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Grow in Contentment through Worship

August 19, 2016

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty or hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Paul had experienced the best and the worst of life in this world.

He knew what it was to be “brought low” and he knew what it was to “abound.” He knew what it was to have “plenty” and he knew what it was to be in “need.” Paul had experienced life at the top and life at the bottom. He knew the full range of human experience and he says, “In every circumstance, I have learned to be content.”

The implication of the word “learned” is that it was not always like this for Paul. He grew in contentment over time. It did not come quickly and it did not come easily, but there was growth and there was progress for him, and the same can be true for us today.

Bring to Mind the Blessings of God

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

God has given you the ability to choose where you focus your attention. What are the good things about your family? What are the good things about your church, your work, your neighborhood? Bring these to mind, especially when you are inclined to complain, and as you do, you will learn to be content.

Make more of your joys than you do of your sorrows. Make more of your gains than you do of your losses. Do this in your thinking, in your speaking, and even in your praying, and you will grow in contentment. I’ve included praying here because of what Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

If you do this, “the peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). So bring your requests to God. But if your prayers are only a long list of requests, your praying will not bring you peace. All you are doing is filling your mind with problems in the presence of God.

Don’t let your prayers become an exercise in worrying on your knees! Bring to mind the blessings of God in your life. Give thanks for all Christ has done for you and for all that you are in him. Bring your requests to God, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind.

Make More of Blessings Than Sorrows

Martin Luther has a wonderful comment about “the rhetoric of the Spirit.” Rhetoric relates to speaking, and so “the rhetoric of the Spirit” is Luther’s way of describing how the Holy Spirit speaks:

If a cross comes, to make the cross but little, but if there is a mercy, to make the mercy great. [1]

The Devil has a different way of speaking:

If there is a cross, the Devil makes it greater than it is, and so brings discontent. And if there is a mercy, it is the rhetoric of the devil to make the mercy less. “Aye, indeed,” [the Devil] says, “The thing is a good thing, but what is it? It is no big deal.”  [2]

When you are listening to music, you have some choices as to how it will sound. You can turn up the treble, or you can turn up the bass. The music is the same, but it will sound quite different depending on the settings that you choose.

Turn up the “mercies” in the music of your life. The rhetoric of the Spirit magnifies your mercies! A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit makes more of their blessings than they make of their sorrows.

Savor the Blessings of Christ

This does not mean pretending that your sorrows do not exist. But when you have suffering and pain in one area of your life, you can put it alongside another area where you have been especially blessed. So for example, you may say, “I have a really difficult job, but thank God, I also have a really wonderful church!” or “I am struggling with this pain in my body, but thank God, he has given me a healthy mind!”

The pastor Jeremiah Burroughs applies this particularly to the anxiety of parents over a rebellious son or daughter: “It may be that God has afflicted you in one child, but he has been merciful to you in another child: Set one against the other.” [3]

David knew great sorrow over one of his sons, Absalom. Absalom led a rebellion against his father David, and it ended in Absalom’s untimely and tragic death. The Bible records David’s pain and anguish over his rebel son: “O my son Absalom, my son…Would I have died instead of you” (2 Samuel 18:33).

But God gave David another son, Solomon, who was a blessing and joy to his father’s heart.

Burroughs makes the point that it would have helped David in his sorrow, if when he had said, “O my son Absalom, my son…” he had also said, “O my son Solomon, my son…”

Regular participation in worship fosters contentment, because in worship we call to mind the mercies of God and gratefully savor the blessings of Christ.

[1] Cited in Jeremiah Burroughs, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” p. 155, Banner of Truth, 1964. [2] Ibid., p. 156. [3] Ibid., p. 175.


The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the Senior Pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the President and Teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.

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