At the beginning of this year I set, as one of my goals, to read several books in my library by W.S. Plumer. I had purchased them some time ago, but with such a choice of books to read, and a limited number of hours in a day, I had not gotten to these. That was my loss. I frankly did not realize what a treasure I possessed sitting on my shelves! He writes in such practical terms. Currently I have been reading his work, Vital Godliness: A Treatise on Experimental and Practical Piety. He touches on the great aspects on the practical aspects of the Christian’s life of faith and walk with God. His chapter on ‘Contentment’ is full of sage advice and is no less practical today than when it was penned in the 1800’s. Consider these excerpts:
On the topic of what contentment is.
It is a disposition of mind in which we rest satisfied in the will of God respecting our temporal affairs, without hard thoughts or hard speeches concerning his allotments, and without any sinful desire for a change. It submissively receives what is given. It thankfully enjoys present mercies. It leaves the future in the hand of an unerring wisdom. Nor is there any thing in true contentment to make men satisfied with the world as a portion or as a permanent abode.
Contentment is also the opposite of pride. “Humility is the mother of contentment.” “They that deserve nothing should be content with any thing.” When we become lifted up with pride, and think we deserve something good at God’s hands, it is impossible to satisfy us. But with the lowly is wisdom, quietness, gentleness, contentment. He who expects nothing, because he deserves nothing, is sure to be satisfied with the treatment he receives at God’s hands.
Some practical advice on how to grow in contentment.
Contentment is a most reasonable duty. It is best that your will should not control your affairs. Your health, ease, success, wealth reputation, and enjoyment deeply concern you; but are you fit to direct respecting them? If God should give you your way, how much would satisfy you? Would not your desires soon be drowned in cares and crimes and sorrows? Is it best for you to have uninterrupted health? Without some bodily pain, you might forget that you were mortal.
But God is fit to govern you and all things. He knows what is best for you, how much you can bear, and when a smile or a stroke will do you most good. His grace is great, and so are his truth, and power, and wisdom. If he shall direct, all thing will go right. He is never deceived nor outwitted. He is gentle and kind. “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” His will is holy, just, and good. He keepeth mercy for thousands. His faithfulness is unto all generations. You should be glad that Jehovah governs the universe, that he governs you. If wise, thou wilt, “trust in the Lord and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed;” for he hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” What a promise! What a promise!
Learn in whatsoever state you are, therewith to be content. “You are a borrower, not the owner of created comfort.” Suppress the first risings of ambition, covetousness, self-will, restlessness, and the spirit of murmuring. Rest quietly in God. The future will bring a full explanation of the present. Treasure up in your heart the blessed promises of God. Incessantly ask the Lord to increase your faith. Diligently perform all known duties, especially relative duties. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Say not, God hath forgotten, or is as a stranger that tarrieth for a night. Resist all unworthy thoughts of your Saviour and heavenly Father. Stand in your lot, and leave the results with him who governs all things after the counsel of his own will. So shall you walk safely, and light shall be your burden, and soon the Almighty shall call you to himself, and “the days of thy mourning shall be ended.” But till that day of joy shall come, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, remembering that “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” It was one of the greatest attainments ever made, when Paul was able to say, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
It is always good to examine our hearts for these Christian graces. These thoughts by W.S. Plumer are a good start to consider whether we are growing in this most needed grace of contentment.