The Lord must be working on me in the area of Contentment. Last week I wrote a quick blog on the topic in response to a cartoon that sparked something in me. Then this past Sunday our family heard an excellent message on the subject from Philippians 4:10-14 by George Lawson at Hope Bible Church.
I thought I would summarize some of the main points from that message and then quote some of my favorite passages from the Christian classic by Burroughs.
Points from George Lawson: The Lost Art of Being Content
Contentment is a lost art among not just our society but the church as well. Finding a truly contented person is as rare as sighting an exotic bird on the endangered species list. “More” is never enough.
Two Traits of a Truly Contented Person:
1) He rejoices when what he receives is not what brings him contentment
Paul was not putting down the generous sacrificial gift of the Philippians, but his contentment was not tied to any improvement in his external circumstances
2) He rejoices when what he receives reflects the kindness of others- Such giving is enabled by God; is well-pleasing to God; and is rewarded by God
Once any external circumstance is necessary for contentment, I’ve lost it.
Stoicism taught that contentment is realized through the power of our will. However, our contentment is through our union with Christ.
Until you learn to be content with what you have and where the Lord has placed you, you will never be truly thankful because whatever you receive will never be enough.
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – Jeremiah Burroughs
His Table of Contents is very detailed and walks you very simply phrase by phrase through his basic argument
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” (p.19)
“A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God.” (p.43)
“The peace of God is not enough to a gracious heart except it may have the God of that peace.” (p.44)
“A Christian comes to contentment, not so much be way of addition, as by way of subtraction… he can bring his desires down to his possessions, and so he attains his contentment.” (p.45)
“A gracious heart is contented by the melting of his will and desires into God’s will and desires … not by having his own desires satisfied.” (p.5)
“Grace shows a man that what he has, he has free of cost, from God as from a Father, and therefore it must needs be very sweet.” (p.58)
“This is the way a godly man gets contentment, the mystery of it, by getting strength from Jesus Christ.” (p.64)
“I say a gracious man does not live so much in himself as in God; he lives in God continually. If anything is cut off from the stream, he knows how to go to the fountain, and makes up all there. God is his all in all.” (p.65)
“Since God is contented with himself alone, if you have him, you may be contented with him alone, and it may be, that is the reason why your outward comforts are taken from you, that God may be all in all to you.” (p.66)
“Just as no one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABC, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment… Lord, I am nothing, Lord, I deserve nothing, Lord, I can do nothing, I can receive nothing, and can make use of nothing, I am worse than nothing, and if I come to nothing and perish I will be no loss at all, and therefore is it such a great thing for me to be cut short here?” (pp.87-89)
“My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them – that is not the reason – but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself.” (p.91)
We need to endure hardness and have an eternal perspective – patterned after the analogies of living as pilgrims in this world and fighting as soldiers. What is necessary for a pilgrim or a soldier to have contentment? Far different than what is necessary for those preoccupied with the comforts of this present life. (pp.93-96)
“So indeed our hearts are as a watch, and there are many wheels and windings and turnings there, and we should labour to know our hearts well, that when they are out of tune, we may know what is the matter.” (p.100)
“Therefore let a man consider, this is an act of providence, and how do I know what God is about to do, and how many things depend upon this providence? Now we are willing to be crossed in one thing, so that our friend may attain to what he desires in a thousand things. If you have a love and friendship to God be willing to be crossed in a few things, that the Lord may have his work go on in general, in a thousand other things.” (p.114)
“If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love, but when I am contented with the hand of God, and am willing to be at his disposal, that comes from my love to God.” (p.131)
“You cry out as if you were undone and yet are a King’s son, you who stand in such relation to God, as to a father, you dishonour your father in this; as if either he had not wisdom, or power, or mercy enough to provide for you.” (p.145)
“Now I am discontented and murmuring, because I am afflicted; but that is why you are afflicted, because God would humble you. The great design God has in afflicting you, is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God? For you to murmur and be discontented is to resist the work of God. God is doing you good if you could see it, and if he is pleased to sanctify your affliction to break that hard heart of yours, and humble that proud spirit of yours, it would be the greatest mercy that you ever had in all your life.” (p.181)