Each of the "little foxes" has its own peculiarity. There is something that distinguishes it from the rest.
If Selfishness is distinguished by the depth of the holes to which it retreats — then Murmuring is recognized by the peculiarly painful whine which it is constantly uttering.
You hear it almost a mile off. It falls upon the ear with a very grating, distressing sound.
I have heard it from a passer-by in the street, and I have heard it the moment I have entered a house.
Perhaps there may be some special trial, or things may be much as usual...but you still hear the old sound.
No one had ever so much to bear as I have!
No one had ever so much to bear as I have!
It is a cold, bitter world, and it gets worse and worse!
I'm a slave to work, and there is no help for it!
I am the man who has seen affliction! Lamentations 3:1
In some shape like this, we often hear it, and it casts a gloom wherever it comes.
While now and then we meet with a joyful, happy spirit, who is always hoping things will mend, and sees "how much worse it might have been," and can find out a speck of blue sky in the darkest day...
There are too many, alas, who cover up their sweetest mercies beneath the bushel of fears and evil anticipations, and go on their way a misery to themselves and all about them.
I have in my mind two types of this evil. They were in very different positions in life, and their trials also were very diverse.
In one case, the trial which called forth this sin was doubtless very heavy.
A widow lady was left with an only son. He went to sea, and the vessel was lost, and she never saw him again.
It was a terrible blow; but she nursed her sorrow and would take no comfort.
She said God had dealt hardly with her, and she never could believe that He was a God of love.
Whatever was said to her as to God's gift of His own Son for our salvation, of His promise never to leave those who trusted in Him comfortless, it was all in vain.
She still continued repining and murmuring against God; and instead of her affliction being sanctified to her soul's profit, I fear it only led her to harden her heart against God.
The other case was a more ordinary one. It was a very old story.
A woman had a large family, but a sickly constitution, and her means were only just sufficient.
But her troubles were made a thousand-fold greater by the way she took them.
You never saw a smile on her countenance, and you never heard her speak without complaining.
She would complain of her landlord, of her boys, her husband, her garden, and I know not what.
I knew her for years, and I think I never spoke to her but there was something of this kind.
She buried herself in her troubles, and never looked at anything else.
So no wonder this fox of Discontent was always heard near her door.
This sin of murmuring and discontent has its root in the fallen nature of man. It tells of a wrong state of heart.
It springs from the will not being subdued to the will of God.
Men forget their own sinfulness, and that they receive far less of evil than their iniquities deserve.
They forget that, "God does according to His will in Heaven and in earth, and that He gives no account of any of His matters."
They forget that this world is not to be our Paradise, but a training school for one above.
They forget the constant mercies that a merciful Father is ever bestowing while they fix their eye on the sorrow or disappointment that has come upon them.
Often too, discontent arises from some special cause.
A man has set his heart on getting rich. All his aim and desire is to amass a fortune.
But he cannot succeed. Trade is bad, and orders do not come in. Few customers are seen at his counter, and he can only just pay his way.
Or, if his capital is invested in farming, perhaps the seasons are not good and the crops fall short. Then he murmurs.
He complains of trade or weather or whatever stands between him and success.
If the love of money were not supreme, he would find it far easier to be content with his position: "Having food and clothing, he would be therewith content."
Or take another cause. A young person is very fond of change.
She has a good situation and a comfortable home...she has opportunities of self-improvement and a mistress who really cares for her welfare.
But she is unsettled and unhappy. Her life is too quiet...she wants more excitement.
So she leaves her place and loses a good situation, and perhaps in a new one has temptations which lead her further and further from true peace.
Be sure that contentment can never be obtained by any change of place or circumstances.
I have heard of a rich man, in olden time, who had many country houses and used often to go from one to another.
When asked why he so often moved, he said it was to find contentment but as he never found it, he missed his aim.
I remember one morning I was just starting on a journey to see a village where I felt probably my lot might be cast for some years.
As the place was far from all old friends and in many ways a very lonely one, I was not very happy in the prospect.
But a Christian friend gave me a word that helped me, and I have never forgotten it.
It was a verse of one of Guyon's poems:
While place we seek or place we shun, The soul finds happiness in none;
But with our God to guide our way 'Tis equal joy to go or stay.
There is a great truth in these lines. True peace and contentment is not to be found in one spot or another.
Neither is it to be found in the removal of a particular grievance, or in some additional means of comfort or happiness.
I am quite aware that many things may aggravate the burden of our discontent, and something now and then may be found to lighten it, but the true remedy lies deeper than in anything external.
Paul gives us two or three precious lessons as to the cure of discontent.
He reminds us that "we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out."
It is all in vain to disturb our hearts with eagerness to grow rich. Such desire will pierce a man through with many sorrows.
Nay, rather be satisfied with what is needful. Godliness is our true wealth.
It is a portion we can carry with us. As to the rest, let us leave it. "Having food and clothing, we will be content with that." (See 1 Timothy 6:6-10.)
Then, in another place, he gives us his own example, and the secret of it.
Few have had more to endure than he...few have had more privations.
He had often been "in cold and hunger and nakedness." He had often been homeless and friendless.
He had been exposed to the violence of bitter enemies, and to the fierce raging of the tempest.
He had been reviled and beaten and stoned, and often at the very gate of death.
But he had learned to take it patiently, yes, joyfully. He could truly say that he had learned "in whatever state he was, therewith to be content."
And how was this?
It was by leaning upon Christ. It was by looking to Him for grace and help.
It was by the inward might of His Spirit. It was by depending upon Him for strength continually.
Php 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Then there is one other view which he gives of this subject. It is the great motive for contentment...the loving, unchangeable presence of Christ.
A motive which ought ever to weigh with every true believer.
If a child of the world asks me how he can be contented under the losses and trials that come to him, I confess that I find it difficult to answer him.
If you have not Christ and His love, I wonder how you can be contented.
You have no true peace in your soul, you have no blessed home waiting for you above; and all the happiness you ever get will be from the poor, fading pleasures of the world...and then darkness and gloom and death and damnation.
Your only path is to humble yourself as a sinner, and seek pardon and salvation at once through Christ.
But if you are Christ's, if you have His love in your heart, you may well be content.
You have His loving, unchangeable presence. You have His sure and faithful promise: "Be content with such things as you have: for He has said: I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5.)
Brother, sister in Christ, open your eyes and see the unsearchable riches stored up for you in this promise, and in all the promises assured to you in Him.
You have the everlasting love of the great King. You have all your need supplied out of God's full bounty.
You have a clear title to an inheritance above. You have a horizon of bliss, that stretches out farther and farther...far out of mental sight.
Think of all this, and see if you have not reason to be content.
If a man loses a shilling, and gain a thousand pounds — ought he to grieve over the shilling he has lost?
If you find a poor man and give him what is needful for his present wants, and can assure him of a great property that belongs to him, and of which he will shortly come into possession...ought he to complain and murmur if for the present moment he has much to put up with?
And is not this but a faint parallel between the Christian's present trials and future prospects?
What are all present losses, troubles, sufferings, disappointments compared with the everlasting love of God, and the blessed portion it brings?
I would give the Christian one parting word in conclusion. If you want to be a happy, contented, praising Christian, keep near to Christ and receive much from Him.
If you want a bird in a cage to sing, you must give it plenty of fresh air, suitable food, and put it in the sunshine.
If you want the soul to sing with joyfulness and praise and thanksgiving, you must act in the same way.
Let there be the balmy air of heartfelt prayer and communion with God.
Let there be the wholesome food of the promises of God and the teachings of His Word.
Let there be the sunshine of Christ's presence and love.
Abide in His love...keep in the sunshine.
Watch against all unbelief, covetousness, and earthly care. So shall you ever be contented and at rest.
If cross winds blow, if earthly gourds wither, if pleasant streams dry up, if bright flowers fade, if all joys below prove as a passing dream...you will still find peace.
Looking up to Jesus, you will be able to leave all with Him.
If You should call me to resign what most I prize...it never was mine!
I only yield You what was Thine; May Your will be done!