Do you possess the grace of contentment? Do you know what it is?
Contentment, according to God’s Word, is that gracious frame of our hearts whereby we submit to and delight in our Father’s will wherever He may lead. It is to sing: “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way.” It is to experience the peace of God in our hearts and to rest in our Father’s hand. It is found in walking in the way of the Lord.
Are you content with what you have? With what the Lord made you? With your wife or husband? With being single? With your children, or without having children? With your job?
The Word of God to us today is: Be content! That is the calling that is ours in Jesus Christ. Without that we cannot live and serve our God. The Christian confession is ruined by murmuring and a despondent spirit. Children of God, God speaks to us and says, “Be content.”
Our passage today is taken from Hebrews 13:5, 6. We read, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
The book of Hebrews shows us that Jesus Christ is the true High Priest. Through His blood and sacrifice, once upon Calvary, we are brought nigh to God. And, therefore, we are called in this book to draw near in boldness and sincerity to God. Building upon that foundation, the apostle inHebrews 13:1-3 has exhorted us to live a true Christian life of compassion one for another shown in very deed and truth. In verse 4 of that chapter he warns us against sexual impurity, against adultery and fornication. Then in verses 5 and 6, he calls us to put away all covetousness and to live a life of contentment.
The lust of sexual immorality, or what the Bible calls fornication, and the lust of covetousness are often mentioned in close proximity in holy Scripture. For instance, in Ephesians 5:3, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints.” Again, Colossians 3:5, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, … and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Why are these two often mentioned together – fornication and covetousness? It is because they have a point in common. Both of them are the sinful craving for that which God has not given to us. Both are the mighty power of sin to get us in its clutches. Still more, both corrupt our whole Christian profession.
The issue in fornication, sexual immorality, and the issue in covetousness is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. To whom do we belong as children of God? Whom do we serve? To whom or to what shall we render obedience? Sex, money, or God? The Word of God calls us to battle against fornication and to battle against covetousness, and instead to be content. For the blood of Jesus Christ has been shed for the child of God. Therefore, our body is not for lust. And our heart is not for greed. But we are to rest in perfect satisfaction in the state that God has given to us.
Let your conversation, then, be without covetousness. And be content with such things as ye have.
If we are to enjoy the grace of contentment, we must root out the evil of covetousness. Covetousness and contentment are enemies. So long as the one rules in the heart, the other cannot be present. When we say, “I’m not content. I lack inward peace. I find myself angry and grumbling and dissatisfied. I don’t like the way I look. I’m not happy with my life. How can I be content when I am this way, when I don’t have this or that, when that has been taken away from me, and when others have so much more? How can I be content?”
Child of God, God says there is one obstacle to contentment: covetousness – the sin of desiring what God has not been pleased to give to you, the sin of setting your heart upon something other than God. That is why you are not content. It is not because of your job. It is not because of your house. It is not because of your looks. It is not because of your spouse. But the problem is found right at home in your own heart. You are covetous.
Let your conversation be without covetousness, says the Lord of the cross. Our conversation here is simply our walk of life before God, our daily life as that daily life really is a mouth – as it says something about us. Our conversation, therefore, is our walk of life before God in the office, in the home, in the school, in the gym, in church, in shopping. Let that entire life be without covetousness. At every turn of the way covetousness must be spurned if the grace of contentment is to be enjoyed. Covetousness, we have said, is the desire to have or to do something that God says I may not have and I ought not do. Thus covetousness, says Scripture, is idolatry; it is the making of something or someone or some desire the supreme in your heart rather than the true and living God. Therefore covetousness is setting something other than God at the center of your heart and life.
The apostle here in Hebrews 13 is emphasizing especially materialism: the desire to have more things or possessions – especially those things that God is not pleased to give to us. Covetousness, then, is a foolish valuing of earthly things as being an end in themselves. The apostle is writing to Hebrew Christians who were in many ways in danger of losing their earthly goods, everything that they had. And it stirred up in them a desire to have more. They did not want to turn their back upon those earthly possessions for the sake of Christ. Covetousness is a great danger in time of persecution. When one’s faith weakens and when one’s heart is filled with anxiety of “How am I going to make it?” then one is tempted, for the sake of material things, to deny his good confession in Jesus Christ.
Let your conversation, your life, be without covetousness. Let it be without it. You cannot tame it, you cannot allow a little bit of it into your heart. Let it be without covetousness. And be content with such things as ye have.
The word “contentment” has great elegance. In the strictest sense, of course, it can only be attributed to God. God is the One who is all-sufficient. He has enough in Himself. Psalm 50: “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee.” He rests satisfied in and of Himself alone. Contentment is, therefore, when God freely communicates His fullness to us. Contentment is to be sufficient. It is to know no want, to experience no lack. It is to say with David: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I find a sufficiency, a full satisfaction in my heart possessing the knowledge of this God and His grace in Jesus Christ.
That may mean the outward comforts and circumstances of our lives are not what we want, and are even not equal to our necessities. But contentment is that sufficient portion of the grace of God which causes me to be satisfied in whatever condition I am. Be content with such things as ye have. Do not walk around day after day saying in your mind: “Oh, if only I had this,” or “If only I could do this.” No, no! Be content with such things as ye have, with the present circumstances – a satisfaction which is yours in the knowledge of the fullness of Jesus Christ and His blood shed for sins.
Do you possess that grace?
Of course, that does not mean that we are released from the obligation of our daily and honest work. It does not mean that we become slothful or negligent. But contentment means that we experience the peace of God in our hearts in every situation, which keeps us from that sin of complaining, murmuring, and questioning God.
Lack of contentment is a serious thing. Lack of contentment means that my heart must be filled with envy. I am constantly asking the question: “Why can’t I be like so-and-so?” But the grace of contentment shields our heart from that crippling and horrible envy. When contentment dwells in my heart I am guarded from distrust and bitterness against the Lord. I am able to say, “Lord, it is more than enough that I have Thee and Thy grace.”
The apostle, in Hebrews 13, brings to us a powerful reason why we should be content. “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” That is a strong reason to do what is our duty, namely, to be content. The apostle is quoting a very beautiful and frequently made promise from the Old Testament Scriptures. But before I show you where he is quoting from in the Old Testament, I would like to have you notice how he introduces those words: “For he hath said.” The apostle does not say who has said. He says “He has said.” He expects all to know exactly who it was that said this. And this is the way whereby the Spirit is emphasizing to us the greatness and the power of God. “He has said!” Almost as when a child has repeatedly been asking his father a question and then the father answers the question and the child goes to his brother or sister and says, “He said!” So the apostle introduces this word the same way, “He has said.” God has said this. You may not respond to this Word of God saying, “Well, I don’t know about that.” Oh, no. He has said! That is all there is to it.
What did He say? “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” God spoke this repeatedly. But especially He spoke this in the Old Testament to Joshua. When God gave Joshua the charge to be Moses’ successor and to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan, to destroy the Canaanites, and to take up their inheritance in the land of Canaan, then God Himself appeared to Joshua, spoke to Joshua as he stood by the Jordan River. He said to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee. I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.”
That is the expression of God’s promise in the strongest possible way. In fact, it is expressed very vehemently: “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.” It is expressed that way to remove and obliterate all objections and all fear and all unbelief. I will not at any time, at any occasion, leave you. I will not in any moment forsake you. That is what He has said, child of God. Now lay hold of that by a God-given faith.
And catch the two prongs of that promise. There is, first of all, the continuance of God’s presence: “I will not leave thee, I will not remove my presence from you, no matter how despised, shunned, or alone you may be. No matter if the pit swallow you up and you experience what human sympathy has no ability to understand or to relate unto. I will not leave you.” Then there is the continuance of God’s help. “I will not fail thee. No matter the trouble, no matter the strength that comes up against you. No matter your own weakness in the face of that difficulty. I will not leave you helpless. I will not leave you hung out to dry. My aid shall be there with you. My power shall be there as the almighty.” And this word, the continuance of God’s presence, and the continuance of God’s help, is sealed to us at the cross of Calvary. Because of the love of God in giving His beloved Son to hell for us, we may know certainly that, no matter what may come, the Almighty God has sworn, “I will not forsake thee. I will not fail thee.”
I say that that is expressed with all the power of the love of God to obliterate all fear and doubt. You worry about making ends meet? You fear that people will reject you? What will they say, what will they think about you? Does that consume waking hours in your life? You look into the future and all of your peace seems to shrivel up. You say, “I don’t have what it takes for this child. I don’t have what it takes for this temptation. What will happen if I get a ten percent or twenty percent cut in my pay? What will happen if this fear is realized or if that fear comes to pass?” Listen! God speaks. He has said, “I will never leave thee, nor will I forsake thee.” There is nothing noble in our doubts, our murmurings, and in our discontentment.
You want to know what it really is, child of God, when we are filled with discontentment and murmurings, with the way of the Lord and doubt about His future abilities to provide? It is to call God a liar. It is pride.
His promise, you see, is so personal. I will not leave thee, nor will I fail thee. The dangers and the difficulties which every believer must confront in the spiritual warfare are no less difficult than those confronted by Joshua. God leads in a way where we have not gone before. And God leads in a way through many waters deep and broad. Israel crossed the Jordan at flood-tide, when the banks swelled. And the world is filled with difficulties for the child of God. We live in a land where the worshipers all bow to the god mammon. The life of the believer is surrounded without and within by many foes fierce and strong. But the promise is made to the child of God, to you and to me personally. And faith gives us to hear God say this to us personally. For we read in Romans 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
Get the argument, then, of the inspired Word of God in Hebrews 13. If God has said to every one of His children, over the cross of His own Son, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” then we have an all-sufficient reason to cast away covetousness and to be content with such things as we have.
When we know that God says to us what He said to Joshua, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” then we may be content. All desires of what He has not given are laid to rest. All fears or future wants, all anxiety over tomorrow, all worry over oneself – all of these are laid to rest. And we experience the contentment that is to be found in Him.
Are you content? Content in the present circumstance of your life? If you are not, and if peace is far from you and your heart and soul is filled with mounting worry and despondency and suspicion and emptiness, the reason is your covetousness. God has spoken. You and I have set, then, our heart upon something or someone or some desire other than God. Repent! Now. Those things cannot give you peace. Look to God. Hear His promise: “I will not forsake thee, nor will I fail thee.” Then there is right now peace, perfect peace; submission to my Father’s hand; the grace to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Even more, we can then become very bold, with an unconquerable boldness and with a joy. We may say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man can do to me.”
God grant this to you and to me.
Father in heaven, we are thankful for Thy holy Word. Write it now upon our hearts. Amen.