Book: The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson (Part 6)


In our last section covering Thomas Watson’s book I want us to see how we stack up and whether or not we have learned to be content in whatever situation or state God has for us?  The plain truth is we will never know whether or not we are content with what God has given and/or our current life situation until we experience a trial.  It is in those times we are shown the reality of our hearts.

1.  A content spirit is a quiet spirit

Here Watson writes about a content person showing contentedness by being silent in a trial.  A person still prays and asks God questions but is silent in regard to complaining or grumbling.  This godly person does not have one word to say against God.  Like David in Psalm 39:9…

Psalm 39:9 (ESV)

   I am mute; I do not open my mouth,

for it is you who have done it.

There is a holy silence, when the soul sits down quiet and content with its condition.  Holding you peace and your tongue when trials come is a very good indication that one is content or at least seeking and fighting for it. 

There is a vast difference between, for example, Jonah and Aaron.  Let’s look briefly at both.

When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offered up strange fire, then the fire went from the Lord and devoured them Aaron was not in a fury of discontent.  Aaron, the Bible tells us, held his peace.

Leviticus 10:1–3 (ESV)

10 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.

One who is content holds his tongue during a trial.  Aaron was silent.

Now Jonah, on the other hand, was not content…

Jonah 4:9–11 (ESV)

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Jonah was not acting like much of a prophet and was not content with his situation.  He was acting more like a child than a prophet.

2.  A content spirit is a cheerful spirit

Contentment is something more than patience.  Patience only shows that we submit to God while waiting, contentment shows we are joyful in God and His providence while waiting.  One is passive the other active.  The person who has learned divine contentment is cheerful in all cases.  He not only bears his cross but he takes it up.  He views God as the wise and caring God in whom he trusts.  He takes infirmities and distresses with peace and joy knowing they come from God’s hand to make us more like Jesus.  There is a big difference between this joyful state verses as Watson writes, a sullen melancholy which is hateful toward God.

For example, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a cheerful giver.  Here we see it isn’t so much the gift but the attitude of the giver.  Is he cheerful and trusting God or is he reluctant in unfaithfulness?

We seek to be joyful in all situations whether in peaceful times or times of distress.

3.  A contented spirit is a thankful spirit

I think we can see the forward movement of these reactions to trials.  First, the contented spirit is peaceful, then secondly, cheerful and now thirdly, it is thankful.  This progression can only come about by the Holy Spirit’s work within a believer. 

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As Watson comments, a gracious heart spies mercy in every condition; therefore he has his heart lifted up to thankfulness.  Others will bless God for prosperity, but he blesses Him for affliction. 

4.  When a person is content, no condition comes amiss to him

Philippians 4:11 (ESV)

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

The content Christian accepts each and every circumstance and is thankful to God in everything.  The Israelites, on the other hand, were never content.  When they had little they grumbled…

Psalm 78:19 (ESV)

19    They spoke against God, saying,

“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?

When they had abundance they rebelled against God.  They were never satisfied with God or with His provisions. 

Paul learned how to manage each and every state.  Whether in want or in plenty he learned to trust God.  He learned how to come to terms with every condition.  Paul did not seek to choose his cross, so to speak, but was willing to let God choose it for him and to let God determine the duration.  He was happy to be entirely at God’s disposal, and willing to live in that sphere where God had sent him.

5.  He who is content with his condition will not run into sin to rid himself of trouble

The Christian may lawfully and within the realm of God’s providence seek to change his condition.  Some people, however, will not wait on God’s providence but run ahead into sin trying to change their estate.  They bring their souls into trouble by seeking to bring their estates out of trouble.  This is nothing more than pure rebellion against God. 

The patient Christian waits for God to open the door then steps through, he doesn’t try to push the door open on his own. 

Watson mentions the hall of faith Christians in Hebrews 11 who even refused to be released from prison but would rather wait on God’s providence.

Hebrews 11:35 (ESV)

35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.

We are called to not try to make something happen in our own power but joyfully wait in thankfulness on God to move.  Much like the Israelites waited for the pillar of cloud and fire to move then they followed.

So, beloved let’s join Paul and learn to be content in every situation…

Philippians 4:11 (ESV)

11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

The End

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