Judge Not Part 4 – The Necessity of Contentment

by Mike Ratliff

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for 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 and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13)

As I write this, it is a couple of weeks before Christmas 2005. This year I have refused to get sucked into the rampant commercialism which has transformed our celebration of the Advent of our Savior into a materialistic feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, the advertising sector of our economy dominates our consumer oriented Western society. We are targeted continually to buy more so we can get more so we can find fulfillment in having the newest and the best.

In my basement are two computers that are in pieces. They are in this disconnected state because they have been cannibalized for parts. For instance, the PC I am using to type this contains memory from both of those victims. This evening I came to understand that most of my problems with this computer are centered in its lack of disk space. There simply is not enough free space to add any more software. Therefore, I went to those two computer carcasses to see if their disk drives would be suitable for transplanting. I came up with five candidates. Unfortunately, the largest of the bunch is only a 4.3gb drive. As I lamented the fact that it would be a complete waste of time to attempt to transplant it into my PC, I suddenly remembered when those two PC skeletons were state-of-the-art computers with massive amounts of memory and disk space. My first several computers had microscopic amounts of RAM and disk space compared to them. Now I look at those two piles of mostly junk and am amazed at the transformation of what used to be coveted by all into candidates for the scrap heap.

I have a pickup in my garage. I rarely drive it because it does not get very good gas mileage. However, I love to drive it when I do get to even though it’s not as peppy as it once was. It has over 92,0000 miles on it. It needs a brake job. It seems like just the other day it was shiny and new. That pickup and I bonded. We were a team. I loved it and it was beautiful and handy. Now it simply takes up space in my garage. I enjoyed it for a long time, but only rarely now.

Contentment is a word that most of us see as short-lived “happiness” or “satisfaction” feelings because of favorable circumstances. If we get a new car, pickup, or computer then we are excited and proud. We want everyone to see us with our new possession. Of course, this type of behavior is clearly pride-based. These feelings of satisfaction from possessing something or someone are exactly what our wicked pride controlled hearts are after. If we deny our fleshly desires to focus on God and our relationship with Him our “OLD MAN” sin nature does not like it one bit. It never wants our hearts to move away from fleshly pursuits. However, walking in the spirit, walking by faith, running the race God has set before us, and abiding in Christ all require this. The Spirit-led believer walks through each day practicing the presence of God rather than seeking self-gratification from fleshly focus. The Spirit-led believer who has matured into the late Adult Christian stage of development or into the Mature Christian stage has learned that attempts at fulfillment from any source other than God is complete waste of time. Nothing temporal fulfills. However, when God blesses believers with “stuff,” but they focus on the blessor rather than the blessing, God will give them a wonderful sense of contentment. Look at the passage I placed at the beginning of this chapter. It is an excerpt from the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. It is a wonderful book on remaining joyful, content, and Christlike no matter what our circumstances are like.

Paul wrote Philippians when he was in his first imprisonment in Rome. During his first imprisonment, Paul was not in a dungeon. He was in chains, but lived with his guards in rented quarters. (Acts 28) Paul planted the church at Philippi during his second missionary journey. It was the first European church. During that period, Paul and Silas were imprisoned in the local jail for casting a demon out of a slave girl who was used by her owners for profit through her fortune telling. (Acts 16) Let’s dig into this wonderful book. Perhaps we will learn Paul’s secret of contentment.

The first passage we will look at is Philippians 1:12-30. Here is the entire passage. Read it through.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:12-30)

Compare that message with what we normally hear from the mouths of those proclaiming their Health, Wealth, and Prosperity gospels to masses of deceived listeners. According to them, God wants us to be healthy, rich and have lives free of trouble. I really am sorry, but I cannot find any teachings in the Bible that say that unless they are taken out of context and misused and misapplied. In fact, the more I study the Bible and the more life I experience, the more I am convinced that the true believer will drink of the cup of bitterness and suffering consistent to the level they live for God’s glory. The Church consists of God’s “called-out ones.” These believers are called out of the world to walk before their Lord as the suffering Church. (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:6; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:19; Revelation 2:10) What each of these reference passages have in common is God’s sovereign control over all things. Nothing happens in our lives that first do not come through His hands. God not only allows suffering in believer’s lives, but He ordains it. How could God be a loving God if He did things like this? We have to look first at the properties of the love God has for His children and then the purpose(s) for the suffering or chastisement (Hebrews 13) He brings into their lives.

The Greek word that represents God’s “love” for His children is transliterated into our word “agape.” It means that the one loving does things in the life of the one loved that is best for them rather than what the loved one desires. That sounds like the love good parents haves for their children, doesn’t it? What has to happen in a believer’s heart in order for him or her to come to have God’s view of suffering? What would be the result? In order for a believer to have God’s view of suffering, he or she will have to mature unto Christlikeness. That means their focus; their perspective and their outlook become eternal rather than temporal. They see suffering as the vehicle to walk closer with God. Why? Suffering humbles us. The humble believer walks close with his or her Lord. God shuns the proud. (James 4:6) Suffering often removes things we love and hang onto, but are barriers to a closer walk with the Lord. God will cause us to suffer so we will drop them or let them go as we turn to Him. What things do this? In my case, God continually puts me in positions where I cannot be self-reliant. I have a pride issue. I tend to take pride in my abilities and my learning. I like others to see that I am the man who can get the job done. None of that sound bad, does it? However, all of that builds up self-reliance. Self-reliance is a barrier between a closer walk with the Lord because I am not humble when I am self-sufficient.

God’s desire for us is that we see that we are spiritual beings and we need to have eternal spiritual perspective and focus. We cannot do that unless we humble ourselves; turn to Him for all of our sufficiency. This puts us in a spiritual position where we must rely on Him to hold our hands and guide us into righteousness. When we do this, God grants us repentance. That means He opens up our hearts more and more so we can hear Him. We can sense His presence. In fact, when we mature to this point separation from His presence is unbearable. When we walk this way, we become useful to God in the Kingdom. In our own abilities, we are useless to Him.

Our attitude must match Paul’s statement, “To live is Christ, to die is gain!” Think of the implication of that. The Christlike believer who can say and mean that is focused on the eternal not the temporal. They are content in their circumstances because all of it, no matter how bitter, is God ordained to accomplish His eternal purpose in him or her. The intriguing thing, to me in suffering this way, is how joy grows and endures if the believer does not lose focus. If their circumstances overwhelm them and they lose focus then they do lose their joy. Why? Only when our joy is in the Lord is it invulnerable to circumstances. When we lose our joy it is because we become self-focused instead of God-focused. This type of walk is impossible outside of the grace of God. In fact, God says that His grace is sufficient in the midst of our fiery trials.

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

I am constantly amazed when I hear believers complain about their problems as they insinuate that God is letting them down. Our focus must be God’s glory. Our heart’s desire must be that God be glorified in us. How can He be glorified in a bunch of self-serving, self-focused, self-sufficient pew sitters? However, those who find themselves in the fires of sanctification then fall upon His mercy and grace will find that God’s grace is sufficient. Not only will God sustain them in the midst of the fire, but also their spiritual maturity will grow as their Christlikeness deepens. Contentment in the midst of the trial becomes a reality for them because of their eternal focus. The temporal reality fades and becomes simply the backdrop for their sustenance in their Valley of Humiliation. Self is denied. God is glorified.

The heart that is content in God’s grace does not judge. The believer who walks in the light of God’s grace is not about comparing others to self. Nor does he or she become enamored with their image and other’s perception of them. The only notice they want is for people to give God glory because of His work in them. How can this be? How can we mature to this level of spirituality? God must do His work in our hearts and we must cooperate with Him in it instead of fighting Him over it. We must pray for a clear conscience then heed it when He answers that prayer. If we do that then the next time we judge someone hypocritically, our conscience will let us have it. Then we must turn away from that ugliness in repentance. If we ignore our consciences then we harden our hearts. That is the path away from godly contentment. However, if we do heed our consciences, turn away from the sin and back to God and His glory, our hearts soften more and more. As we become more and more tenderhearted we become more and more humble and, therefore, content. The tender heart’s conscience is a wonderful godly treasure. God’s values reside there and the tenderer our hearts become the more apparent His values become to our Souls (our minds, our wills, and our emotions.) This results in godly behavior. This godly contentment is a vital component of the Christlike believer.

What happens if we do not cooperate in our sanctification? We become hardhearted. We are not content. We do not walk in the light of God’s grace. We are not fulfilled. We become self-focused and fleshly. We are full of unbelief. We judge others in a desperate grab for some sort of fulfillment. This sort of behavior causes us to spiral down into fleshly discontentment. I contend that this description matches the majority of believers. I know that is sad because the believers in this trap are constantly stumbling into sin and seem to have no ability to get out while their discontent is their self-justifying reason for their fleshly pursuits.

The next passage we will dig into in Philippians is from chapter 4. I placed it at the beginning of this chapter. Here is again.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for 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 and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13)

The contented heart is a humble heart. How is it constantly content? The attitudes that both build and are the attributes of a contented heart are developed in our godly character as we cooperate with God in our sanctification. It is by His grace that we can learn to be content in both low and high situations. Notice also that the contented heart is also humble. Paul’s concern is for those who were seeking to help him. He wanted them to be edified and for God to be glorified in them. That was His focus rather on their supply of his needs. We must carefully read and reread this passage as we mediate on the truths in it that God places on our hearts. Why? If we become content, we won’t judge others will we? If we do not judge others, we will not have to give an account of our unforgiveness to the Lord when we stand before Him.

I praise the Lord that you are reading this. That act alone is an indication that He is drawing you into the proper self-denying walk of faith. You know your contentment level needs work. You have a deep desire for God to be glorified in you. You desperately want victory over those “besetting sins” which so easily ensnare you. (Hebrews 12:1-2) You have become aware of that you judge others hypocritically. Yes, I include myself in this group. So, let us all agree to quit denying we are discontent and self-focused.

Dear heavenly father, we come before you now in broken humility. We understand that our salvation is completely your work. You saved us for Your glory and not because of any attribute we have. However, Lord we deeply desire to become the content, Christlike believers who live for your glory. We desperately seek victory over those besetting sins Lord. Keep us in the fires of sanctification Lord, but also sustain us by your grace. Teach us to be content Lord. We ask all this in Jesus name—Amen!

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

10 thoughts on “Judge Not Part 4 – The Necessity of Contentment

  1. In fact, the more I study the Bible and the more life I experience, the more I am convinced that the true believer will drink of the cup of bitterness and suffering consistent to the level they live for God’s glory. The Church consists of God’s “called-out ones.” These believers are called out of the world to walk before their Lord as the suffering Church. (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:6; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 Peter 4:19; Revelation 2:10) What each of these reference passages have in common is God’s sovereign control over all things. Nothing happens in our lives that first do not come through His hands. God not only allows suffering in believer’s lives, but He ordains it. How could God be a loving God if He did things like this?

    You hit the nail on the head here Mike. I really don’t understand why or how the mainstream evangelical church has gotten away from a clear understanding of Gods Sovereignty but for myself, it is the clear teaching of Gods Word. There is a misunderstanding of what love is also and I agree that this also effects our understanding of who God is.

    What happens if we do not cooperate in our sanctification? We become hardhearted. We are not content. We do not walk in the light of God’s grace. We are not fulfilled. We become self-focused and fleshly. We are full of unbelief. We judge others in a desperate grab for some sort of fulfillment. This sort of behavior causes us to spiral down into fleshly discontentment.

    The contented heart is a humble heart. How is it constantly content? The attitudes that both build and are the attributes of a contented heart are developed in our godly character as we cooperate with God in our sanctification. It is by His grace that we can learn to be content in both low and high situations. Notice also that the contented heart is also humble. Paul’s concern is for those who were seeking to help him. He wanted them to be edified and for God to be glorified in them. That was His focus rather on their supply of his needs. We must carefully read and reread this passage as we mediate on the truths in it that God places on our hearts. Why? If we become content, we won’t judge others will we? If we do not judge others, we will not have to give an account of our unforgiveness to the Lord when we stand before Him.

    Amen!

    Y.B.I.C,

    Dave.

    Like

  2. Dave, yes the mainstream church has turned its back on these truths. I believe the reason is simply a desire for numbers. The leadership is terrified that if they teach and preach via the Sword of Truth that they will drive people away. Well, yes that is true. That might happen, but those driven off are not genuine anyway. I could go on and on about this…

    Thanks for your comment Dave!

    Like

  3. I agree with the “numbers” thing. The Word of Truth has a way of driving people out of the church that are there to be entertained… and their money follows them. THe mainstream church has dollar signs in their eyes, putting away the discerning eyes of Christ in exchange for $$$, numbers, popularity.

    You wrote: In our own abilities, we are useless to Him… It is by His grace that we can learn to be content in both low and high situations.

    ___amen!!!

    Like

  4. The most amazing “works” God has done through me have been when I am completly “out of control”. What I mean by that is I feel like I am in way over my head and there is no way for me to contribute to the “cause” and this thing is going to fall flat on its face because I can’t control it. Then God works through it all and people are edified.

    Numbers and Money. Bah. My pastor wants me to sell lots of books and get rich so I will give large sums of money to his church. While I would do that, I think the focus is way wrong. I want people to be edified and grow in grace as the Holy Spirit uses what I write for God’s glory.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Like

  5. Pingback: Bladder Cancer Treatment

  6. Pingback: Paula Creamer

Comments are closed.