R E S T I N G I N H I S
P U R P O S E
Learning to be Content in a Complex World
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2007 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written
permission of the publisher.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the New International Version of
the Bible. (Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used with permission of
Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
1 - What Do You Need?
2 - Thirsting for God and His Purposes
3 - Striving
4 - God's Sovereignty
5 - Contentment in Silence
6 - Simplicity
7 - Learning Contentment
About The Author
O
1 - WHAT DO YOU NEED?
ne of the greatest challenges in our, materialistic and self-
centered age is to learn how to define our needs. Television and
magazine advertisements have mastered the art of introducing us
to needs we didn’t know we had. There is a world of difference, however,
between what we think we need and what, in fact, we really do need.
This problem is not a new one. Materialism and greed have been a problem
since sin entered this world. Listen to what the apostle James tells the
people of his day in James 4:2-4:
“You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you
cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have,
because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive
because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you
get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that
friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who
chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
Lust and need are not the same. Lust is an unhealthy and sometimes
overpowering appetite. It is a consuming fire that never finds satisfaction.
Lust can overpower reason or sensibility. Its craving must be satisfied at all
costs. The people James mentioned in the passage above were willing to
kill, quarrel and fight to satisfy their lustful appetites. They could not be
content with what they had.
We can lust for many things in life. Most commonly lust is associated with
an unhealthy sexual desire but it is not limited to this. We can lust for
material things, reputation or pleasures of all kinds. Lust by its very nature
is unhealthy and unbalanced. It can become an unbalanced obsession or
god. If unchecked, it can control our thoughts and actions and determine the
course of our life. Lust does not promote the overall wellbeing of the person
it controls.
Needs on the other hand are necessary to our emotional, physical and
spiritual wellbeing. Food, shelter and love are basic needs we all have.
Without these needs being met we will suffer as human beings.
If we are to learn to be content we must begin by distinguishing lust from
need. Imagine the young child crying out for more candy. As a parent you
know that a steady diet of sweet candy is not healthy for your child. At this
moment, however, that young child is not interested in the healthy meal you
have put before him. All he wants is the candy. God knows what we need
but, like this child, we are often not interested in what He says we need.
The world in which we live caters to our lusts. It presents us with its
candies and tells us that we can’t live without them. All too many people
have fallen prey to the temptations and unhealthy attractions of the world. If
we are to experience true Biblical contentment we must learn to listen to
our heavenly Father who created us and knows more than us what we truly
need.
Have you ever been disappointed when you received what you thought you
needed? Jonah felt he needed to take a ship to Tarshish instead of going to
Nineveh as God asked. The prodigal son felt he needed to take his
inheritance and leave home. Neither Jonah nor the prodigal son were
content in the end. No believer can be content when they are not in the will
of God. We can fight and plead with God for what we feel we need but
more than anything else we need to be in the will and purpose of God. We
cannot be content outside of that purpose.
If we want to be content we must learn to agree with God about what we
really need. This is not always easy but when we allow God to define our
needs, we can be sure that He will also meet those needs. Paul makes this
quite clear in Philippians 4:19:
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious
riches in Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul suffered more than any other apostle. He was persecuted,
beaten, rejected and thrown into prison but he still wrote this verse. He
knew that no matter how difficult things were, God would care for him and
provide everything he needed.
If we want to be content, we will need to deal with our fleshly lusts and let
God define our needs. We will then need to trust Him with those needs. We
can only be content if we learn to let God both define and supply our need.
For Consideration:
What is the difference between need and lust? Do you suppose we often get
the two mixed up?
Why is it important that we learn to allow God to define our needs? Can we
be content if we do not accept His definition of need? Explain.
How does knowing that God will provide all our needs help us to be
content?
For Prayer:
Consider your present situation in life. What do you see as your need? Take
a moment to ask the Lord if your definition of need is really from Him.
Surrender your goals and ambitions in life to God. Ask Him to show you
His purpose for your life.
Thank the Lord that He promises to be your support and to meet your need.
Ask Him to forgive you for the times you did not trust Him in this.
A
2 - THIRSTING FOR GOD
AND HIS PURPOSES
s we seek to develop our understanding of Biblical contentment it
is important that we discuss this matter of contentment and
thirsting. When I speak of "thirsting" in this chapter I am
speaking about a spiritual hunger and thirst that drives us to desire more of
God and His purposes.
We have all met believers who are “content” with where they are in their
spiritual lives. The reality of the matter, however, is that they are not
growing in their walk with God. They are stuck in a rut. They don't want
anyone to challenge them in their spiritual walk or their understanding of
God and His purposes. They seem to be happy to stay in their comfort zone.
They don't want to be stretched. Is this Biblical contentment? Can I be
content and not hunger and thirst for more of God?
To answer this question it is important that we see what the Scripture
teaches us about seeking God. In Psalm 42:1-2 we catch a glimpse of the
heart of the Psalmist when he says:
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O
God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and
meet with God?
Notice what the Psalmist is saying. He is telling us that his heart “panted”
for God. The Psalmist paints a picture of a thirsty deer craving water on a
hot day. The deer longs for water with deep passion and intensity. Water
becomes its obsession. Everything else is pushed aside in the pursuit of that
water. This is how the Psalmist felt about God. He thirsted for Him. He
needed to find God and experience His presence in a deeper way. Nothing
else mattered as much as this pursuit.
Listen to what the Lord told His people through the prophet in Jeremiah
29:13:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
God reminded His people that they would find Him if they sought Him
"with all their heart." The picture here is of a believer whose heart aches for
God. Notice the phrase “all your heart.” This implies that this is the central
focus of the heart of the person seeking God. There is nothing else in his
heart but this pursuit of God. Nothing else matters as much to him as
finding God. All his heart is devoted to this one purpose. This I believe to
be the call of God on the life of every believer. The pursuit of God must be
our passion and obsession.
What is true in our pursuit of God is also true of the pursuit of His gifts.
Listen to what the apostle Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 14:1:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially
the gift of prophecy.
Notice how the apostle told the Corinthians that they were to “eagerly
desire spiritual gifts.” The phrase "eagerly desire" in the Greek means “to
burn with zeal, to strive after or to covet.” This is a strong word. It shows
us, however, the heart of the believer. The believer passionately cries out for
God’s gifts and longs to be more fruitful in the work of His kingdom.
The same principle is true in our prayer life. Jesus told the story of a widow
who lived in the same town as an unjust judge. The lady needed justice and
the unjust judge kept putting her off. She refused to accept "no" for an
answer and kept coming back asking for justice. Eventually, because of her
persistence, the judge listened to her. What is the lesson of this story? Listen
to what Jesus said in Luke 18:7:
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry
out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
God will bring justice for those who cry out to Him day and night. The lady
did not stop asking. She would not give up seeking His favour. She could
not be content until the judge had answered her. God calls us to this type of
prayer.
Remember the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis? One day he wrestled
with an angel of God. The wrestling match continued all night long. In the
morning the angel asked Jacob to let him go. Listen to the response of Jacob
in Genesis 32:26:
Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob
replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
Jacob received the blessing he desired because he refused to be content
without it and insisted that the angel bless him.
The apostle James told his readers in James 4:2 that they did not receive
certain things from God because they did not ask:
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you
cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have,
because you do not ask God.
The implication here is that if we want to receive from God we need to ask
Him. There is to be in each of us a holy discontentment that drives us to
intensely seek God’s blessings in prayer. Will we be content to allow our
children to wander from the path of truth? Can we ever be content knowing
that they are not experiencing God’s fullest blessing and purpose for their
lives? Should this not drive us to cry out to God on their behalf until He has
answered our prayer?
Jesus told His listeners in Matthew 7:7-8:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and
the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he
who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
We are told that the Greek tense used in this passage indicates that the
asking, seeking and knocking is constant. In other words, the passage could
be translated in the following way: "for those who keep on asking, seeking
and knocking the door will be opened." The idea is that there is persistence
in this asking, seeking and knocking. The one who asks in this way does not
give up. Like the lady who went to the unjust judge, they keep coming
back. Like Jacob, they will not let God go until they have received their
request from Him.
What do these verses teach us about Biblical contentment? There are three
things we need to understand here.
Contentment is not Apathy or Indifference
What passes for contentment sometimes is apathy or indifference. When we
are happy with where we are and have no desire to grow, this is not
contentment it is indifference. People who are willing to sit back and not
exercise their spiritual gifts are not content, they are spiritually lazy. When
God calls us to do something but we are so comfortable with where we are
that we don't want to move, this is not contentment, it is disobedience. We
need discernment from God to distinguish laziness from contentment. All
too often the enemy deceives us into thinking that our indifference,
disobedience and apathy are signs of being content. We must not be fooled.
True Contentment will not be Happy with Anything Less
than the Will of God
It is also important for us to understand that contentment is never happy
with anything less than the heart of God. In the last chapter we discussed
the importance of adjusting our needs to be in line with God's
understanding. I want to focus on this again.
True contentment seeks God's heart. We are never to be content with sin.
When the widow kept coming back to the unjust judge for justice she was
crying out for the will and purpose of God to be done in her life. She would
not be content with injustice, nor should we. When Jacob wrestled with the
angel and would not let him go, he was crying out for God’s blessing in his
life. God wanted to bless him. When Jesus told his listeners to keep asking,
seeking and knocking, He was telling them to refuse to be content with
anything less than the will of their heavenly Father for their lives.
The same is true in our pursuit of God and His empowering in our lives.
Should we be content with anything less than what God desires for us?
When I keep coming back to God and find myself panting for Him like a
thirsty deer in the noontime heat, am I not seeking only what He desires for
me? When I fast, pray and plead with God for greater fruit in my life am I
not only asking for what He desires to give?
Can we say that we are demonstrating true Biblical contentment if we are
content with something that God is not content with for us? We can only be
content when we are seeking what God is seeking. We should never be
satisfied with anything less than God’s fullness for our lives.
True Contentment will not be Happy with Anything More
than the Will of God
The believer can only be content when he or she is seeking what God is
seeking for their lives. We need to understand, however, that very often we
fail to be content because we are not properly discerning God's purpose or
will. Maybe you want your ministry to move in a certain direction but it is
not the timing or purpose of God. Maybe you have an idea of how your
marriage partner needs to be but God wants to change you instead. God's
ways are very different from our ways. Paul wanted to be healed of his
infirmity. Maybe he felt that this would enable him to minister more
effectively but God wanted to use his weakness to demonstrate His power.
Only when Paul understood this could he be content in his infirmity (2
Corinthians 12:7-9).
True Biblical contentment is not happy with anything less than the purpose
and will of God. At the same time, true contentment will not seek anything
more than the purpose and will of God. Paul could not be content with the
healing of his “thorn in the flesh” if it was the purpose and will of God to
use it. Nor could he have ever been content to be free if God had a purpose
for him in a prison cell.
The key to Biblical contentment is to be found in the purpose of God.
Nothing more or nothing less will do. As believers we cannot be content
until we are where God wants us to be. Sometimes that will mean crying
out or wrestling with God for what He has not yet given. Sometimes it will
mean sacrificing our ideas and plans and submitting to His purpose. We can
only be content when we passionately seek after God and find ourselves
walking in His purpose for our lives.
For Consideration:
How is “contentment" confused sometimes with spiritual laziness or
disobedience?
Should Christians be content with anything less than God’s purposes for
their lives?
How do our own ideas of what we want in life or ministry keep us from
being content? Why is it important to surrender our ambitions and goals in
life to God? Can we be content if we are seeking more than God wants to
give? Can we be content if we are seeking less?
For Prayer
Ask God to increase your passion for Him and His purposes for your life?
Ask God to forgive you for not pursuing Him and His purposes more fully.
Ask God to search your heart to see if there is anything in you that is not
seeking His will. Ask him to remove anything that is not from Him.
I
3 - STRIVING
n the last chapter we saw how we can only find true contentment by
seeking the heart of God. Here in this chapter I would like to consider
the word "striving" as it relates to contentment in the Christian life.
Striving for God
The word I want to look at here is a Greek word used in the New Testament
on several occasions. This word is the word "agonizomai." Notice its
similarity to the English word "agonize." "Agonizomai" implies striving,
fighting, contending or endeavouring with great zeal. The word
"agonizomai" is used in the New Testament to describe the effort the
believer is to make for the sake of the kingdom of God. Let me share some
examples of this word in the New Testament.
Jesus told his listeners in Luke 13:24 to “make every effort” (NIV) or
“strive” (KJV) to enter through the narrow gate. The idea is that they were
not to allow themselves any rest until they had found the gate that led to
eternal life.
The apostle Paul illustrated the Christian life in 1 Corinthians 9:25 by
speaking of how an athlete competes (agonizomai) in the games. There is
intense effort in this illustration. Athletes discipline themselves and endure
great hardship in an attempt to win.
Paul told the Colossian believers that he “strove” (agonizomai) according to
the power of God that worked in him (Colossians 1:29). He commended
Epaphras for being one who "laboured earnestly" (agonizomai) for the
cause of the Gospel (Colossians 4:12). Paul encouraged all believers to
fight (agonizomai) the good fight of faith in 1 Timothy 6:12 and ended his
life with the assurance that he had himself fought (agonizomai) that good
fight (2 Timothy 4:7).
The Christian walk is not an easy one. We will have to labour, contend and
fight if we are going to be everything God calls us to be. The apostle Paul,
who tells us that he had learned to be content in every situation, also spoke
more about striving and fighting than any other apostle. We cannot miss the
connection here.
Think of the athlete for a moment. The athlete pushes himself beyond his
limit. As he strives, every muscle in his body aches. His heart pounds so
hard he wonders if it will explode in his chest. His lungs gasp for air. His
brain tells him to stop. Physically his whole body is in agony but he is
content. This is where he wants to be. This is hard work but he delights in
it.
This is how it ought to be in our Christian life. The apostles were beaten
and mistreated as they agonized for the cause of the Gospel. After being
flogged and warned never to preach in the name of the Lord Jesus, the
apostles left the presence of their accusers in Acts 5:41 with joy in their
hearts because they had been “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the
Name.” There was contentment in the hearts of these men as they left their
accusers. Like the athlete, their spiritual and physical muscles were aching
but their heart was filled with praise, joy and thanksgiving.
Consider what Paul said to the believers in Philippians 4:12:
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.
There was plenty of trouble and trial in Paul's life. He had to fight and
contend with hunger, poverty and physical abuse but in it he had learned the
art of contentment.
Sometimes the Spirit will take us through deep waters. Sometimes He will
move us into the heat of the battle where the enemy surrounds us. Some of
us will be put on the front lines where we will feel the sting of the enemy’s
arrows. There will be casualties. There will be agonizing, fighting and
striving but, according to Paul there can also be contentment.
Solomon told his readers in Proverbs 13:4:
The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent
are fully satisfied
Notice that true satisfaction and contentment comes from hard work and
diligence. God has designed us to be hard workers and valiant fighters. True
contentment is found in diligent and faithful service for our Lord.
Striving Against God
Not everyone is willing to strive for God. When God called Jonah to go to
Nineveh, Jonah decided to go in the opposite direction. He boarded a ship
to Tarshish and went the other way. Jonah fought against God and His
purposes. Every wave that beat against Jonah’s boat told him that he was
going in the wrong direction. The captain of the ship found him sleeping
and told him to wake up and call on his God. The sailors cast lots and the
lot fell on Jonah. He was cast into the sea and for three days and nights
wrestled with God in the belly of a great fish. He was striving but not for
God. There was no contentment for Jonah in this type of striving.
Moses too strove against God. When God called him to return to Egypt, he
told God that he was not the right person for the job. He insisted that God
send his brother Aaron instead.
There are times when we too wrestle with God because we do not like the
way He is leading us. Maybe we have another idea of where we want to be
or how we want things to unfold. We may obey like Moses but we do so
fighting God. You may not be openly rebelling like Jonah but you still
strive against God and His purposes in your heart. There can be no
contentment for you until your heart is surrendered to God.
Striving Apart from God
There is another type of "striving" that will take away our contentment and
lead to frustration. Paul, speaking to the Galatians in Galatians 3:2 said:
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the
Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are
you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying
to attain your goal by human effort?
One of the biggest problems in the church of Galatia was the fact that they
did not understand the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit. They had every
intention of following the Lord and serving Him with all their heart but they
were trying to do so in human effort and wisdom. They had never learned to
walk in the Spirit and draw on His strength and wisdom.
Speaking in Romans 7:18-19 Paul said:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want
to do--this I keep on doing.
Paul understood that there was nothing good in his flesh. When he tried to
live the Christian life in his own efforts he always failed. The flesh could
not give him victory.
Solomon, in his great wisdom wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own
understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make
your paths straight.
This passage is very important if we are to understand what it means to be
content. How often have we agonized and wrestled in the Christian life only
to be frustrated, not because we were not seeking God but because we were
seeking Him in the wrong way. Your efforts may be pure and legitimate.
Your heart may be in the right place. You may be heading in the right
direction but you are doing so in the flesh. This sort of striving is difficult to
discern. The heart and actions can be right but we are not drawing our
strength from the right source. You can discipline yourself to read the Bible
and pray. You can commit yourself to go to church or witness for the Lord.
You can do all these things in human effort. Even an unbeliever can do
these things.
Sometime ago I was speaking with a sister in the Lord who told me how she
never taught a Sunday school class without spending hours in preparation.
As we spoke, I commended her for her discipline but warned her of the
danger of depending on her preparation more than the Spirit of God. I have
often fallen into that trap myself.
We can push ourselves in the flesh to do the things of God. We can run
ahead of the Spirit not waiting for His direction and leading. I say these
things because I believe that there are many people striving in ministry to
make things happen by their own wisdom and effort. They are not being led
and empowered by the Spirit of God. True contentment is only found in
partnership with God and the work of His Spirit in us.
There is a godly striving that leads to contentment. True contentment can
only come when we walk in tune with God’s Spirit. When we allow the
Spirit of God to minister in us and through us, He will lead us into the heat
of the battle. It is here that we can experience our deepest joy and
satisfaction. In these times, the Holy Spirit draws close to us. Here, in the
heat of the battle, we experience His presence, power and fellowship.
Countless saints have attested to the wonderful satisfaction of agonizing
with Christ for the cause of the gospel. Paul was stoned and beaten more
than any other apostle but experienced wonderful contentment in life. His
heart overflowed with joy and satisfaction in God. Outwardly his body
showed all the marks of persecution but his heart was fully content. He was
satisfied because he was walking in fellowship with Christ and His Spirit.
Like the apostles we too can find true contentment in the midst of hard
labour and fighting for the kingdom. If we are to find this contentment,
however we must walk with the Spirit of God and in fellowship with Him.
We must surrender to His purpose and will. We must cast off any attempt to
do the work in our own effort, wisdom and strength. Contentment will only
be found in submission and surrender to the leading and empowering of
God through His Spirit.
For Consideration:
Why is the concept of struggle and hard work not always acceptable to
Christians?
Can we find contentment in striving and agonizing for the cause of the
kingdom?
What does it mean to strive against God? Have you ever been guilty of this?
Why is it hard to discern whether a person is serving in the flesh apart from
God? Is it possible to have the right heart and actions but not walk in the
Spirit? What is the difference between ministering in the flesh and
ministering in the power of the Spirit?
For Prayer:
Ask God to give you grace and strength to persevere and strive hard with
Him.
Ask God to teach you to walk in the Spirit and in His power and leading.
Ask Him to forgive you for the times you tried to serve Him by your own
effort and wisdom.
Thank the Lord that there is great contentment in working hard in the Spirit.
Thank Him for the contentment we have in walking in fellowship with Him.
T
4 - GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY
here is a deep connection between contentment and the
sovereignty of God. When we speak about the sovereignty of God
we speak about His absolute right, authority and control over the
universe and all that happens. Only when we truly understand and submit to
this truth can we experience true contentment. Let’s consider this is greater
detail.
God has Absolute Right
How often have we grumbled and complained about our lot in life?
Somehow we feel that God is not fair when He allows one person to
experience blessing and another to suffer trials in life. Paul challenged this
attitude in Romans 9:20-21:
But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed
say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does
not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay
some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Do you see what Paul is telling the Romans? He reminded them that God,
as the Creator and Sustainer of all, had the right to do as He pleased with
His creation. He could create a jar to use for common purposes and another
to use in a very special way. It is the right of the potter to make pots for
whatever purpose he desires. The same carpenter may build a simple shed
or an expensive mansion. God, as our Creator, has the right to form us with
different purposes in mind.
Paul took this a step further when he told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians
6:19-20 that when they came to know the Lord Jesus and surrendered their
lives and hearts to Him, they no longer belonged to themselves but to the
Lord Jesus:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who
is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
The Lord God has the right over us not only because He created us but also
because He bought us by the death of his Son. We can only experience
contentment if we recognize and submit to this truth. There will be conflict
between us and God as long as we believe that we have a right to our own
destiny. This matter of control and ownership must be settled if we are to
experience true contentment.
Listen to what Job said in Job 1:20-22 when he lost his family, his
possessions and his health:
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved head. Then he fell
to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's
womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has
taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.’ In all this, Job
did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
How could Job be content when everything seemed to be going against
him? He was content because he had accepted that the Lord his God had the
right to do as He pleased with him and his possessions. He had no battle
with God.
All too often we hold on to the things of this world as if they were ours to
keep. None of us knows for how long God has given us our lives, our loved
ones or our possessions. Instead of complaining because these things are
taken from us, we should be praising God for the time He has loaned them
to us. As a sovereign God He has the right over all we own.
You cannot experience contentment until you understand and fully
surrender to the fact that God, as a sovereign God, has right to do what He
pleases with all that belongs to Him. You do not belong to yourself.
Everything you have first belongs to God. Surrender to Him and trust Him
in this. We cannot fight God over ownership rights and experience true
contentment. Until we have made peace with Him in this matter, true
contentment will elude us.
God has Absolute Authority
There is another important aspect to the sovereignty of God. God also has
absolute authority. As the one who has absolute authority, God has the final
say in what happens. There is no authority over the Lord God. Isaiah put it
this way in Isaiah 14:27:
For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?
His hand is stretched out.
Jesus demonstrated this authority over sickness and the demons of hell.
Demons fled at the sound of His voice. Sickness was healed when Jesus
spoke. In the book of Genesis we read how God spoke and the earth came
into existence. The word of God carries authority. What He speaks must be
carried out. Satan himself must bow to the absolute authority of that word
spoken from God.
A man came to Jesus one day whose servant was sick. That servant was
very valuable to him and he did not want him to die. He came to Jesus and
asked Jesus to heal this servant. As he came, the man felt unworthy that
Jesus should come to his house so he said to Jesus in Luke 7:7:
That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.
But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
This man understood the authority of the word of Jesus. He knew that
whatever Jesus spoke would be done. He knew that Jesus did not need to
come to his house to heal his servant. He could simply speak the word from
where He was and it would be done. There is no force of hell, no sickness,
no problem or trial that can stand against the authoritative word of God. All
must bow to His authority. What He purposes to do cannot be changed or
thwarted.
What is the connection between contentment and this aspect of God’s
sovereignty? Consider for a moment what we have just said about the
absolute authority of God. Satan may unleash his evil spirits. Like Job we
may lose all we have. We may be buffeted like Paul, stoned like Stephen or
ridiculed for our faith but one simple word from God and all this opposition
will flee. What comfort we need to take from this. The enemy wants us to
believe that our situation is hopeless. He wants us to believe that we are
locked up forever in the prison cells of depression, bitterness and
oppression. One simple word from our God, however, and those prison
doors swing wide open.
We can rest in this wonderful truth of God's absolute authority. Like Joseph
we may find ourselves in a prison for a time but we know that we are not
defeated. When He speaks, nothing can keep us bound. The chains will fall
off and we will be freed. When we live with the understanding of this
authority we can be at peace. We can live with a smile in our heart because
we understand how weak and powerless the enemy really is. We can be
content in any circumstance because we know that victory is only one word
away.
God has Absolute Control
There is one final aspect to God's sovereignty that I want to touch on here in
this context. As a sovereign God, our God has absolute control over
situations and people. One day the prophet Jeremiah was asked to buy a
field from his cousin. This was just prior to the invasion of the Babylonians.
Jeremiah wondered why God would ask him to buy a field that the enemy
was just about to take from him. God reminded him, however, that the day
would come when his people would return to the land he had purchased
from his cousin. Listen to what God told the prophet in Jeremiah 32:27:
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for
me?
God was able to do the impossible. God was going to work out the
circumstances of life so that the land Jeremiah bought would be returned to
His people.
Throughout the Scripture the Lord demonstrates His power and control. He
set His people free from the hands of the Egyptians. He opened the sea to
let them cross on dry land. He gave them water from a rock. He caused the
sun to stand still so that His people could have victory. He provided them
with manna each day and sustained them for forty years in the wilderness.
His hand was busy moving nature, influencing leaders and deciding the
course of history in favour of His people.
That power and control was demonstrated in the Lord Jesus who healed the
sick and rescued them from the evil one. The apostles experienced the
power of God through wonderful miracles in the early church. The apostle
Paul reminded the Philippians in Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything
through him who gives me strength.” He developed that thought further in
Romans 8:31-32:
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who
can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him
up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give
us all things.
It is true that we will, for a time, have to face the trials and tribulations of
this life. The fact of the matter, however, is that victory is ours in Christ.
Our God is in control. He will use everything that happens to us to
accomplish His perfect will. God promises that everything that happens will
work for our good. He can promise this because He is a sovereign God who
is in absolute control of life’s circumstances. Paul wrote in Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who
love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Contentment rests solidly in this wonderful reality of God’s sovereignty.
God has absolute right, authority, control and power. When we understand
this, we can rest in Him and trust His ways. You cannot trust a God who
might fail. You cannot trust a God who is not in absolute control. Our God
cannot fail. His love for us is as absolute as his sovereign purposes. He will
not abandon us. Isaiah 49:15-16 says:
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion
on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget
you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls
are ever before me.
The sovereign God of the universe promises not to forget you. He has
written your name on the palm of His hand. Your name and your struggle
are always before Him. His love for you is greater than the love of any
mother for her newborn child. He will come to you in your time of need. He
will not allow you to bear more than you can handle. You may not
understand what He is doing but you can be sure that as a sovereign and
loving God He knows what He is doing and is in absolute control of your
situation. This is the basis for all contentment. I can be content in whatever
situation I find myself because I have a God who is sovereign and loving. I
can trust His purpose. He will do what is right.
Let me conclude with this final statement from the apostle Paul in Romans
8:37-39:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him
who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither
angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any
powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ
Jesus our Lord.
Let the enemy throw at me whatever he wants. In Christ I am able to
overcome. Because of Christ, everything that comes my way is a means for
me to grow and mature in my relationship with God. As long as God is
sovereign, I can be confident. As long as I am resting in that sovereignty I
can be content.
For Consideration:
Have you ever found yourself wrestling with God over things that
ultimately belong to Him? Why is it so difficult for us to accept the lordship
of Christ over all we have?
How does surrendering everything to Christ help us to be content?
What comfort and assurance does knowing that God has absolute power
and authority give you? Is there any problem that He cannot deal with?
What are the feelings of this sovereign God toward us as His children?
What comfort do you take from this?
For Prayer
Take a moment to recognize God’s sovereign ownership of all that you
have. Surrender any sense of ownership you have of these things.
Thank the Lord that He is in control of your present circumstance and will
use it to accomplish good.
Take a moment to ask God to forgive you for doubting that He is fully able
to deal with whatever situation that has come your way.
Ask God to help you to rest in His sovereign plan and purpose. Ask Him to
help you to be content in that purpose for your life.
S
5 - CONTENTMENT IN
SILENCE
omeone once said that the Christian dreads the silence of God more
than anything else in life. When we were serving as missionaries on
the islands of Mauritius and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, there
were times when we faced significant challenges in our ministry and
personal life. Sometimes we wondered how we would be able to keep
going. Our strength to carry on came from a deep sense of God’s call on our
lives. God had made it clear to us before we left Canada that this was His
purpose for us at that time. When we hear from God and are assured of His
purpose and presence, we find strength to face the obstacles that come our
way.
We do not always hear from God. We have all gone through times of silence
in our spiritual lives. Though we cry out to God, we do not seem to get an
answer. We feel alone and unable to sense His presence. Listen to the prayer
of the psalmist in Psalm 22:2:
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am
not silent.
In 1 Samuel 13, King Saul waited for Samuel the prophet to offer a sacrifice
before going into battle. As he waited, the enemy grew stronger. The silence
and waiting was a fearful thing for Saul’s soldiers. In time of battle they
would have bravely faced the foe. This silence however, was more than
they could handle. In the silence, doubt and fears were given full
opportunity to reveal themselves.
In World War II one of the tactics used to confuse the enemy was to deploy
a smoke screen. When the smoke screen was deployed, the enemy was
blinded. This caused great confusion. The silence of God is like that smoke
screen. It seems to hide God's face from us. We can't see Him anymore. We
can't hear Him. We are left with a sense of confusion, fear, and sometimes
even panic. It is not easy to sit still in the confusion and darkness of silence.
We have all faced these terrifying and confusing periods of silence. Is
contentment possible in these times?
The Providence of God in the Silence
The apostle Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 4:12 that he had learned
to be content in all situations of life. This includes those periods of silence.
The apostle spent many years of his life behind the bars of a Roman jail.
Can you imagine what it would have been like for someone with the energy
of Paul to sit alone behind those bars day after day? Every nerve in his body
wanted to reach the world for Christ. Instead, he was restrained and
isolated. His freedom was taken from him. How difficult this would have
been. Paul understood, however, that God was a sovereign God. In His
providence, God works everything out for the good of His children. Listen
to what Paul told the Romans in Romans 8:28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who
love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Paul knew this to be true in his experience in a Roman prison. He told the
believer in Philippians 1:12-14:
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me
has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become
clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I
am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers
in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more
courageously and fearlessly.
Paul’s confinement had a purpose in the providence of God. God was using
this confinement to reach the palace guard. He was using it to help other
believers to become bolder in their proclamation of the gospel. They had
seen Paul’s example and were encouraged to give themselves more fully to
the work of the Lord. Paul’s imprisonment was used of God for a very
special purpose.
In his imprisonment and isolation, Paul was given opportunity to write. He
may not have realized that what he wrote from his prison cell would one
day be read by people all over the world. God reached more people through
the silence of Paul’s prison cell than He did through the rest of his ministry.
What we need to understand here is that God uses these times of silence,
isolation and confusion to accomplish His purpose. I have grown more in
the silence then at any other time in my life. In the silence, God has shown
me many things about myself. In those times my faith has been stretched
and my heart tested. God is still God in the silence. Though things may be
confusing and we don’t know what is happening, we can be confident that
He is still in control. God will use the silence to accomplish His purpose. In
this thought we can find contentment.
The Presence of God in the Silence
As a child, I remember how, in the darkness and silence of the night, I could
image all sorts of monsters and terrible things. In these periods of dark
silence, Satan will exaggerate our fears and concerns in an attempt to strip
away our contentment. Fear and contentment are natural enemies. No one
can be truly content if they are overcome with fear.
In Daniel 3 we read how Daniel's three friends refused to listen to the
command of the king to bow down to the idol he had erected. As a result,
they were thrown into a fiery furnace. In that time of trial, the Lord opened
their eyes to see the presence of a fourth person in the flames with them.
That person was the Lord God Himself. He followed them right into that
furnace. He allowed them to face the trial but chose to go through it with
them.
Elisha's servant woke up one morning and looked around him. The enemy
had come during the night and surrounded the city. He was afraid. He didn't
know what to do. He felt for sure that the city was about to be swallowed up
by this powerful army. Elisha, his master, prayed that the Lord would open
his servant’s eyes to see what was really happening around him. We read
the following account in 2 Kings 6:15-17:
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the
next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the
city. ‘Oh, my lord, what shall we do?’ the servant asked. ‘Don't be
afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more
than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open
his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes,
and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all
around Elisha.
The servant had not been able to see the angels of God surrounding the city.
It is easy to see the problems and obstacles on the path but not so easy to
see the presence of God and His angels. If we are to experience
contentment in the midst of silence, we must remind ourselves that while
we may not always see God, He promises never to leave us. He surrounds
and protects us in the silence.
The Promise of God for the Silence
There is one other thing we need to mention here about the silence of God.
Listen to the promise of God through Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 40:31:
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They
will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
In Isaiah 64:4 the prophet went on to say:
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye
has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait
for him.
God promises to act on behalf of those who wait on Him. Are you in a place
right now where you cannot see God? Has it been a while since you really
had any clear direction from Him? Do you cry out day and night to the Lord
but hear only cold silence? Do these promises not bring us hope? God
promises to act on behalf of those who wait for Him. His timing may not be
the same as ours but He will act on our behalf. We have His promise.
Can we be content in the silence when we can't see or hear God? Is it
possible to be content when we are confused and have no clear sense of
what God is doing? Can we know true contentment when everything around
us is dark? The answer is a definite "yes." We can experience this
contentment when we understand God's providence. He is a sovereign God
who will work out every detail for His glory and our good. We can
experience contentment when we accept by faith His presence. He has not
left us. He surrounds us with His angels. We can experience contentment
when we believe the promises that if we wait on Him, He will act on our
behalf.
For Consideration:
Have you ever found yourself in a place of confusion and silence? How did
you feel at that time?
What comfort can we take from the promises of God to provide for us and
use every situation for our good?
Has God ever used what appeared to be a bad situation in your life for
good? Explain.
Does the fact that we cannot see evidence of God or hear Him mean that He
has abandoned us?
What are the promises of God for those who wait on Him in silence?
For Prayer:
Thank the Lord that while we may not always see evidence of His presence,
we can know that He never leaves us.
Thank the Lord that He uses all of life’s situations to accomplish good in
our lives.
Are you going through a difficult time in your life right now? Ask God to
encourage you with His promises. Accept those promises and walk in the
confidence of His provision and presence.
A
6 - SIMPLICITY
s we look at this question of contentment it is important that we
take time to speak about its relationship to simplicity. There are
times when we do not experience contentment because we have
not been living in this Biblical principle of simplicity.
Letting God Figure out the Details
There is a very important verse in Mark 10:15 that speaks to this issue of
simplicity.
I tell you the truth; anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God
like a little child will never enter it.
Jesus told His disciples that unless they accepted what He told them like a
child they would not inherit the kingdom of God. What Jesus is telling us is
that we need to develop the childlike attitudes of humility and trust.
Consider this for a moment. Children have absolute confidence in their
parents. With their father and mother beside them, they have no reason for
fear. Children coming to the table do not concern themselves about where
the money is going to come from to pay for the food they eat. They trust
their parents to care for these issues. They simply enjoy what has been
provided.
How difficult we have made things in life. Unlike the child described
above, we worry and fret over life. We do not have the trust and confidence
of a child in our heavenly Father. We take on things that are too big for us to
handle. Imagine your young children trying to take on matters that were
beyond their years. Instead of enjoying their childhood they spend their
days worrying and fretting over adult matters. Would you not be concerned?
Would you not reassure them that, as their parent, you were taking care of
these matters for them?
I have often found myself taking on matters that were too big for me to
handle. Personally, I have a nature that wants to figure everything out and
see how it all fits together. This has served me well in the ministry of
teaching and writing but there are things we were never meant to figure out
in this life. We worry instead of enjoying the good things God has given us.
We are not content because we have not been living with childlike
simplicity and trust in our heavenly Father. We complicate our lives with
thoughts that are beyond us instead of trusting our Father to provide and
work out the details. The result is a stress filled and discontented life.
God reminds us in Isaiah 55:9 that His ways and thoughts are higher than
ours:
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Do we really believe that we could ever understand the purposes of God?
His plans and purposes are beyond us. Even the most brilliant mind could
never grasp what God is doing in this world.
Paul reminded the church in 1 Corinthians 2:9 of how impossible it was for
them grasp what God was preparing for them in the age to come.
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what
God has prepared for those who love him.
Paul is telling us that no one has ever seen anything like what God is
preparing for us. He is telling us that we have never heard nor has it ever
entered our minds the wonders that await us. It is not possible for us to even
imagine the wonders of heaven. These things are too big for us to
understand.
Moses understood this when he reminded his people in Deuteronomy 29:29
that the secret things belonged to God.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things
revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may
follow all the words of this law.
What God has not revealed clearly to us is not for us to understand. Yet how
often have we tried to understand the secret things of God? Don't worry
about details that God has chosen to hide from you. At this point in time,
they are beyond your ability to bear or understand. Instead, just trust Him
with childlike faith. Your heavenly Father knows what He is doing.
What I am trying to say here is that we need to accept that God's ways are
impossible for our human mind to completely understand. There are things
about God and His ways that we will never be able to figure out. Some time
ago I was speaking to an individual about the doctrine of the Trinity. He
told me that he could not understand how God could be three persons and
one person at the same time. I reminded him that I was glad that there were
things about God that were impossible to figure out. You see, if I could
figure out how God worked and knew all there was to know about Him,
than He wouldn't be very big. In fact, if I could figure God out, He wouldn't
be any bigger than my mind. The reality of the matter is that God is bigger
than this. He is bigger than my imagination. He is bigger than my ability to
understand. I am thankful for this because it means that he is bigger than
me. I find great satisfaction in this.
We need to stop trying to figure out all that God is doing and learn to trust
Him with childlike simplicity. There are matters that are too big for us. In
these matters we need to rest and trust. Could it be that we are not
experiencing contentment because we are so busy being worried about
things that are too hard for us to understand? Until we learn to live in
simple childlike confidence and trust, we will never know true contentment.
Letting God Lead
There is another aspect to this simplicity. We have spoken of simplicity in
terms of trusting God in the things we don't understand. Not all of us are
thinkers. Some of my closest friends are action people. They are not so
concerned about figuring things out as they are with getting things done. It
is possible to complicate our lives by actions as well.
Martha, in the Gospel of Luke, is an example of this. In her attempt to serve
and honour the Lord, she busied herself with the responsibility of offering
hospitality to Him and His disciples. The responsibilities she took on that
day seemed to be more than she could handle. She became agitated. There
were so many things to do and so little time and help to get them done.
Mary, her sister was no help to her. She sat at Jesus’ feet listening to His
teaching. In frustration, Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Listen
to Jesus’ response in Luke 10:41-42:
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset
about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen
what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
Jesus saw how Martha's life was cluttered with obligations and
responsibilities. She was not content. She was agitated. She needed to slow
down and get her priorities right. Her busy and complicated lifestyle
stripped her of joy and contentment.
The enemy will not hesitate to complicate our lives with needs and
responsibilities. The reality of that matter is that there is no way you can
ever meet all the needs around you. I was powerfully reminded of this some
time ago on a trip to Haiti. Everywhere I went the need was striking. People
reached out their hands asking for money or food. There was no way I
could minister to all those needs. How often have we found ourselves
taking on the problems of the world? We soon find ourselves overwhelmed.
The apostles in the book of Acts found themselves in a similar situation.
The physical needs of that day were tremendous. The need for help in the
daily distribution of bread became obvious. The apostle refused to take it on
because it was not the purpose and leading of God in their lives. God had
called them to a ministry of prayer and preaching. To get involved in the
distribution of bread would have distracted them from the call of God on
their lives. That day, the apostles made what appeared to be a very harsh
decision. Listen to what they decided in Acts 6:2:
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would
not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in
order to wait on tables.’
For an action person, it is very difficult to see a need and not do anything
about it. The problem however, is that there are too many needs in this
world for one person. If we are not wise and discerning we will soon find
ourselves overwhelmed, burnt out and distracted from God’s purpose for
our lives.
When I first felt the call of God on my live to overseas missions, I
remember people saying: “Wayne, why are you going overseas? There are
so many needs right here in our own country.” I wrestled with this for some
time until the Lord showed me that I was not going to the mission field
because of the need, I was going because God was calling me. When I
understood this, things became so much simpler. I didn't have to figure out
how to divide myself up so that I could minister to all the needs in the
world, I just had to obey God and do what He was telling me to do.
Samuel the prophet gave King Saul some wise advice in 1 Samuel 15:22
when he told him: “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better
than the fat of rams.” In this context, Samuel had taken on responsibilities
that God had not given him. The fact of the matter is that when we take on
responsibilities that God has not given us we too are living in disobedience.
We cannot be controlled by need. We must be led by God’s Spirit.
Like Martha, we can so easily complicate our lives trying to change the
world when this is not God’s purpose for us. We take the care of the world
on our shoulders and feel responsible for every need that comes our way
instead of trusting God to show us what He wants us to do. This will only
leads to frustration.
God alone is big enough to care for the needs of the world. He only expects
us to do what He leads us to do. He will never give us more than we can
handle in His strength. We can weary ourselves with responsibilities that
were never given to us. If we want to experience contentment, we must
learn to trust God to care for the needs around us. We must learn to follow
His leading and not take on what He has not directed us to take on. If we
are to learn to be content, we need to walk in simple obedience.
Freeing Myself from the Things of the World
There is one more thing we need to say in this area of contentment and
simplicity. Listen to the advice Jesus gave to the soldiers of his day in Luke
3:14:
Then some soldiers asked him, ‘And what should we do?’ He
replied, ‘Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be
content with your pay.’
The writer to the Hebrews warned his readers in Hebrews 13:5 of the
danger of money and possessions:
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.’
There is an important lesson for us to learn here in these passages. Instead
of complicating our lives with the pursuit of money and possessions, we are
to learn to be content with what God has already given. All too often we
believe that money and possessions will give us contentment. This is simply
not the case. The more we have, the more we want. We complicate our lives
with the pursuit of things and wonder why we do not find contentment.
Listen to what the apostle Paul told the Philippians in Philippians 4:11-12:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be
content whatever the circumstances. 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.
Notice that Paul’s contentment had nothing to do with how much or how
little he had. He had discovered contentment in poverty as well as in riches.
His contentment was not based on worldly possessions. How easy it is for
us to believe the lie that says that we can never be happy until we have
more than we presently have. The unhealthy pursuit of money and worldly
possessions will never bring true satisfaction and contentment in life.
Countless lives have attested to this fact.
The Scriptures make it clear that we cannot serve God and money (see
Matthew 6:24). Contentment can only be found in surrender to God and His
perfect plan for our lives. Anything that comes between God and me will
hinder my contentment. Sometimes we are not experiencing contentment
because our lives have become cluttered with the pursuit of the wrong
things. We seek contentment in the things of this world and not in God. We
clutter our lives with worldly goods that were never designed to fill the void
of our hearts.
Do you want to experience true contentment? Remove the clutter that
stands in the way. With childlike faith learn to trust God with those things
that are too difficult for you to understand. Don’t rush out to fix everything,
listen instead for the leading of God’s Spirit and step out in those things.
Strip away the love of money and possessions and learn to thankful for
what God has already given.
For Consideration:
Why do we often feel the need to understand everything before we step out
in obedience?
Do you have a childlike faith or have you been trying to take on matters that
are too big for you? Why is it difficult at times for us to admit that there are
matters that are too big for us?
What is the difference between being motivated by need and being led by
God’s Spirit?
Have you found yourself looking to possession and material things for
contentment? Will these things ultimately bring contentment?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you to learn how to trust Him with things that are too
big for you to understand.
Take a moment to ask the Lord if you are where He wants you to be in your
ministry or personal life. Surrender to His leading in this.
Ask God to set you free from the pull of possessions and material goods.
Ask Him to teach you how to be content with what He has already given.
N
7 - LEARNING
CONTENTMENT
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be
content whatever the circumstances. 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. (Philippians 4:11-12)
otice what the apostle Paul told the Philippians in the above
passage. Twice in these two verses he told them that he had
learned to be content in every situation. This tells us that
contentment is something we need to learn. It is not something that comes
naturally to us. If we want to be content, we must work at it. In this final
chapter I want to take some time to examine how we can learn to be
content.
Let me underline this truth once more. Paul makes it clear that he had to
learn to be content. There are times when we are of the opinion that
contentment is something that is given to us without effort. We are either
content or we are not content. Sometimes, however, contentment only
comes through hard work and discipline.
When the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness they grumbled
and complained about their lot in life. Admittedly, the wilderness was not a
nice place to be. What is important for us to understand here, however, is
what happened to them because they grumbled and complained. Listen to
what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:9-10:
We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by
snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did--and were killed
by the destroying angel.
Notice that the Lord sent a destroying angel to punish the children of Israel
for their grumbling and complaining in the wilderness. This is a fearful
thought. What is your reaction to the wilderness in your own life? Do you
grumble about your job, your health or your situations? Do you realize that
when we do not accept what God has sent our way we are grumbling
against what a sovereign and holy God has allowed for our good? If God
sent His destroying angel to punish His people in the wilderness, should we
not take heed lest we too fall into the same sin?
If you find yourself in a situation where you are not content you need to go
to the Lord about this and confess it as sin. You need to come before Him
and ask Him to teach you how to be content in the circumstances He is
sending your way.
By way of summarizing what we have already seen, let's examine how we
can learn to be content in all circumstances.
Recognize the Battle
The first thing we need to understand is that the enemy delights to take
away our contentment. Consider what happened in the Garden of Eden.
Adam and Eve had everything their hearts desired. The one thing God did
not want them to have, however, was the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge
of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve lived in contentment and joy in what God
had provided for them. Satan knew that if he could strip away their
contentment he would be able to turn them from God. This is exactly what
Satan did. He showed Eve the forbidden tree and promised even greater
things than God gave her if she would eat from it. Eve saw the tree, heard
the promises of Satan and opened her heart for seeds of discontent to be
sown. She allowed those seeds to take root and we all know the result. She
disobeyed God and sin entered the world. It entered because Satan was able
to sow seeds of discontent in Eve’s heart.
Satan continues to attack in this way. He knows that discontent is fertile soil
for all kinds of disobedience. Greed, envy, strife and anger all thrive in the
soil of discontent. When these sins take root in fertile soil there is no telling
what kind of fruit they will produce. How important it is for us to realize
the danger of discontent in our lives. The person who is discontent is a
prime target for the enemy. Understanding this battle is the first step to
learning how to be content.
Trust the Sovereignty of God
The second thing we need to accept if we are to learn how to be content is
the sovereignty of God. We have already examined this in some detail.
When we say that God is sovereign we mean that He has absolute right,
authority and control over the affairs of my life and the events of this world.
Contentment is solidly rooted in a deep understanding of God's sovereignty.
How could I ever be content if I did not understand that God was in control
of the events of my life? How could I ever learn contentment if somehow I
believed that the enemy might win the battle? I can only be content because
I have a God who is in control of the events of my life. He promises to
work out all details for my good and His glory. There is great comfort in
this. This does not mean that there will never be difficulties in life. It does
mean, however, that even the most tragic circumstance is in God's hand. He
will somehow use whatever happens to me to draw me closer to Him and
extend His kingdom.
To grumble and complain like the children of Israel in the wilderness is to
doubt what God tells us about Himself. He tells us that He will work out all
things for our good. When we grumble and complain we simply prove to
everyone around us that we are living in disbelief. This is why God dealt
with grumbling in the Old Testament so severely. If we want to learn to be
content we need to accept that God is a sovereign God who is working out
His purposes in our lives. Contentment and sovereignty are intimately
linked.
Accept the Priorities and Purposes of God
Accepting that God is a sovereign God has another implication in my life. If
He is the sovereign Lord, than I need to live in obedience to Him and trust
Him with the events and circumstances of my life. Very often we are not
content because we do not accept God's purpose. We have our own ideas
and plans. These plans are sometimes contrary to the purposes of God.
Until we are willing to lay everything down and accept God's plan and
purpose for our lives, we will never be content.
Open Your Eyes to the Provision and Presence of God
God not only wants us to accept His purpose and plan for our lives but also
to know that He will be with us and provide all that we need in that
purpose. The children of Israel grumbled and complained in the wilderness
because their eyes were blinded to God’s presence with them. They
complained and worried because they doubted His wonderful provision for
them in that wilderness. The enemy will do all he can to blind us to the
provision and presence of God. Satan does not worry so much if you accept
God's purpose as long as he can keep you from seeing God and trusting His
provision in that purpose.
Sometimes God reveals Himself in very small ways. If we are not careful
we will miss seeing him. The church I was working with on the island of
Mauritius in the Indian Ocean had been the centre of the evangelical work
on the island for many years. God had been doing a wonderful thing
through the church. Satan had succeeded, however, in causing great division
among believers. This had devastating consequences on the ministry and
believers in the church. Very shortly after arriving on the island, the Lord
showed me a picture of a battlefield. I remember seeing myself walk around
that battlefield. I was amazed at the devastation I saw. All around me, on
the ground, were the bodies of church members. They looked lifeless and
dead. I felt grief in my heart as I looked at the scene and wondered what
could possibly be done. Was there any hope for this church? As I looked at
the bodies around me, my eyes caught sight of one body in particular. My
attention was drawn to the hand of this individual lying lifeless on the
ground. As I looked at his hand, I noticed a small twitch of the finger. My
hope sprang up. I felt joy in my heart. That little twitch of the finger told me
that there was life and that all was not hopeless.
As I ministered over the next few years, God showed me many little things
that gave me a sense of His presence and provision. Someone would not
respond with as much anger in a given situation. Someone was willing to
meet with us in order to talk about the conflicts they had been having with
each other. I can't say that radical things happened all at once but little
things constantly reassured us that God was working.
How easy it is to overlook those little things. We have our own idea of what
we want to see and are blinded to any other indication of the presence and
provision of God. If you want to learn contentment, you will have to open
your eyes. God is demonstrating His presence and provision all the time but
we are not seeing it. If we would open our eyes we would see that God has
never left us nor have His blessings stopped. To be content we must learn to
watch for indications of the presence and provision of God. We need to see
Him in the little things He sends our way.
Make it your priority every day to find something for which you can thank
the Lord. Maybe it is something small and insignificant but it is evidence of
His presence and provision. Learn how to recognize and thank God for
these little things.
Confess any Striving Against God
In this study we have looked at the life of Moses. When he arrived in Egypt
and saw that things were not going the way he wanted, he complained to
God. In Exodus 5:22-23 we read:
Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you
brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever
since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought
trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at
all.’
Moses was not content in this ministry because things were not going as he
had planned. He knew he was called but he still had his own ideas of how
quickly things needed to happen. He was not trusting God's purposes.
The prophet Jeremiah found himself in a similar situation in Jeremiah
15:15-18. Here in these verses he complained to God because of how
people were treating him. He told God that he did not like the lifestyle he
had been called to live as a prophet. Listen to what he told God in Jeremiah
15:18:
Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?
Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?
Jeremiah wrestled with God over his ministry and life. He struggled to
accept God’s purposes.
Who among us has not struggled with God’s purposes for their life? If we
want to learn contentment we must stop fighting God. God does not do
things the way we do them. His ways are different from ours. There will be
times when He will use what appears to be tragedy to accomplish great
good. We need to let Him be God. We need to die to our own ideas,
preferences and desires and trust Him to do what He wants to do in us.
There are many things we will not be able to understand. None of us will
ever be able to grasp the mind of God and His purposes. Don't let your lack
of understanding keep you from trusting Him. Don't try to figure out the
details yourself. Learn to trust God’s leading. He has all the details worked
out. Stop looking at things through human eyes. Ask God to help you to
look to Him and see things from His perspective. We can only experience
contentment as we surrender completely to God’s purpose, accept what we
do not understand, and walk in obedience to His leading.
Contentment can only be learned as we choose