Philippians 4: 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
The life of an athlete, especially elite athletes is a competitive one. If you ever choose to be content with where you are at, you will likely fall behind. Most stars, whatever their sport, will acknowledge that they are never satisfied with where they are at; they are always striving to improve, sticking around after the game to take some extra free throws, to take some extra shots on net or swing the bat a few more times.
This commitment to excellence, this drive to get better, to go faster or farther is what makes some people stand out from others and what makes some athletes stand above others. It would appear to be a prerequisite to becoming the best. But there is a down side to this mentality, especially if you are unable to turn off this switch when you walk off the court, or skate off the ice or leave the track. The challenge is when you cannot find contentment in your life.
Travis Garrison was an All-American US College basketball player recruited to play for the National College champions Maryland. From that high point, however, life didn’t go the way he or most others thought it would. Recently he wrote a book entitled: “Never Satisfied: An Athlete’s Battle”. This title seems to say it all; while never being satisfied with your game will likely help you succeed on the court, it may also be your greatest battle off the court.
As we read above in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, he understood this concept of contentment. Paul understood that satisfaction cannot have anything to do with our circumstances, it cannot have anything to do with our successes, but instead it must be grounded in something much deeper. Paul was profoundly grateful, deeply and intensely thankful.
Reverend Billy Graham wrote the following about Paul:
“The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.
Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!
The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
Paul was thankful because he knew he was a sinner saved only by grace. He had done nothing, and could do nothing to merit spending an eternity with a perfect God. But he recognized that he didn’t have to try to achieve anything. Everything was done on the cross when Jesus Christ took on the sins of the world – our sins. As he wrote to the church in Rome “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Above all else, it was this that Paul was grateful for – that Jesus died on the cross for his sins – that he was forgiven. If you want to find true contentment, it will come from this same recognition and the acceptance of a free gift held out to us by Jesus. In this place you can live a life of thanksgiving, whatever your circumstances.