Why is it so difficult to be content when we live in prosperous times? We have seemingly every convenience at our fingertips, yet we crave more and are rarely satisfied. Numerous Christians suffer from depression and some have taken their own lives. Not everyone living near us is so blessed with abundance. In 1998 it was estimated that “20% of all U.S. Christians gave nothing to church, para -church or non -religious charities.” Annually our congregation vows to receive and support the church budget approved by the Session. The Lord is gracious and merciful in providing our annual ministerial needs and often with some abundance. However, sixty -three percent of the congregation fulfilled their vow in 2018.
As treasurer and deacon of a medium-size urban congregation, I assist in the discipleship of church members in the area of Christian stewardship. I find it tempting to focus on my affairs, and readily neglect God’s glory and beneficence to my fellow man. There is overwhelming evidence that I am not alone in this temptation. Jeremiah Burroughs addressed the underlying spiritual issue four hundred years ago. Working from Philippians 4:12, he reminds us that God supplies all our necessities. We are said to be full when our needs are provided. He states, “It’s a good sign of grace to be more concerned how to abound than how to get abundance; to be more careful to use what you have for God than to maintain it for yourself.”
The Apostle Paul says that he is instructed both to be full and to be hungry. (Phil. 4:12b). Burroughs’s premise is that “a Christian is taught by God to know how to be full.” He defines fullness in large part as the ability to set a due value on the mercies God has granted him. In verse 19 Paul encourages us that God will supply our every necessity according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Our union with Christ allows us to be pitied and provided for not ‘out of’ but ‘according to’ God’s riches. God’s riches are of infinite supply and that infinite supply is ours by union with Christ.
What are the specific riches? Burroughs reminds us of God’s richness in mercy. (Eph. 2:7) “God is not said to be rich in power so much as He is said to be rich in grace, in the works of mercy, and the works of kindness. Therefore, a godly man, who has learned by the grace of God how to be full, accounts himself to be made rich by sharing whatever fullness God has given him, for the glory of His name and the good of others.” Burroughs goes on to explain the mystery of learning to be full. By God’s grace, “A godly man learns to be full:
- By abounding in faithfulness. ‘A faithful man shall abound with blessings.’ (Pro. 28:20).
- By regularly surrendering up his estate, his comforts, and his possessions to God.
- By seeking to preserve his comforts and enrich himself by sharing what he has… particularly good works. (I Tim. 6:17-18).
- By putting his affections for earthly riches to death. (Phil. 4:5).
- By sanctifying all that he has by the Word and prayer. (I Tim. 4:4-5).
- By practicing increased humility. (II Sam. 7:18-22).
- By counting it a greater privilege to return anything to God than to receive from God.
- By seeing himself as unworthy of the smallest of his possessions.
- By abounding in holiness.
- By reminding himself of his dependence upon God in the height of his prosperity as he is in the depth of his depravity.”
This is not an exhaustive list. Burroughs provides dozens of aspects concerning being full and content. Nor are the items in any progressive order. Christians grow in grace by the ordinary means of grace, which are the Word of God (read, preached and sung), prayer, and the two sacraments (Baptism and The Lord’s Supper).
We ought to start and continue any Christian discipline (stewardship) with the study of God’s word and prayer. (I Tim. 4:4-5). Repent of those sins of covetousness that lead us to depend upon our self instead of God. Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in areas where we can exemplify His Glory. In what areas has God shown you mercy that you can share with others? When God meets your need in a crisis, never forget it. Never forget it, particularly when you find yourself in abundance. Continue to be faithful in what God has taught you thus far because we have the assurance that Christ will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5).
Submitted by Kenneth J Pujdak, Deacon and Treasurer of Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville SC (Originally submitted to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in accordance with required course work.)