Contentment is an ever elusive thing in our modern culture. The more we have the more discontent we feel. Adverts and media are designed to breed discontentment in us. Not only do we have the world seemingly conspiring against us, but often sadness, trials and suffering threaten our contentment. As Christians we know that we are to be a content people, but how amidst all that surrounds us? Well today I hope to give some advice I have scaled from the puritans. I hope you will find it helpful
The first thing to know is that contentment is mysterious. A puritan by the name of Burroughs said that a Christian who is content can be described like this, “He is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world.” Now that may sound strange, but it’s not like trying to figure out the sound of one hand clapping. It simply means that you have learned how to be content with the lack of worldly things, any yet at the same time those things don’t satisfy you. This only happens when you are so full of God, and delighting in Him that nothing else but God will do. It’s being in a place like the psalmist who wrote “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside You” (Psa 73:25). To find contentment you need to be able to say that there is nothing in heaven or earth that can satisfy me, but God Himself.
Secondly a Christian learns contentment not by adding but by subtracting. This seems so counterintuitive to us because we are always thinking things like, “if I can only get more of this or that; if I only had more money; if I only had that gadget”. But really the way to contentment is by subtracting from our list of desires, so that we make our situation and our desire more equal. Now this is an impossible task if you don’t understand the mystery of contentment we spoke about. Because if you don’t understand the mystery you won’t know of any other way to contentment than to have your possessions grow or situation change. But the Christian knows another way, which is a bringing their desires down to the level of their possessions and situation. This is why people who live in poverty can live more sweet and comfortable loves than those who are richer- There is equality between their hearts and their circumstances.
Thirdly, a Christian gets contentment not by removing burdens but by adding another burden on. The burden you need to add is the burden of sin. The more you feel the weight of your own sin, the lighter the burden of your difficulties will feel in your heart, and thus you will find contentment.
Fourth, contentment comes not by removing difficulties, but by changing them. Typically people try to become content by removing problems and difficulties. But by God’s grace we are able to turn difficulties into good, and this is what takes the sting out of them. Things that seem like a huge problems suddenly you can see as a spiritual benefit. For example if you grew up in a home that wasn’t very religious, or maybe had a lot of issues, you can see how God used that to protect you from self-righteousness, and a holier-than-thou attitude, that you may have had to deal with if you grew up in different circumstances.
Fifth, contentment comes not by making up what you are lacking but by thinking through what God has put you in the situation to do. There are loads of situations in which you feel like you lack in some way. A non-Christian attitude is to think that you need to have what is lacking filled up if you ever hope to be satisfied or content. But by God’s grace you should be able to look for the duty you can perform in the situation God placed you in. You are not in the situation you were before, so what is the thing you should be doing now? Forget about what you had previously, see it rather as a temptation, and ask God what you should be doing in the new situation you find yourself.
Six, find contentment in the melting of your will and desires into God’s will and desires. Contentment doesn’t come by having your desires met, but by matching your desires to God’s. This means that in one sense you do have your desires satisfied, but not by getting what you thought would satisfy you before, because now your desire and will is one with God’s. This is like the next level up from merely submitting to God.
Seventh, this mysterious contentment isn’t made up of getting stuff from the outside to make your situation more comfortable, but rather by purging things from within. The apostle James wrote, “Where do wars and fights come from? Don’t they come from your lusts that war in your members?” (Jam 4:1). So it’s not things from the outside but the inside. Thus the way to contentment is to purge out lusts and bitterness.
Eighth, we realise that everything good is God’s blessing. God’s blessings are a secret way Christian are fed and sustained. Everything good that happens in your life is a token of God’s love for you, and so it is amplified in its preciousness.
Ninth, a Christian can see love in their troubles. By God’s grace we don’t only see God’s love expressed in blessings, but in troubles and trials as well. See God’s providence and hand in difficult and trying times, and you will see his love and mercy too.
Tenth, contentment comes from seeing Christ as your Mediator. Contentment comes not only as you see all your difficulties and troubles as coming from the Lord Jesus and His love, but because that means they are sanctified by Him. All the poison of your troubles are taken out by your Mediator Jesus. Think about it like this: What is your trouble/difficulty? Is it poverty? – Jesus Christ did not have a house to lay his head down in. So you can see your poverty sanctified by His. Look by faith and see that the curse is taken out of poverty by the poverty of Christ. So what is your difficultly? Jesus was alone, rejected, despised, in great bodily pain, slandered, hungry, thirsty, etc. There is no curse in those things for you, if you are content in them.
Eleventh, find contentment by getting strength from Jesus Christ. Get strength to bear your burdens by getting strength from someone else. God gives us grace upon grace when we need it. The Lord is to be our strength (Psalm 18:2). When you situation calls for 30% energy, He gives you 60%, when it calls for 100% of your effort, He gives 300%.
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