Have you been content lately? Or has your level of satisfaction decreased with the stock market or rising prices of just about everything? Most people, when asked, “How are you?” would probably not say, “I’m content.” We say, “Fine,” which is similar but nondescript and usually means that nothing terrible is happening now. Thesaurus.com lists these synonyms for contentment: complacency, fulfillment, gratification, pleasure, and serenity, among others. (1) As someone living off the interest on my financial investments (including the stock market), I am working on being serene specifically about my financial future and with armed conflicts and their impact on innocent victims. This is an excellent time to meditate on the content God gives us in Christ—the eternal, infinite, unwavering security and peace for our souls. In his book, “The Secret of Contentment,” William Barcley writes: “We should pursue contentment because it is the greatest form of riches. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:6 that ‘there is great gain in godliness with contentment.’ In this context, Paul is contrasting the pursuit of worldly riches with the pursuit of contentment. In particular, he focuses our attention on what is really important. In terms of life and death it does not matter how much we have. We brought nothing into the world; we will take nothing out of it (1 Tim. 6:7). Eternity is what matters. The key, then, is not the wealth of our outward state but of our inward state. [Jeremiah] Burroughs writes, ‘Contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian.'” (2) Job lost everything in life—his home, wealth, and family. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'” (Job 1:21) I wonder how many of us would be able to demonstrate such contentment in his circumstances, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. Scripture has much to say about the believer’s calling to be content, with examples in the Old and New Testaments. Over the following few devotions, we will explore some of those passages using two very helpful resources: William Barcley’s “The Secret of Contentment” and Jeremiah Burroughs’ “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.”* In this devotion, we will focus on the mystery of contentment and how it blesses us. The next one will explore how Christian contentment leads us to be discontented with the world and how that’s good. I pray that our studies will lead us to detach ourselves from agitation, worry, and misery we experience when we focus on our circumstances.
God’s Purpose and Mysterious Will
The primary passage for our study will focus on what we have in Christ, for God’s praise and glory, according to his purpose. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14) “A contented spirit demonstrates our submission to the sovereign control of God over our lives…A contented spirit accepts whatever God gives. It recognizes that God ordains all things and that he is sovereign over the events of our lives—whether in times of plenty and relative ease or in times of want and hardship.” (3) It’s easy to see this principle at work when we are afflicted with a disease or circumstance beyond our control. It’s equally important, though, when other conditions are at work or when our circumstances don’t change. I wonder why I am content not to travel these days but not always content to be at home. It doesn’t seem to make sense and is often a mystery to me. That is until I remember how I have continually sought God’s will. What should cause me to wonder is my contentment for adventure in my walk with the Lord through much time in Scripture instead of earthly satisfaction from travel. (If you knew me as a twenty-something, you would also be amazed.) In the Ephesians passage, Paul blesses God the Father, who blesses us with Christ’s spiritual, heavenly gospel—God’s revealed will for us. Let’s seek to praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s gospel blessings—once a mystery to us.
The Mystery of True Contentment
Ephesians 1, verses 3 and 9, reminds us of every blessing from God who makes his mysterious will known to us in the gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…making known to us the mystery of his will.” “The Gospel, which is a mystery, a hidden mystery, the mystery of God and of Christ, and the mystery of the Gospel…the saints’ union and communion with him, the work of the Spirit of God upon the soul, the calling of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, the resurrection of the dead, and the change of living saints: and the Gospel is the mystery of the will of God; of his will in saving sinners by Christ…[It] is made known by the ministry of the word, and by the Spirit, as a spirit of wisdom and revelation…the discovery of which is, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself…God is the author and giver of all blessings…And the blessings [here] are spiritual, so-called to distinguish them from temporal blessings…all the blessings and sure mercies of the everlasting covenant; all things pertaining to life and godliness, such as justification, peace, pardon, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life: and with these the saints are blessed ‘in heavenly’ places…this phrase may denote the safety of them, being out of the reach of any enemy, sin, Satan, or the world.” (4) Shall we not praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s blessings? Doesn’t it sometimes seem a mysterious miracle that we have this contentment at all?
The Mystery and Blessing of Your Gospel
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.” (Romans 16:25-26) “When Paul says ‘my gospel’ he does not mean that the gospel is his as opposed to being ours or someone else’s. The gospel is for anyone who will have it. What ‘my gospel’ actually means is ‘the true gospel,’ as the context makes clear. This true gospel is Paul’s only in the sense that he has appropriated it personally by a faith that involved committing his life to Jesus Christ, and in the sense that he was teaching it. ‘My gospel!’ It would be good if the gospel was possessed by each of us in exactly the same way and as intensely.” (5) “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)
Related Scripture: Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Ephesians 2:4-7, 16; 3:10-11, 20-21; 5:32; Colossians 1:26-27; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24-25.
- Barcley, William, “The Secret of Contentment,” Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010 Burroughs, Jeremiah, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” Kindle Version, 2010.
- Barcley, Ibid, page 40.
- Barcley, Ibid, page 46.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 1:3, 9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-1.html
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 16:25-27, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
May 12, 2022