The Art of Divine Contentment (part 5) Thomas Watson

Chapter 11: Divine Motives to Contentment

In this Chapter (which is by far the longest) Watson presents the Christian with motivation toward Divine Contentment.  He does this by means of, what he calls, arguments to quicken contentment with us.

Argument 1.  Consider the excellency of contentment.  

Contentment teaches us how to abound in the midst of want.  It’s the antidote against poverty.  Too often we think that we would be content if we just had more wealth but the reality is it’s not the amount of money but the love for God and the thankfulness toward Him for giving us what He has given that brings us peace, joy and yes contentment.  So, in a very real sense, contentment is the remedy against all our troubles.  It calms the raging sea within our hearts that is always tossing and turning within us longing for more.  The secret is this: we have had exactly enough the entire time.  

A contented Christian carries heaven with him; there is something of God to be seen in his heart. A contented Christian has a calmness and internal peace where the person of discontent has a heart that rages like a rough sea and is rarely quiet and calm.  Thiers is a heart of frustration, greed, and idolatry.  

The peace and rest our author speaks of for the satisfied Christian is like Noah in the ark: though the ark was tossed with waves, Noah could sit and sing in the ark.  The soul that has gotten into the ark of contentment sits quietly and sails above all the waves of trouble.

How do we exercise contentment if we are poor or in need?  If we find ourselves in need we stand firm on God’s promises and find contentment there.  Oh how God is glorified when His people move past material wealth to the riches they possess in God’s promises.  Watson writes to the Christian and says, you are poor in purse but rich in promises.  

Psalm 34:10 (ESV) 

10    The young lions suffer want and hunger; 

but those who seek the Lordlack no good thing. 

Contentment also shows its excellency in the fact that it keeps us from many sins.  Where there is a lack of contentment there is…

Impatience.  Discontent and impatience are two twins.  Impatience rises as we focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have; what God has given us. 

Murmuring.  Contentment prevents murmuring, a sin that God does not tolerate for long.  This is quarreling with God, and protesting bitterly against Him.  

Numbers 21:5 (ESV)

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 

The murmurer charges God with folly.  It is blasphemy to the Sovereign God to think things should have been better or different. Our murmuring is the devil’s music. This is the sin that God will not bear. 

Numbers 14:27 (ESV) 

27 “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 

Another excellent result of contentment is it sweetens every situation.  As Christ turned water into wine so contentment turns bitter water into sweet spiritual wine for the soul.  We might be tempted to say, I have but a little.  Yet it is more than I deserve.  The modest amount given by a glorious merciful God because of the blood of Christ is an immense treasure of wealth.  Watson comments, a small present sent from a king is highly valued.    

Argument 2.  A Christian has that which will make him content.

Has not God given us Christ? In Him are unsearchable riches. He is the gold mine of wisdom and grace that all the saints and all the angels dig into and never reach the bottom. Never complain as long as Christ is your Friend.  He is the enriching pearl and the sparkling diamond.  The infinite luster of His mercies makes us shine in God’s eyes.  In Him are both fullness and sweetness; He is indescribably good.

We must never forget, heaven is the place where gold and silver will not go.

As David said,

Psalm 16:5 (ESV) 

   The Lordis my chosen portion and my cup; 

you hold my lot. 

Beloved, we are heirs to all the promises through Christ.  

Argument 3.  All of God’s providences, however cross or bloody, shall do a believer good.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) 

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

According to Paul, not only all the good things but also all the evil things work for good; and shall we be discontent with what works for our good?

Question.  How do the evils of affliction work for good?

Answer.  In several ways…

1.  They are disciplinary; they teach us various things we would not learn any other way.  Watson writes, God makes our adversity our university.  

2.  Afflictions teach us humility.  We are commonly prosperous and proud.  Corrections are God’s corrosives to eat away our proud flesh.  God brings low into the valley to bring us humility.

Lamentations 3:19–20 (ESV) 

19    Remember my affliction and my wanderings, 

the wormwood and the gall! 

20    My soul continually remembers it 

and is bowed down within me. 

3.  Afflictions teach us repentance.  

Jeremiah 31:18–19 (ESV) 

18    I have heard Ephraim grieving, 

       ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, 

like an untrained calf; 

       bring me back that I may be restored, 

for you are the Lordmy God. 

19    For after I had turned away, I relented, 

and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; 

       I was ashamed, and I was confounded, 

because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ 

Repentance is the precious fruit that grows on the cross of affliction.

4.  Afflictions teach us to pray better.  

Isaiah 26:16 (ESV)

16    O Lord, in distress they sought you; 

they poured out a whispered prayer 

when your discipline was upon them. 

Before they would simply say a prayer; now they poured out a prayer.  There is a huge difference between saying a prayer a pouring out a prayer from the cup of affliction.  Have you ever poured out a prayer to God?

5.  Afflictions prove us.  Gold is more pure after it has been through the fire.  Afflictions are God’s fire of purification for the believer.  They prove us to be genuine or they cause us to fall away into apostasy.

Mark 4:18–20 (ESV) 

18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 

6.  Afflictions purge us of sin.

These acts of God are good because they draw out our sin.  As I’m typing this I have a splinter in my index finger.  After while I’m going to soak it and draw it out. It’s not pleasant to remove a splinter but immediately afterward relief will come.  Afflictions draw out our sin like a splinter.  It’s not pleasant but immediately afterward God will send us relief.

7.  Afflictions bring more of God’s immediate presence to the soul.  Watson writes,when we are most assaulted, we will be most assisted.  

Psalm 91:15 (ESV) 

15    When he calls to me, I will answer him; 

I will be with him in trouble; 

I will rescue him and honor him.

Just as God was with Daniel in the lions den and his three friends in the furnace so shall our God be with us through afflictions.  

So, shall we be discontent with difficulties when God is working so much good within us and for us? Shall we cry out in disappointment when what we seek to avoid so much will only bring us intense good?  By no means!  Praise God through afflictions because through them He is working amazing graces within us.

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