The message above was shared by Lucius Annaeus Seneca. He was a man of many talents—a poet, dramatist, orator, statesman and one of the greatest of the Stoic Philosophers. He was also one of the best-read men in Rome.
One time, he was reading the fables of a Greek slave named Aesop, who lived six centuries ago, and was caught by a single phrase: “Be content with your lot; one cannot be first in everything.” But many others had said the same thing in almost the same way, he thought. Cicero had said, “To be content with what we possess is the greatest and most secure of riches.” And before Cicero, Epicurus had said: “If you will make a man happy, add not unto his riches but take away from his desires.”
He read what he had written a day before and found it was good. It said:
True happiness is to understand our duties toward God and man; to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future; not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears, but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is abundantly sufficient; for he that is so wants nothing. The great blessings of mankind are within us, and within our reach; but we shut our eyes and, like people in the dark, fall foul of the very thing we search for without finding it. Tranquility is a certain equality of mind which no condition of fortune can either exalt or depress.
There must be a sound mind to make a happy man; there must be constancy in all conditions, a care for the things of this world but without anxiety; and such an indifference to the bounties of fortune that either with them or without them we may live content. True joy is serene. The seat of it is within, and there is no cheerfulness like the resolution of a brave mind that has the fortune under its feet. It is an invincible greatness of mind not to be elevated or dejected with good or ill fortune. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it is—without wishing for what he has not.
Seneca preached against the errors and evils of his day, against selfishness, greed and pride. He stressed the more enduring values of life: courage, moderation, self-control—above all, the peace of a contented mind.
Falsely accused by Nero of conspiracy and ordered to take his own life, he turned to his family and friends and gently reminded them that they must accept with courage that which it was not in their power to control. He refused the right to make a will but said that he would leave them the best thing he had: the pattern of his life.
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” and in Philippians 4:11-12, “…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”