Sunset: Contentment

They say that April showers bring May flowers. Well, that might ring true for many parts of the country, but in central Texas, it’s usually May showers that bring June flowers. There’s quite a bit more rainfall in May. It’s always beautiful seeing the Indian paintbrushes, Indian blankets, and pink evening primroses rise up and cover the fields. The scenery from our God far surpasses even the most alluring Bob Ross paintings, as the landscape is dotted with radiant colors that seem to dance with the wind. 

But as you know with flowers, as beautiful as the bright reds, the vibrant yellows, and the glowing pinks are… they do not last for long. That is especially true in the middle of a Texas summer. The rains have usually gone, and the heat scorches the once blooming and thriving floral landscapes. The colorful vista becomes light brown, with a dull green intermingled. 

Something similar can occur within us, it’s something we are prone to in our fallenness. When the heat of trials are turned up and the fires are stoked, a certain flower that is designed to remain constant in the Christian life, begins to wither in us all at particular moments in time. The flower that I am speaking of is that of Christian contentment. Yet, it is a flower that does not have to fade or droop over from exasperation. 

Christians have such a treasure that the world does not possess. By the grace of God, everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for sinners as a propitiatory sacrifice to the Father, who has risen gloriously from the dead, can be content––always. That’s moving news! However, it might not sound all that earth-shattering to your ears at first (or your eyes in this case since you’re reading this), but let me illustrate. 

For the people of the world who remain at enmity with God, their contentment is only superficial. The burden of their sins remains fastly strapped to their backs. It cannot be shaken off permanently even with a seared conscience (cf. Matt 27:5; 1 Tim 4:2). There is a settled recognition that something is wrong and that judgment will come because of it. The contentment of the world, when it does appear, it never lasts because the object of their contentment is never sure (cf. Matt 7:24–29). 

For some, it might be difficult to remember the discontentment that you had in your life before coming to love Jesus Christ. It might be tough to remember the fear of your guilty standing before a holy God. What liberty and freedom you have now. That knowledge of a perfect Judge which once made the skies sullen now makes them bright in the light of the gospel of Christ. 

Having said that, even in salvation… as precious as that reality is, discontentment isn’t entirely absolved around us, or in us. For some of you, you do love the Lord Jesus, and you know all about discontentment in your life, even as you are reading this article.  

There are at least two reasons for this. First, the world around us thrives on discontentment. Second, what became natural in us because of the fall, in our flesh, is discontentment. 

It should come as no surprise that most people in this world are not content. Satan both knows this and loves this reality. He does everything he can to fan the flame toward more unsettledness in the world (always wanting but never having). It’s why in the United States last year according to Forbes, 300 billion dollars were being spent on advertising. For some perspective, it would take 9,500 years to count to that number without sleeping. Don’t let your head spin too much on that. 

The number $300 billion is not consumers buying products. It’s only companies paying for their products to be displayed on TV, on the internet, and in print. Just for some additional perspective, that amount of money is more than the GDP of the 41st most wealthy country in the world, which is Chile, which is in front of Finland, Egypt, Portugal, Greece, and most other countries. That’s a lot of money. And that’s just for the US. When you add in the rest of the world by the same article approximately one trillion dollars were spent on advertising in 2021. The advertising business is predicated upon causing you to believe that you need something that you don’t presently have when you have probably been living just fine without having whatever they’re selling and didn’t realize you “needed” their trinket until you saw their message… just some food for thought.

Discontentment is not just bred through looking at advertisements alone. That’s something we all know. It can come through the relationships you have, even with brothers and sisters in the church. It can happen when you go over to someone’s house and see that they have the new this, that, or the other name it appliance. It can be when a family talks about the vacation they just went on to the mountains or through wanting to keep up with the Jones’. Or maybe it’s through social media in seeing someone wear a certain brand of clothing or living in a certain house or doing something in particular that causes you to think… “if only I had that… if only I were there too.”

Dissatisfaction can happen almost anywhere, at any time. There is a battle for your contentment, and it’s a battle that began long before you or I were born. You can trace the battle for contentment all the way back to the garden. Think about what the god of this age says to Eve, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

We can postulate what went on between Eve’s ears. “You mean, serpent, there’s more to life than what I currently know? There’s more that I can have in this world? I have been misled and duped?” This leads us to the underlying accusation, the place where Satan wanted Eve. It’s where he wants you, and me, “Why would a good God withhold that from me?” That right there is an affront to and a charge against a perfect God. It’s nothing new, and it’s what we battle against today. 

The goal of this brief post is to show you that God has given you, Christian, a Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I have seen no better definition of contentment than that of the puritan pastor, Jeremiah Burroughs in the aforementioned work. He wrote in 1648,

“Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition.”

Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

With those words, Burroughs, based on Scriptural texts (of which we will consider), opens the doors of your heart for greater joy in contentment in Christ.

There is only one word used in the New Testament for contentment. That sounds simple enough. But here’s the kicker, the word is found in three different forms (as a verb, adjective, and noun). The forms have slightly different nuances. 

The verb form is “ἀρκέω.” It is used eight times and speaks of sufficiency or satisfaction (depending on the context). The idea is that there is nothing that is lacking. For example, Paul says in 2 Cor 12:10, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions and hardships, for the sake of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul was saying that amid all the hardships he went through: the beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, etc, he was sustained and content. 

At which point, the world would say, “that’s simply not possible.” But the reason for this state was due to the Lord Himself. In 2 Cor 12:7–9, we see the key turn in the lock of the truth revealed in verse 10.

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me⁠—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
2 Cor 12:7–9

It is by the grace of God that Paul was content in the midst of his adversity. Paul could be content because of what God accomplished in him, and he knew that God had a plan (cf. Matt 25:9; John 6:7; 14:8).

In Paul, we see that Christian contentment is freely submitting to the Lord’s will, in placing himself under the hand of God. Paul’s heart was like Christ’s, “Your will be done.” The wordsmith Burroughs says here,

“Many men and women will in general say that they must submit to God in affliction; I suppose that if you were to go now from one end of this congregation to the other, and speak thus to every soul: ‘Would you not submit to God’s disposal, in whatever condition he might place you?’, you would say, ‘God forbid that it should be otherwise!’ But we have a saying, There is a great deal of deceit in general statements. In general, you would submit to anything; but what if it is in this or that particular case which crosses you most? -Then, anything but that! We are usually apt to think that any condition is better than that condition in which God has placed us. Now, this is not contentment; it should be not only to any condition in general, but for the kind of affliction, including that which most crosses you. God, it may be, strikes you in your child. -‘Oh, if it had been in my possessions’ you say, ‘I would be content! ‘Perhaps he strikes you in your marriage. ‘Oh,’ you say, ‘I would rather have been stricken in my health.’ And if he had struck you in your health -‘Oh, then, if it had been in my trading, I would not have cared.’ But we must not be our own carvers. Whatever particular afflictions God may place us in, we must be content in them.” 
Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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