This speech was presented at the Young People’s Convention this past year in Lynden, Washington.
In preparing me to give this speech on contentment God used content people. One was a grandmother in Israel. When asked what she thought “contentment” was she pondered a minute and then said, “Contentment is the key to life.” Then there was my son David. He is only two years old. He is always going around saying, “Happy, happy, happy.” I think he knows what contentment is. But the question we must consider is: Young people, do you know what it is to be content? Are you content?
What is Contentment?
Contentment may be defined as “an inward state of satisfaction and calm with respect to outward circumstances.” Note with me the elements of this definition.
By defining contentment as a state of satisfaction I mean that it is a state in which one knows that all his needs are met. For the Christian, this contentment is spiritual: the Christian is content when he knows that God has, does, and shall meet all his needs. It is a “fulness.” It is the knowledge, as well, that nothing that happens can take away from this fulness.
Then there is the aspect of calmness. The content person is calm. That is, he has peace. He is tranquil. Calmness is the opposite of care, anxiety. The title of this speech is really “Contentment or Anxiety”—for one cannot be content and anxious at the same time.
Further, contentment is an “inward” state of being. It is not something just enjoyed on the surface, like a lake—only calm when there is no wind. But biblical, Christian contentment is deep. If you are content you are content in your soul—no matter what wind is blowing on your lake! There may be grief, turmoil in your life, or simply the winds of change. But if you are content, bearing that blessed fruit of the Spirit of God, then inside, in the midst even of storm, is calm. Being content, your spirit need not be rippled, ruffled, riled, or rocked by anything!
Finally, contentment, according to our definition, has to do with the soul’s satisfaction and calmness with respect to outward circumstances. Now by these “outward circumstances” I do not mean that the Christian is ever to be content, to be satisfied, and calm and complacent about sin. No! With respect to our sin we ought never to be satisfied! We must be angry about it, repent of it, and stop doing it. Nor do I mean that we are to be content about anything we can and must change in our lives. Thus, we should not be content about getting a “D” grade if we are a “B” student.
But by those outward circumstances about which we are to be content I mean the things, the circumstances God has given us in His infinite wisdom, and which we cannot change. I refer to your body—after you have done all to take care of it; your health—after you have used all the means to restore it; your talents; your position in life; your possessions; your parents; siblings; your fellow-Christian peers. To be content is to be satisfied and at peace about who you are, what you have, relationships in which God has placed you…and also to be satisfied with what God in His great wisdom has not given…
Not many people are truly content. Contentment is not to be found anywhere in the unbelieving world. The wicked world in which we live is a discontented wicked world! The Bible says that the wicked are like the troubled sea. They may be satisfied in a certain way or outwardly calm. They may discipline themselves in their trials and not let themselves get upset. But they are never content in the soul. The things they go after and get do not satisfy their deepest need.
Only true children of God can be content. Think of the examples of contented saints in Scripture. There was Moses: content to be a shepherd in the wilderness for forty years, and then to be the shepherd of a most unruly flock of Israelites for another forty years. There was Job: so content with God’s will that he could praise the Lord while acknowledging His hand in taking everything away. Then there was a teenager, like you. I am speaking of Daniel. He was content in God, though torn away from parents and home to live in a strange land. All these are examples of contentment. Sinful, indeed, but content, these persons, by the grace of God.
But then there is Jesus Christ, the only natural and eternal Son of God. He is the example of One perfectly content: perfectly satisfied and at peace with respect to His outward circumstances! The Rich One, the Infinite One, very God, participating in the glory of heaven, was content to become poor, and to take on a limited, finite, weak human nature, and dwell among sinners in a sin-cursed earth!
All these examples we have of contentedness! But now, are you really content? In all your life? With all you have, and do not have? I think we all would be less than honest if we said we were content always and with regard to everything. We would be less than honest if we said we never grumbled or complained or simply “pretended” to be happy. In fact, I think we must all admit: to be truly content is a struggle. Why? Our faith is so little. And besides, some of our outward circumstances can be difficult to deal with indeed! Hard enough to be content if we “have it all,” but how much more difficult if we have little. Difficult enough if we are healthy, but how much more difficult if we have a disease or a handicap. Hard to be content and not envious of the smartest person of your class when you are only “average,” but how much more difficult if you are the worst student in your class. And it’s one thing if you are not the most popular and only have a few friends—but what if you have hardly any friends? It’s one thing to be content if you have sinful parents, but what if they are divorced, or if when you were little they put you up for adoption? One thing to have had only a few dates in high school years, but what if you go through high school and have no date, no one of the opposite sex who takes an interest in you…?
Oh, difficult indeed to be content…but serious indeed is the sin of being discontent! Terrible the sin! How ungrateful is the discontented believer! But discontentment can grab hold of any of us, even a young person, and have terrible bitter consequences for the rest of one’s life…
How is Contentment Attained?
Contentment is a free gift of God. It is a fruit of the peace He makes with sinners. That the wicked have not contentment and not peace is exactly because they have no peace with God. But God has established peace with us. We are satisfied because God’s justice is satisfied and atonement made by our Mediator, Jesus Christ. We are calm, knowing we belong to Christ. We are content with all we receive, knowing God’s hand is behind everything and in all He works for our good. In a word, content we are knowing God is for us in Christ!
And we experience this gift through learning. All of us experience the blessedness of contentment, and learn to be content, through attending a life-long school. Paul would say: “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). He wrote this in a Roman prison. He was content there. God teaches us to be content anywhere, and whatever the circumstances.
Consider three particular lessons God teaches us in the school of contentment.
First, God teaches us to appreciate the value of what we have in Christ. We must learn that in Christ God has given us Himself! We must learn that having God, we really need nothing else. We are to learn that having God and His salvation we have been freely given all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). We must learn how rich our God is, and how valuable His blessings. God will teach us not to choose what is a trinket or that which fades away over God’s gold!
Second, we are to learn the lesson about the things and circumstances we have and are put into. You are to learn, young people, that all the things given you, and which you are to be content with, are given you not to hurt you, but to help you in your spiritual walk with God. They are as so many servants, designed to help you grow in God. Daily bread, your earthly necessities—these are given to teach you of the God Who provides. Even what we call “bad things”—these we must see as gifts, and receive them from God with peace. Paul had one of these bad things. He calls it a thorn in the flesh. We do not know what is was. And that is good. For God would teach us through Paul’s learning to live with his problem, that we must also live with our problems, relying on God all the more because of hem. God said to Paul, when Paul had asked three times to be relieve of this thorn, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” He says the same to us.
Oh, how we must not let earthly thorns unsettle us and disturb us! We must remember: this is to teach us of God’s grace, of His strength, of His wisdom, and to rely more on Him alone!
And really, it is an absurd thing, a silly thing for Christians to let a thorn ruin, or even mar one bit, their satisfaction and calm in life. Have you ever heard the story of a man, the richest man in all the earth…whose heart was broken by a dandelion? I’m sure you haven’t. For I just made it up. Once upon a time, there was a very rich man. He was the richest man in all the earth. He had a mansion with 320 rooms. He had 57 maids. And there were 12 butlers to serve breakfast and lunch, and 24 for dinner. These served him food and drink flown in every morning from around the world on his private jets. People were allowed to tour the rich man’s mansion for $1000. On the tour, they could sit on the veranda overlooking the gardens, the pool, the tennis courts and golf course, sipping tea… One day this rich man with the mansion with 320 rooms, 57 maids, 12 butlers to serve breakfast and lunch, 24 for dinner… this man became very sad. And the next day he was worse, until after a week the servants feared for his health. Then one maid had the courage to ask why he was so sad and disturbed, seeing as he was the richest man in all the earth. Then he told her. He had been out on the grounds surrounding the mansion, walking his llama. And as he was looking at the petunias which graced the row of shrubbery along the driveway he stooped and saw it. There between the petunias was a dandelion. And the sight of it melted the man. In the garden of the richest man in the world was something not wanted! And this fact brought the rich man face to face with reality: he could never buy happiness and peace or prevent unhappiness and sadness with money. And thinking over his own life this was indeed the case. With everything bought, there were always things like dandelions.
Why this story? To get you to see the folly of Christians being disturbed about anything! We are richer by far than the richest man in the earth, or all of them put together! God and His salvation are our wealth! And we would be disturbed, even in the slightest, as we survey the things we have or do not have? How foolish! So what if we have a dandelion on our lawn? Or a lawn full of dandelions!
Finally, in the school of contentment God will teach you to appreciate who you are. That is, you are to appreciate how valuable you are. Not in yourselves, of course. In ourselves we are filthy, guilty sinners. But in Christ—we are very valuable. And God thinks so! He spent His Son to buy us. And that, at no market place, but on a hill on a cross. We, whoever we are, wherever we are in the class standings, whatever we look like, whether we can dribble a ball or not, are to learn what God thinks of us blood-bought ones. Yes, the lesson of life is learning God loves us. God loves us to give us His Son, and make us in His image. God loves us…life is learning to be content with that. Just that.
The Blessed Result
There are blessed results of this instruction. The first is this: we actually learn contentment! God’s teaching is powerful. It grips us. Children, teenagers, older people of God learn the lesson of contentment one way or another.
And, learning contentment, we learn by the grace of God what it is to lead the victorious Christian life. That is the second result. Contentment spells victory. The contented person gains the victory over the strangle-hold of anxiety, over the destroying fire of covetousness, over the bitter poison of a complaining spirit. Contentment means victory over pressures of the world to sin. The contented child of God can resist the pressure even of well-meaning peers to do anything to conform and be liked and brought into slavery to their will.
Contentment so learned will then be contentment enjoyed. Life enjoyed. There will be one, two, countless happy Christians—even happy young Christians. True happiness. Not silliness. But peace, and joy, in God. Happy. Happy. Happy. The contented Christian.
Young people: contentment is for you, and you, for it. Learn this from God through His Word, and in your life lived out of that Word. Learn it now. Learn from the little, content, happy child. Learn from the old mother in Israel who had that key to life…
Then the God of our life and victory is praised! And which of us is not content with that?
Rev. Dick is the Pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church of Lacombe, Alberta, Canada. He and his wife have been there for three years. They have three children.
1. A dictionary defines peers as those persons who are “of the same rank, value, quality, ability, etc…”
a. In what way are all of God’s people peers of one another?
b. How are teenagers peers of one another?
2. “Peer pressure” is a common way to describe the influence that peers can and do have on one another.
a. Such “pressure” or influence can be good or bad.
b. Such peer pressure can be for the building up or destruction of souls!
I. A CLOSER LOOK AT PEER PRESSURE
A. The influence we have on one another as peers can and should be for each other’s good.
1. List at least five examples from Scripture of people who were good influences on their peers.
2. Give at least five ways you are and can be a good influence on your peers.
B. Peer pressure can also be sinful.
1. How can peer pressure be sinful?
a. As to the way the pressure is applied? (Read Proverbs 1:10ff; Zechariah 4:6)
b. As to what one is being pressured to do? (Discuss Romans 12:1,2)
2. Give examples of how peers pressure one another sinfully:
a. With regard to:
2. Sports, music, television, movies, etc…
3. Talents (for example: if you are smarter than other people in the class, do you feel pressure to “play dumb” just to be liked?
b. What about right now: give some examples of peer pressure you see or feel at this convention. Are you putting this pressure on others?
II. VICTORY THROUGH FAITH OVER SINFUL PEER PRESSURE
A. There are various principles or truths to remember when dealing with peer pressure.
1. The believer seeks to please God first of all, and not people (Read Luke 12:31; II Cor. 5:9; II Timothy 2:4).
a. Pleasing God is our chief joy. How does knowing this help us resist peer pressure (cf. Genesis 39; Psalm 84:10; Hebrews 11:24-26)
b. A good way to resist peer pressure is always to set before one’s mind the difference between a peer and Almighty God, and peer “pressure” and the grace and love of God. How do you think being conscious of this difference will help?
2. The believer has the right attitude about himself.
a. What do you need to know about yourself in relation to God and to your peers if you are to resist going along with the crowd in sin? (cf. Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 8; I Corinthians 6:19, 20; 7:7; chapter 12)
b. How does the biblical truth of “contentment” relate here?
3. The young Christian has the proper view of his parents.
a. Often in pleasing peers we clash with our parents. Why is this so? Give some examples.
b. How should we relate to our parents, even when they seem so “old-fashioned” or “strict”? (Read Exodus 20:12; Heidelberg Catechism Q. 104; Proverbs 1:7-9)
4. Regarding other values:
a. What is the Christian view of friendship? How can we tell which peers are our friends, and which are not? What is it to be a true friend? What is it to have a true friend?
b. What is true strength? How will true strength show itself in reaction to peer pressure?
B. As we live by these principles we have victory through faith over sinful peer pressure and can ourselves be a positive influence on others.
1. A few things to remember about LIVING by the principles of God’s Word with regard to peer pressure:
a. Grow in the knowledge of the Bible! How do you do this?
b. Take a stand on the truth – not on popular opinion! Be firmly resolved in your own mind about what is right and what you ought to do or not to do before the temptation of peers comes your way. Give some definite positions that you take or that you could take to help you resist peer pressure.
c. Pray to God! How can this help us with regard to peer pressure?
d. If you are in a position among peers to lead them, lead them well! How can one be a good leader?
e. Believe this: God will give the victory with regard to peer pressure! How does God assure us of the victory?
2. Discuss some of the following situations or others from your experience:
a. Someone asks you to go to a party where there will be alcohol.
b. You feel that you will be left out, a “misfit” if you are not asked to the banquet.
c. Every one of the guys except you has the best name-brand sneakers.
d. You are taking a test and the person next to you asks for some of the answers.
e. Your friends ask you to go out on Saturday night and your parents expect you to be home by 10 p.m.
f. Some of the popular people in school have been to the latest movie. One of them asks you if you have seen it.
We have been studying what it means to seek the kingdom as the Bible in Luke 12 explains it. In the face of such an exhortation as “seek the kingdom’’ we need not despair, for we are able to do all such things through Christ Who strengthens us. We may not be proud, however, of our ability. For it is only through another, through God’s Christ, our king, that we can begin to look and continue to look for this heavenly kingdom.
From the perch of Luke 12:35-37, gazing out over the vista of all Scripture, let us look more in detail at this idea of seeking the kingdom. From the start of our study we have wanted to know if we were indeed “ready’’ to seek. By faith in His most sure Word, I believe I am ready. Are you? Consider: (1) The kingdom of heaven (2) The seekers.
The Worth of the Kingdom
There is a king who is set upon His holy hill (Psalm 2:7). He is Jesus. He is king of all kings and the Lord of every lord of the earth. It is only by and at the will of this wise king that other kings and princes and nobles can rule and decree justice (Proverbs 8:15, 16). The king being Christ-The-Anointed- King, the kingdom is also His. For the kingdom we are exhorted to seek in Luke 12 is the kingdom of God. And Jesus Christ, the One sent by God and set by God on His holy hill, is very God Himself. Right from the start then, we know that this kingdom is worth
seeking. As the king is worthy, so is the kingdom worth all of our attention. The Kingdom as the Rule of God
The word “kingdom” can refer to the domain, or territory of a king. The place where Christ the king rules is this: heaven and earth. God’s kingdom is everywhere! Galaxies, stars, moons, trees, frogs, rocks, roses, boys, girls, pastors, teachers, heaven and earth, and even hell itself (for God is there in His wrath) belong to the domain of our God. And that He has such a large kingdom only bespeaks God’s greatness.
But let us not dwell so much on where God dwells or where God’s kingdom is. Rather, let us seekers think for a moment of God’s kingdom as God s rule over everything in that kingdom. After all, this is most important. Someone could be a king and yet have no control over his subjects. But God is king, not to be compared to Queen Elizabeth or President Reagan: God rules and no parliament, no legislature, no voters or dissidents can overrule Him.
What most characterizes, therefore, the domain of a king is that he rules there. We can speak of a kingdom itself then as the rule or government of the king of a particular kingdom. So Scripture’s kingdom is more than just a physical place. In fact the Bible would take our eyes almost away from the fact that God’s kingdom is a place so that we might see, by faith, its spiritual characteristics, its heavenly government. Thus we read that Jesus repeatedly calls His kingdom a heavenly kingdom. He did this much of the time to combat Jewish notions of a political kingdom soon to come in which an earthly lord would rule. “The kingdom cometh without observation’’, “it (the kingdom, MD) is within you”, “thy kingdom come” are all words of our Saviour which would lead us to the Ruler Ruling. This is so that not only devils might be spiritually in subjection to the rule of God, but ourselves as well (ref. Mt. 12:28; Lk. 18:21ff).
God rules the kingdom, everywhere by His law. He has made laws for every creature. Fish must obey the laws of the rivers and lakes and seas. Eaglets were made to fly, but in some mysterious way must learn by watching their parents; and even the flying eagle is subject to the God of the winds. We humans, made of the dust, are subject to laws which God made for human creatures. We cannot fly. We walk, but only on our legs, not on our heads. We think much differently than other animals. This is because we have larger and altogether different brains. But for all our brains, we can never think up a way of eating with our elbows and not with our mouths!
So many laws and rules of the king: laws for individual creatures; laws for institutions like government, church, or home; laws for disciplines like science, art, business; laws for “natural” things from planets to peas to sub-atomic particles. No earthly king, scientist or businessman could have kept it all straight!
Besides all these laws, there is also a law for sinners. This is a law different from all other laws because in no way can we ever begin to keep it. This law is summed up for us in the law of the King Jesus: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Mt. 22:37-39)
The law which God wrote. . .for sinners. In fact the king’s law entered that the offence of men might abound! (Rom. 5:20) We are sinners. God has shown us that we are outlaws in His kingdom. We can keep the law of walking upright and not on our heads. But we have broken and do break continually God’s law of love. King Jesus, therefore, must over-rule our sin. He must come, take the sin of the church, and smash it to the ground. He must bear, in His kingly overrule of sin, the punishment of God for it, for us. He, the King, subjected Himself to the pain and darkness of hell. What a king, who would willingly let the enemy swarm in upon Him! What a king, who would seek no escape from His task, but who would trust that God’s eternal counsel was good enough and sure enough to guarantee the victory! What a king! What a kingdom!
Can we see now a little bit more how it is not so much a “place” for which we seek as we seek the kingdom? Rather, God would have us seek to find our special place at the foot of the cross. God has revealed to us that there is a refuge for out-laws only in Jesus. By faith we begin to submit to His law of love. There by His cross we see salvation wrought for us by the king 2000 years ago. There also in our future eternity in heaven we see the Lamb slain. For there in that timeless and very “unearthly” place is the heavenly kingdom in which there is no temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22).
This then is how we as redeemed sinners must see God s kingdom: it is God’s righteous rule effected in perfect love and justice on the cross of Calvary. By the gift of the Spirit and by faith, this rule has mastery over us. And in all of this rule the king is glorified.
A Bible commentator, Alexander Maclaren, has aptly painted the scene of Luke 12:35-37:
It is midnight, a great house is without its master, the lord of the palace is absent, but expected back, the servants are busy in preparation, each man with his robe tucked about his middle, in order that it may not interfere with his work, his lamp in his hand that he may see to go about his business and his eye ever turned to the entrance to catch the first sign of the coming of his master. Is that like your Christian life? (Vol. LX; pp 358, 359 of his Expositions of Scripture)
The Holy Spirit in Luke here has described for us seekers of God’s kingdom. In the Bible there are many descriptions of people who seek the kingdom. Seekers of God, for example, are called meek, those who mourn, who are persecuted, who fear God, who are full of joy and the Holy Spirit. The emphasis here in Luke, however, is that what characterizes seekers is that they do watch and wait for that king and kingdom to come. This is very important for us to remember, especially for those of us without gray hair. For we young people would often just as soon run after God than wait for Him, trying really to “beat Him” to His own purpose and end. We in our youthful zeal would think we were doing God service when in fact we trip over our own works and forget about God’s grace which alone saves us. On the other hand, sometimes the waiting for this great kingdom to come can seem so long (just like we might complain that the minister’s prayers or sermons or family devotions are so long!) that it seems pointless. The temptation to be lazy or bored with watching and waiting for a spiritual king can be very, very real. We might just as soon watch the ball game. We might just as soon wait very prettily in our new dresses to catch the eye of anyone and everyone.
But true seekers of the kingdom, young or old, do wait for their Lord. They do this, as Maclaren describes and as Luke says, by girding their loins and burning their lights.
The loins are not spare ribs. They are simply the middle part of the human body, say, the part from the thighs to the stomach. To gird them about was, for those of Jesus’ day and culture, to hitch up the long and flowing robes which people then wore around a belt or around the robe itself. A master, for example, might tell his servant to gird up his loins in order to carry that jar of water or send this message swiftly to his brother. By the words, “girding the loins”, the servant would know exactly what his master was saying: “This job must be done quickly and efficiently, so make sure you are not tripping over your garments on the way.” There are some interesting examples in Scripture of people girding up their loins.
Girding the loins meant for Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, making haste to lay Elisha’s staff upon the face of the dead son of the Shunamite woman. In this he must not be side-tracked, but he
must go about quickly the business of the prophet of God (II Kings 4). Jeremiah the prophet was one commanded by God to gird up his loins and to arise and speak unto apostate Judah (Jer. 1). At first Jeremiah would say that it was impossible for him to go for he was only a child (learn from this, young people!). But by faith and girding the loins, Jeremiah could speak the Word of God. Another example of one who so girded his loins in preparation for a task is the example of Jesus. He girded His loins about with a towel after the supper of the passover with His disciples. He did this in order to wipe with this towel His disciples’ feet after he had washed them.
These examples of persons in the Bible girding up the loins have spiritual significance for us seekers. We do not have long flowing robes that get in our way. But we do have long flowing sins: we often put on such wild imaginations and lies that would trip us up and divert us in our pursuit of God’s kingdom. The spiritual admonition for us as God’s servants always is: gird up the loins of your minds (I Peter 1:13), and, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth’’ (Ephesians 6:14). We cannot be as men who wait for their Lord if we cannot and do not stand.
Letting our loins be girded spiritually and by faith in the God of the Bible we will surely be waiting on the Word and letting our lights burn. Light is the revelation of the glory of God. This glory shines. It shines and burns away the darkness of a world that hates God. God’s glory, THE LIGHT, Jesus Christ, shines in the face of unbelief so that it cowers, like Old Testament Israel, before it (CF. Exodus 34:29-35). God’s glory shines so that all can see —it cannot be hid.
By faith, the gift of God, we do burn this light. Each of us does burn this light. We do this by setting our hearts on the kingdom. This act of faith ignites us to let our parents, our brothers and sisters and church members and classmates and the whole world know that we are Christians! We say: “Come see this kingdom we have found! We have set our hearts there, and our treasure is there. Our loins are girded, we have detached ourselves from all empty pleasures and faithless passions. We concentrate instead on our meat and drink: the Words of the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” Day by day reading and prayerful meditation upon the Bible; intent concentration in church and in school; building friendships which are true friendships in the Lord; applying, by faith, all that we read and hear and see of the kingdom . . .to our lives —these are the most important activities of our lives. Does your faith glow? If so, then you are telling yourself, the world, and God, that He is the Father and the power of all lights. If so, then you are truly burning your light. Then also you are truly waiting on God.
In all of this girding of our loins and letting of our lights burn we are said to be (verse 36) “like men that wait for their lord.” Just remember this, if anything, about waiting: included in the Scriptural idea of waiting for is the idea of waiting on. We wait for (or cannot wait for) trains, busses, dinner, vacation. We wait on the Lord. And this implies that He is already king, already come, ruling in our lives. Thus His coming and our waiting is not just in the future.
We wait on the Lord. This means that we attend God’s law and so serve God—now. You have seen waiters at restaurants, have you not? They wait for the time w/hen you are ready to order. So we wait for God to complete His purpose in time and to take us home. But good restaurant waiters wait on their guests constantly from the beginning to the end of their meal: filling glasses, taking orders, asking how is the meal. So we who wait on God do not wait until we make confession of faith publicly in church before we start acting like Christians in private and before all to see. We do not wait until we feel good or until we are “zapped” into spiritual fervor in order to start searching the Scriptures daily. If we wait only for God we will never act upon faith. And if we never act upon faith, then it must be true that we never had faith. For faith gives waiters “to open unto” the Lord, to yield unto His commandment, immediately both now and when He shall come again. We wait on the Lord —now. For in so doing we become like Him Who sought and waited on us.
Are you and I seekers? are we waiters, servants of the Lord? If we are, and I believe we are, then it is not because we have taken piano lessons or because we can build a building or sing a solo. Nor is it because we get better grades in school than someone else. Nor are we waiters/servants/seekers of God because we are more pious than people who go to churches other than Protestant Reformed. No. We are waiters, servants and seekers because Jesus the King waited on, served and sought us first. Jesus, the Son of God, waited on us, taking upon Himself the form of a servant. And we see in the picture of our passage that seekers’ reward shall be that the Lord Himself shall “gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (v. 37).
Jesus is king. As Maclaren puts it: in heaven He is girded with a towel of Sovereignty. But His is no longer a ministry of washing, for he (us) that is once washed by the Holy Spirit is washed every whit. Rather the Lamb- King in eternity doth serve the feast of salvation to the saints, “filling up every soul with love and with Himself.” Dear reader, this is the great mystery of the kingdom: in God’s kingdom as subjects of His LOVE, we are blessed forever by the king Who shall serve!
Remember: there is a kingdom of this world which opens wide its gates to us. There is no law, no rule in this kingdom —it is “to each his own” there. It is the lawlessness of basketball game after football game after party after rock beats after fashion after heroes after wealth and nest eggs and after delight only in things physical. Indeed, it is a kingdom with certain riches: laughter, rhythm, popularity, physical comfort, feelings of carefreeness and feelings of oneness with those who joy in seeking the same thing (s).
But I heard a seeker of God just the other day. He was at the lecture on “The Rapture” given in September by Rev. Van Overloop. Out of the blue he says: “You know I’d much rather be here than at a basketball game.” We had just heard of the glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As He ascended so we shall see Him descend, with glory and with power and great brightness to destroy all that is Anti-Christ (II Thessalonians 2:8). And when the KING comes then will the seekers know so well His rule in their hearts that they will be totally enraptured by it.
Let us anticipate this coming of the king. Let us pray to God constantly and in every prayer we make: Thy kingdom come”. And let us act brilliantly, by faith preparing ourselves and setting ourselves apart for the wedding of the church and her husband which wedding will take place in the halls of the great eternal king’s palace. We are “the called” according to God’s purpose?” May we be so ruled not by praise of classmates, parents or preacher and not by our desires for meat and drink. For our joy must be, if God has so worked in us, to marvel at. and to spend as wise stewards, the riches of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17).
From the Latin: “An urging out of.” From the Bible: “God urging His people out of sin and into His kingdom.”
The Holy Spirit in the Bible in Luke 12:29-34 has exhorted us and in our hearts through that Word, does continually exhort us “to seek the kingdom of God.” Rather than seeking anything in this world we must be seeking the things that are above. You may like to read this passage for yourself.
In the January 1986 issue of the Beacon Lights I said I would next seek to study with you certain means God has given us to seek His kingdom. But before we gird up our loins or light any old light let us ponder our real ability to seek God’s kingdom. This consideration I hope will lead us to consider also the One Who is able to make us able. This is a must to consider lest we despair of even having enough electricity for burning a light. Or, on the other hand, lest we in our misguided zeal seek fervently alright, but the wrong kingdom, and even the wrong king! Just think: a kingdom of DESPAIR would be ours if we thought we had no ability, not even by grace, to seek the kingdom of God; a kingdom of PRIDE we would win if we would seek God thinking we could do something or everything to seek God without God!
A DIRT ROAD
Consider first one road, a wrong road, the road we often take, of DESPAIR.
The Bible commands us: “Seek the kingdom.” Before this injunction we can ask quite skeptically: “But how can -we?” And in such doubt we might reflect upon how our feelings and the Devil and his army stand here accusing: so often when we should be giving God the glory, yet we in our gluttony feast on, and burp praise all over, ourselves; it feels like we habitually hate God because He cramps our style, and our neighbor we hate because he also makes “too much noise” in our lives; the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I can hear my conscience whispering to me now) is “dull facts and chains wrapped around our Sundays,” and not the Good and Joyous News of deliverance from our bodies of death; and oh, how we so often like to dance (where angels fear to tread!), like so many Dinahs, with the very Tigers (Detroit) and Beatles (rock stars) of the land instead of to commune with our brothers and sisters born from above of the Lord (the writer refers the reader to Genesis 34 and also to Proverbs 13:20 and 27:17 – it is dangerous dancing with Tigers and Beatles!).
It is clear. If we are to listen very long to such devils and to our own mere feelings on the matter of seeking the kingdom, that is, on the matter of fellowshipping with our God as we do the good works He has given us to do, then we will have an easy answer to the question: “How can we seek the kingdom?” The answer will be: WE CAN NEVER SEEK THE KINGDOM, FOR HERE WE ARE, CONSTANTLY FOUND IN OUR SINFUL DEEDS AND FULL OF GUILT, AND WE ARE SO YOUNG – LEAVE SEEKING THE KINGDOM FOR THE ADULTS! The logical conclusion would be for us, therefore: “We may as well file (circularly) this exhortation as well as countless others of Scripture.” Why? Because judging from our own experience the kingdom of God that we would seek we do not, and so, what’s the use? That’s it. Instead of pretending to read the Bible, pretending to be interested in spiritual conversation anymore, we might just as well decide to “throw our Bibles in the garbage and jump in after them.
And this might be an acceptable alternative for some of us. But only if we are determined to get a new Bible in place of the old one we have wrinkled so much as we may have slept on it. But throwing the Bible out as well as throwing out the God of the Bible, that choice may never be ours. For we can get a new Bible, not a new God. We must trust that God has written for us, and not against us; we must trust that He has written to quicken us, and not to make us bored stiff or in any other way hardened by His Word of the Covenant.
So if we believe these two things: that the Bible is God’s irrefutable Word against which no creature may argue, and that this Word is the very Word of life to those who are called to believe, then why do we even entertain the question: “How can we seek the kingdom?” ARE THE DEVIL’S QUESTIONS OUR GUESTS? And do we feed them with our own nagging doubts about the Holy God of the Holy Bible? If so, then his conclusions will be our
constant companions. No doubt we will be, for all our short lives, hamstrung Christians, hair-singed Christians, and, most likely, Christians complaining that God has given us something too difficult to do in exhorting us to seek His kingdom. We will have, in effect, concluded that we are not Christians at all.
THE “LOOKS” ROAD
There is a second tempting and quite twisting and hilly-thrilling road which we can take. On this road we wind and turn, bouncing up and down in hot-rods we have had custom-built and precision-tuned. In fact, so sleek and smooth-running is our rig that there is hardly another car we do not pass or could not pass on this road if we really wanted to.
1 call this the road of “looks.” It is, of course, a spiritual road. We drive the road of “looks” when we think there is something in us that is good and we want desperately to show ourselves to others and only vaguely to show others to God. Pretty soon after we drive down “looks” our religion becomes something like a sport or other sort of game: it is a game of comparing our own “surface spirituality” with that of others.
We take this road when we think that there is something in our own nature, in our own engine if you will, which gets us somewhere closer to the kingdom. On his road, you see, we are nowhere near despair. On the contrary we are “riding high”, not needing a thing as we coast along. In fact, we have confidence in our own inherent ability, thrown out the number we once had for the tow truck: 1-800-1 (NE-ED) (G-RACE). We take this road in our souped-up pride when we seek not the kingdom at all, but only how to get there, and ahead of everybody else, and by hook or by crook.
Just as we compete with others on this road because we think we are pretty good at being kingdom-seekers, so also we play with Scripture almost as if it were an opponent: those who despair will run away, but those who are proud will play and play!
Where are we? We have examined two roads and searched our hearts and confessed that we have been on these roads: when we imagine that God’s grace does not enable us sufficiently (II Corinthians 12:9) to seek His kingdom, then we despair; when we get it in our heads that we are the fountain of all good (but we are shapen, even, in iniquity!), then we bear the rotten fruit of pride.
Right now as we read this article, because we have discussed them, we stand before these two main roads – despair on the left, pride on the right, and also before all their little side streets and alleys in which we can so easily get lost. Fact is, we stand before such alternatives every time we hear the preaching, and every moment of our lives when we recall what we have heard from the pulpit.
And if we really love living in garbage cans or by racetracks or wandering about in alleys and looking at the peepshows there, then we may choose to take the ways of despair, or of self-centeredness, or of not caring a whit about everyday seeking the kingdom of the God of the Bible.
Or we can, very simply, and by faith, forget about our own little ability or great ability or whatever ability and first try to estimate the King’s ability Whose kingdom we seek. Doing this we begin to see how silly it is to wonder how we can gird up our loins (for we can do all things through Christ strengthening us, Philippians 4:13). Nor do we glory in the dream that we have some amazing power plant in our own bodies which helps us burn our lights. Rather, we glory in the king. He is able to create (Genesis 1; Hebrews 11:3), and also to condemn sinners or to commend His love toward sinners (Romans 5). With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26), and with God alone is any and everything which He so powerfully wills possible (Matthew 28:18. Here Jesus says: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.)
That is seeking the kingdom: taking eyes off self first and glorying in the God of the kingdom Who made us to be citizens of the kingdom. With this type of seeking our natural clamor for ways of doing things is muffled by our singing of the reasons for our doing things.
The reason: we love one who is the Lamb-now-exalted-Lord of the kingdom Who was willing and able to be slain in the mysterious eternity of God’s counsel (Revelation 13:8) and in time on the instrument of God’s cursing, the cross. Slain for us sinners He was. So all our doing, all our seeking for God’s kingdom is seeking to know the God and Father of the Lamb-King Jesus Christ, and to thank Him more as we know Him more, for His great Majesty and for His great salvation.
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