The Secret of Christian Contentment, Part 2 (Philippians Sermon 22 of 24)
March 28, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Joy, Contentment, Money and Possessions
I. The Central Matter in Contentment: Accepting Boundaries
Okay, we're looking, for a second week, this morning at these incredible verses, Philippians 4:10-13. I love history, I love to study history, and I like to take a "you were there" approach to history and imagine what it would have been like if I had been there at this or that point in history. And one date in particular intrigues me, April 22, 1889, because that was the day of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Nearly two million acres of land had been recently made available for settlement, and so all of these folks were there waiting to settle that land. Of course, within such a large track, there were some parcels that would be better than others; everybody knew that. And there was going to be a race at noon that day, and you would get to certain marked out spots and you would claim them as your own, and they would be your homestead. That's where you would end up.
But as people lined up there that day at noon, on April 22, 1889, they didn't know that most of the best tracks had already been taken, because there were some Sooners that went out the night before and grabbed those plots and set up shop there. And so as they'd come over a hill or come to a little rally with a river or something, there was already a homestead there. "Boy, were they fast," they were thinking. And there was, I'm sure, a great deal of discontent over the plots of land, the tracks, and how they went out.
Now, in the Scripture, the Promised Land was given out in a more God-honoring way; they cast lots for it. In the book of Joshua, the stories are told and how the Promised Land was divvied up, and a lot was cast and that was your allotment. That would be your inheritance in the Promised Land.
And so the second half of the book of Joshua is just a series of the Providential casting of lots as each tribe would get a certain portion, and then it would be subdivided among clans and families. And I think it's exactly this process that David has in mind when he writes in Psalms 16:5-6, "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely, I have a delightful inheritance." David's thinking about his life, isn't he? And he's thinking about the boundary lines of his life, the plot of ground, not just that, but all the things of his life, what's happened and how God has dealt with him. And he's saying, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places."
And I've picked up on that concerning this matter of Christian contentment. And it occurs to me that the secret of Christian contentment is being content with the boundary lines that God sets up in your life. Content with what's inside the boundary lines, and content with what's outside the boundary lines. Because inside the boundary lines, there's bound to be a mixture of good things and hard things, and outside the boundary lines also a mixture of good things and hard things. And the problem comes when you question the position of the boundary lines and wish that something that's good that's outside the boundary lines would be inside your territory, and jump the fence, as it were, or go early like the Sooners or whatever, and grab something that God has not apportioned for you, like David did the night he slept with Bathsheba. To jump the boundary line and go get something that God had not put in your inheritance.
But just stand at the fence of the boundary line and yearn for it. Look across at something that's not yours and say, "I wish it were." There goes contentment. Or to look inward and say, "Here's something I wish weren't in my inheritance. I wish it were out." There goes contentment because you're not satisfied with how God has set up the boundary lines in your place. Now, I feel that it would be a great gift of God for me to be content the rest of my life with my boundary lines. Wouldn't it be for you as well? To be satisfied with what God has apportioned for us here in this world, to say with David, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Surely I have a delightful inheritance." I'm satisfied with what you've given me."
That's my goal this morning. And if you come along for the ride, that's great too, but this is what I want for myself. I would like to learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want, I would like to be able to do all things according to the strength that Christ gives me, wouldn't you? That's something I want for myself.
II. Review: Paul’s Credentials - A Life of Extreme Suffering
Now, we talked about this last week, and just by way of review, I just went through Paul's credentials to be able to talk to us about this. Paul, a man who had seen great suffering in his life, a man who had seen great persecution and great opposition, and who could speak to us, I think, concerning this matter. He was able to be content having spent a day and a night in the open sea, or having been flogged with 39 lashes five times, or beaten with rods three times, or shipwrecked three times, or any of the other things he lists there in 2nd Corinthians, then I think he has the right to talk to us. He's an expert in this matter.
And he and Silas displayed it and put it on display when they sang in prison. After having been humiliated and beaten, they spent the night singing praises to God. And I think, "That's not me. I would love to do that, to learn to sing praises to God while sitting in a prison like that." That's something that I want. And so I think Paul has the credentials to speak of that. I talked about the immediate context; Paul is writing to the Philippians the whole letter on the occasion of having received some money Epaphroditus brought. Epaphroditus brought the money that the Philippians had sacrificial given, and Paul is encouraged about that, and he wants to write to thank them.
III. Review: Paul’s Spiritual Mindset - The Key to His Unshakeable Joy
But being a pastor, he's not just writing, "Thank you for the money. Praise God for your faith," and whatnot. No, he's going deeper.
And so we have three marvelous chapters of theology, and then another half a chapter before we get finally to his point in writing, the immediate point anyway, he just wants to say thank you for the money. And so it's a glorious thank you letter, and it's a challenge to me because I'd like to do something like this. Of course, I'm not an apostle of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but he wanted to write and to lift their eyes up off their immediate circumstances, to instruct them and teach them. And his perspective on the money that they sent is so different from what ours would have been. He's saying, "I'm happy about the money, but not the way you might imagine. I'm happy about the money because it means that Christ is working in your life, and things are going well for you, spiritually. And I can say that because I'm confident that God will meet my needs. I'm confident, and I'm not concerned about myself. I'm not saying this because I'm in need or in want, which I am, but that's not why I'm writing it." "For I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, living in plenty or in want. I could do everything through him who gives me strength."
The focus on the foundation of this unshakable joy, this unshakable contentment, which seems to be impervious to circumstances is Paul's spiritual mindset. He's thinking about things spiritually. He's set his heart on things above, not on earthly things like he wrote in Colossians. He's focused on heavenly things, not on earthly things, so he can do that.
IV. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
And last week we also talked about a marvelous work by a Puritan writer named Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Now, we are starting to branch out in our ministry and we want to make books available to you. And I had ordered these and they're not here yet, but if you want us to order a copy of this for you just go to the tape table after the service. We also got another book called The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson. And it's every bit as good and simpler to read. We've got 10 of those there which we'll sell at cost. We want to get these materials into your hands.
But in this book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Burroughs, he has a central doctrine, it's printed there in your bulletin. "To be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian." Now, what I said was, in an initial observation, Christian contentment is possible but not guaranteed. It is not guaranteed in that Paul says, "It's a secret to be learned." And he didn't always know it. But it is possible in that he says he has learned the secret of being content. I know that it's possible to go through many days as a Christian without knowing any contentment. I think we can even be fruitful for his kingdom, but we cannot maximally glorify him or be maximally fruitful if we don't learn the secret.
And I ask again, do you think the Philippian jailer and his family would have been converted that night if it had been you in that jail cell instead of Paul? I wonder. Because I think his contentment and his spirit-filled joy and his ability to sing and praise God was of the essence of his ministry to that Philippian jailer that night. And so I would urge us all to learn the secret of contentment so we can be more fruitful for Christ. Christian contentment is possible but not guaranteed. Then we gave a definition. I think that's what's printed in your bulletin.
Christian contentment is that sweet inward quiet gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise fatherly disposal in every condition. We went through that definition. It's an internal thing. Burroughs told us that if it were just an external presentation to the world, it wouldn't take much art to learn it, would it? Then we would all be actors, and actresses, acting happy and content when we really are miserable inside. That's not what we're talking about here. It's not what Paul is talking about. It's an inner thing, internal thing, and it's quiet. That means it's submitted, I think, more than anything, submitted and yielded. It's opposed to murmuring, and complaining, and moaning, and groaning like we do, griping, some might call it venting. Do you ever vent? You don't have to admit it this morning, this would not be a good morning to admit it, okay.
But it's a sin to be complaining against God, to say I'm not satisfied with what God's doing in my life right now. And though we can recover as Christians, and have to sadly frequently recover from that kind of complaining and venting, yet it is sin. For God said, "Do everything without complaining or arguing." So it's a quiet thing, it's opposed to murmuring; it's opposed to rising against God and rebellion saying, "Why are you doing this to me?" "It's a frame of spirit, it's a soul business," said Jeremiah Burroughs, a soul business, and it's lasting, it's abiding, and it's gracious. It's an act of God's grace; it's nothing you can drum up in yourself. Frankly, reading the books by the Puritans or even memorizing Philippians 4:10-13. These things will not guarantee that they will come to you. This is an act of God in your soul. Thomas Watson said, "It's like an offshoot from the branch of heaven implanted in your soul." It's something only God can do. Which brings us to a query then, why should we study it? Why preach two sermons on it? What's our role in this if it's something only God can do? Well, I think there are many things like that in the Christian life. Only God could make Nicodemus born again, but Jesus told him about it. "You must be born again." It's a mystery, isn't it?
And therefore, I think the issue is, it creates a hungering and a thirsting and then God meets it; he satisfies it. So we begin to yearn for this kind of Christian contentment, and then little by little he teaches us the secret of Christian contentment. It's a gracious work of God in the soul that results in ultimately that we are gladly submitting to God's disposal; we're not grumbling, we're not complaining, we're not murmuring. We are happy to see what God is doing, and why? Because he's a king, he's a father, he is loving, and we trust him. And we're glad to bow our knee to him. So, that's review from last week.
V. Two Different Skills to Learn
I want to begin this week's observations by saying that, first of all, there are two different skills to be learned here. Look again with me at the verses. He says in verse 11, " 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." So I think that there are two different skills to be learned here. How to be abased and how to abound. How to fast and how to feast. How to do both in the Christian life. That's what is in Paul's mind here. I can do either one actually.
Let's take the first one, to be godly while in need is a great spiritual skill to be learned, isn't it? Our natural tendency when we're going through suffering, going through struggle going through persecution, opposition, going through medical problems, financial difficulties is to complain. It's not to be content or joyful. The world is full of needy people. And at some point in our lives, we're going to play that role; we're going to be needy at some level, maybe frequently through our lives. And therefore it is a great skill to be learned to learn how to be content when you're going through a trial. Paul says, "I know what it's like to have nothing to eat and still be content." Wouldn't that be something? To be able to feed spiritually on Christ while having nothing to eat in your stomach, and to be content about that because God has so ordained. Paul says he knows how to be in need and how to be content.
The temptation to complain is overwhelming when we go through trials. If you look back at your own history over the last year, at difficult moments in your life, have you displayed this Christian contentment, like Paul talks about, or not? And if you would said, "Truthfully, no. This is not my usual way of reacting to trials," then praise God that there's still a work to be done in your soul. And that over the next year, and two and three, as you consistently make this a matter of prayer, you can see significant growth in your life. How much more content and happy would you be and more fruitful as a result?
So that's the one side. I know what it is to be in need and still content. I know how to fast and be content. I know how to be without and be content. What about the other side? You might think it would take no skill at all to be content in good circumstances. But remember how we define contentment. It is a soul business. It's an internal quiet yieldedness to Christ. It's not just like the pagans do, where they're happy when they have a good meal, "Whose God is their stomach," in Philippians 3. That's not the kind of contentment here. And so therefore, I think it is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever if circumstance are good that you are content, no guarantee whatsoever.
I found an interesting verse on this in Proverbs 17:1. And there it says, "Better a dry crust with peace than a house full of feasting and strife." That's interesting to me on this topic, isn't it? You can have a whole household of feasting and still have strife and conflict and discord. You know what that tells me? House full of feasting does not necessarily equal Christian contentment. It's still a soul business. It still something that Christ must work in us.
When I was ministering a year ago in the Czech Republic, I met a pastor there named Ronnie Stevens, and he had been the pastor of an international church in Germany. Met a woman there, told the story, met a woman there who regularly handled the finances of some of the wealthiest businessmen in Germany. This was when she was a non-Christian and she was very ambitious financially herself, that's why she'd gotten into this world of high finance. And frankly, if you didn't make millions or whatever, of Deutsche Marks, or whatever it is they use there, you need not apply to work with her firm. I mean, this was for the wealthiest of the wealthy. And she said what was interesting to her, 100% of her clients had significant life problems.
I mean, not 90%, not 95, 100% of them had serious problems: Family problems, morale problems, problems with drug abuse and alcohol abuse, other issues. Doesn't that show how having everything you want and positive earthly circumstances does not equal Christian contentment, and frankly, can detract from it greatly. So there is a way to abound and still be content and godly. It can be done, but it's not easy to do. Asceticism, as we said, is not the answer. Turning our backs on all pleasure as though pleasure was somehow something to be suspicious of and negative toward. But rather, Paul says it's a secret to be learned. "I've learned how to feast and still be content. I've learned how to feast and still be godly."
Did Jesus know how to do that? Yes, he did. He knew how to fast like no one had ever fasted before; 40 days in the desert without eating or drinking, and he said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me." "I feed on the Word of God, on every word that comes from his mouth, that's my meal here, so I'm not going to turn the stones into bread." So he knew how to fast. Did he know how to feast? Oh, scandalously so, because his enemies assumed that he was a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. He was no glutton, nor was he a drunkard, but he did know how to feast. And frankly, he likened the Kingdom of Heaven to a feast, didn't he? But what is a feast? My son and I, Nathaniel and I, were talking about it, a feast is where there's plenty to eat, diversity of foods in high quality. That sounds pretty good, don't you think?
Quantity, quality, diversity, now that makes a good feast, right? And God knows how to put out a table, doesn't he? But there's a way to eat it in a godly way, and a way not to. And Paul says, "I've learned the secret of doing both." So there are two different skills to be learned here.
VII. How To Learn the Secret
The question is, how shall we do it? What are some secrets? What are some insights? Well, let's turn to a lesser authority first, Jeremiah Burroughs, and then we'll turn to what Paul says. First, what does Burroughs say? There's a couple of good insights from Burroughs. First he says, "A Christian is somebody who's always satisfied, and yet always unsatisfied." What does that mean? Well, he's found Christ and Christ is enough for him, but he doesn't have enough of Christ. He wants more. "For me, to live is Christ and to die is what? Gain. So he wants more, he wants to be in the presence of Christ, he wants to see him face-to-face. He's hungry and thirsty for Christ.
And so, Philippians 3, "Forgetting what lies behind, pressing toward what is ahead." He's straining ahead in the Christian life. Why? Because he wants to know Jesus. He's a focused man, he's a focused or she's a focused woman. These folks are focused on the person of Christ. They're too busy with that to be concerned about anything else. There's an expulsive greatness to the focus of Christ so that nothing else really matters much. That's a good observation by Burroughs.
Not By Addition, But By Subtraction
Secondly, he talks about the principle of subtraction. Remember I told you about the boundary lines being pleasant places. I think what some people say is, "Hmm, there's something out there that I want and I'm going to get it and then I will be content, right?" It's called coveting by the way; it's against the rules, the 10 commandments. But it's out there and I want it, and if I can get it, then I will be content. Well, no, you won't. Frankly, if you're not content with what's already inside your boundaries, you won't be content even if that's added.
So the world says the key to contentment is accumulation. Two of my favorite words in 1st Kings, "Solomon accumulated." That kind of sums it up, doesn't it? Now there's more in the rest of the verse, but that's him. He's an accumulator; he's a collector. Okay. And I think it led his heart astray. Wasn't just his pagan wives, but I think it was his own idolatries that he was going after. No, actually Boroughs said, "I think the key is not so much addition but the principle of subtraction." Not by adding to what you have but by subtracting from your desires so that your desires equal God's providence in your life. Chop it down, chop it down like a jungle, cut down your desires until your desires equal what it is that God has given you.
How about this, 1 Timothy 6:6-9, "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we'll be content with that." Isn't that what Christ talks about in Matthew 6? "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you." Does that include all the stuff you have in mind that's on your wish list? Probably not. I think it's talking about food and clothing there, basic necessities. So Burroughs says it's the principle of subtraction. Subtract your desires until you get to the point where your desires equal God's providence for you.
Any then he talks very interestingly about the principle of addition. Some people think, non-Christians or whatever think, "I've got this hard thing in my life, this trial, this difficulty, I'll be happy if it can ever get out. It's like a tumor. And if I can get this trial out of my life, whether it's unemployment or some kind of family problem or a health issue, if I could get that out of my life, then at last, I could be content." That's not what we're talking about here in this text. That if we could just have favorable circumstances then we could be content. No, Paul says, "I know how to be content even when facing a serious illness, for example. I know how to do it, there's a way to do it." Alright, Burroughs says it's the principle here of addition. Well, what is it we're adding? Well, he says, "Labor to remind yourself that you are a sinner saved by grace. Humble yourself under God's mighty hand. Remind yourself that anything hard or difficult you get in this world is less than you deserved, which is eternity in hell. And if you don't think you deserve eternity in hell then read the Bible again, it will remind you that that is in fact what you deserved."
And so if you get some hard thing, it's less than you deserve, remember who you are before God. I think we all have PhDs in self-esteem and kindergarten in humility. We have to kind of go the other way around. We have to learn more and more to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand. Charles Simeon 19th-century Pastor, godly man, spent each of his birthdays in self-humiliation and fasting. Now that's interesting. What do you spend your birthdays doing? Making much I would think of yourself. I do it. I admit it. It's kind of, "This is my day. I get to choose the dinner. I don't have to make my side of the bed." That kind of thing, it's kind of exciting. So, I was convicted by that I said, "Do I really want to do that? I don't know." But Charles Simeon did it, and he actually found that he needed it more and more as he got older and older. He needed it more.
This is what Simeon said in one of his messages about self-humiliation. He said this,
" I do not see, so much as I could wish, a holy reverential awe of God. The confidence that is generally professed does not sufficiently, in my opinion, savor of a creature-like spirit, or of a sinner-like spirit. If ninety- nine out of a hundred, of even good men, were now informed for the first time that Isaiah in a vision saw the Seraphim before the throne; and that each of the Seraphs had six wings; and then were asked, ‘How do you think they employ their wings?’ I think their answer would be, ‘How? Why they fly with them with all their might; and if they had six hundred wings they would do the same, exerting all their powers in the service of their God.’ They would never dream of their employing two to veil their faces, as unworthy to behold their God, and two to veil their feet as unworthy to serve Him; and devoting only the remaining two to what might be deemed their more appropriate use... I confess that this is the religion which I love; I would have a conscious unworthiness to pervade every act and habit of my soul..." (Hugh Evan Hopkins, Charles Simeon of Cambridge, p. 157)
I think if you spent more time in that kind of meditation you would not be murmuring or complaining against God saying, "Why are you doing this to me?" Have you forgotten, have you forgotten that he is God and that you're a sinner saved by grace? So that's the principle of addition. Subtraction, get rid of your desires. Addition, remind yourself of who you are before God. And then he says change the affliction to something else. You know Michelangelo had a way with marble, that's an understatement, isn't it? To take a block of marble with a hammer and a chisel and be able to turn it as though it were living flesh, David about to face Goliath. You know, with the sinews of the arm and the veins and all that. It looks like there's actually blood flowing through the marble. How did he do that? Well, he just chipped away everything that didn't look like David. Does that sound easy? Could you do it?
What would it look like, I wonder? We each get a block and let's see what it would end up looking like. Well, that's his arm right there sticking out... That nubby thing sticking out there, that's the arm, it really is. You see Michelangelo was a master with marble, but God is a master with people and he's working on you and he's going to keep working until you're like Jesus. He's going to keep working on you and working on you getting rid of stuff that doesn't need to be in you until you're like Jesus. And frankly, it's not only going to be goodness, but it's going to be severity, a combination of goodness and severity that God mixes together in a wise way that will do the job. And so if you know that, that you're going through some things that God has measured out grain by grain, not one grain more than you need or less than you will be content and say, "You know God is working on my soul. I need this done. I need this work, do it to me."
Seek the Kingdom of God
And finally, think about the Kingdom of God above all else; think how is the Kingdom served by this that I'm going through? By this feast that I'm eating or this fast I'm enduring. How does the Kingdom advance? How? What's my duty or responsibility in this matter? And how can I, as it were, melt my will into God's? You ever heard of Psalm 37:4? It says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." Well, early in my Christian life, I used that as a kind of a blank check. You know what I'm talking about? "Well, if I'm delighting myself in God, I can have anything I want," right? I don't really think that's what it says. I think it's this way "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will assign you the desires of your heart." He'll give them to you, so that they become your desires.
Well, that's a little different, isn't it? And in the end, even that's not enough. "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will become the desire of your heart." That's what the first half of the verse says, anyway, isn't it? "Delight yourself in the Lord? Melt your will into his. Let your will and his be the same. Pattern yourself after Christ who said "Yet, not as I will, but as you will." Alright, that's Jeremiah Burroughs. What about Paul, what does he say is the secret here? Well, he puts it down into one verse, doesn't he? Look at verse 13. How do you do it Paul, what's the secret? The secret is "I can do everything through him who strengthens me." Now, some of the translations say Christ who strengthens me and I can't imagine a Christian person, not being delighted to see Christ's name in there.
So regardless of what the text say ultimately, I don't have any problem. I don't think the Apostle Paul, who's focused on Christ, so much in his life would mind us saying Christ if he even intended God as a whole. So I don't have any problem with that. So if some of your translations say, "I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me." It's a text issue and we don't have to debate it today, but let's focus on the person of Christ. He says my secret is that Christ gives me strength for contentment.
How Christ Teaches Contentment
Now the insight that I have here, first of all, is that Christ is the teacher of contentment. He instructs us in contentment; he teaches us frankly that we should be content in any and every situation. How about this one? Luke 6, "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you, and insult you, and reject your name as evil because of the son of man." I would think that would summed up be one of your worst days, wouldn't it? I was hated, excluded, and rejected as evil today. Other than that, it was a good day. That's a hard day. What does Christ say? He says, "Rejoice and be glad because great is your award in heaven," do you see that? So despite the circumstances, frankly even because of the circumstances, rejoice. He's teaching us a lasting contentment, isn't he? But then the flip side they come back so excited about their ministry because the demons are subject in their name or in Christ's name, and he says, "Don't rejoice because of that, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven." You see how he's teaching a heavenly contentment; it's not tied to earthly circumstances.
John 15:11, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." John 14:27, "Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." And then John 16:33, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace; in this world, you'll have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world." So Jesus is a teacher of abiding contentment, but he has also taught us by example in how he died on the cross. How did Jesus die on the cross? Well, he was content to do the will of God. And so it says in Hebrews 12:2-3, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him…" That means meditate on him, focus on him, fix your eyes on him, "Consider him, who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart." Jesus exemplified contentment in adverse circumstances.
Contentment Takes Strength
Well, the insight I think more than anything I get out of verse 13 is it takes strength to be content. That's an insight for me; it takes strength to be content. Let me put it the other way. It is a weak person who is easily discontent. Do you understand what I'm saying? It's a sign of soul weakness to be easily discontent. And therefore if you want an abiding contentment Christ alone can give you the strength to do it. I think about David's mighty men in 2nd Samuel 23, there's this one guy Eleazar who killed 300 men, Philistines, with one spear. Wednesday night, I asked the Acts class, "Meditate. How do you kill 300 guys with one spear?" Answer: One at a time. Isn't that true? How else can you do it? If you throw it, it's gone; you just killed one guy but you're in trouble now, so you're holding onto the spear and killing 300. This man Eleazar took his stand in a field of barley and would not move, and he just stood there and took them on and he won the battle.
Everybody else had fled from him, but he took his stand. Well, I kind of apply that here. It takes strength to take your stand in your day and say, "No, matter what comes at me, I'm going to rejoice in Christ today." You have to be a warrior for joy. It's not going to come easily; you've got to have strength. Let me give you an example, alright maybe this example will help you, maybe it won't. Let's say you wake up one morning, you're contented, filled with the Spirit, you had a good quiet time, praising God as you get in your car and drive you've got an important meeting at work that morning. Okay, you're driving, suddenly as you're driving you hear a strange unfamiliar. Noise coming from under your hood. And as you keep driving it gets louder and louder. And so you have no choice but to pull over. And you know, you know what that noise is, you're not a trained mechanic, but you know that noise is money, that's what it is. No question in your mind that noise is money, and it's not just a little money, that's big money. Alright, it's going to take strength at that moment to continue in a frame of contentment in Christ. It's going to take strength isn't it?
And so you've learned the secret, you're going to focus on Christ; you're going to focus on his Kingdom; you're going to trust in him. You're going to say, "My car is yours Lord. If you want to take your money and use it to fix your car, you can do that." And so, you work it through, and you're content, but now you need to get your cell phone. That blessed invention. And you need to call your boss and say that you're going to be late to the meeting. And it seems that he's not learned the secret of Christian contentment yet...
When he hears that you're not going to be there and he chews you out and says that you need to be there anyway, and all this kind of thing and you say, "I don't see how I can," and, alright you hang up and now you have to take that thing on if you're going to maintain contentment. Right? Then you call AAA, whatever it is, and the tow costs $75 and the repair is going to take three times longer and cost twice as much as you thought. And then you call your spouse and it's maybe not her or his best day, even though they have learned the secret of Christian contentment maybe they're not using it at that moment, and so...
There's a struggle. Alright, and so you've got to take your stand in the field, just like Eleazar and that you got to overcome that one too. And so it goes. Do you see the strength it takes to be content as a Christian. It's not easy and, frankly, if you don't have this abiding connection to Christ, you will not be content in any and every situation. Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing." So, if you're in Christ, you will have the strength you need for contentment.
The Excellency of Christian Contentment
I want to finish by contemplating with you, the excellence of Christian contentment and the evils of a murmuring spirit very briefly, the excellence of Christian contentment. Consider with me please how excellent is the character of a man or woman who has learned this secret in Christ's school. Consider that this humble trusting constantly contented spirit is at the pinnacle of Christian character. By it we give God his due worship setting our hearts on him above all other things and by it, we say, "I love you Lord more than any of the good gifts you give me. If you take them away, I will still love you. I will still trust in you. I will still treasure you." By it the soul comes nearest to God, himself, who is ever at peace, ever serene, ever in control, never flustered, never anxious, never irritable. Therefore, this is a jewel of Christian character.
Consider with me on the other hand, the evils of a murmuring and complaining spirit. By murmuring we actually say the exact opposite. We're saying, "I love the gifts you give me more than I love you, Lord. I love the money. I love the car, the family, the good weather, the good food, the successful job, the comfortable furniture, the beautiful scenery, the pleasing entertainments, the good health and many other blessings. I love these things more than I love you, Lord. And if you take them away, I will murmur at you." By murmuring also, we behave least like Christ who was content to even take a cup of God's wrath from his hand and drink it to the bottom. So the beauties, the perfections of Christian contentment and the evils of a murmuring spirit.
I want to close with an illustration I heard from John Piper a while ago. John Piper was talking about a man in the early 19th century who was scheduled to receive a huge inheritance. He was on his way into New York City; he was just two miles out of the city, it was a driving rainstorm, when all of a sudden his carriage wheel broke. And he got out of that thing, and looked at it and realized there was no way that he'd be able to make the reading of the will, in time, by the carriage waiting for the carriage, but it was only a two-mile walk and he would make it by walking. But the whole time he was walking he was saying, "My carriage is broken, my carriage is broken, my carriage is broken, my carriage is broken." When he got in there, he stood to inherit enough to buy 10,000 carriages. But he's murmuring and complaining the whole way he goes in to receive his inheritance.
And Piper asks is that the way you want to go to Heaven? Wouldn't it be better to say, "Yeah, it's a driving rain, my carriage is broken, but I'm going to get an inheritance." I'm going to set my heart on things above, not on earthly things. I'm going to focus on the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. He shed his blood and so that means I don't have wrath waiting for me. I have a rich welcome from a Heavenly Father. All my sins are forgiven and I'm adopted into the family of God, and I don't even know what God has planned for me for that wedding banquet but I'm just glad to be there. And to take a place at that wedding banquet. And if my carriage is broken, who cares? Who cares, except that it puts on display a supernaturally content spirit so that maybe the Philippian jailer can get saved.