Contentment #1: Christian Contentment Described
by Dennis Michelson
Philippians 4:11 - "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content."
Introduction: I was born in the wrong century! I spend much of my time in the 17th century and over the years a good bit of that has been "hanging out" with Puritan authors. One of the best was Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646).
Burroughs' writings, some published before and others after his death, were numerous, but THE RARE JEWEL OF CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT was one of the most valuable of all. He was concerned about promoting (1) Peace among believers of various persuasions, and (2) Peace and contentment in the hearts of individual believers during what he termed "sad and sinking times."
Burroughs said, "There is an ark that you may come into, and no men in the world may live such comfortable, cheerful and contented lives as the saints of God." When is the last time you asked a believer "how are you?" and they replied "contented." This message is the first in a series on Christian contentment.
Christian contentment is that inward, quiet, gracious spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. In this introductory message we will look at four aspects of this contentment in an effort to describe it.
1. Contentment Is An Inside Job (Psalm 62)
Notice these phrases "waiteth upon God", "wait thou only upon God", "He only is my rock and my salvation", "trust in Him at all times." Just as we know anger is ultimately a problem we have with God, so discontent is ultimately a problem we have with God.
In verse 4 the psalmist states "they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly." There is far too much emphasis placed upon outward conformity in our time and precious little done to cultivate the inner life of faith and obedience with an eye toward God alone.
In a sense contentment is like having your inner life in as good a condition as you claim to have it with your mouth. There simply cannot be "fine" on the outside and "foment" on the inside.
2. Contentment Is A Quiet Heart (Proverbs 4:23)
At this point we often confuse philosophy with theology. A quiet heart does not mean an inactive heart. A quiet heart - one which maintains an attitude of faith and trust toward the Father - can be opposed to some things and not opposed to others.
3. Contentment Is More Than Reasoned Control
- Contentment of heart does not rule out:
(1)recognition of affliction or sensible suffering
(2)truthful reports to God and others
(3)seeking means of biblical (truthful) help
- Contentment of heart does rule out:
(1)murmuring at the hand of God
(2)vexation at the providence of God (Ecc.4:6)
(3)rash action (Acts 19:36)
(4)distractions from faithfulness (Neh.6:3)
(5)letting anyone or anything beyond the suburbs of your soul
(6)tide of secondary causes sinking us under affliction
(7)sinful shifting to get relief
(8)desperate rebellion against God
Socrates was said to have never changed his countenance and was always under control. The problem with this is that he was just as content when he committed sin against God. Stoic apathy is not the same as Christian contentment.4. Contentment Means Freely Submitting To God's Will
The term translated "instructed" found later in the text is derived from the word that signifies a "mystery." Paul is saying that he has learned this mystery of contentment. He did not know it when he first became a Christian. He learned it. He does not need to learn it now since he has already learned it.
Of course learning something and doing it are where we have problems. The word rendered "content" has a fulness of meaning and in a strict sense can only be applied to God as the all-sufficient One. God rests fully satisfied in Himself alone. But the Father is pleased to freely communicate this to us so that we can be dissatisfied with ourselves but fully satisfied with Him.
Burroughs said "Therefore his meaning (Paul) must be that I find a sufficiency of satisfaction in my own heart through the grace of Christ that is in me. Though I have not outward comforts and worldly conveniences to supply my necessities, yet I have a sufficient portion between Christ and my soul to satisfy me in every condition."