Contentment in God
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.(Romans 5:1)
Those who know God have great contentment in God.
There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death, and on forever.
This is the peace whose substance he analyzes in full in Romans 8, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…..The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs….We know that for those who love God all things work together for good….And those whom he justified he also glorified….If God is for us, who can be against us?…..Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies….Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?….For I am sure that neither death nor life…nor things present nor things to come…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”( Romans 8: 1,16-17,28,30-31,33,35,38-39)
This is the peace which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew; hence the calm content with which they stood their ground in the face of Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimatum. Their reply is classic: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.[No panic!] If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. [Courteous, but unanswerable- they knew their God!] But if not [if no deliverance comes], be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
Live or die, they are content. The comprehensiveness of our commitment is another measure whereby we may judge whether we really know God.
Few if any of us will ever be faced with a fiery furnace and a demand to bow or burn, but daily we are faced with choosing our faith or conforming to the world. Satan sees to it that life brings contests between our faith and adversity. How we respond is to a great measure what our relationship with God is. It is not that we can know the outcome of our decisions. Perhaps if we could know fully the full impact of a decision and the resulting outcome, our choices would be easier. But we don’t and most often we are faced with making decisions with only partial information.
How do we then make the best decisions and how do we prepare ourselves to choose righteousness over conformity to the world. If every decision were a simple yes or no, right or wrong, or good or bad, it would be easy to choose. It’s those decisions that whatever the outcome, there will be great risks and perhaps loss in some form.
The three Hebrews, facing the fiery furnace, did not know the outcome of their decision: “Our God is able to deliver us…. but if not we will not bow.” This is the crux of the matter. How do we choose to obey God when we have no assurance that things will turn out like we wish them to.
We can learn from the Hebrews how to face the furnace. When we read their story, we find that long before they faced the furnace, they had begun a pattern of choices. They were offered the kings food, food that was part of idol worship. Their friends chose to go along with things, but these three along with Daniel chose to remain true to their faith. There’s no doubt that those other friends said to them, “It’s no big thing, it’s just food and since we are far from home, let’s just fit in with our surroundings.” Its the old adage of when in Rome, do as the Romans. But these four had decided that their relationship with God was the most important piece of their lives and whatever happened, it would remain so. The captain pressured them to eat the food saying to them that when they were presented to the king, they had to appear well nourished and their choice of foods didn’t have the ability to make them so. But they refused to yield even to the pressure to eat the food. Now in comparison to the furnace, this was a small thing. Solomon had something to say to this:
“Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that spoil and ruin the vineyards [of love], While our vineyards are in blossom.”
Song of Solomon 2:15
The big foxes could eat the grapes from the vines, but the little ones had to tear down the vines in order to get to the grapes. It is always the small things, the small sins, the yielding in small things that tear away at our peace. So the Hebrews chose to reject the temptation of conformity to the world while it was small. They could do so because their trust in God and their relationship with God was their most important thing. It is only out of our trust and relationship that we find the peace to choose to live the way of righteousness. We are pressured constantly to give up ground, to do as others do, to comply and if we do do in the small things, we will certainly do so in the larger things. Most of those who become castaways do not become so with a great sin. It is usually a compilation of small sins that draw their hearts away.
Paul tells us that the secret in life is to be content in whatever state of being that God has placed us in. It is in this place of trust that Satan loses his power to tempt us. What could be offered to someone who wants nothing other than what they already have and what can be taken from someone who has already given up everything? The Hebrews had already committed themselves to God. They had already given their lives to Him. They were content with where He had placed them and what He had provided them so when faced with the possibility of losing it all, they knew that what they gained far exceeded any loss including the loss of their lives.
Jesus said this:
“Jesus called the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me]. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God]. 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul and eternal life [in God’s kingdom]?”
The apostle Paul responds to this by saying:
“But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
May God grant to every believer the contentment of those who find that Christ is enough and the place of having the “peace that passes all understanding.” May Christ truly become all we need for we know in Him we have all that completes us.
Dr. John Thompson