I will be quoting a very beloved book by Thomas Watson by the name of “The Art of Divine Contentment.” As a Titus 2 woman, married thirty-eight years, who loves the Lord above all, I cannot recommend this book enough. It will challenge you and possibly even anger you, but if your face is set like flint to honor God in all you do, think, and say, then this book, with its saturation of Scripture, will grow you in so many ways. I hope to continue with this book and work through the practical ways we can and should trust and look to our Lord, in contentment, always.
I had honestly set my mind on another subject to write on, and there are so many to which I need to get. But the more I prayed and sought the Lord in His Word, I always came back to contentment. Contentment is a word that can bring dread to many of us during so many times, at least in my life. Why is that? Why would we dread counsel on being truly content?
Why would we spurn the very qualities of contentment? We are taught in Scripture over and over again to be content in all circumstances, to rest in our Lord. These pearls of divine truth give us just a glimpse of how important our contentment is, even in our trials. And that is so hard for us to accept. We want what we want, and we want it now. We talk ourselves into believing that we donot deserve these trials, nor should we have to deal with them, be it sickness, financial anguish, or marital problems. Too often we become so myopic at our own troubles and we forget or don’t desire to look to Christ and learn from what He is allowing in our lives to glorify Him and, ultimately, bring only good for us.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
“Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward”;therefore, we all need to learn the same lesson as Paul: “I have learned,” he wrote in Philippians 4:11, “in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” Believers, especially, wish to attain to a holy composure in their tribulations and under the stresses caused by our increasingly secular society.
These words are brought in to anticipate and prevent an objection. The apostle had, in the former verse, laid down many grave and heavenly exhortations: among the rest, “to be anxious for nothing.”
Not to exclude a prudential care, for he who provides not for his own house, “has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Ti. 5:8).
Thomas Watson displays much wisdom in bringing to the surface the issues of our learning.
I truly love the raw truth that Watson conveys to us, here. Isn’t it true that we always remember the vain things? We remember to wash our face, brush our hair and be presentable on the outside. We remember to make our food and go to bed when we are tired. But when it comes to the beautiful truths that we receive from our Lord, why are these things hard for us to accept? Why do we not seek to love and hold dearly to our hearts those things which God has given to us so freely. Why don’t we esteem these truths more than our vain pursuits?
Excerpt from The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson:
“There are two things which keep us from learning.
1. SLIGHTING what we hear. Christ is the pearl of great price; when we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn either its value, or its virtue. The gospel is a rare mystery. In one place, (Ac. 20:24) it is called “the gospel of grace;” in another, (1 Cor. 4:4) “the gospel of glory;” because in it, as in a transparent glass, the glory of God is resplendent. But he who has despises this mystery, will hardly ever learn to obey it. He who looks upon the things of heaven as unimportant things; and perhaps the driving of a trade, or carrying on some politic design to be of greater importance, this man is in the high road to damnation, and will hardly ever learn of things concerning his salvation. Who will learn that which he thinks is scarcely worth learning?
“2. FORGETTING what we hear. If a scholar has his rules laid before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn. (Ja. 1:25) Aristotle calls the memory the scribe of the soul; and Bernard calls it the stomach of the soul, because it has a retentive faculty, and turns heavenly food into nutrition. We have great memories in other things, we remember that which is vain. Cyrus could remember the name of every soldier in his huge army. We remember injuries; his is to fill a precious cabinet of the mind, with dung. But as Hierom says, how soon do we forget the sacred truths o“God!
We are apt to forget three things: our faults, our friends, our instructions. Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full; but take it forth of the water, and all runs out. Just so, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember something: but like the sieve out of the water—as soon as they are gone out of the church, all is forgotten. “Let these sayings, (says Christ) sink down into your ears;” (Lu. 9:44) in the original it is, “put these sayings into your ears,” as a man that would hide the jewel from being stolen, locks it up safe in his chest. Let them sink in. The Word must not fall only as dew that wets the leaf—but as rain which soaks to the root of the tree, and makes it fructify. O, how often does Satan, that fowl of the air, pick up the good seed that is sown!”
In part we have revealed in our hearts why we struggle with contentment. Our hearts have not been broken to trust Christ, to really depend on Him rather than our vain pursuits. What are God’s intentions for us? Are these intentions for us to know? We can go to His Word and it tells us His intentions, His great love for us, and that He only wants good for us. God knows what is good for us but many times we do not agree. We balk, complain, and become bitter. We act as though we think too highly of ourselves and too lowly of our Lord. I know this place, and it is not a good place to be.
I will give you one of the examples of this brokenness in my life. I have had more than one, but this one comes readily to my mind. I am still humbled by God’s grace in working my heart and taking me from an ungrateful stiff-necked woman to putting me on my knees and humbling me. I am thankful and blessed. Now I want to be clear, my experience does not validate God’s Word; my experience reflects the truth of God’s Word. We must never confuse the two.
Nineteen years ago, we moved to Idaho from California. We had rented a house to be able to look at leisure for a house to purchase. This was a large older home, and we liked it well enough. One month after we moved in, I began to not feel well. I had no energy and my breathing would become labored after walking across the room. After many days and it did not abate, I went to the doctor, and he gave me antibiotics, and I took those and there was no relief, in fact I became worse. I could hardly stay awake during the day and could hardly sleep at night. I was very fatigued, became frightened, and had a lot of anxiety. I continued with every doctor you could think of and every test known to man. All the tests came back fine.
I turned on the 700 Club, I was not charismatic, but in my desperation I wanted to hear a “word of knowledge” from Robertson that my illness would be healed by God. I bought supplements, I cried before God, “Why me?” “I can’t do this,” “Please heal me,” but still I continued to be sick. The doctors would tell me that all my tests were good, that I must be depressed. It must be psychological. I knew I was not depressed; my mind was fine. I was trapped in a sick body and felt alone. I felt like I did not deserve to have this disease or sickness and became angry. I became angry and bitter and I picked up God’s Word, began to read, and read. I had no one that could comfort me and I had nowhere else to go. I went to God.All my waking moments were filled with reading and praying.
As I entered a year of sickness, God was getting through to His child; my weeping and praying changed. I did notsee myself any longer as not deserving my illness, but I knew I deserved much worse, I pleaded with the Lord to forgive my discontent, to forgive my pride. My prayers focused on my acknowledging that the Lord God knows all, is the same yesterday and today and forever, and I trusted that His desire was for me to be content in my sickness. He allowed my sickness, He loved me, and He wanted me to learn.
I realized I did not know if the Lord would take me to be with Him with this illness, but I did not care. I became at peace and I wholly trusted Him, that my illness was from His hands, and that He would teach me and I would listen during this time. I prayed for His will be done in me, and I will admit saying those words “Your will be done” did not come easily, but when my heart could bring those words to my lips and mean them, God had humbled His servant. But He was not done; I still was very sick and doctors had not come any closer to solving what was making me so ill. God showed me through this very dark time in my life that doctors, while He can use them to heal, do not know everything and are just fallen humans.My trust was in Him; He gave the doctors ultimate knowledge, He is the Great Physician.
My prayers began convey that if it was His will that I never get well again, that I was content in that, and I would do my best to do what I could do to take care of my family, if it be His will.
I would be slow in going, but I would do what I could do, and I would do it to the glory of God. As I write this, I weep, remembering what a blessing it was to be contentin Him. God did that. He allowed me every day maybe to load some dishes, maybe vacuum. I was not fast or well, but it helped me so much. I was as sick laying in bed as I was loading a dishwasher or washing machine. But doing something for my family and others gave me joy in my suffering. As I thanked God for allowing me to do these simple chores, I have never taken it for granted how blessed I am to do chores in my home. I love them. I thank Him for the strength and ability to do everything I can do.
At about fifteen months in we had found a house and went to move; I was still very sick. At about the twenty-month mark from the day my illness appeared, I started to feel better. I did not trust it was true and I did not say anything; after all, it could just be a fluke. I thanked God privately in my gladness, but I never thought I would feel good again.
But every day I became better and better. I could not understand, I did not need to understand; I was so overjoyed. I begin to tell my husband and the doctors.They did some more tests and after I was better, I finally received answers. I was told I had mold poisoning and still was dealing with the remnants of it. I thanked them, but I knew Who orchestrated my steps as I walked through this trial the previous twenty months. I was at peace.
Yes, the doctors gave me a reason medically for what I had walked through the previous twenty months, but it mattered not. Because God gave me all the reasons, I needed to rest in Him; He knew all the things I needed to learn from Him in the months before the diagnosis and my feeling better.
I can tell you this, I never saw this trial coming. When it came upon me, I was proud, biblically illiterate, entitled, spoiled, using Christ as my “magic genie” to keep me comfortable because that is what I thought I deserved.
During and after my trial of sickness and pain, I find that I deserved so much worse and that God was merciful to His child. I, like Job, was put through a refining fire, showing me that God is in control and that contentment is not found in my comfort but in my trials. My contentment is found in Him during the fiery trials that are sure to come, looking to Him, not the circumstances, crying out to Him “Your will be done. Teach your servant and cause me to listen, Lord.” And He does, every day.
My sin of discontent caused me to become angry and bitter, and that discontent turned into covetousness in wanting what I did not have. I had not listened to God and was unable to learn. He put me in a place to learn. All glory to Him!
Thomas Watson states, “We have lost both our hearing and sight, therefore are very unfit to learn. Ever since Eve listened to the serpent, we have been deaf; and since she looked on the tree of knowledge, we have been blind. But when God comes to teach, he removes these impediments (Is. 35:5).”
Our estate has and will always depend on the will of God. We can rest in that truth or we can fight it to no avail. Fighting God is always futile. God loves His children and he will discipline His children, just as we love our children so we must discipline them. If our children have strong wills, are wills must be stronger. They must learn.
We teach them in discipline and in the same way God teaches us. Sometimes it is not painful, sometimes it is very painful. But painful and hard trials do get our attention; that is part of their purpose: to call us to be still and listen and learn from God. Our trials do not come as a surprise to God, not at all. Nothing can visit us that was not allowed by God. Did Job not know this? Did not Job come to understand that his ways were not God’s ways, that God’s purposes were higher than Job’s? And yet Job loved and trusted God through all the many trials, the hard trials that kept coming. This must be all of God’s children’s default reaction to trial. Trusting and learning from our Lord through all our trials. Taking the
focus from us to Him.
When trials come, and they can come hard, look to Him. Call on Him first.
“A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you, yet the spring of it is not shaken, nor the wheels out of order—but the watch keeps its perfect motion. So it was with Paul—though God carried him into various conditions—yet he was not overly elated with the one, nor cast down with the other. The spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not disordered—but kept their constant motion towards heaven—still content.”
The Book “The Art of Divine Contentment” can be downloaded here, and read offline. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/watson/contentment.html