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TEXT: Psalm 19:11
SUBJECT: Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment #7
About three hundred and fifty years ago, an English pastor preached a long series of sermons to his church. His title explains what the sermons were about: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. The minister was Jeremiah Burroughs, and his sermons remain as insightful--and useful-today as when he first preached them.
In his day, most people were not content with what they had. They were as unhappy and covetous and envious as we are. If you asked them what they wanted, they'd say more money, a better wife, a higher position in the world, better kids, a church that satisfies them and so on. You can see they're not at all like us! But of course they are! These are the very things we want-and there's nothing wrong with wanting them-as long as you're content without them.
Contentment is not the opposite of desire or ambition. It's the opposite of humility and unthankfulness. The book is not calling us to be lazy or without ambition, but to find our satisfaction in God and to be thankful to Him-whether He gives us the money, wife, position, kids, or church we want--or not.
Job was a rich man, who became a poor man, only to become a rich man again. Was he lazy? Was he without gumption? Was he white trash (or whatever color the Uzites were)? No. He worked hard, planned ahead, and did not despise the good things in life. But he was content without them.
Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord!
This is what the book is about: not resigning yourself to fate the way a pagan might, but obeying the Lord and being satisfied with what He gives you.
To help us be content with what we have, the Puritan spells out the excellence of contentment. Contentment is not a mediocre thing; if it were, most people would have it. No, it is an first-rate thing, a thing no one obtains without God's grace-and a lot of it.
What makes contentment the quality item it is? Many things do; thus far, we've looked at seven of them. Contentment
If contentment does all these things, it must be an excellent thing. And so it is.
Now, we'll move on and look at a further reason you ought to be content with what you have.
"Those who are content may expect reward from God, that God will give them the good of all the things which they are satisfied to be without. There is a favor that you think would be very pleasant to have, but can you bring your heart to not have it? If you can, you shall have the favor one way or the other. If you do not receive the thing itself, you will receive something in lieu of it. There is no comfort that the soul is content to be without, but the Lord will either give the comfort or something instead of it. You shall have the good of anything you are content being without".
Obeying the Lord is not only right, but it is also wise. It not only pleases Him, but it's good for you. Obedience will be rewarded in this life. Maybe not in the way we're looking for, but it will be rewarded. God says so: "In keeping of them there is great reward".
ONE WAY OR THE OTHER
Burroughs does not say God will give you everything you're content to not have. But that He will give the thing you're content not having--or the blessing contained in it.
Be content with what you have is a command. If you keep it, you will be rewarded in this life. But-note carefully-the reward takes two very different forms.
If you want good health, but are content not having it, the Lord may give it to you. That's one form of His blessing. And the one we like the best. How often has the Lord given you far more than you asked for or even wanted?
But the second form is every bit as good, if not better. If you want good health, the Lord may not give it to you, but in keeping you sick, He may give you the blessings of good health and more.
If this sounds like double-talk, I assure you it isn't. I got it right out of the Bible, II Corinthians 12:7-10.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in need, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Something was wrong with Paul. Apparently, it was a physical problem (some think he was partially blind). He doesn't say what it was, exactly, but only that it really hurt him, and he thought it hindered his ministry. If his eyesight was bad, it was hard to study the Bible, of course, and maybe heartless people laughed at him as he blundered through life. It also hindered him in making a living and in giving to the poor. Obviously-he thought-it was better to see well than to see poorly.
Feeling his handicap, he prayed to the Lord. Three times, he poured out his heart for healing, and Jesus Christ said no. Why was the Lord so mean to Paul?
He wasn't mean to Paul. For in taking away his eyesight (if that's what He did), he gave the half-blind preacher something better than perfect vision. He gave him extra grace! It was only in Paul's weakness, his sickness, his problems that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ could operate in his life and shine out for all the world to see.
The Lord did not give Paul what he asked for, but He gave him the benefits of what he asked for. Paul wanted the health to praise the Lord and preach the Gospel. But, instead of giving him the health to do these things, the Lord gave him the grace to do them even better.
Grace was enough for Paul. Enough that he could rejoice in what he didn't have and give thanks for not having the good things he wanted.
This is the principle: If we are content not having what we want, God will either (a) give us what we want, or (b) give us the blessing contained in what we want.
Let me give a few examples. In talking to people over the years, I have found that believers are most often unhappy with (a) their money, (b) their job, or (c) their family.
They don't make enough money. When you ask them how much they need, the answer is always the same: more. If a man makes $40,000, he needs $50,000; if he makes $50,000, he needs $70,000; if he makes a million, he needs $2,000,000. When it comes to money, he is not content with what he has.
Why does he want more money?
The reasons differ, of course. David wants more money so he doesn't have to worry about his bills anymore, so he can move into a better place, and so he can put something away for his retirement. Neil wants more money so he can give more to missions or help the poor more than he does. Marilyn wants more money so she can feel safe and secure.
None of these is a wicked thing and some are very fine things to want. But, if you were content with what you have, you could have all the blessings of more money without having more money.
David wants to live in a better place. But what home is better than the content home? He wants to stop worrying about his bills. But, if he were content with what he had, he'd buy less and his bills would go down, along with his worries about paying them. He wants to be safe in his retirement, but how can he better sock away some money for the future than to be frugal now?
Neil wants more money to support missions and help the poor. But if he were content with what he had, he would have more money, and even if he didn't, he would have a good conscience which would help him pray better for missions and the poor.
Marilyn wants more money so she can feel safe. But Paul warns the rich to not trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who gives us all things freely to enjoy. The money she thinks will secure her present and future, won't. But putting her trust in God (and being content with what He gives her) will.
Contentment will also help you with your job. Who is more likely to embezzle or slander or connive at work-a man who is content or a man who isn't? Who is more likely to win the boss's favor-a man who is happy with his present position or one who's always griping that he's too good for it? Are you more likely to do good work when your mind is on the job-only-or when it's also on why you want a better one?
Discontentment will also hurt your family. Who's the better father? The man who is thankful for his kids (just as they are) or the man who is always picking at them and prodding them to do better?
The content man may not always have what he wants, but he will always have the benefits contained in what he wants. He will have them because God is pleased with contentment and He will not leave it unrewarded in this life or the next.
This means: If you want the happiness outward things afford, be content without them and you'll have them all.
At the end of this section, the Puritan exhorts us to contentment:
"Consider how many things you have that others lack. You have some the blessings they have and what you lack, God will make it up to you in one way or another, either here or hereafter. Oh, what riches you have! With contentment you have all kinds of riches!"
Is he right? Sure he is. We all want far more than we need. But if we would be content with what we need, think of how much more we would have! And what we didn't have, we would something to replace it-something better than the things we don't have.
Thus content Christians can't lose. Either God will give us what we don't have or make us happy with what we don't have. In either case, we win.
Because God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
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