From Thomas Watson’s The Art of Divine Contentment:
“I see the godly man on his death-bed much discontented, andhear him complaining what will become of my wife and children when he is dead and gone. God says, ‘Trouble not yourself, be content, I will take care of your children; and let your widow trust in me.’ God has made a promise to us, that he will not leave us, and has entailed the promise upon our wife and children; and will not this satisfy us? True faith will take God’s single bond, without calling for witnesses.”
Discontentment is a sin that is as a sickness and has caused many a marriage to meet its demise. Dreamingly, looking afar into the unknown, imagining greener pastures, longing for something that is not a reality, this is what discontent does. It grows the heart in sin and rejects God’s providence in our everyday life. Now, we must remember we can reject truth but that does not diminish God’s truth. It only puts us in opposition to the truth.
When Thomas Watson says, “True faith will take God’s single bond, without calling for witnesses,” he expresses beautifully that God’s Word, His bond, is taken and received and believed without need of any witnesses. His Word, the truth that God has given to His children is settled, that we should and can believe Him. Isn’t it wonderful? God has promised to take care of His children and we can fully rest in that promise.
God’s providence is to take all of life, to take everything and use it for His glory and our good. The hard, the joy, the sadness, grief, and depravity, to take it all and work it for His glory and our good. Can we even comprehend how that will work? No, we cannot, but we have been promised that God can.
Our country is one of the most discontented, even though it has so much materially. Countries of very small means are not as discontent as ours. Why would you think that would be?
Well, as we look at the world around us, we see so much materialism and so little love for neighbors, and we watch folks lament because they do not have more, materially speaking. We are a sick society of discontent; we cannot be contented by our stuff or our location. Why. Because stuff and location were never meant to satisfy. The further a society moves away from God and chooses to reject His providence, the more they search for something, or someone to make them happy and content.This is futility. To search for peace and contentment outside of God will only lead you to despair.
I was thinking recently of Kate Spade, a very wealthy woman. Her net worth at the time of her suicide was 200 million. By the world’s standards she was successful and surely would have been happy and content. But evidenced by her taking her own life, she was at the very end of despair. Her despair was not contented or comforted by her bank account. It was a tragedy that is being played out more and more as we see the world reject godly contentment, which is found only in Christ.
“We must act that scene which God would have us. Say not, ‘such an one has occasioned this to me!’ Look not too much at the under-wheel. We read in Ezekiel, of a ‘wheel within a wheel’(Ez. 1:16). God’s decree is the cause of the turning of the wheels, and his providence is the inner-wheels which move all the rest. God’s providence is that helm which turns about the whole ship of the universe. Say then, as holy David, ‘I was silent, I opened not my mouth, because you, Lord, did it’ (Psalm 39:9). God’s providence, which is nothing else but the carrying on of his decree—should be a counterpoise against discontent. God has set us in our station, and he has done it in wisdom”(Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment).
“God has set us in our station, and he has done it in wisdom.” This is God’s providence in carrying out His decree for our lives. So very contrary to the modern-day motivational speakers’mantra that says, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And I say motivational speakers, because the way this is preached largely is that God is the equivalent to a magic genie and you can have anything that your heart desires. Well, that is a lie. Thatis idolatry, not mention that it harkens to the folks that just wanted Jesus to feed them; they did not want Jesus, but only what He could do FOR them.
But when you look at the phrase again in the light of God’s providence, “God has a wonderful plan for your life,” yes, He does, His plan in His wisdom for our life, is wonderful. His plan to accomplish His will in our life, as we trust Him in this, is wonderful, because it will be a contented life. It is trusting in God’s continuing decree working everything for His glory and our good. In Him we can only find true contentment.
Contentment encompasses our confidence in God’s providence, that His ways are higher than ours. That we can truly rest in His wisdom and in His ordering our lives and thus be truly “settled in our hearts.”
“We imagine that such a condition of life is good for us; whereas if we were our own carvers, we would often cut the worst piece. Lot, being put to his choice, chose Sodom, which soon after was burned with fire. Rachel was very desirous of children, ‘Give me children or I die,’ and it cost her her life in bringing forth a child….. ‘Disciples wept for Christ’s leaving the world, they chose his physical presence: whereas it was best for them that Christ should be gone, for else ‘the comforter would not come.’(John 16:7) David chose the life of his child, ‘he wept and fasted for it;’ (2 Sam. 12:16) whereas if the child had lived—it would have been a perpetual monument of his shame” (Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment).
When we are discontented, we are sick. We cannot be made well until we learn to have a “settled heart” in the promises of God. When we say we are mad at God this is also discontentment. It is believing that we know better than God, and we thus deceive ourselves.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
Believing God is knowing He is really in control and that you trust Him with all of it, no matter the outcome. No matter how hard it may get, we will trust Him. God orders our lives. Theminute we are born and the minute we die and all that is between, every minute.
Look again at Paul; he says, “Not that I speak from want,” in other words, “How happy I was when I received your gift; I was overjoyed when It came,” but “not that I’m speaking out of my own want. For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
Paul tells us here that his expectation and wants were very little. He rejoiced at receiving the wonderful gift, but it was neitherexpected nor desired. He trusted God in whatever his lot; inabundance, famine, beatings, and stoning, Paul’s heart was “settled.”
Christ is the only cure for the sin sickness of discontent. We look to Him in all things; we do not desire what He has not given to us, and if He gives to us, we rejoice and be thankful. That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard or we do nothing. We work hard, trust God and be satisfied in all circumstances.
We all desire for our hearts to be “settled” in contentment and gratitude to our Lord in all circumstances. We want to be teachable and learn this “secret,” as Paul conveys, of truly resting in the God of the universe and His will and order of our lives.
Things to Ponder1. Continue to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance in “settling your heart” in Him and His Providence2. Pay attention to the world around you. Notice how this sin-sick world tries to be contented in sin. The sin of discontent cannot be satisfied3. As we learn together to be content, I encourage you to read the book I have included by Thomas Watson “The Art of Divine Contentment.
You can read “The Art of Divine Contentment” online or download and read offline.