A few weeks back I read a chapter in Sinclair Ferguson’s book In Christ Alone on the grace of contentment (“Contentment: Five Easy Steps?”), prompted by his friend’s reference to 1 Tim.6:6 in the face of manifold trials in his life. Going back to reflect on that chapter tonight leads me to post a few of Ferguson’s profitable thoughts put down on paper.
May they help put us in a right frame of mind as we end this week.
Such contentment is never the result of the momentary decision of the will. It cannot be produced merely by having a well-ordered and thought-through-time-and-life-management plan calculated to guard us against unexpected twists of divine providence. No, true contentment means embracing the Lord’s will in every aspect of His providence simply because it is His providence. It involves what we are in our very being, not just what we do and can accomplish.
…Thus, we cannot ‘do’ contentment. It is taught by God. We need to be schooled in it. It is part of the process of being transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom.12:1-2). It is commanded of us, but, paradoxically, it is created in us, not done by us. It is not the product of a series of actions, but of a renewed and transformed character. It involves the growth of a good tree that produces good fruit.
This seems to be a difficult principle for Christians today to grasp. …It is painful to pride to discover that the Christian life is not rooted in what we can do, but in what we need done to us.
…Christian contentment means that my satisfaction is independent of my circumstances. When Paul speaks about his own contentment in Philippians 4:11, he uses a term commonplace among the ancient Greek philosophical schools of the Stoics and Cynics. In their vocabulary, contentment meant self-sufficiency, in the sense of independence from changing circumstances.
But for Paul, contentment was rooted not in self-sufficiency but in Christ’s sufficiency (Phil.4:13). Paul said that he could do all things – both being based and abounding – in Christ.
Don’t skip over that last phrase. This kind of contentment is the fruit of an ongoing, intimate, deeply developed relationship with Him (Kindle ed.).