For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
~ Hebrews 10:34
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. ~ 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, 6:10; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 2 Corinthians 8:9
And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. ~ Matthew 8:20
The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, by Thomas Watson.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. ~ Philippians 4:11
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 14 of the text.
Use V. Containing a Christian Directory, or Rules about Contentment.
Comparison 3d. Let us compare our condition with Christ’s upon earth. What a poor, mean condition was He pleased to be in for us? he was contented with any thing. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. (2 Cor. 8. 9) He could have brought down an house from heaven with him, or challenged the high places of the earth, but he was contented to be in the wine-press, that we might be in the wine-cellar, and to live poor that we might be rich; the manger was his cradle, the cobwebs his canopy; he who is now preparing mansions for us in heaven, had none for himself on earth, “he had no where to lay his head.” Christ came in forma pauperis; who, “being in the form of God, took upon him the form of a servant. (Ph. 2. 7) We read not of any sums of money He had; when he wanted money, he was fain to work a miracle for it. (Mat. 17. 27) Jesus Christ was in a low condition, he was never high, but when he was lifted up upon the cross, and that was his humility: he was content to live poor, and die cursed. O compare your condition with Christ’s.
Comparison 4th. Let us compare our condition with what it was once, and this will make us content. First, Let us compare our spiritual estate with what it was once. What were we when we lay in our blood? we were heirs apparent to hell, having no right to pluck one leaf from the tree of promise; it was a Christless and hopeless condition: (Ep. 2. 12) but now God hath cut off the entail of hell and damnation; he hath taken you out of the wild olive of nature, and ingrafted you into Christ, making you living branches of that living vine; he hath not only caused the light to shine upon you, but into you, (2 Cor. 6. 6) and hath interested you in all the privileges of sonship: is not here that which may make the soul content. Secondly, Let us compare our temporal estate with what it was once. Alas. we had nothing when we stepped out of the womb; “for we brought nothing into this world.” (1 Ti. 6. 7) If we have not that which we desire, we have more than we did bring with us; we brought nothing with us but sin; other creatures bring something with them into the world; the lamb brings wool, the silk-worm silk, &c. but we brought nothing with us. What if our condition at present be low? It is better than it was once; therefore, having food and raiment, let us be content. Whatever we have, God’s providence fetcheth it unto us; and if we lose all, yet we have as much as we brought with us. This was what made Job content, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb;” (Job 1. 21) as if he had said, though God hath taken away all from me, yet why should I murmur? I am as rich as I was when I came into the world? I have as much left as I brought with me; naked came I hither; therefore blessed be the name of the Lord.
Comparison 5th. Let us compare our condition with what it shall be shortly. There is a time shortly coming, when, if we had all the riches of India, they would do us no good; we must die, and can carry nothing with us; so saith the apostle, “it is certain we can carry nothing out of the world; (1 Ti. 6. 7) therefore it follows, “having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.” Open the rich man’s grave and see what is there; you may find the miser’s bones, but not his riches, says Bede. Were we to live for ever here, or could we carry our riches into another world, then indeed we might be discontented, when we look upon our empty bags. But it is not so; God may presently seal a warrant for death to apprehend us: and when we die, we cannot carry estate with us: honour and riches descend not into the grave, why then are we troubled at our outward condition? Why do we disguise ourselves with discontent? O lay up a stock of grace. Be rich in faith and good works, these riches will follow us. (Re. 14. 13) No other coin but grace will pass current in heaven, silver and gold will not go there; labour to be rich towards God, (Lu. 12. 21) and as for other things, be not solicitous, we shall carry nothing with us.
Rule 11. Go not to bring your condition to your mind, but bring your mind to your condition. The way for a Christian to be contented, is not by raising his estate higher, but by bringing his spirit lower; not by making his barns wider, but his heart narrower. One man, a whole lordship or manor will not content; another is satisfied with a few acres of land; what is the difference? The one studies to satisfy curiosity, the other necessity; the one thinks what he may have, the other what he may spare.
Rule 12. Study the vanity of the creature. It matters not whether we have less or more of these things, they have vanity written upon the frontispiece of them; the world is like a shadow that declineth; it is delightful, but deceitful; it promiseth more than we find, and it fails us when we have most need of it. All the world rings changes, and is constant only in its disappointments: what then, if we have less of that which is at best but voluble and fluid? The world is as full of mutation as motion; and what if God cut us short in sublunaries? The more a man hath to do with the world, the more he hath to do with vanity. The world may be compared to ice, which is smooth, but slippery; or to the Egyptian temples, without very beautiful and sumptuous, but within nothing to be seen but the image of an ape; every creature saith concerning satisfaction, it is not in me. The world is not a filling, but a flying comfort. It is like a game at tennis; providence bandies her golden balls, first to one, then to another. Why are we discontented at the loss of these things, but because we expect that from them which is not, and repose that in them which we ought not? “Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” (Jon. 4. 6) What a vanity was it? Is it much to see a withering gourd smitten? Or to see the moon dressing itself in a new shape and figure?
Rule 13. Get fancy regulated. It is the fancy which raiseth the price of things above their real worth. What is the reason one tulip is worth five pounds, another perhaps not worth one shilling? Fancy raiseth the price; the difference is rather imaginary than real; so, why it should be better to have thousands than hundreds, is, because men fancy it so; if we could fancy a lower condition better, as having less care in it, and less account, it would be far more eligible. The water that springs out of the rock, drinks as sweet as if it came out a golden chalice; things are as we fancy them. Ever since the fall, the fancy is distempered; God saw that the imagination of the thoughts of his heart were evil. (Ge. 6. 5) Fancy looks through wrong spectacles; pray that God will sanctify your fancy; a lower condition would content, if the mind and fancy were set right. Diogenes preferred his cynical life before Alexander’s royalty: he fancied his little cloister best. Fabricius a poor man, yet despised the gold of king Pyrrhus. Could we cure a distempered fancy, we might soon conquer a discontented heart.
Rule 14. Consider how little will suffice nature. The body is but a small continent, and is easily recruited. Christ hath taught us to pray for our daily bread; nature is content with a little. Not to thirst, not to starve, is enough, saith Gregory Nazianzen; meat and drink are a Christian’s riches, saith St Jerome; and the apostle saith, “having food and raiment let us be content.” The stomach is sooner filled than the eye; how quickly would a man be content, if he would study rather to satisfy his hunger than his humour.