‘I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.’ Philippians 4:11
7. CONTENTMENT IS TAKING PLEASURE IN GOD’S DISPOSAL.
This is so when I am well pleased in what God does, in so far as I can see God in it, though, as I said, I may be sensible of the affliction, and may desire that God in his due time would remove it, and may use means to remove it. Yet I am well pleased in so far as God’s hand is in it. To be well pleased with God’s hand is a higher degree than the previous one. It comes from this: not only do I see that I should be content in this affliction, but I see that there is good in it. I find there is honey in this rock, and so I do not only say, I must, or I will submit to God’s hand. No, the hand of God is good, ‘it is good that I am afflicted.’ To acknowledge that it is just that I am afflicted is possible in one who is not truly contented. I may be convinced that God deals justly in this matter, he is righteous and just and it is right that I should submit to what he has done; O the Lord has done righteously in all ways! But that is not enough! You must say, ‘Good is the hand of the Lord.’ It was the expression of old Eli: ‘Good is the hand of the Lord,’ when it was a sore and hard word. It was a word that threatened very grievous things to Eli and his house, and yet Eli says, ‘Good is the word of the Lord.’ Perhaps, some of you may say, like David, ‘It is good that I was afflicted’, but you must come to this, ‘It is good that I am afflicted.’ Not just good when you see the good fruit it has wrought, but to say when you are afflicted, ‘It is good that I am afflicted. Whatever the affliction, yet through the mercy of God mine is a good condition.’ It is, indeed, the top and the height of this art of contentment to come to this pitch and to be able to say, ‘Well, my condition and afflictions are so and so, and very grievous and sore; yet, through God’s mercy, I am in a good condition, and the hand of God is good upon me notwithstanding.’ I should have given you several Scriptures about this, but I will give you one or two, which are very striking. You will think it is a hard lesson to come so far as not only to be quiet but to take pleasure in affliction.
‘In the house of the righteous is much treasure, but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble’ (Proverbs 15:6): here is a Scripture to show that a gracious heart has cause to say that it is in a good condition, whatever it is. In the house of the righteous is much treasure; his house-what house? It may be a poor cottage, and perhaps he has scarcely a stool to sit on. Perhaps he is forced to sit on a stump of wood or part of a block instead of a stool, or perhaps he has scarcely a bed to lie on, or a dish to eat in. Yet the Holy Ghost says, ‘In the house of the righteous is much treasure.’ Let the righteous man be the poorest man in the world-it may be that someone has come and taken all the goods from out of his house for debt. Perhaps his house is plundered and all is gone; yet still, ‘In the house of the righteous is much treasure.’ The righteous man can never be made so poor, to have his house so rifled and spoiled, but there will remain much treasure within. If he has but a dish or a spoon or anything in the world in his house, there will be much treasure so long as he is there. There is the presence of God and the blessing of God upon him, and therein is much treasure. But in the revenues of the wicked there is trouble. There is more treasure in the poorest body’s house, if he is godly, than in the house of the greatest man in the world, who has his fine hangings and finely wrought beds and chairs and couches and cupboards of plate and the like. Whatever he has, he has not so much treasure in it as there is in the house of the poorest righteous soul.
It is no marvel, therefore, that Paul was content, for a verse or two after my text you read: ‘But I have all and abound. I am full’ (Philippians 4:18). I have all? Alas, poor man! what did Paul have that could make him say he had all? Where was there ever a man more afflicted than Paul was? Many times he had not tatters to hang about his body to cover his nakedness. He had no bread to eat, he was often in nakedness, and put in the stocks and whipped and cruelly used, ‘Yet I have all’, says Paul, for all that. Yes, you will find it in 2 Corinthians: He professes there that he did possess all things: ‘As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things’ (2 Corinthians 6:10).
Mark what he says-it is, ‘as having nothing’ but it is ‘possessing all things’. He does not say: ‘As possessing all things’, but ‘possessing all things’. I have very little in the world, he says, but yet possessing all things. So you see that a Christian has cause to take pleasure in God’s hand, whatever his hand may be.