Search Results for 'contentment'

Repost – Murmuring and Contentment

This was posted a few years ago. It’s something I still constantly work on.

Murmuring–a half-suppressed or muttered complaint, which may be synonymous with grumbling–is a sin that isn’t mentioned often. Thomas Watson writes about this in The Art of Divine Contentment. I’ve been making an effort to think more positively, or less negatively, but when he uses the word murmur and explains it like he does, it’s very convicting. I can see how this is subtly insidious, and the devil would love to see a lot of it, without our ever really realizing it. I can see how profitable this would be if it could be reduced by working on it with God’s grace.

You that are a murmurer are in the [same] account of [or ‘to’] God as a witch, a sorcerer, as one that deals with the devil: this is a sin of the first magnitude. Murmuring often ends in cursing: Micah’s mother fell to cursing when the talents of silver were taken away, (Jude 17:2) so does the murmurer when a part of his estate is taken away. Our murmuring is the devil’s music; this is that sin which God cannot bear: “how long shall I bear with this evil congregation which murmur against me?” (Num. 14:7) It is a sin which whets the sword against a people: it is a land-destroying sin; “neither murmur ye as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.” (1 Cor. 10:10) It is a ripening sin this; without mercy it will hasten England’s funerals. O then how excellent is , which prevents this sin! To be contented, and yet murmur is a : a contented Christian does acquiesce in his present condition, and does not murmur, but admire. Herein appears the excellency of contentation; it is a spiritual antidote against sin.

I attempted to slightly simplify the English.

I think that letting this fester is one way that nice young people can become cranky old people. Not cranky like Carl Trueman, but truly mean and destructively negative people.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
Philippians 2:14 NIV

Also see: Contentment | Scripture Zealot blog

Being content
something deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order

What the Bible Says About Contentment

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.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I was reading 1 Timothy 6, and verse 6 reminded me of a lot of other verses on contentment, or closely related to it. Looking at the context is always encouraged.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:1-2 NIV (all)

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9

What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 1:15, 7:13

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Colossians 4:11-13

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

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.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I have created a one page PDF file with only the Bible verses if you would like to save it or print it out.

Also see:
Find two great books that I’ve read on the subject on Amazon:
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The former is shorter. The book by Burroughs is very thorough[s].
or
Search for them as E-books from Monergism. The Crook in the Lot is similar subject matter.

Photo of a Bible

Contentment in Self-Denial

One thing I’ve been noticing in reading the Bible, especially Psalms and NT letters, is how often we’re asked to be thankful, which I see as a parallel to the quote below.

Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2

Whatever the Lord shall lay upon us, yet he is righteous for he has to deal with a most wretched creature. A discontented heart is troubled because he has no more comfort, but a self-denying man rather wonders that he has as much as he has. Oh, says the one, I have but a little; Aye, says the man who has learned this lesson of self-denial, but I rather wonder that God bestows upon me the liberty of breathing in the air, knowing how vile I am, and knowing how much sin the Lord sees in me. And that is the way of contentment, by learning self-denial.

The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Contentment

Contentment – The Wrong Way

I’m reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. About three years ago I read The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson. I don’t remember a lot about the latter except that there was a big revelation for me in that murmuring is sinful. That I haven’t forgotten (for the most part). I wrote a post about that.

In dealing with various conditions, contentment is one of the most difficult things. These authors don’t make it any easier. If anything, they explain how difficult it is, and how much grace we need to learn (Philippians 4:11) it. The Puritans don’t coddle the reader, nor are they harsh or without encouragement.

If you’re pressed for time, just read the first paragraph.

Let me spend my thoughts in thinking what my duty is, ‘O’, says a man whose condition is changed and who has lost his wealth, ‘Had I but my wealth, as I had heretofore, how would I use it to his glory? God has made me see that I did not honor him with my possessions as I ought to have done. O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

Don’t long for “the good old days.”
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Thoughts On Contentment and Perfectionism

I’m a perfectionist. I want everything in my life to be just right. In addition, I’m a very visual person and like to personalize everything. Take the computer for example. I have everything tuned and tweaked and sized and themed and colorized. But as we know nothing works perfectly.

So when I can’t make something perfect I use it as an opportunity to realize that Jesus said we’d have trouble (John 16:33)–although I don’t think he was referring to things as minor as how our computer works–and imperfections to help us realize there is something better. There will be a place where everything is renewed and perfect and this gives us hope.

At the same time, I’m trying to become more willing to say that something is perfect. If it’s as good as it can possibly be, it’s perfect, even if in a perfect world it may be better. Or if something suits my needs perfectly without being exactly how I want it. These are things that the perfect God has provided for me/us (1 Tim 6:17b).

This self-help thought of the day for perfectionists has been brought to you by Jeff at Scripture Zealot.

Quote of the Day: Contentment

Christian contentment, therefore, is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at His disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.

It was with mature wisdom, then, that the young Robert Murray McCheyne wrote, ‘It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plans with regard to myself.’ ‘How unusual!’ we say. Yes, but what people noticed about McCheyne was how content he was to pursue one driving ambition: to know Christ (Phil. 3:10). It is not accidental that when we make Christ our ambition we discover that He becomes our sufficiency and we learn contentment in all circumstances.

In Christ Alone, by Sinclair B. Ferguson, pg. 190

Philippians 4:11-13 TNIV
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Contentment and Thanksgiving

I haven’t taken the time to put together a Thanksgiving post so I’ll provide a link to an article at Pulpit Magazine:
Contentment and Thanksgiving

Contentment and Provision

John MacArthur at Pulpit Magazine is writing a series on Contentment based on Philippians 4:11-12.

In addition to that I’d like to mention that I always used to have Philippians 4:13 memorized without thinking about the context of the two verses before it.

Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Jesus did say, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) But I think we need to keep Philippians 4:13 in context. All things is referring to being content in every condition of life. This includes being content in prosperity without being proud, greedy, hungering for more etc.

Then in 4:19 he says, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis added) Our perception of our needs and what our needs really are may not line up. But He will supply our true needs and we can learn to be content in them through Him who gives us strength.

Puritans and Football and Wisdom

I admit that the subject line is click bait–somewhat. Have you ever heard the argument that some men are more passionate about football than God by how they act when watching a game? They seem to show more emotion when watching football (or whatever the sport) than they would in church. I’ve always thought this was a ridiculous comparison.

Certainly there are many men who profess (or professors, as the Puritans might say) to be Christian that have more love for a sport than for God. But to insinuate that most Christian men, and some women, are more passionate about football than God, just because they get emotional during an event, is very unfair. It’s a matter of assessment.

I’ve always had a picture in my own mind about how this isn’t the case with me or many Christian men I know. As I was reading the Puritan Thomas Manton’s A Treatise Of Self Denial (a very popular topic these days, indeed), I found a perfect quote for annihilating this most absurd notion, despite the fact that it was written in the 1600s. Here he’s helping the reader to compare love of things or people with love for God. (Luke 14:26)

Though comparison be the best way to discover love, yet this love is not to be measured by the lively stirring acts of love so much as by the solid esteem and constitution of the spirit. Why? because the act may be more lively where the love is less firm and rooted in the heart. The passions of suitors are greater than the love of the husband, yet not so deeply rooted. The commotion may be greater in less love, but esteem and solid complacency is always a fruit of the greater love. […] A man may laugh at a toy, yet he cannot be said to rejoice more in that toy than in other things, because the act of his joy is more lively than it would be in a solid, serious matter. We laugh more at a trifle, but are better pleased at a great courtesy. [..] For instance, a man may have more affectionate expressions upon the loss of a child or an estate, than at God’s dishonour. A man may weep more for a temporal loss than for sin. [..] So a man may seem to have more lively joy in sensible blessings than in spiritual, and yet he cannot be concluded to be carnal. Why? because of the solid estimation of his heart; he could rather part with all these things than offend God; had rather want this and that comfort than want the favour of God. […] Therefore the judgment you are to make upon your heart, whether you love your relations and contentments more than God, is not to be determined by the rapid motion, but by the constant stream and bent of the heart.

I know the older language can be difficult. I shortened it (this is only part of one very long paragraph) so that it would be easier to read and hopefully see his point. Just because we act silly over something in the moment doesn’t mean that we love it more than something else. Suitors may swoon over a person they would like to enter into a serious relationship with, but the “love of a husband” is more deeply rooted. We may even show more delight in a humorous toy than in the serious matter of Biblical doctrine.

Though we should hate everything in this life relative to our love for God (Luke 14:26), and we should ‘order (or manage) our affections’, as the Puritans would say, we need to be careful to assess these things properly.

Extra credit:
The wisdom of some of the Puritans amazes me. Not all of their wisdom comes directly from Scripture, although it would all be in conformity to it. Sola Scriptura doesn’t mean ‘nothing but Scripture’. This also shows how reasonable they were. They didn’t usually take the stereotypical hard-line literal approach that we might think they would take. More in future posts.

Puritans

Book Lernin’ – Topics

I just found this post in the Drafts area of the blog, so I thought I’d finish it up and post it, even though it’s more than a half a year late:

Last year may have been the year of topics as far as reading. I wanted to learn about what God’s glory is, exactly, what God’s Kingdom entails, what The Name of the Lord means, and more about contentment. These were the highlights of the year.

The Glory of God, Christopher W. Morgan (Editor) – Each chapter is written by a different person. A most excellent book.

Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd – This has been mentioned so many times, and I finally read it–very worthwile.

Name above All Names by Alistair Begg, Sinclair B. Ferguson – This was the most easy to read book, with everything explained at a popular level.

The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs – One of the two or three classic books on the subject by Puritans.

The winner is:
The Glory of God

Being Content In All Circumstances

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Contentment is a terribly difficult subject for those who’s lives aren’t what they’d like them to be. The Puritans wrote some great books on this subject, including The Crook in the Lot, The Art of Divine Contentment, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (quoted from below).

‘O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Book Cover

What Providence Isn’t

Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.

–D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about what providence is not at the beginning of a chapter on Providence from the book Great Doctrines of the Bible. I’m going to attempt to summarize his brief warnings, and hopefully won’t confuse the matter.

there are people who claim special providences in their own personal lives. ‘It is most amazing,’ they say. ‘Do you know, this is what has happened to me …’—and they describe to you how certain things seem to have been arranged particularly in order to suit their special circumstances! And then, when you tell them that they cannot say things like that, they resent the whole doctrine of providence.

I’m going to bluntly postulate that this is self-centered extra-Biblical guesswork.

He never really seemed to explain just what he meant until the end (somewhat):

Be careful—it is a warning! Always be careful in your application of any particular event. Let me explain: whenever anything good happens to us or to our country we are all very ready, are we not, to say that it was undoubtedly an act of God—the providence of God. I have explained what the doctrine of providence teaches, but I would warn you that it is dangerous to particularise about any particular thing. … In 1934 German Christians—and very fine Christians among them—issued this statement: ‘We are full of thanks to God that He as Lord of history has given us Adolf Hitler, our leader and our saviour from our difficult lot. We acknowledge that we, with body and soul, are bound and dedicated to the German State and to its Führer. This bondage and duty contains for us as Evangelical Christians its deepest and most holy significance in its obedience to the command of God.’ That surely makes us think, does it not? Here is another declaration of theirs in 1933: ‘This turn of history,’ they said, referring to Hitler’s coming into power, ‘we say God has given him to us, to God be the glory. As bound to God’s word we recognise in the great events of our day a new commission of God to His Church.’

Now those people were absolutely sincere; they were absolutely genuine. They were evangelical Christians, and they believed that! So I think you will agree that we must be a little cautious when we come to make particular claims. … Let us be very careful lest we bring God and His cause into disrepute by unwise and injudicious claims. … My point, then, is this: the doctrine is plain and clear, but let us be judicious and cautious, and have a great concern for the glory and the name of God when we claim any particular event as an instance of His special providence either with regard to us or our country.

God orders things in his way for his people mainly for the purpose of our continuation in salvation. We have to be cautious in trying to determine what he’s doing and why. The same goes for affliction. We can usually only go by what the Bible says–that it’s for our continued perseverance, perfection, righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t normally indicate to us what he’s ‘teaching’ us if it’s not a consequence of sin. Nor can we usually tell exactly what he’s doing as he orders his web of a multitude of things far greater than we can ever imagine.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

If this is confusing, reading the whole chapter online may help. It’s one of the better treatments I’ve read on the subject.

Extra Credit:

In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Philippians 4:13-What Is Everything or All Things?

This is a Repost from 2008 (if you’d like to see the comments), except a comic from Adam4d has been added here that a friend tipped me off to, and an addendum. Also, this post was written when the TNIV was the update of the NIV which they released in 2005, before they changed it back to NIV in 2011. (If that’s confusing, there’s basically an original NIV from 1978 and it has been updated, with the TNIV rendering the same as the [more] updated NIV.)

Comic - Philippians 4:13

Click on the comic to go to his site.

Philippians 4:13 NASB
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NIV [’78]
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 TNIV/NIV [2011]
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I really like the TNIV rendering. Can you imagine if the TNIV was the standard rendering throughout the years how this wouldn’t be constantly taken out of context (shown below) and/or misinterpreted? Even if it is a little bit interpretive.

Philippians 4:11-13 TNIV
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I’m not only learning the importance of context [and still am] but also that the word all or everything isn’t always “an amount or quantity from which nothing is left out or held back” even in English:

Everything
1.
a. All things or all of a group of things.
b. All relevant matters: told each other everything.
2. The most important fact or consideration: In business, timing is everything.
American Heritage Dictionary

Addendum:
This has implications for a lot of Bible interpretation.

Two books based on Philippians 4:11 are The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and The Art of Contentment, both written by Puritans. I’ve read both and they’re excellent. The latter is shorter, but I prefer the former.

Will you be content by running up and down in the ship?

It isn’t often that the Puritan authors would write with such force, but sometimes it’s warranted. This is at the end of a portion where he is writing about the power and reach of God’s providence in everything.

So I may say to every discontented, impatient heart: what, shall the providence of God change its course for you? Do you think it such a weak thing, that because it does not please you it must alter its course? Whether or not you are content the providence of God will go on, it has an efficacy of power, of virtue, to carry all things before it. Can you make one hair black or white with all the stir that you are making? When you are in a ship at sea which has all its sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship? No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can. Do but understand the power and efficacy of providence and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn this lesson of contentment.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

This is but just one of the many components of learning contentment.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

Contentment

Heart Corruptions

This is the last part of a prayer from The Valley of Vision. It describes so well what God is doing very recently, and what I want, even though the prayer is really about before and after being saved.

Thou hast struck a heavy blow at my pride,
at the false god of self,
and I lie in pieces before Thee.

But Thou hast given me another master and lord,
Thy Son, Jesus,
and now my heart is turned towards holiness,
my life speeds as an arrow from a bow
towards complete obedience to Thee.

Help me in all my doings to put down sin and to humble pride.
Save me from the love of the world and the pride of life,
from everything that is natural to fallen man,
and let Christ’s nature be seen in me day by day.
Grant me grace to bear Thy will without repining,
and delight to be not only
chiseled, squared, or fashioned,
but separated from the old rock
where I have been embedded so long,
and lifted from the quarry to the upper air,
where I may be built in Christ for ever.

Some of this almost sounds like an overly enthusiastic New Year’s resolution. These things may take a lifetime just to make some progress with God’s grace. Sometimes we want him to go faster, but when it comes to illuminating the depth of our sin, maybe not so much.

I need to remember this, along with things God has shown me in the past, such as not murmuring (The Art of Divine Contentment–I’ve been forgetting that one a lot lately), that I’m not my own, that I can’t straighten what is crooked (Ecclesiastes 1:15), that I’m not as abandoned to God* as I need to be (in which The Pursuit of God is a good barometer), and others.

*That may sound like a cliché, which isn’t usually me, but in my mind it’s a meaningful way of putting it. At least I didn’t write ‘sold out’ or ‘on fire’. (Emoticon goes here.)