In my last post, I began to paint a picture of contentment in Christ in all circumstances. I told some stories from Christian history that illustrate this Truth.
My goal in doing so is to lay a foundation of Truth before giving practicals. Unless we believe that contentment in Christ is possible for us, we will get nowhere and accomplish nothing.
I Shall Not Want
The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.
Most of us know those words. Like Philippians 4:13, we memorize them as children, but do we really believe them?
In other Bible translations I shall not want has been translated in different ways. I lack nothing, I will not be in need, I have what I need, and I have all I need. All of these express complete contentment.
If David lacks nothing, that means that nothing can add to his satisfaction. He doesn’t say, “If you make me successful I will lack nothing.” He already has all he needs.
Maybe David wrote this because he was prosperous? Because he really did lack nothing?
If we read the rest of Psalm 23, the entire focus is on his Shepherd. Not on his success.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod, and your staff– they comfort me.
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Even in the presence of my enemies. David’s contentment in his Shepherd isn’t based on pleasant circumstances. It is found in the Shepherd.
This is good news for us because Jesus is our Good Shepherd. (John 10) He is the One who Psalm 23 foretold.
We can only declare I shall not want if we know the Lord as the Shepherd of our souls. Our Provider, Protector, and Guide.
If my contentment is found in my Good Shepherd, it doesn’t matter where He leads me. Whether my path lies through green pastures and by still waters or in the valley of the shadow of death and in the presence of enemies, I will lack nothing.
It isn’t a matter of feeling— it’s a fact. I lack nothing. There is nothing that the Lord has not given me that would be a good thing for me. Everything He has given or withheld is a good gift of His mercy. I am not given the job of asking if this is true. I simply need to believe it and align myself with Truth.
You have a choice— what will you believe? The Word of God, or Satan who declares that God is holding out on you? That was the lie the serpent in the garden spoke to Eve— God is withholding something from you. Your life would be better if you only ate this fruit. Discontentment with our lot in life is rebellion against the God who does all things well. (Mark 7:37)
Now that we have established the foundation for contentment. I want to share a couple practical applications.
In my own pursuit of contentment in Christ, I have noticed that there are things that aid me in that pursuit and things that distract me from it. In Hebrews 12:2, we are commanded to lay aside every sin and weight which hinders us from running with endurance– weights, not just sin.
Social media was one of my distractions, my weights. For this reason, I deleted it several years ago. It fed discontentment and dissatisfaction in my heart. I desired, as Jim Elliot said to be “all there”, wherever the Lord had me. That was already difficult. But add the daily, often hourly or more, reminder via social media of what everyone else had that I did not. My friends would post about their friends, significant other, church life, etc., all these things that I desired but did not feel like I had. This caused me to long for what they had instead of helping me learn to rejoice in where the Lord had me and what He had given me.
I fell into the comparison trap. I constantly measured my life against others. I began to see my world and my life through social media, thinking about what pictures I could take, stories I could post, and how I could live in a way that would be marketable. That’s not the way to contentment. Life isn’t marketable. Faithfulness to the Lord is quieter than we’d like to admit. And obedience is often misunderstood, even by those who know us best.
I know there are many Christians on social media who strive to use it for God’s glory. There are many ministries I appreciate. While I have considered joining social media again for the practical benefits—especially for blogging—I still see the same dangers and pitfalls that I faced then.
Whatever you turn to for satisfaction and fulfillment outside of Christ is a distraction even if it is something good. I can’t tell you what that is for you, but the Lord knows. He desires you to find satisfaction in Him. Allow Him to expose those things that are hindering your relationship with Him. You must be willing to lay them down. If you cling to something that the Lord has led you to give up, that will hinder your relationship with Him. Obedience is the way to a thriving relationship with Jesus.
What if it doesn’t work? You have tried to turn to Jesus rather than other things, but it isn’t working. You still feel discontent and dissatisfied and empty.
Keep seeking. Don’t give up.
Often the most challenging point is right before the breakthrough comes. The enemy will do all he can to convince you that it doesn’t work, that Jesus doesn’t want a relationship with you, that it will always be like this. But it won’t.
How do I know this? Well, for one, I have experienced it personally. But I am confident that it will work for you too. Why? Because the Word of God tells us so.
- He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
- He promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him. (James 4:8)
- He promises that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)
I love what Hudson Taylor writes about this.
Not come and take a hasty draught; not, come slightly alleviate, or for a short time remove one’s thirst. No! Drink, or be drinking constantly, habitually. The cause of thirst may be without a remedy. One coming may refresh and comfort: but we are to be ever coming, ever drinking. No fear of emptying the fountain or exhausting the river! … No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul yearnings- Jesus can meet all, all.
These weren’t untried words. Hudson Taylor wrote this after the loss of his son and then his dear wife. The story of how he walked through loss and grief is powerful.
“Shall never thirst”— would it, could it, prove true now? “To know that ‘shall’ means shall, that ‘never’ means never, and that ‘thirst’ means any unsatisfied need,”…it was in these days of utter desolation that the promise was made so real to his breaking heart…
Twenty times a day, perhaps, as I felt the heart-thirst coming back, I cried to Him, “Lord, you promised! You promised me that I should never thirst.” And whether I called by day or by night, how quickly He came and satisfied my sorrowing heart.
If Hudson Taylor was content in christ in his circumstances, we can be too. The same God that satisfied him will satisfy us. But we must come. As Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b)
I’ll close with a verse from one of my favorite hymns, Jesus, I am Resting, Resting.
Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart,
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings,
Thine is love indeed.