.” (7:17-24)
Discontentment is nothing new. Even the Israelites, freed from bondage in Egypt, grumbled against God and the way He cared for them throughout their trek in the desert. Not content with what He provided, their desire for more caused them to think how returning to that same bondage would be better then what God had to offer. Sadly at times I have shared that same attitude. I too in my own discontent have grumbled against the Lord, wanting more and being unappreciative of all He has and continues to provide. I too have mistakenly thought that returning to the bondage of the world was better then the Lord’s offerings. But God’s way is always the best, and by reminding ourselves to trust, submit, and serve Him, we can find both contentment, and the joy and peace it brings.
Trust– God knows us better then we know ourselves. He knows what we need and better yet, what we don’t. In verse 29:11 Jeremiah reminds us of God’s intentions writing, “I know the plans that I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Discontentment creeps in when we try to impose our plans on God rather then trusting in His. Our Father loves us beyond measure and promises that when we trust Him to work in His perfect way and timing, He will fulfill every good plan He has for our lives.
Submit– Submitting to God means surrendering our will to His. Often times we try to take matters into our own hands, playing the role intended for Him alone. Nothing happens without His say so, and many times God uses the circumstances in our lives to deeper our relationship with Him. Deciding how we think things should go and attempting to make them happen shows that we want to be the authority in our lives instead of God. Paul endured much. Yet he lived a life in submission to God and in return found peace saying, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” ( Phil. 4:11,13)
Serve– There is a Chinese saying that goes, “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” Serving God includes serving others. In 1 Peter 4:10 we are instructed, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Meeting the needs of others not only gives us the joy of pleasing God, it also shifts our focus. And when our focus is placed not on ourselves but instead on serving the Lord and others, we have little time to serve feelings of discontentment.
Being content with where we are and what we have is a choice each of us must make. Even if your circumstances may not be what you want, remember that they could always be worse and are always in God’s capable hands. Follow the advice of Paul and find contentment by pursuing those things which are good, aiming for godliness not gain. Strive to be satisfied with what God has given you and with where he has placed you in life. You can’t go wrong when you trust in Him, His love, and His plans for you. So wherever you are make the most of the calling God has given you, and bloom where you are planted!