Gratitude & God’s Fatherly Disposal

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you…Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:8-9, 11-13

I’ve never connected the dots between gratitude/thankfulness & peace. But, in verses 8-9, Paul is commanding the Philippians to think on everything that is worthy of praise & excellent. Think on everything that is pure, lovely, and commendable. What is the natural outflow after you think on good things? For the Christian it should be praise and gratitude towards their Creator & Redeemer. I think the “practice these things” (following Paul as he followed Christ), was tied in to the list preceding it. What amazes me is what Paul promises, “and the God of peace will be with you”. If you obey, if you think on good things, the God of peace will be with you. In other words, if you act like who you are, if you strive to look/think on good things, you will be grateful. And when one is grateful, one is full of the peace of the Savior. Gratitude turns us from ourselves to our Savior. That upward gaze fills our heart with peace. The presence of God that will never leave us.

I was also struck by the second half of this passage. Paul speaks of contentment. He speaks of being content no matter his circumstances. No matter how good or terrible they may be. I have often struggled with the phrase, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am content”. How can he say this? How is it possible? As much as I strive for contentment, I never perfectly achieve it! This statement seems impossible for my soul to make. I want to make it, but I am just too disquieted and sinful. But, this morning, it hit me. Paul did not make himself content. Paul also wasn’t saying that he never struggled or wished things were different. The secret didn’t lie in his frame of mind or what he did to make himself content. The secret was in the Rock of his soul, the Anchor to which he clung. His secret: “I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.” His contentment wasn’t from himself. it was the grace and power of God that produced it in his soul. It was God’s doing. How often do I labor for contentment in my own strength? Shouldn’t I be asking for Him to produce contentment in my life? Contentment is produced by a quiet resting in the One Who holds me in His hand…

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

– Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

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