When I was a boy, my parents received into our home a boy from Mexico as part of an exchange program conducted by my youth sports team. He stayed with us for a short while and played football with me. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember his grateful attitude. As a child, I would complain about the things I liked and disliked, but my foreign exchange friend was different. When my mother served him breakfast, he was so happy and grateful. He took the eggs that my mother had prepared and poured ketchup on them. I had never heard of ketchup on eggs, but he sure liked them, and he taught me an important lesson about contentment. I doubt that my friend had the same financial resources as my family, but one valuable characteristic he did possess was an appreciative spirit.
Do you have that same spirit? I am talking about a spirit of being agreeable.
Sometimes people who have the most resources are the most difficult to satisfy.
We can get used to having so many options that it can be a challenge to exhibit the spirit of contentment. But the scripture teaches in Ecclesiastes 7:14, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.” When one considers the prosperity within our society, we should not have any problem with being happy. Yet we struggle with the paradox of prosperity — when we have more resources, they don’t always translate into personal satisfaction.
Off the coast of Africa, they have hospitals operating on vessels called Mercy Ships. The Mercy Ships charity is an international organization established in 1978 to provide free medical services to people in poor countries. Some patients travel for miles and wait for years to get access to good medical care. Yet if you are reading this article in a medical facility right now, it is likely that your wait time might be calculated in only minutes and hours. Can you see the extent to which God has blessed us?
Ecclesiastes 7:14 also encourages us to be happy even in days of recession. In other words, when times are bad, maintain a spirit of happiness. During times of sickness or unemployment, even then, display an upbeat spirit. God’s word reveals that anybody can dance in the sunshine, but the question is whether your faith can sustain a positive attitude in the rain.
Consider how the faithful in the Bible maintained a proper demeanor. It was a big challenge when God called on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, yet Abraham maintained his composure and faithfully obeyed the Lord. As a result, God stepped in and spared Isaac, and the faith of Abraham resulted in him being known as the father of many nations.
Jesus serves as the best example of contentment, for he endured the cross with steadfast faith. A proper attitude of happiness does not mean that we have to leap for joy when we receive bad news, but during our difficult times we must remember that our faith requires us to trust in God despite our circumstances.
The word “happy” in Ecclesiastes 7:14 comes from a Hebrew word that means “to be pleasant and agreeable.” This nature must be learned as we focus on the Christ within us rather the crisis around us.
Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor in the second century said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself and your way of thinking.” As people of faith, our happiness stems from our relationship with Christ. If he is the center of your life, then happiness and contentment will flow from that source.
So the next time you are served eggs for breakfast, instead of complaining, receive them with a pleasant spirit and ask someone to pass the ketchup.