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TEXT: Genesis 33:9

SUBJECT: Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment #5

The verse that begins my talk this evening is a curious one. The speaker is Esau, whom God calls a fornicator and profane person. A few chapters before, we find the man despising his birthright and plotting the death of his brother. If Esau had had his way, not only would Jacob be murdered but the whole human race would be dead, for Jacob's great grandson is our Lord Jesus Christ!

Esau was a bad man-rotten through and through. Yet even the worst men have their moments of grace. And this is Esau's day to shine. His brother has cheated him of his birthright and his blessing. But now, Jacob is a rich man, leading a large family back to where he came from. On his way there, he hears the worst news possible-Your brother Esau is coming and four hundred men are with him! The men are not farmers or shepherds; they're soldiers-or maybe raiders is the right word. They are men who make their living by plunder. This means they're armed, dangerous, and looking for an easy target. Worst of all, their captain has been nursing a grudge for twenty years.

When the brothers finally meet, Jacob offers a gift, hoping to buy him off. But Esau doesn't want it. This terrifies Jacob because he thinks it means his brother is going to kill him right then and there and simply take what he has-all of it-including his wives and children.

But Jacob has misread his brother. Esau doesn't want the gift because he has enough. Esau-one of the most notorious men in the Bible-is content with what he has.

I don't this story because it makes me feel guilty. How come a godless man is both more forgiving and more content than I am? Why does he let go of the sins Jacob committed against him and I hang onto wrongs done to me that are far less serious?

And, to stay on topic, why was Esau more content than I am? Why was he more satisfied with what he had than you are with what you have?

I'm not sure I can answer that question. But it's worth thinking about long and hard. To help us do it, we have a classic Puritan book named The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, a pastor who lived through the most turbulent-and least contented-years in the history of England, 1599 to 1646.

By Puritan standards, the book is short and easy-to-read. For the last month (or so), we've been studying Chapter 7, on The Excellence of Contentment. Contentment is a quality almost everyone admires and hardly anyone possesses. Think of the Christians you've known over the years: how many of them seem happy with what they have? Especially when things go wrong and they lose some of what they had before?

And of those who seem content, I wonder how many of them are content? In public, the man carries himself with dignity and humor, but at home, he may be a crybaby! We don't know what goes on in private-no less what's happening in the soul.

I think it's safe to say, however, that contentment is just what the Puritan calls it: a rare jewel. Both precious and hard to find.

What makes contentment the excellent thing it is? We've studied five things so far. Contentment: (1) worships God, (2) develops our graces, (3) fits us to receive mercy, (4) prepares us for God's service, and (5) keeps us from many temptations.

Now, we'll look at number six on the list.

THE TOPIC

"The sixth excellence is the abundant comforts in a man's life that contentment brings. There is nothing that will make a man's life sweeter and more comfortable than contentment".

Contentment is something like good health: it not only wards off bad things, but it brings good things to your life. A healthy man is not coughing or grimacing with a bellyache, but he's out for a nice walk or enjoying a good meal. If his lungs were full of mucus, he couldn't go for a walk and if his belly were full of acid, he couldn't enjoy his dinner.

What good health does for the body, contentment does for the soul. It makes the pleasures of life pleasurable. Even the little mercies of life become big with happiness to the man who is content with what he has.

I don't need to prove this. Everyone knows what discontent does to you: it makes your life bitter and unpleasant. The little boy who wants a video game for his birthday cannot enjoy the new bike his parents gave him. But the boy who is happy with whatever his parents give him, appreciates any gift-even socks and underwear!

If you want to be happy, be content with what you have. How does contentment make you happy? The Puritan says it does in three ways.

INDEPENDENCE

"What a man has, he has in a kind of independent way, not depending upon any creature for his comfort".

Contentment frees you from depending on people and things that are not dependable. There are some people you cannot count on. He says he'll be there, but he isn't. She says she'll pick you up, but she doesn't. They say, "If you ever need anything, just ask"; when you do, they don't have it with them.

If people are unreliable, so are things. You have an important interview, you need to be there on time, you get ready, you get in the car half an hour early, and.the battery's dead.

Looking for your happiness in fickle men and unreliable machines is folly! The more sophisticated the machine is, the less trustworthy it is. My computer has betrayed me a lot more often than my shovel has! Yet even a shovel breaks and makes you waste an hour-and thirty dollars-going to the hardware store.

But what if you sought your contentment in the Creator instead of in His created things? What if you could be satisfied with the Lord and His plan for your life? Would He betray you? Would He show up late? Would He make a mess of things? I want to read to you a short quote from a famous preacher. After I do, I'll tell you when he said it. The preacher is James Montgomery Boice, the longtime pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia:

"If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good".

Dr. Boice said this to his church four years ago this week, on Good Friday. And two hours after doctors told him he had liver cancer and would not survive it.

He was a man who found his contentment in God and this kept him from relying on unreliable circumstances.

You cannot live above your circumstance-and you shouldn't try to. But you can seek your contentment in the Lord, and when you do, the vagaries of life won't upset you the way they so often do.

To hone in on the particulars, contentment will free you from the power of advertising. I don't care what the newest or most improved widget is, I can live without it, because I'm content with what I have. It will save you from the power of expectations. I don't care what people say I ought to be doing, I'm satisfied with the job Christ has given me. It will save you from the power of impossiblities. I don't have to stay young (or pretend to). After the fall, God has willed us to age, to get old, and to die. Because He has willed it, I can accept it with grace and humility.

The only people who care about happens on a soap opera are the people who watch it. I don't care if Marcia is having an affair with Dr. Jones, who married to Karen, and is really Marcia's brother-though no one knows it but the town gossip, Harriet and her lover, Bob, who has been in prison for blackmail. Because I don't watch, I don't care. But the one who watches the program cares very much.

But if you could look for your contentment in Christ, you wouldn't be enslaved to the marketing of Satan, the world, and the flesh.

Dependency is a bad thing-dependency on drugs, dependency on welfare, and dependency on the world for your contentment. The Christian who is satisfied with the Lord is the freest man in the world.

If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.

GOD'S LOVE

The Puritan's first point is fairly obvious. If we had sat down for a few minutes, I'm sure we would have come up with it ourselves. His second point, however, is a bit more subtle. I don't think it would have ever occurred to me. But I wish it would have.

"Contentment will make a man's life exceedingly sweet and comfortable because.If God raises the position of a contented man, he has the love of God in it.God may grant a discontented man his heart's desire, but the man cannot say it is from His love".

Elvis is forty-five years old and has never been married. He'd like a wife, but he's content not having one. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he uses the free time (and money) single men have to serve the Lord and His church. But then he meets Priscilla, they fall in love, have three kids, and live happily ever after. For the rest of his life, Elvis thanks the Lord for loving him enough to keep other women away from him and give him the one who's perfectly suited for him. To Elvis, Priscilla is more than a wife; she's a gift of God's love!

Frank is also forty-five and never married. Unlike Elvis, however, Frank has got a bad attitude. He gripes day and night about not being married and wonders why the Lord is so mean and unfair to him! But one day, Ava walks into his life, and she's a desperate as he is. They get married, and soon it occurs to them why the other hadn't found anyone before. Their life is full of yelling and pouting and fond wishes of the good old days before they met! For the next forty years, Frank wonders if Ava is God's blessing to him or the Lord's curse! Is she an answer to his prayers or a warning to beware of what you pray for, you just might get it?

Both men got what they wanted, but because Elvis was content without it, he knows his wife is a gift of God's love, while Frank isn't so sure.

The happy child who gets an unexpected present knows his parents love him. The screaming child who gets what he wants doesn't know that.

If you want to know and see and feel the Lord's love in his gifts, be content with Him--and without them. This is the second heading.

THE STORMS OF LIFE

The third point is Puritanism at its best and worst: clear headed and tangled up in words!

"Contentment is a comfort to a man's spirit in this, that it keeps in his comforts and keeps out whatever may damp his comforts, or put out the light of them. When a sailor has a lantern in a storm, he can carry light, everywhere up and down the ship, to the top of the mast, if he wishes, and yet keep it alight.

.So, when the comfort of a Christian is enlivened with the grace of contentment, it may be kept alight whatever storms or tempests come. He can keep light in his soul. Oh, this helps his comforts very much".

I can't tell you how many times I read this before I got what he was saying (I hope). Contentment keeps a light in the believer's soul, even when his whole life is blacked-out by loss and trouble. Maybe I can make Burroughs (and myself) more clear by giving some examples of men who went through dark times and yet, did not surrender to the darkness.

Think of Job, of Joseph, of Paul, and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Job was overwhelmed by problems, but he did not take his wife's advice and kill himself. Joseph was betrayed by his family, sunk into slavery, and then into prison, but he did not lose heart. Paul lost everything in life and only got chains, whips, and a chopper's block in return. Our Lord suffered as no other man, yet He went to the cross and endured it to the end.

The men were not happy with their circumstances-even our Lord prayed to get out of them (if it was the Father's will). But they did not sink into despair, they did not quit obeying, and they did not kill themselves because somewhere-way down inside-they were content with God and would wait out the setbacks of life and put their hope in His Promises.

Contentment did not make the sun rise in their lives, but it dispelled enough darkness to let them function as servants of God. If you became perfectly and forever content tonight, your problems wouldn't disappear and they wouldn't become easy to deal with. But you'd have enough to get by. And that's all you really need.

SUMMARY

Because contentment frees you from the fickle things of life, shows you the love of God in every gift, and gives some light in dark times, it must be an excellent, it must be a rare jewel.

CHALLENGE

The challenge we face is not an easy one. There's nothing inside of us and very little outside of us that favors contentment. But it's worth denying ourselves for; it's worth turning a deaf ear to the world for.

Contentment, like other graces, is never perfect in this world and rarely mature. But you can grow in it-inch by inch, you can become more content than you are and closer to what God has called you to be. So start now. And the love of God be with you.

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