5. Contentment

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"I have learned." The Apostle doth not say, "I have heard, that in every estate I should be content", but, "I have learned." It is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear, and another thing to learn; as it is one thing to eat, and another thing to digest food. Christians hear much, but, it is to be feared, learn little.
If your estate be small, yet God can bless a little. It is not how much money we have, but how much blessing. He that often curses the bags of gold, can bless the meal in the barrel, and the oil in the cruse. What if thou hast not the full flesh-pots? yet thou hast a promise, I will "bless her provision" (Psa. 132:1515I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15)), and then a little goes a great way. Be content, that thou hast the dew of a blessing distilled: a dinner of green herbs, where love is, is sweet; I may add, where the love of God is. Another may have more estate than you, but more care; more riches, less rest; more revenues, but withal more occasions of expense: he hath a greater inheritance, yet perhaps God doth not give him "power to eat thereof" (Eccl. 6:22A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honor, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease. (Ecclesiastes 6:2)); he holds more, but enjoys less; in a word, thou hast less gold then he, perhaps less guilt.
Discontent keeps a man from enjoying what he doth possess. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. Comfort depends upon contentment. It is not trouble that troubles, but discontent; it is not the water without the ship, but the water that gets within the leak which sinks it; it is not outward afflictions that can make the life of a Christian sad; a contented mind would sail above these waters; but when there is a leak of discontent open, and trouble gets into the heart, then it is disquieted and sinks.
The discontented person thinks everything he doth for God too much, and everything God doth for him too little.
There are no sins God's people are more subject to than unbelief and impatience; they are ready, either to faint through unbelief, or to fret through impatience. When men fly out against God by discontent and impatience, it is a sign they do not believe "that all things work together for good, to them that love God." Discontent is an ungrateful sin, because we have more mercies than afflictions; and it is an irrational sin, because afflictions work for good. Discontent is a sin which puts us upon sin. "Fret not thyself to do evil" (Psa. 37:88Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (Psalm 37:8)). He that frets will be ready to do evil: fretting Jonah was sinning (Jonah 4:99And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death. (Jonah 4:9)). The devil blows the coals of passion and discontent, and then warms himself at the fire.
"All things work together for good to them that love God." Shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? If one friend should throw a bag of money at another, and in throwing it, should graze his head, he would not be troubled much, seeing by this means he had got a bag of money. So the Lord may bruise us by afflictions, but it is to enrich us; these afflictions work for us a weight of glory; and shall we be discontented?
Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die. We may sooner by our care add a furlong to our grief, than a foot to our comfort.
Remember thou art to be here but a day; thou hast but a short way to go, and what need a long provision for a short way? If a traveler hath but enough to bring him to his journey's end, he desires no more.
How hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven! (Luke 18:2424And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! (Luke 18:24)). His golden weights keep him from ascending up the hill of God. Be content then with a little; if you have but enough to pay for your passage to heaven, it sufficeth.
Humility is like the lead to the net, which keeps the soul down when it is rising through passion; and contentment is like the cork, which keeps the heart up when it is sinking through discouragement.
Is not many a man contented to suffer reproach for maintaining his lust? and shall not we for maintaining the truth? Some glory in that which is their shame (Phil. 3:1919Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) (Philippians 3:19)); and shall we be ashamed of that which is our glory?
What need he complain of the world's emptiness that hath God's fullness? "The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance", saith David (Psa. 16:55The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. (Psalm 16:5)); then let the lines fall where they will, in a sick bed, or prison, I will say, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage."
"The God which fed me all my life long unto this day" (Gen. 48:1515And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, (Genesis 48:15)). Hath not God provided liberally for you. Thou never feedest, but mercy carves for thee; thou never goest to bed, but mercy draws the curtains, and sets a guard of angels about thee.
"The LORD is good to all" (Psa. 145:99The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. (Psalm 145:9)). Sweet dewdrops are on the thistle, as well as on the rose. God's mercy is free. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy, nor force it. We may force God to punish us, but not to love us. "I will love them freely" (Hos. 14:44I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. (Hosea 14:4)). Every link in the chain of salvation is wrought and interwoven with free grace. Election is free. "He hath chosen us in Him... according to the good pleasure of His will" (Eph. 1:4-54According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, (Ephesians 1:4‑5)). Justification is free, "Being justified freely by His grace" (Rom. 3:2424Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Romans 3:24)). Salvation is free, "According to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:55Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5)). Say not then, I am unworthy; for mercy is free. If God should show mercy to such only as are worthy, He would show none at all.... God's mercy is an overflowing mercy; it is infinite: "Plenteous in mercy" (Psa. 86:55For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. (Psalm 86:5)). "Rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:44But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (Ephesians 2:4)). "Multitude of Thy tender mercies" (Psa. 51:11<<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.>> Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)). The vial of wrath drops, but the fountain of mercy runs.... God has morning mercies, His mercies "are new every morning" (Lam. 3:2323They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)). He has night mercies, "In the night His song shall be with me" (Psa. 42:88Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)). God's mercy is eternal, "The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting" (Psa. 103:1717But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; (Psalm 103:17)). As His mercy is overflowing so it is everflowing.
Doth God give us a Christ, and will He deny us a crust? If God doth not give us what we crave, He will give us what we need.
Prosperity often deafens the ear against God. "I spake to thee in thy prosperity, but thou saidst, I will not hear" (Jer. 22:2121I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice. (Jeremiah 22:21)). Soft pleasures harden the heart. Prosperity has its honey, and also its sting. Anxious care is the evil spirit that haunts the rich man; when his chests are full of money, his heart is full of care. Sunshine is pleasant, but sometimes it scorches. The spreading of a full table may be the spreading of a snare. Many have been sunk to hell with golden weights. "They that will be rich fall into many hurtful lusts, which drown men in perdition" (1 Tim. 6:99But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:9)). The world's golden sands are quicksands. What if we have less food we have less snare; if less dignity, less danger. As we lack the rich provisions of the world, so we lack the temptations. To give us Christ is more than if God had given us all the world. He can make more worlds, but He has no more Christs to bestow. If you have but daily bread enough to suffice nature, be content. Consider it is not having abundance that always makes life comfortable. A staff may help the traveler, but a bundle of staves will be a burden to him. The world is but a great inn. If God give you sufficient to pay for your charges in your inn, you may be content, you shall have enough when you come to your own country.
"What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee" (Psa. 56:33What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3)). Faith cures the trembling in heart; it gets above fear as oil swims above the water. To trust in God makes Him to be a God to us. God will turn all evils to our good (Rom. 8:2828And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)). Joseph's imprisonment was a means for his advancement. Out of the bitterest drug He will distil His glory and our salvation. In short, He will be our guide to death, our comfort in death, and our reward after death. "Happy is that people, whose God is the LORD" (Psa. 144:1515Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 144:15)).