GRACE NOTES- PASTORAL LETTER 1.31.24

Monthly memory verse: “Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps 86:11).

Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,

I have been praying for you this week as I remember with gratitude the joy of worshiping our God together with you this past Lord’s Day.  As I pray, I have been asking, among other things, that the Lord would grant us, in whatever situation He places us at any given time, to know the contentment of knowing that we belong to Him, that He is with us, and that He is absolutely committed to using everything we’re called to face or endure for our true and lasting good, as He continues to fashion the lioness of His Son in us.  This contentment was the subject of a recent Wednesday evening lesson the tenth commandment, and, as the Apostle says, combined with godliness, such contentment is great gain (cf. 1 Tim 6:6).

Certainly, there are any number of things in this life that tempt us to discontentment.  In a culture inundated with materialism, there is the constant temptation to covet what we don’t have, and to feel that we can’t possibly be truly satisfied until we have it.  Add to this the overwhelming presence of nearly constant advertising designed to elicit a covetous response, and the temptation to discontentment becomes quite a formidable foe.  In addition, there are the fact that, in a fallen world, our circumstances often seem far from ideal.  There are relationships that we wish were otherwise than they are.  There are fears we wish we didn’t have to face.  There are illnesses that weigh us down, not only physically but often emotionally and spiritually as well.  There are challenges and hardships that we would much prefer to avoid, if at all possible.  Put any number or all of these together and we not uncommonly find ourselves all to ready to join the Israelites of old, who had experienced so much of the Lord’s goodness, in grumbling against the God who loved us and gave His Son for us.  I’m no stranger to it, and I feel confident you can say the same.  Beyond question, there are many things in this life that tempt us to discontentment.

And yet, the Lord repeatedly warns us against such a grumbling and ungrateful spirit in His Word.  There is the explicit command not to covet, which serves as a call to rather be content (cf. Exod 20:17; Deut 5:21).  Then there is the example of the Israelites of old.  Rather than acknowledging their God’s consistent supply all their days, trusting Him to continue to provide, and calling upon Him in faithful prayer, they complained against the Lord when they feared they wouldn’t have good water to drink or food to eat in the wilderness.  When He gave them water to drink, and food to eat in the form of manna sent from heaven, they grew tired of this diet and grumbled about it.  When they faced mighty enemies, they moaned that the Lord had brought them all this way only to kill them at the hands of their enemies, rather than being content to believe His promise to do precisely the opposite.  All of this is roundly condemned in the Word, even as we’re told that it has been recorded for our benefit, so that we will be sure not to join them in their spirit of discontentment or the grumbling it produced.

But how, we might wonder, are we supposed to be content when this life holds so many trials and, humanly speaking, uncertainties?  Scripture doesn’t leave us to figure out for ourselves, but provides an answer as powerful and applicable today as when it was first put to paper.  As the writer to the Hebrews warns against that specific form of coveting that revolves around the love of money, calling us to be content with the lot the Lord has presently assigned to us in life, He lets us know why this is possible, adding, “For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5; cf. Josh 1:5).  How can we be content, even when we might not have all that we wish we had?  By recognizing that, whatever else we may or may not have, we have the Lord – always with us, always ready to receive and refresh us, always assuring us that He is working it all for our good.  This was Paul’s comfort as he wrote from the confines of a Roman prison.  Surely, he prayed and hoped that he would seen know better circumstances.  Nonetheless, he could honestly say, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” adding, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil 3:11-12).  How was such an attitude possible for a man for whom bars and chains made up his present home?  He lets us in on the answer, going on to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 3:13).  This, indeed, is the secret to godly contentment – remembering and being satisfied to know that, all at times and in every place, the Lord is with us, upholding us, caring for us, and blessing us as He knows is absolutely best for bringing about the fulness of His design to glorify Himself by doing good to us.

Is it valid to hope for better health, more income, improved living conditions, new or restored relationship, and like?  Most certainly.  But, let us not allow our desire and humble prayers for such things crack the underlying foundation of our constant faith and contentment in the Lord, trusting Him to withhold nothing that would be truly good for us, at the proper time.  Let us be satisfied to know that, whatever else may be the case, the Lord’s unbreakable covenant promise always holds true, “I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people… I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:16, 18).  Yes, He has assured us, no matter what comes or doesn’t come our way in this life, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).  Let us not only confess it, let us believe it and so learn to be content, giving glory to Him whose very presence is our highest good (cf. Ps 103:28).

In Christ,

Pastor Eric

P.S.

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