The Grace Of Contentment
April 18, 1999 / No. 2937
Contentment is the most powerful proof to the truth of our Christian profession. As Christians we profess the glorious truth of the sovereignty of God. Our God reigneth. He rules over everything, and over us, we confess. As a Christian, I confess: “I am in the hands of my heavenly Father. My life is not a product of chance, but of His will. He has made me as the Creator. And by His providence He continues to care for me and to guide all things. I am in His hand. I belong to the Lord. He is responsible for me. My God is wise and His counsel includes all things that happen. He loves me. He has forgiven my sins in Jesus Christ. He has shown me His amazing grace.” That is our confession. A Christian is one who confesses: “I belong to my Savior and God, and He is the almighty One. I am the recipient of His love and of His grace. Therefore I am heir of the kingdom of God. All things are mine” (I Cor. 3:21).
The proof that that confession is genuine will be found in a life of contentment. You do not need to put your hand over fire to prove to others that you are genuine about what you say as a Christian. You do not need simply to be able to walk the gauntlet of public scorn. But a life of contentment, as you live it before your children and before the world and before your friends, is the strongest witness you could ever give of your confession.
Your reaction to how much you are paid; your reaction to your house and the things in it; your reaction to your looks; how you react to setbacks and disappointments – this is the confession that you make before the world. Contentment seals our confession. Contentment is seen in our life when, at all times, it becomes obvious to others that we believe we are in the hands of God. In a life of contentment we are showing that we believe the power and the grace of God.
Contentment, therefore, is to say with the apostle Paul in Philippians 4: “I have all and am full.” It is expressed in the words of Asaph in Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” I have no more desires on earth if I have Thee. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want”( Ps. 23). I do not lack. The Lord is my portion, saith my spirit ( Ps. 119). It is to be truly happy, to be truly content in belonging to the God who is God. Therefore contentment is the mother of all graces. For out of the womb of contentment is born thankfulness and joyfulness and energy and usefulness in our Christian walk.
Do you possess the grace of Christian contentment, of peace and a satisfaction in your soul? Do you believe that God will meet all your needs and has met your great need in Christ, and that the heavenly Father works all things for your good? Do you believe that?
Or do you live a life of discontentment? Is that simply your confession of mouth, but it is different with respect to your feelings about your house, your car, your job, your pay, your weight, your looks, your children, your clothes, that you have no children, that you are dissatisfied with your wife or husband, that you are dissatisfied with a single life or married life, or with the church or with the elders, or with fellow believers or with yourself?
Are you content in the grace of God?
The word contentment is a very beautiful word in the Scriptures. If depression may be said to be the life in darkness, contentment is the life in the sunshine of God’s countenance. Contentment beautifies the Christian life. The word means “to be sufficient, to be enough, to be full.” God Himself is the complete and sufficient One. He is full. Contentment, therefore, involves God. Contentment can be found only when the God of the Bible is our God by His grace.
So we read in the Scriptures, Philippians 4:11, where the apostle says to his beloved Philippians, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Again we read, in I Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” In Hebrews 13:5 we are exhorted that our “conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he (God) has said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” We also find the word contentment in the Scripture translated by the word sufficient, for instance, in II Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” And again, II Corinthians 12:9, God’s words to the apostle Paul concerning the thorn in the flesh: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
What is the grace of contentment? Contentment is the confidence of faith in the sufficiency of God’s provision for my needs and it is the confidence of the sufficiency of God’s grace for every circumstance. Contentment, therefore, is to experience the peace of God. It is to say, “Have Thine own way.” It is the knowledge of God’s power and the knowledge of God’s grace, a knowledge rooted in the heart of faith.
To be content means that one believes God will meet his needs and that God will work all circumstances for his good. A godly person has found what all who are envious and greedy and discontented are looking for and never find. He has found perfect satisfaction. He has found rest in the soul, in God.
If we are to know what Christian contentment is, we must distinguish it from its counterfeits. We must know what it is not. Christian contentment is not a matter of temperament. A contented person is not simply one who is placid, easy-going, matter-of-fact. You may have such a personality and temperament. But you must not confuse that temperament with the grace of contentment. It is not simply about your personal tolerance level. As a wife may say of her husband, “Well, he could live with anything, but I just can’t live with this.” The wife is saying that his personality or his temperament is a bit more easy-going than her own. But that is not the same and must not be confused with the grace of contentment. Christian contentment is not indifference or complacency. An animal chews its cud – even in the slaughter-pen, not knowing what is ahead, that it is soon going to become cut beef. Contentment is not complacency – simply being easy-going. Of itself, that is not good. For while one can be easy-going over setbacks and complacent about problems, one can also then be easy-going over sin and complacent over against God. No, the contented person, the spiritual grace of contentment, is an activity of the life of the Spirit of God in our hearts.
Still more. Contentment is not self-righteousness. It is not to be self-satisfied. It is not to be smug about ourselves. When God gives you the grace of Christian contentment it does not mean that you are blind to yourself. Christian contentment is not self-satisfaction, of the brand of the Pharisees who felt no guilt, no sense of failure, before the holy God. That is something that is rooted in the conceit of self. That is blindness, spiritual ignorance, and folly before the holy God, who calls us to be holy and to serve Him with a wholehearted obedience. To be satisfied? I have not attained to that. There are many, Jesus said, who will say in the end day, “Lord, Lord, have we not done this, have we not done that?” Apparently they were very content with themselves. But the Lord will say, “Depart from Me, ye that did not do the will of My Father.”
Now examine yourself. Contentment is not simply a matter of temperament, it is not simply a matter of self-satisfaction, it is not simply because we have it pretty good and we really should not complain. After all, others have it a whole lot worse. All of those things do not add up to Christian contentment.
Still more. Christian contentment is not repression. It is not when all of our desires and ambitions are firmly repressed within us. Christian contentment is not the ability simply to hold things down. No, Christian contentment is a gracious work in the heart. It is a giving all things over to the hand of God. It is submitting to the hand of the Lord and believing that what He does He does well. Contentment is when the grace of God is rooted in the heart, it is inward. It transcends the physical and the material. The apostle Paul said, “I am content in whatsoever state I am.” That is the difference between being content with the world and being content in the world. We may be content in the world, in the world of things; but we are not contented with it. Our contentment is not due to our possessions, to the things that God has given to us in this world. We are content in the world. But what gives us contentment is not the physical, not the material, but it is God.
Therefore, Christian contentment is a present possession. You do not plan your contentment. If you do, you are presently sinful, rebellious, and discontent. So often we say, “Well, when I get to this certain point and when we have this and when this is this way in my life, then I will be content.” That is the same as holding a carrot on a stick out in front of you. You will never get to it. It is not “Lord, if I had this, or lived there, or if I was like her, or if I had a little more money, then I could be content.” That is future hopes. And that is present discontentment and covetousness.
TheWord of God says, “Be content!” Be content now. The word of God says, “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, makest me dwell in safety.” It is the present possession of Christ. It is the present knowledge of faith that God rules over all. Contentment is a present possession, not a future hope.
Therefore, we must be aware of and fight against all that becomes an obstacle to Christian contentment. There is covetousness. The Lord warned, Beware of covetousness. A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. He said, Children, how hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It cannot be the grace of contentment unless the grace of God transforms us in our life toward money and toward things in a very profound way. We must be aware of the deceit of riches. Then we begin to think that happiness and personal worth and success is found in proportion to one’s possessions, dress, savings, house. That is paganism. Religion is not a living. Religion is trust in God. Covetousness dulls our spiritual senses. It debases. It makes us into brute beasts. And it turns our minds into a mind of a cow, which thinks only of its next feeding.
Contentment, therefore, is the grace of God to make God’s value judgments concerning what is truly rich. True riches is to have a cleared conscience before God. True richness is to have fellowship with the living God through faith in Jesus Christ. True richness is the peace of God in my heart. True richness is the assurance that I am accepted in the beloved Son of God.
We might ask the question, “What about our earthly calling, then? Does the grace of contentment contradict the mentality that we ought to work hard and strive for excellence? Does the grace of contentment make us apathetic and lazy with respect to work, with respect to talents, with respect to learning?” The answer to that is, of course, no! Now hear me carefully. Service to God is the only motivation acceptable to God for diligence and hard work – diligence and hard work in school, or in your job, or in any area of your life. The motivation must not be selfish ambition. It must not simply be self-fulfillment. It must not be a larger salary, more commissions, more sales. But the motivation must be: How do I please God? Therefore, every work and every job is an arena for the glorifying of God. I must do all things as unto the Lord.
Therefore, we must be content. We must avoid covetousness. And we must avoid rebellion against the will of God. We must receive our positions as from God’s own hand. Let us apply that a moment to marriage. We must confess that we are married by the hand of God, by the decision ultimately of another, by the decision of the all-wise and loving heavenly Father. Are you content with your wife/husband? Is she/he a disappointment to you? Do you say, concerning your spouse, “He doesn’t want to change. I wish he could be like….” You will never be content unless you go to God and receive your place as from His hand, and your spouse marked out and chosen by Him. Unless you do that, by His grace, there is no hope for you for happiness. Now, I am not saying, husbands and wives, that we are not called to grow in grace, meekness, humility. In marriage we are to grow in opening our eyes to our own pride and to the needs of our spouse. You must grow. But I am saying, from the Word of God: You must be content with the wife or husband that God has given. Your contentment must rest in this, that ultimately it is God who has given you your husband or wife.
Discontentment and rebellion before God will do two things. It will, first of all, make you blind to the gifts that God has given to your wife or husband, because you will become too obsessed with what they are not, with what you want them to be. So you will become blind to the gifts that God has given. You will not see them. Secondly, it will make you unable to help her/him change. No one changes by frustration and irritability, by the words, “Why can’t you be like…?” That does not change.
Discontentment is rooted in discontentment with God, with the truth of His sovereignty. That must come down to our hearts. Our life is marked out with His gracious care.
It is a life of contentment that gives God the worship that is due to Him. Worship is when we render to God what is His due, what is His honor. In what state of heart do we render to God what is His due? In the state of contentment. When we say, “Lord, Thou art enough, no, more than enough. And Thy way with me, and Thy grace to me is enough.” We worship God when we come to hear a sermon, when we spend time in prayer, sing, receive sacraments. Yes, that is to glorify God. But we worship God from a heart of contentment, a contentment in God and in His grace. And that contentment brings us to obedience.
Contentment gives us peace and strength and an eagerness and readiness to serve. It is an inner calm with the grace of God so that we become a devoted worker. We become energetic unto every good work. The contented person is the person who has a stick-to-itiveness. He sticks to it. He believes that God is with him. And he is content to persevere in obedience.
Hear the word of God: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” Trust ye in the Lord Jehovah, for in the Lord is everlasting strength.
May this word of God be our comfort and strength always.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the grace of contentment. Pardon us for our covetousness and rebellion, our dissatisfaction and our quarrelsomeness with Thy sovereign will. Humble us to the dust and make us submissive, contented children. Amen.