5 MARKS OF CONTENTMENT by Erik Raymond for Core Christianity
In his book The Art of Divine Contentment, Thomas Watson described five characteristics of a contented heart. With our course marked out for learning contentment, let’s think about how we might evaluate where we are in our own personal progress.
A Contented Spirit Is a Silent Spirit
The one who is content is not complaining against God; he does not grumble and murmur. Watson observes:
When Samuel tells Eli that heavy message from God, that he would “judge his house, and that the iniquity of his family should not be purged away with sacrifice forever,” (1 Sam. 3:13–14) doth Eli murmur or dispute? No, he hath not one word to say against God: “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” On the other hand, Pharaoh, one who did not know God and therefore was discontent said, “Who is the Lord? Why should I suffer all this? Why should I be brought into this low condition? Who is the Lord?”
Remember well the distinction between complaining to God and complaining about God. When we complain to God, we are bringing our problems and vices and crying out to God for wisdom, grace, and help. When we are complaining about God, we are attacking his character. This is ungodliness at its core. When Aaron’s sons were judged and killed, he “held his peace” (Lev. 10:3). He was silent. However, when Jonah was grumbling before God, God asked him, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4). The difference is clear.
Silence is a reflection of peaceful trust—even amid circumstances that are difficult to understand. Anger, grumbling, and complaining represent inner turmoil and a lack of trust in God.
How would others describe you? Are you apt to speak out and give vent to your frustrations with others and God? Or are you inclined to hold your peace and see the Lord in the situation?
A Contented Spirit Is a Cheerful Spirit
Contentment is more than patience (though it is not less). It involves a cheerfulness of the soul. Watson says, “A contented Christian is more than passive; he doth not only bear the cross, but take up the cross.” This is why Paul can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10). He can be content in his sufferings even when they are so difficult (2 Cor. 12:10). He doesn’t just say, “The will of the Lord be done”; he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Watson rightly quips, “‘God loveth a cheerful giver’ . . . and God loves a cheerful liver.” When we are content with our lot in Christ, we have the ground of cheerfulness within us.
We carry our pardon sealed in our very hearts. Could you be accused of being cheerful, even amid difficulty?