Saturday mornings during Sept. and Oct. are busy at the soccer complex in our area. Ten fields of nicely mowed grass are full all morning with kids of various ages playing. Soccer balls are everywhere. The number of kids on each team is limited so that everybody can get a chance to play. It’s a quite different situation than the soccer game I watched when I was in South Africa.
Once a week some missionaries bring a couple soccer balls to an area in the community where they serve. It’s a field of dirt with more gravel than grass. There were two goals but neither goal had any netting. There was only one field so there was only one game. Whatever kids showed up were welcome to play. The day I was there each team had 25 kids. Even though they were running on and falling on dirt and gravel, none of the kids had shin pads or the other protective gear American kids so often have. The two 25-member teams played for about an hour and then the missionaries got them together in a circle and shared Jesus with them and prayed with them. Most of the kids went away with a smile on their face. It was maybe one of the highlights of their week.
I wonder how many U.S. kids and parents would be smiling if they were told they were going to play on dirt and gravel with 25 kids on a team. Unfortunately, even though they get to play in conditions considered luxurious by many in the world, some aren’t smiling much. Some playing on grass are joyful and content, and some aren’t; just like some playing on dirt have joy and contentment and some don’t. Whether a person is joyful, peaceful and content is not determined by whether you get to play on nice grass fields or on dirt. It is not determined by how much money is in your bank account or how big your house is or how nice a car you drive.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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” (Philippians 4:11-12). Whatever the circumstances, whether in plenty or in need, whether playing soccer on nice grass or rough dirt, contentment can be found. It is not determined by our circumstances. True contentment comes from knowing God and His goodness and grace.
Thankfulness is key to contentment. Whether we are enjoying the best conditions or dealing with tough challenges, we can find something to complain about and also reason to be thankful. The question is: what are we looking for and what are we focused on? “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). Times were hard for the prophet Habakkuk, but he knew the love of God. He focused on God’s good promises, and in those promises he found joy and contentment.
Sometimes we’re playing on grass and sometimes on dirt. Sometimes things are going along pretty well and other times life can be really hard. But through it all we can keep rejoicing and be at peace because God is good and His love endures forever.