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TEXT: Isaiah 53:11
SUBJECT: Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment #8
For the last couple of months, we have studied The Excellence of Contentment, a chapter in the Puritan book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs.
Contentment is a very fine quality to have. It worships the Lord, sanctifies you, and provides a blessing to those around you. How different the world would be if everyone were content! What if no one spent more than he made? What if families would live on one modest income, and be happy with what they had? What if husbands were thankful for the wives they had-as they are-and not wishing they were younger, prettier, or something else they're not? What if churches were content with the Gospel and fellowship-and not always whining that their needs are not being met? A content world would be a happy world.
We will not have this kind of world before the Second Coming of Christ. As long as the world is unhappy with God, it will be unhappy with everything else.
The Church is called to be a colony of Heaven-not perfect, no far from it-but, still, a place where the values of heaven can be found on earth. But is the Church content? Are the People of God happy with what we have? Or are we as unthankful and covetous as everyone else? In short, are we
Conformed to this world?
Or, Transformed by the renewing of our minds?
Are we satisfied with what the Lord gives or are we on the same treadmill as other people are? There's nothing wrong with ambition, with wanting to better yourself in the world. But before we reach for what we don't have, we should be thankful for what we do have.
We have plenty to satisfy us. All believers have the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. All believers have the Holy Spirit in them and will go to heaven when they die. All believing bodies will be raised from the dead and reunited with believing souls-and be with the Lord forever. This applies to every saint with exception. This is what Hebrews 13:5 is getting at:
Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with what you have, for He has said, `I will never leave you nor forsake you'.
Everyone is this room has a lot more than spiritual blessings. Nobody's starving; nobody's in rags; we've all got a roof over our heads; we own cars; we have a little money-maybe not enough to buy a house, but we've got enough to buy dinner. They all come from the Lord's mercy and are more than we deserve. People holier, wiser, and harder-working than we are have done without them.
Let us be content with what we have. For our own peace of mind, and for the glory of God. In one of his books, John Piper says,
"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with Him".
Jeremiah Burroughs' chapter is made up of several sub-sections, and now we come to the last one. It's one you may not have thought of. I didn't, but it true and good for us to remember:
By contentment the soul comes to an excellence near to God Himself, yea, the nearest possible. This word that is translated, 'content' stands for 'self-sufficiency'. A contented man is a self-sufficient man, and what is the greater glory of God than to be happy and self-sufficient? Suppose there were no creatures in the world, or that all the creatures in the world were annihilated: God would remain the same blessed God than He is now, He would not be in a worse condition; neither would a contented heart if God should take all creatures away from him, so long as God remains his portion.
The Lord is content. He was not lonely when there was no world and He's not worried sick because things have gone wrong in the world. At the Burning Bush, He names Himself, I Am, which most scholars take to mean self-sufficient-the God who does not depend on anyone or anything, the Lord who is perfectly content with Himself and satisfied with His own counsels.
In other places, He is called Blessed-and that means Happy. The Happy God is not torn up inside with what He has or doesn't have.
God is content. And so is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the King-human and Divine-and yet the King is content having no place to lay His head; He is happy even though hated without a cause; He is satisfied washing the feet of the disciples. In short, He is content being in the form of a servant and making Himself of no reputation.
Though the Gospels' every line witnesses to His contentment, one place, in particular, stands out. In the Garden, with the hope He might yet escape His doom, He prays,
Nevertheless not my will but yours be done.
Jesus Christ is content with what God has for Him-even if it's a cross! Not a symbolic cross, a figurative cross, but a wooden cross on which to hang Him!
God is content. The Bible says He is and His Son confirms the Word. When we name the attributes of God, contentment isn't one of the first off our tongues, but maybe it should be.
CONFORMITY TO GOD
The believer's call is to become like God (in some ways). You remember the first temptation was to be like God-in knowing good and evil. This was a half-truth or a perversion of the truth. It's true the Lord wanted Adam and Eve to be like Himself, but not in this way. God knew evil, but the knowledge did not hurt Him. For the Lord is impeccable, which means He cannot be tempted with evil! He is not only innocent (as Adam and Eve were), but He is perfectly against sin (which they were not).
In some ways, we're not to be like God. 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay', says the Lord. When we take revenge on people, we're playing God-and not very well!
In other ways, we are to be like God. The overarching law of the Old Testament is: Be ye holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. The New Testament agrees with this. Peter quotes the verse itself; and Paul says Be followers of God as dear children. In another place, he says we're to be renewed after the Image of Him who made us.
How do we decide in what ways we're to be like God and in what ways we're not to be? In the same way we decide other things: by reading the Bible! The Bible plainly teaches that we're to be holy (because God is holy) and that one part of holiness is contentment.
GOD'S CONTENTMENT--AND OURS
What makes God content? God. Why? Because only He is big enough-wide and deep and rich and simple and complex and good and beautiful and holy enough to bring contentment. God is content in Himself.
That's where we will find our contentment too. Not in ourselves, not in material things (like money or cars), not in immaterial creatures (like prestige or peace of mind), but in God Himself.
This is the testimony of the saints-both in the Bible and out.
My soul shall be satisfied with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, when I meditate on You in the night watches (Psalm 63:5-6).
O that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness (Psalm 107:8-9).
Lord, you have made us for Thyself and our souls are restless till they find their rest in Thee (St. Augustine).
Created things are good: don't ever mistake me for saying they're not! They're good because God made them and blessed them and called them good. He was pleased with the Creation, calling all He made very good. The Fall has negatively effected the world, but it has not nullified its goodness. James living in a cesspool of sin, affirms the goodness of the creature-Every good gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights.
We should be mindful of the goodness of the world and thankful for the million favors that come our way every minute of the day. Money and cars and homes are good; friends and family and love are good; food is good, rest is good, work is good.
God created these things because He loves us and He wants us to enjoy the life He has given us. Had we not fallen into sin, the goodness of creation would have been properly understood.
But we have fallen into sin and now, the goodness of the world can be idolized. We can want the things more than we ought to; we can love them more than we love God; we can take pride in them, look down on the ones who don't have as many of them, and feel cheated if we have fewer of them than others.
Thus, we ought to be thankful for the blessings of God, but we should not seek our happiness in them. For contentment lies in God Himself! And nowhere else.
SANCTIFICATION AND WITNESS
You cannot be too holy. And your holiness can be measured by your contentment. Show me a man who prays eight hours a day and gripes the other sixteen, and I'll show you a man who isn't holy: he may be sanctimonious, and proud of his prayer life, but he is not holy! Show me a man who prays fifteen minutes a day, and is content with what he has, and I'll show a saint.
If you want to grow in grace, grow in contentment, for in that way you grow in likeness to God and Christ.
If you want to exercise a powerful witness in the world, be content with what you have-not smug, but truly content, satisfied with God and His will for your life. If you want to stand out from the crowd, that's the way to do it, for the crowd is miserably unhappy with what it has! If you want people to ask you `What makes you different?' that's the way to do it: because contentment is more alien to this world than Vulcans are! If you want to back up your Gospel witness, that's the way to do it: for if Christ doesn't satisfy you, why should others believe He will satisfy them?
Nothing will make you more like God than contentment. Or make you a better witness for God than contentment.
If you had nothing, you might have a real excuse for not being content. But no Christian has nothing: we have everything, because we have Christ. And He is big and generous enough to satisfy anyone who wants to be satisfied.
Seek your contentment in Him and you'll find it. The desire of the righteous shall be granted.
Contentment is a Rare Jewel, but like other jewels, it can had by anyone, anyone who wants it. It doesn't cost you a thing but your unhappiness, your pride, and your disobedience. Do you think you could get by without these treasures? If you do, trade them in for the real thing: for contentment.
The Love of God be with you. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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