Are You Content with Your Lot?
“O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.” Psa 16:5–6
David rejoiced in the plan of God for his life. The “lot” of which he speaks goes back to the dividing of the Promised Land to the twelve tribes. God told Moses how the division was to take place (Num 26:52–56); Num 33:54). This would be their “portion” and their “inheritance.” However, their enjoyment of this inheritance would also depend on their faithfulness to the will of God.
“But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” Num 33:55
In other words, their “cup,” that is their daily experience, would not live up to God’s intended joy and blessing in possessing their inheritance. The “geographic will” of God (their allotment) had to be met with the “operational will” of God (their willing obedience) in order for them to realize the “experiential will” of God (their joy and blessings). David’s joy in his daily experience—that is his “overflowing cup” (Psa 23:5)—was the result of his spiritual focus on the Person and the plan of God day by day.
“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Psa 16:7–8
Who Sets the Lot and Draws the Lines?
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is of the Lord.” Pro 16:33
David understood that God, in His sovereign will and infinite love, was the ultimate arbiter of his life. That “night seasons” would come—that is times of dark trial and sorrow—was to be expected. As Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). The word “adversity” used here literally means “evil.” But it is not moral evil, nor evil intent, but evil in the broad sense of the painful and harmful conditions that exist in a fallen world. While the atheist says, “How could God be good and allow evil?” and the weak Christian says, “How could God allow this evil to befall me?,” both Job and David, along with all maturing saints, had learned that God permits evil because men choose evil (Gen 2:9, Gen 2:17), and therefore in His justice, evil must be allowed to run its course. However, to those who trust Him, even evil becomes a source of ultimate good (Gen 50:20; Psa 23:4; Psa 121:5–8; Rom 8:28). God ordained our “lot” before time began.
“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me.” Psa 139:16
In God’s “book of life,” before the creation of the world, there was a record of your life recorded—including all that God planned—as well as your options, choices, and consequences. In sharing with us His “likeness,” God imparted a measure of His sovereignty—the power of self-determination—which we call “free will.” In fallen man, this power can work for great good or great evil. God allows us to make choices within the scope of His permissive will. These puny choices, however, never challenge His perfect will, which is realized through Jesus Christ, nor His overruling will, which brings about His perfect plan. A too-extreme view of His sovereignty ultimately makes God the author of evil, and man a mere puppet. To the contrary, an extreme view of man’s unlimited freedom makes man the mover in the universe, and God a janitor, trying to clean up the mess. A balanced biblical view recognizes the overarching sovereignty of God, within which He has given us a measure of freedom to choose good or evil, and the corresponding responsibility of reaping the consequences—whether for blessing or cursing. For the child of God, there is the comfort that we are the objects of His unfailing love, and are surrounded by His infinite grace.
“Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust … Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You …
They are more than can be numbered.” Psa 40:4–5
“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore;
you are of more value than many sparrows.” Mat 10:30–31
For those who enter the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, the assurance is given that “God is for us” (Psa 56:9b; Rom 8:31). The heavenly Father will therefore use both evil circumstances and evil decisions to chasten and refine us toward His ultimate purpose (Heb 12:3–11; 1Pe 1:4–9). It is in His faithfulness and steadfastness toward us—and not in our own—that we find rest and peace.
The Value of Contentment
“Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psa 131:2
Spiritual growth, like the weaning process with an infant, leads to a soul that is increasingly free from vexation and anxiety. As the Apostle Paul says, “But when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1Co 13:11b). The growth of a child from infancy to adulthood involves a process of transferring concern from self to others, from desires and dependency to duties and responsibilities. Even so, the regenerate inner man must be “transformed by the renewing of [the] mind” (Rom 12:2). By the exercise of our God-given volitional power, making daily decisions to cooperate with the inner working of His Spirit “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phi 2:13), we come in time to a level of Christ-conformity where genuine contentment is realized.
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1Ti 6:6
In Paul’s theology, “godliness” speaks of being conformed to Christ, in whom the “mystery of godliness” was manifested (1Ti 3:16). In other words, spiritual maturity is measured, not in terms of theological intellectualism, but rather in a conformed life. With the attainment of maturity comes a quality of great gain, and that is contentment: our ability to rejoice along with David in our “lot” as ordained by God.
The Manifold Gifts of Life
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Rom 11:29
When God, in His infinite wisdom, sets “the bounds of our habitation” (Act 17:26b), He determined our race, sex, physical makeup, and personality. He then placed us into the precise time of history in which He wanted us to live, in order to fulfill His purpose in us. Because of the redemptive work of Christ for every man/woman, no one is exempted from the potential of playing their part. However, every gift of God is balanced by choice, responsibility, and accountability.
Life is a Gift
“He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil,
and his lips from speaking deceit … let him turn away from evil and do good …” Psa 34:12–14; 1Pe 3:10–11
The first gift God gives to every soul is that of life itself. The very entrance into life on this earth is attended with a multitude of options and potential decisions. From earliest age, volition—far more than heredity or environment—begins to form the character of the soul. Out of the same hardship and poverty comes one who excels and achieves, and another who becomes a moral and social cripple. From the same race and ghetto, or mansion and privilege, come both triumphs and tragedies. The one primary differentiating factor is the personal exercise of the will. And “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” so from earliest childhood, the soul is either being softened or hardened to the precious “seed” of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thus the four “soils” of Jesus’ first and definitive parable (Mar 4:3–9) represent soul conditions which are the consequence of life choices. It is for this reason that Jesus said to His disciples, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mar 4:13). For the key to understanding all parables is the understanding that every soul is granted initially the gift of life, and what that life will become is a matter of personal decision and divine accountability. Thus, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mar 4:9).
Eternal Life is a Gift
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 6:23
Every soul has but one ultimate decision to make in life: Will you receive or reject the gift of God? But every decision in life plays its part in the spiritual conditioning of the soul. God did not create some men with “good soil” souls, and others with “wayside soils.” Each condition in the parable represents conditions of either cultivation or neglect. Behind the scenes, the Spirit of God works to convict each and every soul of the ultimate realities of our existence: “sin and righteousness and judgment” (Joh 16:8). Our response to His sovereign, convicting work—from childhood to adulthood—conditions the soul for either the reception or the rejection of His offer of eternal life. Every gift of God’s grace is to be received and appreciated by faith, and faith is the expression of a soul in submission to God.
Abundant Life is a Gift
It is only when we begin to enter what Jesus called “abundant life” (Joh 10:10) that we begin to lay hold of true contentment. This condition is not determined by the external conditions of our life. Rather, it is an expression of the inner life set free from the curse of this world (1Jo 2:15–17). The inevitable effect of the curse on sin is a sense of dissatisfaction, the constant reminder that life “ought” to be better. Humanly, we meet this discontent by seeking fulfillment in the things of life, only to be disappointed time and time again. Only the child of God has the capacity to overcome this tragic cycle. By means of steady growth in God’s Word, and communion with Him in life, the soul is trained to “[lay] hold [on] eternal life” (1Ti 6:12, 1Ti 6:19). This term does not refer to becoming a believer, since Paul is addressing those who already possess eternal life (note 1Ti 6:11 and 1Tim 6:17). Rather, to lay hold on eternal life is to find satisfaction and fulfillment in those things that are of lasting and eternal value. This does not promote a life of austerity and asceticism, for in the same context Paul reminds the rich “not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who gives us all things richly to enjoy” (1Ti 6:17). While not all are blessed with earthly riches, each one of us is surrounded by riches—both earthly and heavenly—that are given to enrich our lives with the abundance of God’s grace.
Receive the Gift, but Hold Fast to the Giver!
It is most important that in receiving the gifts of God, we never allow them to obscure the Giver. This is one of the great truths that comes through in the parable of the prodigal son (Luk 15:11–32). In taking the gifts and leaving the Giver, he lost the gifts and learned to long for the Giver. Some of God’s greatest gifts are found in the smallest things. As I look back over my life, in the darkest times of sorrow, God made His presence and compassion known through small things. This happened once while I was walking in deep grief through the hills, and my attention was drawn to a rare and beautiful flower. The petals were of purest white, but the center was a deep royal purple, around which were small dots of gold. It reminded me of the crown of righteousness spoken of by Paul (2Ti 4:8) and gave me the courage to rise up and press on. On another occasion, I was so disheartened that the temptation to give up was overpowering. As I sat looking at the ground, into view came two ants: one small and red, the other large and black. On spotting each other, the huge black ant attacked the small red one, only to be met with such a vicious counterattack that he could not get away fast enough. Into my mind came the truth that, though our situation may seem impossible, “with God all things are possible” (Mat 19:26). I honestly do not believe I would be involved in ministry today if not for the lesson of that small ant!
The gifts of life are often obscured by the trials we meet along the way. Blinded by tears, we lose sight of God’s goodness and grace. The gifts may wax and wane, but the Giver remains ever faithful. An amazing example is found in Annie Johnson Flint (http://www.preceptaustin.org/annie_johnson_flint’s_biography.htm) who was severely tried in her life. Early in life, she suffered the loss of both mother and father. Then, at an early age, she began to suffer a crippling arthritis, which in time left her an invalid. All along the way, she was dogged by poverty. Yet the fruit of her afflictions was an outpouring of a heart of gratitude to the Giver of all good things through her writing. My favorite is the following poem:
He Giveth More Grace
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
Here is the secret to true contentment. Here is the way to rejoice in our lot. To know that He is faithful, that He is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Psa 46:1). As Paul rhetorically asks, in Rom 8:32, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Whatever may be the “giant” you face, however weak and helpless you may be, and no matter how you may seem outnumbered, my prayer is that you will seek and find the all-sufficiency of His grace (2Co 12:9) and never forget …
“He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”
Content in Christ,