Monday 19 December 2011

Thomas Watson on Contentment

Thomas Watson (Wiki Commons)
Thomas Watson (1620-1686) is known as one of the great Puritan Preachers. He was educated at Emmanuel College in Cambridge and began his first pastorate in 1646 at St Stephen's Walbrook. Charles Spurgeon said of him: "Watson was one of the most concise, racy, illustrative, and suggestive of those eminent divines who made the Puritan age the Augustan period of evangelical literature".

In his book 'The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11' Thomas Watson explores true contentment and how we understand the circumstances of this life in view of the next life. How do we measure the things of this earth, our temporary home, in light of our true and ultimate home?

Paul said to the Philippians in the context of his comments to a church with its share of internal problems, that we are to be content (Phil 4:1-23). Thomas Watson's book is based on Philippians 4:11 - "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content"  (Philippians 4:11). I share this inspirational quote that offers an insight into the place of the conditions of life in the overall sweep of God's purposes for us.

God sees, in his infinite wisdom, the same condition is not convenient for all; that which is good for one, may be bad for another; one season of weather will not serve all men’s occasions, one needs sunshine, another rain; one condition of life will not fit every man, no more than one suit of apparel will fit every body; prosperity is not fit for all, nor yet adversity. If one man be brought low, perhaps he can bear it better; he hath a greater stock of grace, more faith and patience; he can “gather grapes of thorns”, pick some comfort out of the cross: every one cannot do this. Another man is seated in an eminent place of dignity; he is fitter for it; perhaps it is a place that requires more parts of judgment, which every one is not capable of; perhaps he can use his estate better, he hath a public heart as well as a public place. The wise God sees that condition to be bad for one, which is good for another; hence it is he placeth men in different orbs and spheres; some higher, some lower. One man desires health, God sees sickness is better for him; God will work health out of sickness, by bringing the body of death, into a consumption. Another man desires liberty, God sees restraint better for him; he will work his liberty by restraint; when his feet are bound, his heart shall be most enlarged. Did we believe this, it would give a check to the sinful disputes and cavils of our hearts: shall I be discontented at that which is enacted by a decree, and ordered by a providence? Is this to be a child or a rebel?

Contentment is not to be found in the circumstances of life, but rather in the purposes for which our God uses them. For "...we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8: 28)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

You can find 'The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11' in varied forms on the Web. These range from versions to be read online, copies to buy and a number of free versions. You can find some of them HERE.

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