Friday, May 01, 2009

CONTENTMENT (pt 2)
...the delight and pleasure of trusting His sovereign purposes

Phil. 4:5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Phil. 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Phil. 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:8 ¶ Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Phil. 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. (NASB)

5. Maintain a Faithful Witness (v.5)
5:5 Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.

Forbearing here could be rendered “gentleness” or “reasonableness”. This is the yielding of our rights, as Christ Himself did (Phil. 2:5-11), and who did not press the strictness of His Law against us as we deserve. This is the grace of God in action.

Here is an apt description of such a forbearing spirit:

An obedient submissiveness to God and His will; unwavering faith displayed in a gentle attitude in kind acts towards others who are hurting you. It is a humble steadfastness; able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment free from hatred, malice and revenge.
It is that which we are to make "known to all men." What a witness and testimony of God’s grace working in our lives to have this personality of the Spirit known to others. I surely haven’t arrived at this in my life; it is a process of grace that thankfully one day will be completed (Jude 24-25).

The Apostle provides all the necessary reason to live in this selfless manner “the Lord is near.” Lightfoot calls this, “the Apostle’s watchword.” The Lord’s coming is the grand motive to every Christian grace beloved. “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8).

Albert Barnes says,
“This has the appearance of being a phrase in common use among the early Christians, and as being designed to keep before their minds a lively impression of an event which ought, by its anticipation, to produce an important effect… The idea is, that the expectation that the Lord Jesus will “come” ought to be allowed to produce moderation in our manner of living, in our expectations of what this world can furnish, and in our desires of earthly good. On him who feels that he is soon to die, and to stand at the bar of God—on him who expects soon to see the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven, it cannot fail to have this effect.

Men are extravagant in their plans of life, and in their expectations of earthly good for themselves and for their families, because they have no realizing sense of the truth that there is before them a vast eternity. He that has a lively expectation that heaven will soon be his, will form very moderate expectations of what this world can furnish.”
Contentment finds its rest not in this world, but in the life to come. Maranatha!

6. Don’t be anxious (v.6a)
6a Be anxious for nothing,

O the utter simplicity and power of those words--"be anxious for nothing." By nature, I am an anxious person; are you? I fret over what my provision may be for another day. I am sometimes troubled for the future of my children and the world in which they are growing and living. I am burdened by the rigors of ministry and family.

“Seek ye first the kingdom…” are the echoing words ringing in my heart daily. Keep on for the Lord, trust in Him, labor hard for Him, cast your cares on Him, delight yourself in Him, —but, solicitous for nothing. I cannot increase my days for a moment by worrying; I cannot add one element to my station in life by fretting. I must, by God’s grace, be restless for not one thing.

There is also such a disturbing finality to those words—“for nothing”—isn’t there? This uncomfortable certainty robs us of our confidence and control of our own destiny—for every day, every hour, and every moment we must be resigned to Christ and His design for us. This is the constancy of the believer in Christ. To be given to an anxious heart is to really question the Lord’s providential care and distrust His divine working in our lives. This anxious-free-living though is not fatalism; but Sovereignty’s great rest for His own. This does not relieve any of us from the dialy duty of life; our work, education, relationships, living as faithful citizens of this earth, etc. On the contrary, it means that our lives on earth will be marked by a sense of calm trust in the Lord in a world of turmoil and instability.

IOW, we may find great comfort and solace in Christ despite what “life” may give to us each day. This is the resignation of our will to Him; our purposes to His plan; our desires for His determination; and our dreams to His eternal decrees.

Let me ask you beloved, do you have a sick child in intensive care today? A wayward son or daughter that you have prayed for and they still are not living for Christ? Have you lost a place of employ and have no presents to give your children this Christmas? Have you gone through a divorce or the death of a loved one recently? Here is where the reality of this truth applies, “be anxious for nothing.”

7. Pray always with thanksgiving (v.6b-7)
6b but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is the remembrance of past answered prayers in the Lord that we recall in confidence that He will hear and answer our current petitions before Him. We will “let our requests be known to God” with unreserved confidence, filial, and generous abandon on His throne of grace “to find help in time of need.” Jesus said, “men ought always to pray and not faint.” Are you losing heart beloved today? Then march on your knees and pray to the One who sees and knows every need “even before you ask of Him.” Every appeal no matter how small or immense; no matter how trivial or profound; whether a pebble or boulder of weight of need, we must bring them all to the Lord in a humble expectant heart of thanksgiving.

The result, “the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Think of it, His peace will protect our thoughts and desires in Christ Jesus; it will keep them from straying to sin, wayward desires, and filling the anxiousness of our souls by playing god with our vaporous lives. This is the danger when our days are troubled. But oh, there is sweet protection even in our supplications—He “shall guard our hearts and minds.” This is a tremendous promise that we seldom summon in our time of need. But there it is for us. His peace “surpasses all comprehension” and is there for every believer.

8. Guard your thought life (v.8)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

Here is what Paul says should be the continual preoccupation of our minds. "Dwell on:"
  • What is true: truth, sincere, everything that is the reverse of falsehood, the highest moral character, all that is honest and just before God and man.
  • What is honorable: reverent, reputable, noble. That which is venerable and deserving of respect or esteem; majestic or awe-inspiring. It encompasses that which did not violate conscience or interfere with the Law of God.
  • What is right: just, virtues of justice and honesty. Being above reproach by doing what is right. Uncorrupted integrity.
  • What is pure: chaste, undefiled, clean (in thoughts, words and deeds).
  • What is lovely: pleasing and winsome. "The things whose grace attracts." (Robertson)
  • What is of good repute: fair-speaking, praiseworthy, attractive, appealing.
  • If there is any excellence: virtue; the most comprehensive Greek term for moral excellence and the central them for Greek ethics.
  • And praise: worthy of praise
"Dwell (think) on these things." To consider, reckon and take into account. Literally, "use your facilities upon them." That is, to "fix our minds" upon these things. This is present tense Christianity; IOW, Paul is describing and prescribing the daily habit of the Christian.

This is the two-pillar life of piety and morality.
“Piety is love with its face towards God; morality is love with its face toward man.” (JFB)
We are to continually regard these things in our lives as an act of praise-worthiness. Contentment begins with the mind firmly fixed upon all that God deems true and right, holy and pure in His Word for our lives.

9. Obey God’s Word (v.9)
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

This is the practice of holiness. This is Christianity lived. This is being filled with the Spirit and the Word of Christ dwelling richly in us. And the same promise as before, “the God of peace shall be with you.”

Are we lacking anything from our Lord to produce contentment in our lives? Not one thing. Contentment, even for Paul, was something he learned in the school of sanctification (4:12).

We will close with brother Spurgeon ministering to our sometimes confused, discontented souls once again with these powerful words,
“You that love not Christ, recollect that you are the most miserable people in the world. Though you may think yourselves happy, there is no one of us that would change places with the best of you. When we are very sick, very poor, and on the borders of the grave, if you were to step in and say to us “Come, I will change places with you; you shall have my gold, and my silver, me riches, and my health,” and the like. There is not one living Christian that would change places with you. We would not stop to deliberate, we would give you at once our answer — “No, go your way, and delight in what you have, but all your treasures are transient, they will soon pass away. We will keep our sufferings, and you shall keep your gaudy toys.”
Saints have no hell but what they suffer here on earth; sinners will have no heaven but what they have here in this poor troublous world. We have our sufferings here and our glory afterwards; you may have your glory here, but you will have your sufferings forever and ever. God grant you new hearts, and right spirits, a living faith in a living Jesus, and then I would say to you as I have said to the rest — man, in whatsoever state you are, be content.”

6 comments:

Des said...

"Are you losing heart beloved today? Then march on your knees and pray to the One who sees and knows every need “even before you ask of Him.” Every appeal no matter how small or immense; no matter how trivial or profound; whether a pebble or boulder of weight of need, we must bring them all to the Lord in a humble expectant heart of thanksgiving."

Steve, thank you for these words of wisdom. They are quite timely as we quickly approach 2007.

God bless,

Des71

Bhedr said...

I appreciate your understanding of yielding rights and your understanding of contentment. This is a good series. Spurgeon's quote was very good as were your words here.

It's just not worth resting our anxieties on anyone else but God. My life is a broken record of trying to get past the repeat here, but once he strips us of all options we finally discover there is nowhere else to go as He holds the words and the promise of eternal life. There is only emptiness and worldly illusions that lay outside of faith and trust in God finding our contentment in Him alone and resting and sharing the same sentiment as Spurgeon when tempted with any other offer. Praise God that he has seen fit to make us suffer and to afflict us with His loving purpose. Glory to God.

I would rather rest Here. The Baker and the Cup bearer had temporal 50/50 odds.

littlegal_66 said...

Thanks a second million here, Campi.

"Are we lacking anything from our Lord to produce contentment in our lives? Not one thing.

What a profound reminder!! Everything we need for genuine contentment, He's already provided; and it's all right here before us.

SDG!!

littlegal_66 said...

Also, I love your subtitle:

"(Contentment)......the delight and pleasure of trusting His sovereign purposes."

Oh, such depth!

Elizabeth Davis said...

LittleGal,
Well stated...I wholeheartedly agree. Oh!, the rich depths that are ours in knowing that our LORD and Savior's sovereign purpose is unshakable does bring delight beyond words!

Baptist Girl said...

"The godly man, when he dies, "enters into peace" (Isaiah 57:2); but while he lives, peace must enter into him."--Thomas Watson

what a great post, so encouraging, you are a true blessing Steve.

Cristina