Contentment – Part I (Supplements)

Some definitions for some terms and concepts we’ll be spending some more time with in the next couple posts.  These were taken from Dictionary.com:

Contentment

  • The state of being contented; satisfaction.
  • A source of satisfaction

Provision

  • A clause in a legal instrument, a law, etc., providing for a particular matter; stipulation; proviso.
  • The providing or supplying of something, esp. of food or other necessities.
  • Arrangement or preparation beforehand, as for the doing of something, the meeting of needs, the supplying of means, etc.
  • Something provided; a measure or other means for meeting a need.
  • A supply or stock of something provided.
  • Provisions, supplies of food.

Providence

  • The foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.
  • God, esp. when conceived as omnisciently directing the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.
  • A manifestation of divine care or direction.
  • Provident or prudent management of resources; prudence.
  • Foresight; provident care.

Godliness

  • Conforming to the laws and wishes of God; devout; pious.
  • Coming from God; divine.
  • Religious, saintly, holy, righteous, good.
  • His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)

Worldliness

  • Of or pertaining to this world as contrasted with heaven, spiritual life, etc.; earthly; mundane.
  • Experienced; knowing; sophisticated: the benefits of his worldly wisdom.
  • Devoted to, directed toward, or connected with the affairs, interests, or pleasures of this world.
  • The quality or character of being intellectually sophisticated and worldly through cultivation or experience or disillusionment [syn: sophistication] [ant: naiveness]
  • Concern with worldly affairs to the neglect of spiritual needs
  • The quality of being worldly; a predominant passion for obtaining the good things of this life; covetousness; addictedness to gain and temporal enjoyments; worldly-mindedness.

From Thomas Watson’s “The Art of Divine Contentment”

Showing the NATURE of contentment.

Having answered these questions, I shall in the next place, come to describe this contentment. It is a sweet temper of spirit, whereby a Christian carries himself in an equal poise in every condition. The nature of this will appear more clear in these three aphorisms.

1. Contentment is a DIVINE thing. It becomes ours, not by acquisition—but as a gift from God. It is a slip taken off from the tree of life, and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul. It is a fruit that grows not in the garden of human learning—but is of a heavenly birth. It is therefore very observable that contentment is joined with godliness, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Tim. 6:6) Contentment being an outgrowth of godliness, I call it divine, to distinguish it to that contentment, which a moral man may arrive at. Heathens have seemed to have this contentment—but it was only the shadow and picture of it—not the true diamond. Theirs was but civil, this is sacred; theirs was only from principles of human reason, this of religion; theirs was only lighted at nature’s torch, this at the lamp of scripture. Reason may a little teach contentment, as thus: whatever my condition be, this is what I am born to; and if I meet with crosses, it is but the universal misery: all have their share, why therefore should I be troubled? Reason may suggest this; and indeed, this may be rather constraint; but to live securely and cheerfully upon God in the abatement of creature supplies, only piety can bring this into the soul’s treasury.

2. Contentment is an INTERNAL thing. It lies within a man; not in the bark—but the root. Contentment has both its fountain and stream in the soul. The beams of comfort which a contented man has, do not arise from foreign comforts—but from within. As sorrow is seated in the spirit; “the heart knows its own bitterness;” (Proverbs 14:10) so contentment lies within the soul, and does not depend upon externals. Hence I gather, that outward troubles cannot hinder this blessed contentment. It is a spiritual thing, and arises from spiritual grounds—the apprehension of God’s love. When there is a tempest without, there may be music within. A bee may sting through the skin—but it cannot sting to the heart; outward afflictions cannot sting to a Christian’s heart, where contentment lies. Thieves may plunder us of our money and goods—but not of this pearl of contentment, unless we are willing to part with it, for it is locked up in the cabinet of the heart. The soul which is possessed of this rich treasure of contentment, is like Noah in the ark—it can sing in the midst of a deluge.

3. Contentment is an HABITUAL thing. It shines with a fixed light in the soul. Contentment does not appear only now and then, as some stars which are seen but seldom; it is a settled temper of the heart. One action does not denominate a person to be a contented person. One is not said to be a liberal man, who gives alms once in his life; a covetous man may do so. But he is said to be liberal, who is “given to hospitality,” that is, who upon all occasions is willing to relieve the necessities of the poor. Just so, he is said to be a contented man, who is given to contentment. It is not casual but constant. Aristotle distinguishes between colors in the face that arise from passion, and those which arise from complexion. The pale face may look red when it blushes—but this is only a passion. He is said properly to be ruddy who is constantly so—it is his complexion. He is not a contented man, who is so upon some occasions, when things go well with him. A contented man, is so constantly—it is the habit and complexion in his soul.

Contentment lies within a man, in the heart; and the way to be comfortable, is not by having our barns filled—but our minds quiet.

Discontent is a fretting temper, which dries the brains, wastes the spirits, corrodes and eats out the comfort of life. Discontent makes a man not enjoy what he does possess. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. Just so, let a man have the affluence and all worldly comforts—a drop or two of discontent will embitter and poison all.

Would we have comfort in our lives? We may have it if we will. A Christian may carve out whatever condition he will to himself. Why do you complain of your troubles? It is not trouble which troubles—but discontentment. It is not outward affliction which can make the life of a Christian sad; a contented mind would sail above these waters—but when discontent gets into the heart, then it is disquieted and sinks.

During one of Calvin’s sermons on Micah he prayed:

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, seeing that since antiquity it has always pleased You to extend Your grace toward Your people, as perverse and rebellious as they were; and that You have never ceased to exhort them to repentance, but have always taken them by Your hand through Your prophets; grant us also Your grace today, that Your same Word may resound in our ears; and, if at first we should not profit from Your holy teaching as we ought; nonetheless, do not reject us; but by Your Spirit subdue and so reign over our minds and affections, that being truly humbled and brought low, we give You the glory that Your majesty is due; so that being clothed by Your love and fatherly favor, we may submit ourselves totally to You, while at the same time embracing that goodness which You have provided and offered us in our Lord Jesus; that we might never doubt again that You alone are our Father, until that day that we rejoice in Your heavenly promise, which has been acquired for us by the blood of Your only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

(Thank you, John Calvin, for the encouragement.)

Contentment is the end which we seek.

Provision is the means by which we attain it.

Worldliness and Godliness reflect the conditions of our heart. They determine where and how we seek provision. We either seek our satisfaction in the glorification of God or in the gratification of the flesh.  These two forces are at work and at war within us.

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