By Kwon Johnghaeng
Those who seek satisfaction in material things become unhappy when they lose what they possess. Those looking for happiness in climbing feel a loneliness and emptiness when they reach the top, and despair when they go down. Christians are content because they do not rely on anything but Christ. The apostle Paul was content in all life’s circumstances: “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” (Phil. 4:11, 12).
Perception of Reality
Discontentment results from a negative appreciation of one’s reality. Historically, it was in the era of the church of Smyrna when Christians were the poorest. It was a time of persecution; all the material possessions were confiscated; everything that had been kept and maintained had already been taken away. Nevertheless, Jesus said to the church of Smyrna, “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty, but you are rich” (Rev. 2: 9). In contrast, there was no other time to be as rich in material things as in the era of the church of Laodicea. However, it is portrayed as poor (Rev. 3:17). The perception and interpretation of a given reality depends on the lenses used. God’s lenses are often different from ours.
The apostle Peter mentions that the believers are entrusted with “the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet. 4:10). Paul asks and answers for himself. “What advantage then has the Jew?” “Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God”(Rom. 3:1, 2). What advantage do the remnant people have? Much in every way! They are the stewards of God’s final message to humanity, the three angels’ messages. This is one of the most elevated functions attributed to human beings: “The Lord designs that the presentation of this message shall be the highest, greatest work carried onin the world at this time.” They are called to share and keep this message.
Contentment in the Last Days
The faithful remnant of the three angels’ messages are summarized as not worshiping the beast or its image, and not receiving its mark. They would face terrible pressures: “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”(Rev. 13:8). It will be ordered that “as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed”(Rev. 13:15), and they could not “buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name”(Rev. 13:17).
Who would stand firm even when they couldn’t buy the basic necessities of life or sell what they have produced, do not get paid for work done or could not withdraw from their own bank accounts? Those who have learned to be content. Jesus describes those who constitute this special group of believers as “he who endures to the end” (Matt. 24:13). Revelation 14:12 explains the essence of their contentment: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” They face the dire adversities without bending by keeping God’s commandments and having faith in Jesus. These are the building blocks of contentment in all seasons.
The commandments not to steal and not to covet what belongs to your neighbor are invitations to appreciate the valuable things that God has already provided.
In many people’s minds, God’s commandments have a negative connotation. But the psalmist said that the commandments are “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb”(Ps. 19:10). The reality is that the Ten Commandments do not begin with the first commandment, the first prohibition: “You shall have no other gods before Me” in Exodus 20:3; instead, it starts with the preamble in Exodus 20:2: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
Every time the Israelites meditated on the law, they remembered the God who rescued Israel from the slavery in Egypt. Several generations had lived and died as slaves. Then He sent the plagues, split the sea for them to cross, and closed it over the most powerful army in those days. They did not sow or reap, but they did not have to worry about food. They had only one garment and one pair of shoes, but they hadn’t worn out in 40 years. The commandments are the words of a loving and caring God. The last-days believers can remain loyal even when facing the harsh penalties for not worshiping the beast because their attachment to God’s law will help them to remember the God of Israel, who rescued His people from the hands of the Egyptians.
The underlying message of the Ten Commandments is an appeal to be content, to be satisfied with who God is and with what you have received from Him. One example is the first commandment: the call to worship God exclusively. The Israelites acknowledge that He is enough for them; through the plagues they learned that the gods of Egypt, such as frogs and flies, were nothing. The commandments not to steal and not to covet what belongs to your neighbor are invitations to appreciate the valuable things that God has already provided.
The faith of Jesus is another essential to experience contentment. When Jesus crossed the sea with His disciples, He was peacefully asleep. When the storm broke out, Peter, James, and John, who were seasoned fishermen, could not cope with the situation and were severely stressed. Satan had caused the storm in order to kill Jesus. With serenity, Jesus rose up and calmed the storm. He then asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?”(Luke 8:25).
The day is approaching when children who have faith in their parents, wives who have faith in their husbands, and rich people who have faith in their bank balances will learn that nothing earthly is reliable. Jesus alone is a sure anchor for our faith. The righteous, therefore, live by faith alone. The secret to contentment in times of trouble and tribulation is to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Those who demonstrate contentment daily are the heirs of a special blessing: “I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Rev. 14:13).
*Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 11.