The Bible View #809 — Contentment

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In This Issue:
It’s Not Natural
We Can be Content
Be Content
The Two Chimneys
Blind, but Content
Paul’s Advice to Christians

Volume: 809    May 10, 2021
Theme: Contentment

It’s Not Natural
Morning and Evening, Spurgeon (Edited)

“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11

The words in Philippians 4:11 show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of man. Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil.

We need not sow thistles and brambles.  They come up naturally enough because they are indigenous to earth, and so we need not teach men to complain.  They find fault fast enough without any education.

The precious things of the earth, however, must be cultivated. If we would have wheat, we must plow and sow it.  If we want flowers, there must be a garden and all the gardener’s care.

Contentment is one of the flowers of Heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated.  It will not grow in us naturally.   The new nature (II Cor. 5:17) can produce it.  Even then, we must be especially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace which God has sown in us.

Paul says, “I have learned… to be content” as much as to say, he did not know how at one time. It cost him some pains to attain the mystery of that great truth. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned and then broke down.  When at last he had acquired it and could say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content,” he was an old, grey-headed man, close to the borders of the grave — a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome.

We might be willing to endure Paul’s infirmities and share the cold dungeon with him if we, too, might by any means attain his good degree. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with learning or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually. We know this from experience. Brother, hush that murmuring, natural though it be, and continue to be a diligent pupil in the College of Content.

We Can be Content
Watson, 1696 (Edited)

If we should put some men in a job that they are not skilled in, how unfit would they be?  Put a farmer to drawing pictures, and what strange work would he produce?  Usually, he would be out of his expertise.

Take an artist that is exact in his use of colors and put him to the plow or set him to planting and grafting trees, and he most likely would not do it properly.  It was not his skill and would not be done right.

Bid a worldly man to live by faith and to be content will be expecting him to do something he has no skill in.   He will not excel.

To live contented upon God’s provision and promises is a way of living which “… flesh and blood hath not revealed it…”  (Mat. 16:17).    However, many of God’s children who have learned to trust Him are content in the state they are allowed to be in (Phil. 4:11).  They are pleased with what God has provided or allowed them to experience.  Their training and history with God’s help have taught them to be satisfied in the faithful hands of their Master.

“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  I Timothy 6:8

Be Content
Watson, 1696

The best way to be contented is to believe that the condition is best which God carved out for you. If God had seen it fit for us to have more, we would have had it.  His wisdom chooses the best for us.

Perhaps we could not manage great wealth.  Having all this world can offer includes great temptations that could be our demise. What many see as the answer to their woes can bring great loss and unhappiness.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11

“Enough is an abundance to the wise.

The Two Chimneys

Two chimneys stood near each other on separate houses.   One was high and therefore very conspicuous.  The other short, just jutting above the roof.

“What a contemptible structure you are,” said the tall one, looking down disdainfully on his neighbor, the short chimney.

“I know,” said the short smokestack.  “I am but a very humble thing.”

“You need to look up very high to see my top,” boasted the tall chimney.

“Yes,” said the shorter one.

“Why, you are hardly worth the name of a chimney at all,” remarked the other.  “You are so short!”

“I don’t pretend to be greater than I am, though I am just as high as I ought to be for my purpose,” replied the little chimney.

“As high as you ought to be? Well, that is funny.  Why you are little better than a mere hole in the roof,” said the tall one with a loud laugh.

“It isn’t becoming that all chimneys should be of one height,” said the little one modestly.  “It is fitting that some should be high, like you, and some low down, like me.  Our duties are the same.   We are pretty much equal for our use, whether tall or short.”

The morning light showed the short chimney smoking as usual. Where was the tall one? Alas!  A storm that had come suddenly during the night swept it from its lofty place because it was so exposed.   It lay now only a heap of bricks on the ground.

“How thankful I am,” said the little chimney, “that I was so low.  Had I been high, like my poor neighbor, I might, and no doubt would have shared his unhappy fate.” The little chimney was content and grateful he was what he was made.
“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Prov. 16:18

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  Hebrews 13:5

Blind, but Content
Bill Brinkworth

Because of poor medical treatment, Fanny Crosby lost her sight at a very young age. Although the life-altering blindness changed her life, the writer of over 9,000 hymns accepted her condition and did not let it dominate her life.  Even at eight years old, her content attitude was evident in a short poem she wrote:

Oh, what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world,
Contented, I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t,
To weep and sigh because I’m blind
I cannot, and I won’t!

When someone asked William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army,  his great secret to happiness, he replied, “I never said ‘no’ to the Lord.”

Paul’s Advice to Christians
Bill Brinkworth

In closing his letter to the Hebrew Christians, Paul left them with seven pieces of advice dealing with a Christian’s social duties. They were:

  • To love other Christians (Hebrews 13:1).
  • To be nice to strangers, especially because we do not know that when we do, we may be entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:1). This informs a Bible reader that angels are real and that we may contact them more often than realized. Because we may entertain them “unawares,” the art depicting them with wings and halos is not accurate. If they had those features, we could distinguish them from other people. However, if they looked like normal men, we would never know if we had communicated with them. You may even come in contact with an angel today!
  • To be concerned about the difficulties others are going through as if they were your trials (Hebrews 13:3).
  • To remember, marriage is the “honourable” thing, whereas adultery and fornication (sexual relations without being married) are not (Hebrews 13:4).
  • To be content with what you have and not to covet the things of others (Hebrews 13:5).
  • To be respectful and obey those with leadership responsibilities over you in your church (Hebrews 13:7, 17). It is the preachers, teachers, and other church leaders who God uses to minister to us. They have to answer to God for how they lead those under them. The least we can do is obey their leadership.
  • To not fall for false doctrine (Hebrews 13:9). Study the Scriptures and evaluate if what you are hearing is taught in the Word of God. If it is not, stay with what the Word of God teaches!

Paul felt this advice would benefit the early Christians if they would heed his counsel. Over two thousand years later, it is still excellent advice for one to follow.

The Bible View #806 — Christian Living

In This Issue:
The Flesh Is Alive and Kicking
Other Verses about Our Flesh’s Weakness
A Blessing or A Curse
Stand Up And Tell Them

Volume: 806    April 19, 2021
Theme: Christian Living

The Flesh Is Alive And Kicking
Bill Brinkworth

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.  20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:15-20

On one early winter day, I cut down many small trees and brush hoping to build a new garden there in the future. My friend and I stacked them in a large pile to burn later.

Three months later, I burned that well-dried pile of brush and trees. As I was feeding the “dead” cut limbs into the fire, I noticed something very unusual.  Most of the old foliage, except the pines, had sprouted buds, and in some cases, little wisps of green leaves were showing.  I thought they were dead even before they were cut down, but there was still life in those old limbs. The plants must have been feeding off stored sugars in their branches, even though they were long severed from their roots.

This curiosity reminds me of the dilemma that most Christians battle their entire life. They may have accepted Christ as their Saviour and even repented of most of their sins, but every once in a while, their old sinful habits, thoughts, and actions rear their ugly heads.

We may be saved from the wages of our sins and are forgiven by our Creator, but we still have the same flesh with which we were born. Our flesh still would like to sin. If we do not keep a tight rein on it, it will certainly take back its control and do what it wants, rather than what the indwelling Spirit of God desires us to do.

It is a battle that we all face. When we least expect it, our old life can pop up and try to grow.  That is why those saved and serving God for a long time can fall as quickly as those saved for a shorter time. If sin creeps in, anyone can fall.  Temptation or sin allows the old ways to attempt to flourish in our lives again.  The “old man” (Rom. 6:6) in us will come back to life if we let him.

With God’s help, we can avoid many temptations by obeying His commandments, having a regular prayer life, and feeding daily on the Word of God.  It is possible to limit the damage done by our old sinful nature. Being stronger spiritually is the only way to keep one of our main enemies, our flesh, under subjection.

We can be victorious in living the way the Lord desires. He would not command us to do something that is not possible. Our old, sinful nature does not have to be fed. Make the right spiritual decisions.  Do not give in to the flesh’s desires. Be obedient to the Spirit’s calling, not the flesh’s weaknesses.
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Mat. 26:41

“If you were perfect, your first name would be Jesus, and you would have holes in your hands!

Other Verses about Our Flesh’s Weakness
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. 44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. 45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” Mat. 12:43-45
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” Mat. 15:19
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Rom. 7:18
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” Philippians 3:3

A Blessing Or A Curse?
Bill Brinkworth

In Deuteronomy, Moses reiterated to Israel some of what God had shown and done for them. He also made it clear to them that as God was with them in the past, He could be with them in their future.  Although the proper context of the following verses was to Israel, there is certainly application to those that are saved (Romans 10:9, John 3:3) today.
“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.” Deuteronomy 11:26-28

Christians, as well as the people of Moses’ day, can receive a blessing from God. If one hears the commandments of God, be it from the reading of His Word or hearing it, and obeys what one hears, one can have God’s blessing on one’s life.

The choice is up to us what we do with God’s message. Do we get convicted about something as we read the Bible, or get that gnawing guilty feeling when we are reminded of our sin?  Do we obey the Holy Spirit’s reminder to our conscience as a warning from Him and do our best to change our behavior to what is pleasing to our heavenly Father, or do we ignore it? Obeying conviction and doing our best to live a life approved by God is the way to get His blessing on our life.  There may still be trials and difficulties in our lives, but one living for Him can have God’s blessing, protection, and guidance on one’s life.

Unfortunately, too many hear the commandments from God and make wrong choices not to obey what they have been told to do. Excuses for not heeding the Holy Spirit’s tugging on our hearts can creep in and justify our not following what we are told.

It is easy to be convicted of our lying lips, but quickly write it off to, “Well, I had to lie, or I would have gotten in trouble.” A temptation to justify not going to church because of work or “being too tired from a week’s work” hardens one’s conscience, so it is easier to ignore what God’s Word instructs us to do.  Refusing to tithe because “I hardly have enough to live on, let alone give to the cause of Christ” is one more act of disobedience that can bring God’s curse on your life or even His not helping and protecting you.

All Christians have similar opportunities to obey or disobey the still, quiet, convicting voice of God. The difference between a flourishing, growing Christian and a stagnant, disobedient Christian is that the one growing is the one that said “Yes” to what they were convicted of and did their best to obey.  The one that may be “cursed” or have God’s helping and guiding hand removed from his life may be the one that ignored what he was told or shown to do by the convicting Holy Spirit.

Are you receiving the blessing of God on your life because of your obedience, or are you suffering because God’s hand is not guiding and helping you in your life? The choice is up to you.  Whom do you choose to obey: God or your own will?

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Stand Up and Tell Them
Bill Brinkworth

Continuing from Acts 6, it is read in Acts 7 that religious Jews and their leaders persecuted Stephen. He turned their time of questioning him into an opportunity to preach to them.

He started by preaching a condensed history of the Jews. I am sure all who were listening agreed with him as Stephen gave a synopsis of their Jewish past, starting with Abraham. Heads may have been nodding as he progressed through the experiences of Joseph, Moses, and David. All must have agreed as he spoke of David and Solomon.

Then Stephen’s history lesson ceased, and he got to the reason for his reviewing the great prophets and leaders of the Jews. Stephen reminded them that the Jews had persecuted all the past prophets (Acts 7:51-52) and, because of their hardened hearts, were not even obeying the law they were given. I can imagine for a brief minute, heads stopped nodding, and a silence came over the crowd.

After that brief, silent second, anger burst out of every person in the room. “Who does Stephen think he is accusing us of being disobedient to the law?” certainly had to be the majority attitude. Shouting ensued. Hands went over their ears in a vain attempt to keep them from hearing any more of Stephen’s accusations.

The mob grabbed Stephen and took him outside the city, and stoned him to death. As their anger at the preacher caused them to hurl rocks at the man, they saw a scene they did not expect. They saw Stephen kneel, ask the Lord not to lay this sin to the murderers’ charges, and saw the man fall asleep peacefully!

Knowing what he said would anger and certainly would rile this crowd, Stephen selflessly preached the truth, no matter what their reaction and the cost to him. Stephen knew what they had done to Jesus for preaching the truth. He most likely knew how they would react to what he was telling them, but he spoke the truth no matter what.

If we had more preachers like Stephen today that would be more interested in telling the truth, no matter the reaction, our churches would be much different. The country would not be the same.

If we had more Christians that would also adopt a similar attitude and would say what needs to be said, rather than what is safe to say, Christianity would certainly have more influence in this world than it has. The truth can set a world free from the bondage of sin and godlessness.

The Bible View #801 — Temptation
In This Issue:

Have You Been Seduced?
Vexed by Ungodliness
Keeping A Distance from Temptations

Volume: 801    March 15, 2021
Theme: Temptation

Have You Been Seduced?
Bill Brinkworth

Many of the problems early churches faced are very much a concern today. Those ministries had to deal with many that departed from the faith and followed “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (Timothy 4:1). Being this is the “latter times” Paul spoke of, this problem is very real today.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” I Timothy 4:1

People, then and now claim to be Christians. They may be; they may not be. At first, many make a profession of salvation and start doing something for the Lord. Too often it is not long, before they are nowhere to be found.

Why did they wander away from trying to live for the Lord? They may not have been saved and were only going through “religious” motions. If they were truly saved, they are still children of God, but they may have been “seduced” by demonic spirits.

Perhaps those spirits caused their feelings to be hurt or offended their pride. People may have faced an overwhelming temptation and succumbed to it. There are thousands of ways a person can be trapped into running in the opposite direction of obeying God.

Satan and his devils cannot get anyone unsaved. Still, they certainly can make sure one’s testimony is so destroyed that they are of little use for the cause of Christ. That is one of Satan’s goals, and unfortunately millions have succumbed to his trickery.

None of the reasons a saved person gives for not serving the Lord are legitimate. Nowhere in the Bible is there any reason one should stop living for and obeying God’s commandments. All rationales for not doing what a Christian should are not of God!

“Well, you don’t understand. So-and-so in church said mean things to me, so I’ll not go anymore.” You have been seduced, and a non-holy spirit knew where your weak point was.

“That preacher just doesn’t feed me anymore, so I’m out of there!” You have been seduced, and the wrong spirits are giggling because they “got another one.”

“I’m not reading my Bible anymore. I just don’t get anything out of it.” A deceiving spirit has seduced you.

“If I live like a Christian, everyone will laugh at me.” You have been seduced.

As Ephesians 6 reminds us, there is a spiritual war going on. Satan and his devils try their hardest to seek one “whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Be wary in the raging spiritual battle and purpose to always do the will of God — no matter the temptations.

Vexed by Ungodliness
Bill Brinkworth

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13

When given a choice by his Uncle Abraham, Lot chose the choicest of lands to raise his cattle and family (Gen. 13:8-11).  He left Abraham (named Abram at the time) the less appealing land and kept the “best” real estate for himself.

Lot’s selfish pick may have appeared to be the best choice. There was, however, one important matter the nephew did not consider when picking where he would live.  He did not contemplate what his soon-to-be neighbors would be like.  The places he lived near were the twin cities: Sodom and Gomorrah.  Those cities were known for their rampant sin, particularly homosexuality.  It was there that the righteous man, Lot, chose to live.

It was not long before he was involved in the city’s government (Gen. 19:1, 9).  He was not only living among wickedness, but he was involved in the choices made to help the community be managed. Shortly, his constant exposure to godlessness and sin affected Lot. The Bible says that he was “… vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked… in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;” (II Peter 2:7-8). The part of Lot that wanted to live and please the Lord was “irritated, harassed, teased, and disturbed” by the lifestyle he allowed himself and his family to be exposed.

As a Christian, we usually cannot live on top of a mountain, away from the world and all sin.  Most of the time, we have to live around iniquity. It is seen in the workplace, heard on the television, and we can be exposed to its consequences and involvement wherever we go. 

However, if we are not wary of it and do all we can to limit our exposure to iniquity, we too will be “vexed” by sin.  It will wear on us, and if we are not careful, evilness will be commonplace to us.  Seeing or hearing sin will not bother us like it did previously. The spiritual part of us will be desensitized to sin’s evilness.  If we are not careful, we will be involved in it and think it is normal because “everyone is doing it.”

Despite what the unsaved world is doing, sin is and always will be wrong.  The only protection from being desensitized or involved in it is to do one’s best to avoid it.  If you are vexed (troubled or bothered) by filthy language on television, there may be some channels you should never watch again, or you may have to stop watching the “hellevision” altogether. 

Filthy words creeping into your language? Maybe there are some influencing foul-mouths you should no longer listen to or associate. Seeing things your eyes should not be seeing on the Internet? Limit where you browse, or maybe you will have to stay off the Internet. Dirty images you have already viewed plaguing your thought-life? Avoid further looks and recite Scripture verses, particularly about what you are thinking.  It is difficult to have the clean Word of God and filthiness in your thought-life at the same time. The sinful thoughts will flee!

The key to keeping a holy, unsoiled life and testimony for the Lord is to separate (II Cor. 6:17) from the world’s ungodliness.  It is possible to remain undefiled in this ever-increasing, sinful world. If we purpose in our hearts to not be defiled by ungodliness in this world, the Lord will do His part to help us.  He will give the believer “a way to escape” sin’s vexing grasp if the believer desires it!

If you can get along with the world, then you are out of step with God!” — Dr. Harold Sightler

Keeping A Distance from Temptations
Bill Brinkworth

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” Psalm 101:2

Successful people often reveal how they got so many achievements and victories.  David did that in Psalm 101.  He accomplished what he did, not only because of his wealth and powerful position.  David attained so much because he behaved himself “wisely in a perfect way” (Psalm 101:2).

In this Scripture, “perfect” was not referring to sinlessness.  “Perfect” in this context means “moral, upright, sincere, undefiled.” Although he fell spiritually several times, the leader of Israel tried his best to live the way that was pleasing to the Lord.

David revealed several ways he kept from spiritually falling even more than he did.

  • He protected his eyes from seeing the wrong things (Psalm 101:3).  Israel’s leader may not have had the amount of pornographic temptations that awaits to snag wandering eyes today. Still, he had to divert his vision not to see things that would also lure him into sin.  If David had a television in his day, there would have been many programs he would not have watched.
    “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:…” (Psalm 101:3)
  • He avoided those that were lazy and did not work (Psalm 101:3).
     “… I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” Psalm 101:3
  • He would not allow himself to be self-willed and unreasonable (“froward”) —  Psalm 101:4.
  • He avoided those doing wickedness (Psalm 101:4).
  • He kept from those that talked ill of other people (Psalm 101:5).
  • He kept from those that were prideful (Psalm 101:5).
  • He surrounded himself with others that also worked or tried to live the “perfect way.” (Psalm 101:6)
  • He kept his distance from deceivers (Psalm 101:7).
  • He avoided liars (Psalm 101:7).
  • He did all he could to stomp out wickedness in the lands he controlled (Psalm 101:8).

Although this Psalm was written over 3,000 years ago, every behavior that David did to protect himself from falling into sin would help people today.  Temptations surround every single one of us. We will also be inclined to sin if we do not separate ourselves from those destroyers of our testimony and joy.  Avoid wrong influences, or you too will succumb to sinful behaviors and evil temptations.

The reason the world is not seeing Jesus is that Christian people are not filled with Jesus.  They are satisfied with attending meetings weekly, reading the Bible occasionally, and praying sometimes.  It is an awful thing to see people who profess to be Christian who are lifeless, powerless, and in a place where their lives are so parallel to unbelievers lives it is difficult to tell which place they are in, whether in the flesh or the Spirit.” — Smith Wigglesworth