Pastor's Blog

Reflections Concerning a Flower of the Soul


They say that April showers bring May flowers. While there are a number of flowers that have popped up over the last couple of months, as many of you know, in Texas, it’s often May showers that bring June flowers. There’s quite a bit more rainfall in May than in April or March. 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 oranges, 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.” 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.” 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.” 

But notice this… Paul’s submission is done with pleasure. That is a word that everyone (myself included) desires to hold at arm's length with suffering. That’s because we know one day, suffering will be gone (cf. Rev 21:3–5). No difficulty will be found there. So there is a right longing, but it’s not the right time. Suffering for the Lord in this life produces an eternal weight of glory according to Paul in 2 Cor 4:17. 

The reason Paul says what he does in verse 9 is because of God’s grace, he will be glad. And that gladness in the Lord is not based on his present circumstance based on verse 10. He can be glad and boast in his weakness so that Christ will be magnified. It’s not ultimately about him, but rather about Him–that’s what contentment is all about.

Now, the same verb is used passively in Luke 3:14, 1 Tim 6:8, Heb 13:5, and 3 John 10. In other words, a Christian is brought to this state. In those passages, the word speaks of satisfaction. Satisfaction is a lovely word for the Christian. David says in Ps 17:5, “​​As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.” Wonderful. Jesus says in Matt 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Glorious.

The same idea is communicated with our verb for contentment in an earthly sense in 1 Tim 6:7–8. Paul says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Here we see that contentment is an inward and quiet resolve. Paul says, if in this life all you have are food and shelter, with that you can be content. You are not lacking anything you need for satisfaction. Why? It’s simply because you know the God who provides you with Himself and your creaturely needs. The knowledge of God brings you to that place. 

Christians aren’t to be cantankerous. Christians aren’t to be envious or covetous. We are to be a satisfied people. John Rockefeller, who is regarded as one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, was once asked, “How much money does it take to make a man happy?” He answered, “Just one more dollar.” The world has an unquenchable appetite. But for the Christian, our appetite should be sated in the Lord.

After speaking from Ps 73:25, which says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth,” Burroughs writes, “If God gave you not only earth but heaven, that you should rule over sun, moon and stars, and have the rule over the highest of the sons of men, it would not be enough to satisfy you, unless you had God himself. There lies the… mystery of contentment. And truly a contented man, though he is the most contented man in the world, is the most dissatisfied man in the world; that is, those things that will satisfy the world, will not satisfy him.” We were made to enjoy God in His creation, tracing all our delights through Him. 

 This brings us to the second form of the Greek word for contentment in the New Testament is “αὐτάρκεια,” which is a noun. It is a compound word made up of the words αὐτός (self) and ἀρκέω (our previous form of study, which is a verb for sufficiency). The word can be used for external sufficiency or internal sufficiency (contentment). An example of external sufficiency is seen in Paul’s words in 2 Cor 9:8, after speaking about God’s love of the cheerful giver. He says in 2 Cor 9:8, “And God is able to make every grace abound to you, so that in everything at every time having every sufficiency, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” God provides for the church physically so that she can care for others. That is an example of gracious submission to God’s plan based on His supply. Then in 1 Tim 6:6, Paul uses the same word of an internal reality. He writes, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.”

Isn’t that a curious statement? I initially would think in reading this that Paul would say that godliness is a great means of gain, period. We might think he would end his train of thought there. But no, he says godliness is only a means of gain if one is content. In other words, our devotion to the Lord is a means of gain as we rest in the sufficiency in who our God is and in what He has provided. Whenever our hearts are always craving more, in an indirect way we are telling the Lord that what you have graciously supplied is not enough… put more directly, who You are is not enough. It’s not to say that you can’t desire to be out of a trial like Paul or the Psalmist or that you cannot desire a new vacuum when yours is on its last leg, but everything must be held with the open hand of “Your will be done,” in a posture of joyous trust. 

The final usage of the word for contentment is seen in Phil 4:11. It the adjectival form of the noun we just studied in “αὐτάρκεια.” The last form for our study is “αὐτάρκης,” which also means self-sufficient. The idea isn’t suggesting that one doesn’t need the Lord–in being self-sufficient, but rather, because one knows and loves the Lord, one can be entirely satisfied in Him.  Paul is writing from jail, not from the Four Seasons. He’s possibly been there for around a year at this point, and in Philippians, one of his shorter letters, he writes about joy seven times, more than in any of his other letters. Again, joy and jail are antithetical to the mind of the world, but not to a Christian centered in Biblical contentment. 

Paul says in Phil 4:10–13, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived thinking about me; indeed, you were thinking about me before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in abundance; in any and all things I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 

Far from being just a verse to quote before a football game or a swim meet, Phil 4:13 is explained by what proceeds it. Paul very clearly teaches us that situations in life and circumstances do not dictate contentment. This is the gracious spirit that Burroughs speaks of in his definition. Paul is cool, calm, and collected. If he doesn’t have a meal at night, if things don’t go the way that he wants, even in a situation of abundance… he can be content. What levels Paul out is Christ. He is balanced in life by Him.

Contentment isn’t, to borrow from the words of Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” No, it isn’t out playing a perpetual game of hide-and-seek. If you love Christ contentment is accessible to you. It is a flower that should remain forever blossomed in your life. That’s God’s design for you, and there is always more joy to be had within the outstretched arms of His good calling for your life.  

God is good. His ways are sure. If you can trust God for your salvation, the fate of your eternal soul, you can certainly trust Him in the darkest of trials and remain content. I love that, to that end, in Ps 145:9, the psalmist doesn’t write, the Lord is good when you don’t suffer. That’s not what he says. In fact, you won’t find those words in your Bible because they aren’t true. Instead, he writes, “Yahweh is good to all.” The Lord is good, that’s who He is. In other words, God is good all the time. What that means is, that the goodness of God is not predicated upon our circumstances, and if God’s goodness isn’t predicated upon our circumstances then our contentment certainly shouldn’t be. 

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is rare in at least two senses. It is rare in that Christ is the object of our contentment. Christ is rare. He is the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field in our salvation. But the jewel of contentment is also rare in that few people have the contentment that the Lord affords us (my hand is up as being a work in progress here, though you can’t see it). 

It’s all too easy for us to excel in parts of the definition that Burroughs provided, without all of it and it’s to our own detriment. Again, he wrote, “Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God's disposal in every condition.” 

It’s natural in our fallen state to sinfully complain to others about our trials (cf. Ex 15:24; John 6:43, 61; Acts 6:1). It’s natural to become aggravated in trials and to push back against the Lord (cf. Job 13:23–24; 33:8–12). It’s natural to become envious of others (cf. Gal 5:26). It’s natural to do all of the above without love in our hearts and taking pleasure in God’s disposal (1 Cor 13:1–3). But there is a better way. The supernatural walk in the Spirit rests in contentment (cf. Eph 5:18). There is a battle for your contentment, and it’s one that the Lord desires for us to win. We have seen that described by Paul. 

Christian, do not be down on yourself. Run to new heights in the love of God in Christ, by trusting in Him and adoring His hand toward you in seasons of ease and difficulty. The good God that you serve has provided the fertile ground from which the good works He has prepared for you to walk in will sprout (Eph 2:10). He has a purpose in everything that comes to pass, as all occurs according to His will (Ps 115:3; Eph 1:11). In rain or shine, draw strength from the Lord to rest in Him. 

You can have true, lasting contentment in this life. Not just contentment with relation to the forgiveness of your sins, but in all areas of life. Even when the trials are raging on, the flower of contentment need not wither if you cling to the Lord, satisfied in His caring hand. 

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