Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find

Why True Happiness is so Hard to Find
George Hutcheson (1615-1674) ministered in Ayrshire and Edinburgh and was a noted bible expositor. Like many other ministers he was removed from his congregation in 1662 for refusing to conform to the rule of bishops.
1 Jun, 2019

Happiness research and the science of happiness has apparent growing influence. Behavioral scientist Paul Dolan hit the headlines with controversial pronouncements on whether family and happiness go together. He defines and measures happiness in terms of “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time”. He says this is “the final arbiter of the rightness of what you do” not “moral judgements based on ill-conceived ideas about what is right and wrong”. It’s no great surprise since in a fallen world feeling good is frequently divorced from doing good. Temptation seeks to maximise “the pleasures of sin” which last only for “a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But true happiness is both objective and moral because it is God-centred. This is what makes it so hard to find; we look for it in the wrong place and in the wrong way.

Everyone seeks happiness. But true and objective happiness can only be found in God not subjective pleasure divorced from God. Our purpose is to glorify God in all things and He is also to be our highest enjoyment. Older writers thought a lot about this subject. Thomas Watson says, “It is not every good that makes man blessed, but it must be the supreme good, and that is God”. William Ames also sums up the objective and moral nature of happiness particularly well. “What chiefly and finally ought to be striven for is not happiness which has to do with our own pleasure, but goodness which looks to God’s glory”.

This is obvious when we consider the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 He pronounces many conditions to be happy which are not connected with the sort of pleasure and purpose most people seek. Those 8 rules of happiness go entirely against the grain. In John 13:15-17 Christ is explaining the example He has given in washing the disciples feet. He teaches them about true humility and love in serving one another. The very succinct promise contained in John 13:17 makes obedience fundamental to true happiness. He makes it clear that He is not content with a bare speculative knowledge about humble obedience.  We must “know these things” or be sufficiently informed of our duty in relation to them. But we are only blessed and “happy” if we “do them”. True happiness is hard to find because we look for it in the wrong way. Humbling ourselves and putting what we know into practice is hard. George Hutcheson draws out the implications of John 13:17 in the following updated extract.

 

1. Ignorance is Not Bliss

Christ does not approve of blind ignorance in His people, whatever their practice or life may be. He requires them to base their practice on sound and solid knowledge of His will.  He requires that they know these things, and then do them. People can remain very slow to understand when much effort has been taken to instill knowledge of our duty. This may be through weakness or carelessness or being influenced by sinful inclination and earthly mindedness.

Christ’s emphasis on “if” you know these things, presupposes that knowledge must go before practice. But it may also imply some doubt as to whether they were capable of understanding this teaching. They were so carried away with earthly dreams of the Messiah’s kingdom that they could not understand clear predictions of His sufferings (Luke 18:31-34). It would be no wonder if their sinful rivalry also hid this teaching (about humility and mutual service) from themselves.

 

2. Knowledge Alone Will Not Lead to Happiness

The Lord does not approves of those who are content with mere knowledge and speculation in matters of religion. It is His will that when we know our duty, we put it into practice. Our practice then proves the sincerity and soundness of our knowledge. If we know these things and do them then we prove that we really do know them (see James 1:22-25).

In particular, the Lord requires the practice of humility. This is the test of whether we are genuine. It is not what mere knowledge we have of this teaching–though it may be appealing to contemplate it. The test is how we put it into practice in particular demanding situations. This is because it is more distasteful and trying to do this compared with merely contemplating the truth. Christ requires that practice follows on from knowledge in this particular matter.

This teaching about humility and mutual accommodation is very comprehensive. It contains many duties in itself which are required in a variety of situations and demanding circumstances.· Therefore Christ speak of what is understood by washing one another’s feet (John 13:14) as things (plural). We must know these things, and do them.

 

3. Obedience and Humility Contain Happiness

Although our obedience and practice deserves nothing, it still contains a blessing in itself. It is the way to such rich blessedness, that it compensate for all loss and disadvantage. This is Christ’s encouragement, we are happy if we do these things.

Although the humble person who accommodates themselves to serve others might seem to lose much in the world by doing so; blessedness makes up any loss. Attaining the practice of humility is blessedness in itself. It hides a person from many storms and much discontentment that sweep others away. It is said that we are happy if we do these things.

 

4. Lack of Obedience Leads to Misery

Proud people are so far from blessedness, that they are under a curse; especially if they know their duty and will not do it. This statement necessarily implies the opposite reality. If you know these things and do not do them, you are not blessed but cursed because it is a sinful omission (see James 4:17; Psalm 119:21).

 

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ turns many of our ideas about happiness upside down. Happiness lies more in seeking to please God and others than in pursuing moments of pleasure for ourselves. There is a simplicity in His teaching; it is not so much hard to grasp as hard to practice. The great challenge to us is whether we are prepared to humble and deny ourselves to follow His counsel.

FURTHER READING

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How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment

How to Overcome Discontentment
Andrew Gray (1633-1653) was a gifted young preacher who died after a ministry of only 27 months in Glasgow. His sermons were marked by deep spiritual experience. It was said of him, "...never in the history of our country did a man of his years make so deep a mark."
26 Apr, 2019

In a sinful world it’s natural to be discontented with the way that things isn’t it? What’s wrong with wanting things to be better and how they ought to be? But discontentment is more often focussed on our personal circumstances and what we think we deserve. People can get a wrong idea of contentment as though it is pretending that things are not as they are. But this isn’t true contentment. Being spiritually content involves a full view of what is worst in our situation but still submitting to God’s will in it. Why? Because we are able to compare present realities with greater realities in the eternal purpose of God for us. Discontentment is far easier than contentment, that’s why we need to be armed against it.

As Andrew Gray notes, the apostle Paul calls contentment in all kinds of circumstances a secret (literally, a mystery) which is not easily attained (Philippians 4:11). Previously we have considered why You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness. We also need to know how to deal with discontentment when it arises and even seek to prevent it from rising.

1. What is Contentment?

The whole of time that has been, is or will yet be is only a single moment in comparison to eternity. What is our life, but a small part of that moment? Why then should someone anxiously complain about spending a part of a moment in enduring the most anxious and sad things that can befall them? What poor advantage is gained by discontentment and sorrow? It only renders a person more miserable. Heavenly-mindedness and contentment live and die together; they are two sweet companions, that always go together and cannot be divided.

Content literally means all-sufficient.  Thus the words may be attractively rendered in this way, “I have learned in every state…to be all-sufficient.  Proverbs 14:14  speaks in a similar way of how a godly man shall be satisfied from himself. There is a well-spring of everlasting consolation within the Christian, which makes them endure every anxious condition. “I have learned”, indicates the difficulty of attaining this mystery of divine contentment. Paul was once ignorant of this but now through the understanding and wisdom of God, he has full knowledge of it. “In every state”, indicates that no condition could put him wrong.

Contentment is a sweet and composed frame of spirit in relation to every anxious condition and circumstance we encounter. This grace and duty of contentment includes a holy delight and sweet serenity and calmness of spirit in every condition, even trials (James 1:2; Romans 5:3). It is clear that the Christian is required to be content (1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5; James 4:7).

2. What Damage Results from Discontentment?

(a) It makes us unfit for spiritual activities

It is impossible for a Christian to praise or pray. Praise requires a composed frame of spirit (Psalm 58:7). In 1 Timothy 2:8 it is said that right prayer should be without wrath, not having any murmurings in the heart. Discontentment cuts off three ingredients of prayer: love, fervency, and faith. A discontented Christian cannot be burning with love but rather jealousy. Neither can a Christian exercise faith, because he has taken up so bad an opinion of God, that he cannot rest his confidence nor hope in Him. When people are poring over their present condition so much, they can be fervent about nothing except that being changed. It is certain, that nothing cuts the neck of prayer so much as discontent.

(b) It makes us open to temptation

Discontentment makes us altogether unable to resist temptations. It is impossible for a Christian to be a put sin to death when discontentment is being exercised. Prevailing sin, pride and all other lusts get great victory over such a person. A Christian may lose more by one hour’s discontentment under trials, than he can regain in many months. It is no wonder that temptations prevail because such a person is off their guard and their strength is gone.

(c) It makes us hardened

Discontentment results in lack of tenderness of spirit. Nothing cuts off spiritual sensitivity so much as discontentment. A discontented Christian does not act from the fear or love of the Almighty–the two great principles of tenderness of spirit. When they examined themselves they will find that anxiety and bitterness of spirit have made their hearts to die as a stone within them.

(d) It makes us undervalue God’s mercies

When a Christian meets with that which contradicts his preferences, he loses his esteem of everything previously bestowed on him. Jacob undervalues what he has in this way (Genesis 42:36). Nothing makes a Christian disrespect the most precious and excellent things of God more than discontent.

 

3. How Can We Overcome Discontentment?

(a) Through self-examination

Discontent comes from not exercising self-examination much. We are to be still and examine ourselves (Psalm 4:4). It is the best way to get submission and contentment in any condition. Self-examination has great influence on contentment because it considers accurately our own imperfections. Instead of complaining, we ask why should we complain (Lamentations 3:39)? Self-examination helps us understand the intention behind chastisement and its benefit. It helps us to submit patiently and adore the unsearchable wisdom of God towards us rather than fret against it (Proverbs 19:3).

(b) Through resolve

If we are resolved to bear and submit to any and every trial it has great benefit. When we are chastened we bless God because it is not worse with us. Afflictions often take us by surprise and so we faint in the day of adversity and prove our strength to be small (Proverbs 24:10).

(c) Through heavenly-mindedness

Paul had courage and constancy in affliction because he looked to the things that are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16 compared with verse 18). Drown the thoughts of your present misery in those precious depths of eternity. Behold so much in heaven that it might infinitely console and make up for all your losses here.

(d) Through looking to God

If we looked to God’s sovereignty and purpose in the trials we face we would be ashamed to dispute and murmur as much as we do. We would rather submit to Him (1 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 39:9; Isaiah 39:8). Do we dare to debate with the Almighty or force the supreme and absolute One to account for His ways?

(d) Through considering the brevity of time

Serious thoughts of the brevity of our life and of time will deal with discontentment. If someone knew they would only endure trials for an hour, or for ten days they might patiently submit. But it is not long before the small period of time between eternity past and eternity future will be swallowed up and there will be nothing but eternity.

(e) Through humility

Pride is the great predominant evil which brings contention (Proverbs 13:10). It is only by pride that we contend with God concerning His dealings with us. It is impossible for a Christian who is not humble to be content. Pride is one of the greatest opposites of being content in any condition.

 

Conclusion

Discontent involves murmuring and complaining against God. This prevents believing trust in God. It also prevents us benefiting from trials. Rather than being sanctified by them and sin being removed, discontentment only increases sin. We can overcome the spirit of discontentment as we focus faith on God and eternal realities. Contentment is learned through a painful and gradual process of experience and through dependence on God and His grace.

Find out more about Andrew Gray and read other articles featuring his work.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness

You Will Never Be Truly Content Without Godliness
James Durham (1622-1658) was minister in Glasgow for only eleven years but left a considerable number of writings. One of the co-authors of 'The Sum of Saving Knowledge', he is best known for writing what is still regarded as the classic Reformed work on church unity, division and schism, 'A Treatise Concerning Scandal' as well as a highly sought after commentary on the Book of Revelation.
20 Jul, 2018

We all long for a genuinely peaceful satisfaction in life. Yet in our society of conspicuous consumption, discontent and wanting more and better seem to be valued more. Lifestyle gurus know this and they urge people to be content with who they are and what they have whilst still striving for their goals. Think positively they say, practice gratitude (to no one in particular) be proud of what you have achieved. But this isn’t real contentment because it depends on ourselves and our feelings. It’s a temporary and often imagined state. We need something that transcends not only our immediate circumstances but also ourselves and this brief changeable life. We were not made to live for ourselves or the things of time. We were made for God and for eternity. That’s why we will never be truly content without godliness.

This is what the Apostle Paul says. People make the great mistake of “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5). Some think that personal gain is highest achievement of this life. Even in spiritual things as well as the things of this life we can be entirely focussed on personal gain. They are using spiritual things to advance self. We can think that we are advancing in godliness but actually the whole activity is all about ourselves. Paul says that we need to know that gain is not godliness but rather “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). These two things go together and cannot be separated. Godliness is profitable for all things both in this life and the life which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). James Durham explains these points further in a series of sermons from which the following is extracted and updated.

 

1. What is True Contentment?

It leaves a person in quietness, calmness and composure of mind. They are so satisfied with God’s dealings that they think whatever they experience is best.

(a) It Involves Moderate Desires

Our inclinations, desires and plans in relation to ourselves and all the things of this world are moderated. This is the opposite of all inordinate desires for a change in our present lot. It keeps us from seeking “great things” for ourselves (Jeremiah 45:5). One who wants to be rich (1 Timothy 6:9) is the opposite of one who is content. This is because covetousness and contentment are opposed to each other (Hebrew 13:5).

Contentment is silent reverence for God’s way towards us. It restrains us from pressing inordinately after what we have or are able to acquire lawfully. Honest lawful labour is of course not opposed to contentment. We follow our calling as our duty rather than mainly to further our advantage or gain.

(b) It Involves Calm Submission to God’s Providence

It is opposed to fretful anxiety (Philippians 4:6 and Matthew 6:25). We are to follow the duties of our calling without being vexed or anxious about their success.

(c) It Involves Reverent Adoration of God’s Provision

Whether God provides little or much we are to be content with the things that we have (1 Timothy 6:8 and Hebrews 13:5).

(d) It Involves Tranquility of Mind Which Is Satisfied With God’s Dealings

Not only does it not fret against God’s dealings, it gives positive assent to them as being well satisfied with them. It is a sweetly serene frame of soul that makes a Christian say with the apostle, “I have all, I abound, I am full” (see Philippians 4:11-12 and 18; 2 Corinthians 6:8-10). Paul had as much contentment whether he had less or more of the things of the world.

 

2. How is Godliness Gain?

(a) It Extends to All Kinds of People

Its gain extends to individuals of every sex, age, rank, class, calling position and relationship.

(b) It Extends to All Kinds of Conditions

It is profitable in prosperity and in lack, making us always content in every condition. It is soundness to the bones in health and has an inward life and cheerfulness. In sickness and death it is eminently profitable. Its great gain and advantage beautifully blossom forth then, when all earthly comforts wither.

(c) It Extends to All Kinds of Activities

It is profitable in worship and the duties of our ordinary callings (Psalm 1:3).

(d) It Extends to This Life and Eternity

It has outward gain (so far as is fitting for themselves and those of their company). It always has inward gain through their secret converse with and walk before God (1 Timothy 4:8).

 

3. Why is There no Contentment Without Godliness?

If we look through the Scriptures, we will always find that it is the godly man that is the contented man. Godly Paul learned this great lesson and was taught this divine art. You can see from Philippians 4 and 2 Corinthians 6:3-4 how he arrived at this height. He could say “having nothing, yet possessing all things”. This is because contentment does not consist in the things we possess but in the right frame of mind. There is nothing that can put and keep us in such a right frame of mind except godliness.

(a) Godliness Shows Us the Emptiness of All Creature-Comforts

It sobers our spirit in pursuing creature-comforts saying to us to be content with food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:9). It limits our desires and intentions that we may be content even though we do not have many thousands or this or that among the fine things in the world.

(b) Godliness Moderates Our Affections in Using the Things of This World

It keeps us from being anxious in seeking and pursuing after the things of the world. It makes us quiet and satisfied in using and enjoying them. Without contentment through godliness a person is both vexed and perplexed in seeking and enjoying without satisfaction. This is because they seek and expect more from these things than they find.

But the godly man weeps as though he did not weep, rejoices as though he did not rejoice. He buys as though he did not possess and uses this world without abusing it (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). Godliness is the living water spoken of by our Lord (John 4:13) which when someone drinks they do not thirst again. It quenches those disquieting, gasping desires after the things of the world which all naturally have.

(c) Godliness Sets Our Affections on More Excellent Things

It takes our affections off these things and sets them on another more noble, excellent and durable object which alone can satisfy. There is no true contentment nor solid soul-satisfaction to be had except in God and looking to Him aright. Godliness takes us away from the empty and broken cisterns that can hold no water and leads us to the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2).

It makes us consider that the Lord has a holy sovereign hand in everything and teaches us to be quiet and content. It teaches us to pray, praise, believe, rest on God and trust in Him for deliverances from all difficulties. Now and then the godly have some sweet manifestations of God to their soul. These mightily and marvellously outlast the impressions that the lack of outward things make on their spirits (see Psalm 4:6-7). It is impossible for the mind to be quiet and content without having some satisfying object effectually offered to it. Only godliness does this. Even heaven could not make us content unless we had godliness (if it were possible for someone to be there without it). This is because without it the mind would not be adapted to the place.

(d) Godliness Gives Us Access to All the Promises

Access to all the exceeding great and precious promises makes us content. “Godliness” (says the apostle) “is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7). Suppose a godly man in difficulty to get his dinner or supper and how to get his family provided for and sustained. When the children begin to weep for bread in beginning to hunger, he has a sweet word of promise to support his mind. God has said that He will never leave nor forsake him in Hebrews 13:5-6. This verse contains five negatives in the original language to maximise assurance.

The words that follow are: “we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me”. Godliness looks to what God has said and no one except the godly can say that God has said such things to them. The promise is in some ways as meaningful and satisfying (perhaps more) as if they had the rhing itself in their hand. They can say boldly “the Lord is my helper” and “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1) and so quiet and content themselves. There is no condition the godly may be in without a promise for it.

Godliness gives access and right to the promise. Exercising godliness gives the promise (as it were) a new and fresh lustre. The godly rest satisfied in the promise and neither having nor not having disturb their peace and contentment. They know that if necessary this pain and sickness and this affliction or other will be removed and this or that need supplied. If it continues it will be for their best. This is in accordance with Romans 8:28 “All things work together for good to them that love God and are the called according to his purpose”. What more is needed? The godly may take hold of the promise boldly, no one else has the right to do this. Godliness does not meri the promise but God has made it the way by which we receive it. If you love and desire contentment, love godliness and exercise yourselves to it in a serious way.

(e) Godliness Helps Us Put Sin to Death

Lack of contentment of mind arises from some sin within which has not been put to death, as James tells us (James 4:1). Where godliness is in exercise, it keeps down and subdues pride and restrains lust. When corruption is ready to rise and fretting, impatience and discontent break out, godliness makes us say with Eli “It is the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:18). It makes us dare not give way to our corruption. The great thing that disquiets us is always something that is sinful. Godliness prevents or restrains that which leads to discontentment. It helps put sin to death and keep the mind calm.

 

4. Why is Contentment Necessary for Making Progress in Godliness?

The Holy Spirit joins these two things together to show that one helps and advances the other. A defect in either one is obstructive to the other. Those who are not exercised to godliness cannot have true contentment. Those who do not have contentment cannot advance in godliness. Will or can someone who is discontent pray effectually? It is impossible. It mars his liberty and boldness in prayer.

The discontented man cannot praise because praise flows from a satisfied mind and he lacks this. The discontented man cannot properly read, listen to sermons, or meditate because his mind is confused. Discontentment weakens the mind and makes us disinclined to and indisposed for godly exercise.

 

Conclusion

Look on and accept these two things as motives and helps to each other. Let them go hand in hand together. Neither of them will go alone, they must go together. Will I not then strive for contentment with my lot, whatever it may be? Will I not more than ever love and prize the connection between contement and godliness? Will I not through grace believe more thoroughly this great truth, that godliness with contentment is great gain? Let it stand as an eternal and unchangeable verity. Let it stand like a great and immovable rock in the midst of the sea against which the waves of the world’s contradictory, false and foolish notions beat and break themselves.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from James Durham

Special Offer on James Durham’s Collected Sermons

Durham’s sermons on The Great Gain of Contenting Godliness are included in a volume of his collected sermons. These have been published recently and are highly recommended. In an early sermon CH Spurgeon said, “If I had lived in his [Durham’s] time, I should never, I think, have wanted to hear any other preacher; I would have sat, both by night and day, to receive the sweet droppings of his honeyed lips” There are 61 sermons in this attractively produced volume and it runs to nearly 1,000 pages.  The usual price is £29.95 which already represents a discount but a further 10% is possible when purchasing using a code unique for readers of this blog. This makes the price £26.95 and the code is RST 18 when purchasing from James Dickson Books at this link.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

Who is Truly Blessed?

Who is Truly Blessed?

Who is Truly Blessed?
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
17 Mar, 2017

It is not so long since “blessed” was nearly a good word gone bad in popular speak. It was more than a cliché for many with no great spiritual interest to announce on social media that they were #blessed. It was smug bragging about success thinly disguised as humility.  It gave the message that outward prosperity is true blessing. Perhaps people do feel as blessed as their Facebook status declares but have they understood that spiritual blessings are paramount (Matthew 5:3–5)? In reality there is no true blessing without godliness.

David Dickson draws this clear teaching from Psalm 1. This Psalm teaches that no ungodly person is blessed, only the godly (verses 1-2). This is proved by three reasons. The first is because God blesses the godly even in this life (and in every state of life) with grace to produce good works that profitable to themselves and others (verse 3). But all that the wicked do for making themselves happy, shall be blasted and found to be mere vanity (verse 4).

 

1. Only the Godly are Blessed

1. Blessedness is possible. Although sin and misery abound: blessedness may still be attained. God here pronounces some to be blessed.
2. Blessedness is only possible in God’s way. This psalm divides all men (within and without the visible church) into godly men (that seek to be blessed in God’s way) and ungodly men (who seek blessedness – but not in God’s way). They are all ranked in this way here.
3. Blessedness is defined by God alone. Only God can define who is blessed since He is the only one that can make someone blessed. He here pronounces the godly to be the blessed.
4. Blessedness and ungodly counsel cannot go together. The ungodly think themselves very wise in following the counsel of their own heart and of others like themselves so that they may be blessed. But this is not the way of the blessed man, he does not walk in “the counsel of the ungodly”.
5. Blessedness and sin will not go together. The ungodly obstinately continue in their course of sinning, but the blessed man (if he is overtaken in some sin) does not defend his sin, nor persist in it. He does not stand in “the way of sinners”.
6. Blessedness and irreligion cannot go together. The ungodly may go as far as to mock godliness as mere folly and scorn admonitions and reproofs. Yet the blessed man never hardens his heart so as to mock piety in others or instruction offered. He does not sit in “the seat of the scornful”.
7. Blessedness comes through Scripture’s counsel. The blessed man makes the Word of God in holy Scripture his counsellor concerning the remedy of sin and misery. This is the rule by which he walks until his blessedness is perfected. Scripture to him is a law for the obedience of faith which is fenced with supreme authority. It is “the law of the Lord”.
8. Blessedness comes through profiting from the Word. To the extent that a man is godly and blessed, he makes the Word of God the way of growing in communion with God through the Messiah, Christ. He makes the Word the matter of his chief delight and contentment. His “delight is in the law of the Lord”.
9. Blessedness comes from meditating on the Word. To the extent that a man delights in the law of the Lord, he studies in it on all occasions. He meditates in God’s law “day and night”.

 

2. Only the Godly are Blessed with Grace to Produce Good Works

The godly are blessed with grace to bring forth good works that are profitable to themselves and others in every condition of life.

1. The blessing of increased grace. To the extent that a man pursues holy communion with God by delighting and meditating in His Word, he will be fixed and furnished with the influence of grace from Christ. This will maintain spiritual life within him. “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water”.
2. The blessing of fruitfulness. The man that makes the Word of God his delight will be made fruitful in every good work, as opportunity is offered. He will be like a tree bringing forth fruit in due season.
3. The blessing of perseverance. This man shall be enabled to bear out a holy profession of his faith in, and obedience to God, in adversity, as well as in prosperity. “His leaf also shall not wither”.
4. The blessing of God’s favour. Whatever duty or service to God this man sets about, will not lack the help and acceptance nor success from God. Whatever he does will “prosper”.
5. These blessings do not belong to the ungodly. The ungodly man is destitute of all spiritual life (no matter what he may seem to be before the world) and a stranger to the fellowship of God’s grace. He is unfit for every good work and ready under great temptation to abandon his counterfeit profession of religion. He is cursed in all that he does because he is the opposite of what the blessed godly man is here said to be. “The ungodly are not so”.
6. The “blessings” of the ungodly are unreal. Whatever appearance of godliness, temporal prosperity, or hope of happiness the ungodly seem to have, it will be found only counterfeit. It will not stand him in good stead at all in his greatest need. The ungodly are like “the chaff” which the wind blows away.

Find out more about David Dickson and read other articles featuring his work.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of

The Richest Treasure Ever Heard Of
Alexander Henderson (c. 1583 – 1646) was the most influential of the Covenanting ministers in the Church of Scotland who took the leading role in all major events, co-drafting the National Covenant (1638) and authoring the Solemn League and Covenant (1643). A three-time moderator of the General Assembly, he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly.
27 Jan, 2017

This is the most rare and excellent jewel and the richest treasure ever yet heard of. It surpasses our capacity and understanding more than anything. If we had it, we would be guarded and kept by it in our hearts and minds. We would be guarded against all the fears and discouragements that encompass our souls like many enemies. Of all things, this is the very thing of which we have greatest need at such a time as this. It is the thing that can keep us best in all troubles. This treasure is a unique God-given peace that passes “all understanding”.

This is how Alexander Henderson describes the peace of God in a sermon on Philippians 4:6-7. While we may gain a full knowledge of the world with our intellect and understanding, we cannot do so with this peace of God, for it passes all understanding. If we get this peace of God, it will be a strong guard against all our enemies, both outward and inward. We have all this through Jesus Christ.

1. What Robs Us Of the Richest Treasure?

Henderson observes that Philippians 4:6-7 shows how we may obtain this peace. First, Paul tells us what we should not do: be anxious or “careful”. Anxiety is forbidden. He also makes clear what we should do, “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”. Finally, we have the promise the result of this (if we do it in the right way) will be that this all-surpassing peace of God will “keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

Henderson makes it clear that when anxiety robs us of this richest treasure when we fail to commit the outcome of all events to the Lord. This doesn’t mean we should be careless about everything. We should rest in doing our duty. We must make careful plans and think carefully about what we ought to do. Yet we must not to be overwhelmed with worries and cares about the outcome of events. Rather, we must let our requests be made known to God by supplications with thanksgiving. When we do this, we may be secure, having this peace of God through Jesus Christ.

Henderson indicates that some of the main worries that concern us are regarding our nation: what will become of it? Others are concerned for their families and livelihoods. We may also have personal concerns for our own spiritual wellbeing.

2. What Helps Us Gain the Richest Treasure?

Prayer is also commanded. The best way for us to unburden ourselves of our anxiety about the success of anything and to commit the matter to God is to pray to God and join thanksgiving with prayer. Those who cannot unburden their anxieties on God are most unhappy.

(a) Pray

When God is beginning to do anything about which you ought to have concern then He is calling you to pray to Him and cast the burden off ourselves onto Himself. If we could learn to do so it would bring comfort. It is a pitiful thing to see men worn out in sorrow and in the depths of affliction and not to know so much as that there is a God to pray to, or that He is thus calling them to pray to Him. The natural man has no mind at all to pray; but the child of God should not do so.

Let us learn always to come to God and to make Him our resting-place. Let us always lift up our faces toward heaven to Him; for He is our King, our Lord, and our Husband. If we cast our care upon Him, He will care for us. Indeed, He must care for us if we rely on Him, for He is obliged to do so.

Surely, when we do not know what course to take or what to do but we see everything to be against us, then let us send up that winged messenger of prayer to heaven. It will not fail to bring help to us.

(b) Pray with Thanksgiving

There are three ways in which thanksgiving must be joined with prayer.

1. Thanksgiving for favours in the past. Everyone knows they are bound to thank Him for these. Otherwise it is evidence that we are altogether unfit and unprepared for prayer.

2. Thanksgiving for favours in the present. He who sets himself to pray in the Spirit, before
he has finished praying will find reasons for thanksgiving to God for some favour received at that time received. David begins many Psalms with many heavy and sad complaints but he ends many of them with joy, praises, and thanksgiving to God. This was not for things received in the past but for something received by him at that time.  Thanksgiving for present favour shows that our prayers are not mere lip-labour.

3. Thanksgiving for favours in the future. We should at least promise thanksgiving to Him for the benefits that we are to receive. If not it is evidence that our prayers are nothing else but hypocrisy.

Therefore, if you are praying to God for good success in your own particular concerns (including in the matter of your salvation or benefiting from the means of grace) or are praying for a blessing on Church and nation, let it still be joined with thanksgiving.

(c) Pray in Everything

Before, he said “be careful for nothing.” Now, he says, ” In everything let your requests be made known to God.” One is contrary to the other; one speaks of nothing, the other of everything. One is of the same extent as the other. Christ will have us to be concerned about the smallest thing but to know that it is He principally who cares for it, for us. He will have us show our care by praying to Him for it. If it is a great matter that you stand in need of, then recommend the matter to God, and resolve that you will wait on Him for the success. I will only do the duty that the Lord requires of me, indeed, I will not leave off doing my duty until it is done, even in the smallest matters.

Luther would never have achieved the Reformation he did, if he had not laid this foundation. He uttered speeches to that same purpose. Some thought that they were uttered rashly and unadvisedly, but he spoke them in confidence and boldly. On one occasion he said: ‘The Pope will sooner be converted, and turn from his ways than I will quit this’.

If you are troubled about the success of small matters, consider that God is directly calling on you to recommend the matter to Him by prayer. Do your duty in it, and recommend the success of it to God. Thus you will find the peace of God possessing your soul.

O if we knew this, what a communion there is between God and the Christian soul! They cry to him, ‘Abba, father, my father’. The child will not cry more to the father or mother than when it wants to have anything from them or when anything troubles them. We should see a continual necessity laid on us of elevating our souls to God in prayer.

(d) Pray, Making Your Requests Known to God

We cannot inform Him any better concerning our condition than He knows already. Neither can we move Him to grant us anything which he did not intend to give us before. But Scripture speaks about God in this way because the Lord has ordained us to use this means of prayer as though we were to inform Him of our case, or move Him to grant anything to us. We should be as diligent in prayer as if it were so. God’s promise and decree that He will do us good should not discourage but rather encourage us to pray.

Some object that if the Lord has resolved to do anything He will do it whether I pray to Him or not. That is true, so He will. But when we see the Lord working for us, we must go out and meet Him. If He has ordained any good thing for you, He will likely stir you up to cry to Him for it.

3. Can We Estimate the Value of the Richest Treasure?

This peace of God transcends the ability of the mind, judgment and understanding of all men to comprehend it. It is the most excellent thing possible. None can trouble those with whom the Lord is at peace. We may say that we will have peace, but unless the Lord grant it unto us, we will not get it ; and therefore we may not trust in man, nor in the arm of flesh, to get peace by them; but we must only trust in God for it.

The natural man knows nothing at all of this peace. If you speak about this peace, faith (the mother of this peace) and joy (its companion), it is a foreign language to him. He cannot conceive of what it means. This peace also passes the understanding of the regenerate man and the child of God even after his new birth. He comprehends something of this peace and it brings him to consider what it is, but yet he cannot tell what it is, for all that.

When a man comes to the sea, he knows that what he sees it is the sea even though he cannot see the whole sea from the one side to the other. This is like God Himself, it may be seen that He is great, glorious, wise, powerful etc. but none can tell how much He has of every one of these attributes. When the child of God gets any measure of this peace, he cannot imagine what he has got of it, it is so far beyond his expectation. No one understands this peace of God, not even those who have it.

They cannot express it, but they know well enough when they have this peace. If you ask anyone what bodily health is, perhaps he cannot tell you what it is or how great a benefit it is. He knows well enough when he lacks it, however, and then he knows its worth best. It is the same with the peace of God in the soul.

Peace of Conscience

There is also a peace that comes through the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. We get this also through Jesus Christ. There is a peace also when all the powers of our soul are in harmony to serve God. We have this through Jesus Christ also. We must therefore first of all be partakers of Christ, and then we will assuredly be partakers of this peace.

Something of this peace is to be had even here in this life. Seek after it and never content or at rest until you get it in some good measure. If this peace had not begun in your soul, still seek after it through Christ and you will find that it comes in to take possession of your souls.

Find out more about Alexander Henderson and read other articles featuring his work.

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

What Does it Mean to Have a Fulfilling Life?

Everyone is pursuing fulfilment but what does that mean? James Fergusson identifies the necessary aspects of a fulfilling life as defined by God.

How Do I Know if My Repentance is Genuine?

James Durham explains the different ways we can be impacted by the sense of sin forgiven and hope of future mercy.

The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

Politics makes for a poor functional saviour. James Fergusson gets to the heart of the war on sin.

Recovering True Empathy in a Fractured World

Empathy seems to be in serious decline today. James Fergusson shows how the apostle Paul highlights the need for true empathy.

How Far Should Reformation Go?

Reformation is not merely an event in the past; it is a present imperative.

How Does Faith Help Love?

This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

The Christian’s Spiritual Dress Code

There is something that should be worn by every Christian. It identifies them. We’re not talking about fashions and uniforms–the garment is humility. Are you wearing it?

Why Face-to-Face Communication is a Biblical Priority

Technology has had a negative effect on both the quality and quantity of face-to-face communication. But it’s more than a social problem, because the Bible gives considerable emphasis to face-to-face communication.

REFORMING YOUR FAMILY

Is There a False Religion in Your Home?

Covetousness rebranded itself. Consumerism has become a world view where choice and freedom are the absolutes. Some wisdom from James Fergusson exposes the idolatry.

Helping Your Child Not to Become an Atheist

“Do as I say, not as I do!” Not a good enough maxim for Christians parents, says James Fergusson.

A Family Day…of Worship

James Durham shows how the Lord’s Day provides a golden opportunity for parents to orient their family towards eternal realities.

What’s Missing from Your Home?

The most important interaction is increasingly missing from many Christian homes–interacting about spiritual things.

Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

Biblical marriage is not fully intact amongst evangelicals just because they oppose same-sex marriage. A more subtle and less publicised redefinition of marriage is prevailing in society: where do we stand?

No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

Matthew Vogan explains the three positive values our society has lost to arrive at this extent of State interference.

How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

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Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

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Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

James Durham brings us back to the One whose words are Spirit and life and who is able to use the words of those whom He has sent. This is an encouragement for preachers who are discouraged.

How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble

How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble

How to Have Inward Calm During Outward Trouble
Richard Cameron (1647-1680) was a famous Covenanter preacher during the times of persecution, preaching to thousands at religious meetings in the fields, known as conventicles. He was killed by government dragoons at Airds Moss, Ayrshire and his supporters went on to form the Cameronian Regiment.
1 Jul, 2016

​Calm confidence during a storm of outward troubles is true strength. Many think it is virtually impossible. Yet by grace, Paul learned the secret of being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11). We live in a culture of discontent. People have their hearts tied to things in this world and when the world is thrown into turmoil so are their hearts. It is not outward troubles themselves that disquiet our heart. The root cause is within not without. How do we get our hearts settled and fixed so that they can be calm during times of trouble?

Richard Cameron (1647-1680) addressed this in his last sermon before he died. The outward troubles that he and his fellow Covenanters faced were intense. Many were anxious or cast down. Persecution was fierce against those who would not conform to the government take-over of the Church in Scotland. Faithfulness meant suffering through fines, imprisonment, banishment and execution. What text of Scripture could Cameron choose as a motto to leave with the afflicted remnant?

It was brief but contained profound depths: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Many are the mysteries that are contained and wrapped up in the shortest sentences of Scripture”, he said. These brief words forbid us from being disquieted and murmuring against providence – “Be still”. These words also command us to have a fixed and composed heart: “know that I am God”. We are to do this because God is still God and worthy of all our confidence.

 

1. Why We Lack Inward Calm During Outward Troubles

(a) Love of the world

This makes us fear that we will lose all our possessions. But if we can say with Paul, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14) then we learn the lesson “I have learned in whatsoever state I am…to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

(b) Fear of men

We may have much love to Christ and faith.  Yet, if the fear of men prevails over the fear of God we will be greatly cast down during times of outward troubles.  The fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25).

(c) Lack of acquaintance with God

Looking to God and seeing His hand in all our troubles would greatly help to still our minds in every difficulty (Job 22:21).

(d) Unbelief

When the disciples were tossed in the sea their minds were as much troubled as the waves. This was because they were of little faith.

(e) Impatience

“Some folk’s minds will be in a strange hurry”. They have an excessive, impatient desire to see God fulfil His promises.

 

2. Why We Must Not Lack Inward Calm During Outward Troubles

(a) It does no good

“What can you profit yourselves, or the Church of Christ either, by your sinful carefulness or by your unbelieving anxiety?” We must not be disquieted about worldly things. David rebukes his soul for being cast down and disquieted within him (Psalm 42:5).

(b) It Involves quarrelling with and murmuring against God

“Be still,” that is, “Beware of murmuring against Me,” says the Lord.

(c) Fretting because of evil doers is foolish

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). Beware of envying the wicked, though everything appears to prosper with them. “Be still,” says God, “for I sit in heaven and am laughing at them all the while.”

(d) Because God is God still

He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. We need to have high and honourable thoughts of Him. How often our thoughts about Him change!

 

3. What Inward Calm Involves

(a) A fixed mind and heart

Our mind and heart is to be fixed on God (Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 112:7).

(b) A composed spirit

This too requires submission to God.

(c) Past, present and future submission to God and His ways

He that has submission has need of much patience. We should not limit or set bonds to Him, but let Him take His own way in granting that which is most upon our spirits, and fulfilling the desires of our hearts.

submission…will make the soul triumph and rejoice in persecution, famines, and in every trial and tribulation whatsoever.

 

4. How We Can Have Inward Calm At All Times

(a) Stand in Awe of God

Strive to have much of the awe and dread of God on your spirits. “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,” and then follows the promise, “And he shall be for a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13). O that you would set the Lord always before you! If we looked to the greatness, sovereignty and power of God, and could say, “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge,” we would have a composed spirit.  If you are against God He will be against you also.

(b) Beware of sinning or complying with anything sinful

“Stand in awe, and sin not…and be still” (Psalm 4:4). The man that has a good conscience has a good bed to sleep on, were it in a bog, moor, or mountain in the open field exposed to wind and weather. But there is no getting free from a guilty conscience. An evil conscience is never without fears. Many folk venture on sin to get outward peace and quiet, but by getting that they forfeit inward peace and tranquillity of mind.   It is true when in providence a man with a composed heart is cast here and there, he thinks that this will ruin him. But when the confusion is past, and he is come to himself, he finds himself better or at least as well as he was before.

(c) Commune with your heart

“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). A man that is not talking or communing with himself, either concerning his state or condition, cannot be right.

We must begin and commune with our heart concerning ourselves, and then about the providences of God, and say, “Does this dispensation come from God?” Then, says the soul, “Will God hurt me or do me wrong? No”. If a providential dispensation comes on us before we commune with our hearts, it will be ready to cast us on our backs. But let us trace it back to its first appearance, and examine our hearts about it, and hold our grip, that we may get to the end. Though it seems terrible, yet it may be of great advantage  to our soul, and so there may be great calm in the mind all the time.

(d) Strive to have faith in exercise at all times

The least faith in exercise has more strength than thousands of men and armies!… If you have any, use the little you have, and you may get more, and this will tend much to establish and compose your heart in an evil time.

 

Conclusion

This inward calm is of great benefit. “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7). If our heart is fixed on God “evil tidings” will not move us completely.  We must still look to God for assistance and direction as to how to respond to providence. Yet a pleasant life during such outward troubles is possible with this fixedness of heart. It helps us to praise God and pray to him aright. This sermon is of great value and worth reading through entirely. Cameron expresses the brightest hopes for the future of the Church in Scotland. He also anticipated the end of persecution eight years later. His final words in preaching before he died three days afterwards are well worth weighing:

be patiently waiting on God, and…beware of grudging, murmuring, despondency, fearfulness and disquiet of mind.

FURTHER READING

Read more articles from Richard Cameron

REFORMING YOURSELF

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

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The Irreconcilable Instincts of the Human Heart

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How Far Should Reformation Go?

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This question matters a lot; especially if your love has grown colder. Faith works by love but how does love work by faith? To love God is to know and trust Him. How does deepening our faith influence the strength of love?

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Are Evangelicals Redefining Marriage?

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No to the Named Person Scheme But Yes to What?

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How to Define Not Redefine Marriage

Marriage has been redefined–will it be redefined further. How do we know that group marriage is wrong?

REFORMING YOUR CHURCH

How Do I Know if I’m Putting Christ’s Interests First?

Half-committed Christians fail to seek Christ’s interests first and foremost. The Church suffers as a consequence. Here’s how to get our priorities straight.

The Questions We Ask When Others Leave the Faith

When we hear of others leaving the faith we may have many questions. But the most urgent questions concern ourselves and Jesus Christ. George Hutcheson explains what these are from Scripture.

The Headship of Christ in His Church in China

What we see in Chinese now is what we saw in Scotland then.

Ordinary Means of Extraordinary Grace

Christian growth? Church growth? The Westminster Standards offer a different perspective on what really works.

Christ’s Intercession Answers Your Fears About the Church

We have genuine, justified fears for the Church. What can we do? Our answer is in looking beyond confidence in our own activities to the activity that is taking place in heaven.

Confessionalism and a Flourishing Church

A full confession of faith invites Christians to explore and value the panorama of God’s truth and become mature in their understanding. A Confession helps the Church fulfil its commission to make spiritually mature disciples.

Uncovering the Secrets of Christ’s Kingdom

Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom not of this world, so those who are of this world find it incomprehensible. Alexander Henderson explained the necessary duty to study the nature and search into the mysteries and secrets of this kingdom.

What Should We Do if God is Hiding His Face?

When God hides His face there is a lack of His presence and blessing in the life of the Church. Why would God do this? And if this is the case, is there anything we can do? Consider what Jame Renwick has to say.

What Do We Forget in Forgetting the Church’s History?

We forget vital things about God, His Church and His promises when we forget Church history. We need to make use of it to inform, encourage and steel ourselves for serving God in our own generation.

The Ultimate Test for a Sermon

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