“Like A Weaned Child” Psalm 131 March 20, 2011
SI: Please open your Bibles to Psalm 131
Charles Spurgeon wrote an extensive commentary on the Psalms called
“The Treasury of David.” It’s a massive work of several volumes.
He said about Psalm 131:
“This is one of the shortest Psalms to read, but one of the longest to learn.”
Let’s read these three short verses and let God’s word search us.
INTRO: This is my 15th year at Christ Covenant.
One thing that concerns me about my preaching is that I’m going to repeat myself
too much—that I’m going to repeat same passages and same themes.
So one way I try to avoid that is by preaching through different books of the Bible
a portion at a time. That way I have to cover passages I wouldn’t normally pick.
And I have to sometimes talk about topics I would steer clear of.
But even so, I find myself coming back to certain things over and over again.
I preached on Psalm 131 seven and a half years ago.
I also preached on it three and a half years ago.
You probably don’t remember those sermons,
but you’re going to be very familiar with the topic.
This Psalm about contentment.
I’ve preached on contentment more times than I can count.
We moved here in 1996 and a few months later, maybe a year later,
there was an outbreak of troubled marriages in our church.
It seems like they always come in waves.
I was overwhelmed. I thought my church was falling apart.
The church I had come from in Florida was 90% retirees.
The only marriage issue we had
was how to schedule all the 50th wedding anniversaries.
We were visiting my parents during that time and I told my dad my fears.
I asked him what to do. I’ll never forget what he told me.
He said: Andrew, first of all you need some perspective.
In every era of history, the church is troubled by particular societal ills and sins.
Christians breathe the air and drink the water of the culture, bring into church.
The sorrow of the church in our time is the erosion of marriage.
If you had been a pastor in the 1800s, you wouldn’t have had this struggle.
But it would have been something else. So this is not a trouble unique to
Christ Covenant, it’s prevalent in every church and denomination because
it’s a particular manifestation of sin in our time.
Second, he said, Don’t think you have to preach about marriage all the time.
But you do need to preach contentment.
Contentment needs to become a theme of your preaching and teaching.
Went on to explain that in his pastoral observations over the years,
the underlying problem is not marriage problems per se, but lack of contentment.
When Christians aren’t content with the life God has given them,
then that discontentment often spreads to the wife God has given them,
or the husband God has given them.
Discontentment almost never stays in neat boxes.
A woman who is discontented with her standard of living will eventually
become discontented with her husband.
But on the other hand, when believers grow in the grace of contentment,
that enables them to overcome many marital disappointments.
I took my dad’s advice to heart, not just for you all, but for myself.
Contentment has been a virtue I’ve struggled for in my own life.
In that struggle, there are three passages of Scripture that stand out.
I think these are the heart and soul of the Bible’s teaching on contentment.
We read two of them earlier—Philippians 4 and 1 Timothy 6.
Psalm 131 is the third.
They all compliment each other.
Philippians 4 is about steps to becoming content, Paul’s great argument.
1 Timothy 6 is mostly warnings about discontentment.
Psalm 131 has a special place—it’s a picture of the content soul.
It’s a picture of what your soul needs to look like.
Here’s the question I want you to ask yourself:
Do you have a Psalm 131 soul?
Do you have a still and quiet soul
that is content in God with the life he has given you?
I’m going to take a slightly different approach this morning.
Instead of just focusing on Psalm 131, I’m going to bring in Philippians 4
and 1 Timothy 6, and weave these three great contentment passages together.
We’ll look at it under just two points, one negative and one positive.
1. The dangers of discontentment
2. The grace of the still and quiet soul
MP#1 The dangers of discontentment
The temptation to be discontented comes at you every day.
It might just be a catalog that comes in the mail—you look at all this neat stuff,
clothes or computers—and it’s always better than what you have—
and suddenly there is the temptation to be discontent with what you do have.
Or maybe you see an old friend, and he is so much more successful than you
that you become discontent with your own success.
Several years ago I visited an old seminary friend at his church.
His church was bigger and more prestigious than mine (sorry y’all!).
And I was hit with a wave of discontentment.
When we go on vacation to South Florida, I have to prepare myself.
Because there is so much conspicuous consumption, beautiful cars,
beautiful homes, beautiful people—that I get discontent with my real life.
Discontentment and covetousness are closely related—two sides of same coin.
Covetousness is just discontentment focused on something specific.
Look at the 10th commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,
Nor his man servant, nor his maid servant,
Nor his ox, nor his donkey,
Nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
The reason you covet those things is because you are discontent
with your own wife, house, manservant, maidservant, ox, donkey, or whatever.
God wants you to fight discontentment.
One of the ways he motivates you is by warnings.
The Lord says: Listen to me. Discontentment is dangerous.
Believe me and fight it. Push it out of your mind. Resist it.
Now, let’s look at these warnings. In 1 Timothy 6 there are four of them.
1. Discontentment causes troubles, spiritual and material.
“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish
and harmful desires . . .The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”
Is it wrong to make money? Is it wrong to get rich? Of course not.
In fact, if you are content, and frugal, and if you work and save and give
like the Bible tells you to, then your financial condition will almost always rise.
It won’t be dramatic—but you will be better off than you would be otherwise.
Paul’s focus is not money, per se, he’s addressing discontentment.
His point is this: If you allow discontentment to take over your thinking,
then discontentment will be the motivation of all your decisions,
and that will get into all sorts of trouble—both spiritual and material.
When Christians look at themselves and say: How did I get into this mess?
How did I get into this trouble—financial, relational, marital, sexual—often,
it’s rooted in discontentment with what God has given.
And a series of choices driven by discontentment.
2. Discontentment spoils the ordinary gifts of God.
Paul says to Timothy:
“But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” .
Food and clothing are a way of talking about the ordinary things that God gives
us in this life. The good, ordinary things a Father gives his children.
Paul is saying that a content person is satisfied with these things
because he sees them for what they are, and uses them as God intended.
But discontentment spoils these ordinary gifts.
It’s not just not liking what you have and wanting better, it goes deeper.
A discontented person demands more from these ordinary gifts of God,
than they are intended to give. He wants them to fill holes not intended to fill.
And that ruins them for his use and enjoyment.
Money is an ordinary gift of God, to enable us to buy things we need and want,
and to help other people and advance the
Discontentment spoils money—not just by making you want more,
but by demanding it to give you security or a sense of self worth.
Money can’t do that—not intended to. So discontent spoils money.
Marriage is an ordinary gift of God, to provide companionship, intimacy, help,
for two sinful people in the ordinary struggles of life.
This past Friday I was in Lubbock, Texas and performed marriage of Rebecca
Cochran and Jason Mulkey. One of the things that made doing that wedding so
gratifying for me, was Jason’s faithfulness in the long-term illness and then the
death of his first wife. Knew he was a man who understood marriage.
Discontentment spoils marriage—not just by making you want a different spouse,
but by demanding that it give you meaning and fulfillment.
Marriage can’t do that—not intended to. So discontent spoils marriage.
3. Discontentment weakens you for crises.
“We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out.”
Paul is talking about the greatest crisis of your life—your death.
When you face death, you will need contentment and hope and security
more than any other time.
If you have lived a discontent life, if the gifts of God have never been enough
for you, and if you have tried to get things out of them they can’t give you,
then you will have absolutely no resources to draw on in this crisis.
John Piper asked: “If you dropped dead right now, would you take with you a payload of
pleasure in God or would you stand before him with a spiritual cavity where discontentment
used to be?”
This is also true of all the big crises of your life.
James Wodrow was a 17th century Scottish Presbyterian, father of several sons
who were famous in their day, one a historian, one theologian.
Had another son, Sandie, short for Alexander—died as a young man.
One day, friends found him alone at son’s grave. Asked what he was doing.
“I was thanking God for 31 years’ loan of Sandie, my dear son.”
A discontent heart would not have the strength to respond that way.
It would collapse in despair or bitterness.
4. Discontentment will send you to hell.
What’s the end of discontentment: “plunges men into ruin and destruction.”
The ruin and destruction Paul is talking about is not just in this life.
Not just saying that discontent can ruin your finances or your marriage.
He’s talking about eternal destruction.
That’s plain when you read on to verse 12.
“Fight the good fight of faith, take hold of eternal life.”
And when he says that through this some have “Wandered from the faith.”
If discontentment is the theme and pattern of your life,
ultimately discontented in God and in Christ, and will send you to hell.
God warns us because he loves us.
Believing his warnings and acting on them is a step of faith.
But it’s not enough just to fight discontentment.
The Christian life is never just negative—it always has to be positive.
Brings us to second point.
MP#2 The grace of a still and quiet soul
Let’s look now at Psalm 131. David says:
“But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
A still and quiet soul—that’s contentment.
And his illustration is so vivid—my soul is like a weaned child with its mother.
Listen to the way one preacher explained this verse:
The Christian is not like an infant crying loudly for his mother’s breast, but like a weaned child that quietly rests by his mother’s side, happy in being with her. No desire now comes between him and his God; for he is sure that God knows what he needs before he asks Him. And just as the child gradually breaks off the habit of regarding his mother only as a means of satisfying his own desires and learns to love her for her own sake, so the worshipper after a struggle has reached an attitude of mind in which he desires God for himself and not as a means of fulfillment of his own wishes. His life’s center of gravity has shifted. He now rests no longer in himself but in God.”
There are two kinds of dependence on God.
Immature dependence regards God as a means of satisfying our own desires.
That could be compared to the way a nursing baby relates to his mother.
A nursing child barely has any concept of his mother as a person.
She’s a milk-delivery device. It’s a true mother-child relationship, but immature.
You can relate to God like this.
It’s when you primarily see God as the one who exists to give you what want.
Oftentimes people come to faith in Christ with this kind of dependence.
They think, “Oh, goody, Jesus is going to fulfill my agenda for happiness.”
Here is the list of things Jesus has to give me to make my life worthwhile:
Happy marriage, well-adjusted children, financial stability, good health, fulfilling
work. How wonderful, how exciting, Jesus can help me, Jesus can bless me
Then comes suffering and disappointments of life.
Maybe in the very area of most wanted blessing:
problems with money, with health, at work, marriage, children
Christians become like a nursing baby denied the breast.
They get worked up into a frenzy and even get mad at God.
Even though they are Christians, they’re not very content.
And sometimes this crisis even proves that their faith is fake.
They say: God didn’t live up to his side of the bargain, I’m out of here.
Then there is also mature dependence on the Lord—synonymous with contentment
It’s like the weaned child, content to sit for hours with his mother,
because loves her, knows she always does good things for him.
And it’s the pleasure and comfort of her presence he loves most.
Parents, don’t you love it when your children just want to be with you.
I love it when my children come sit on our bed and night and talk.
Finally I have to say, Y’all go to bed. Because if I don’t, keep talking.
Person with this dependence is quiet, content—even when denied the things
that he once thought were absolutely essential to happiness,
Because he knows that he has the Lord, and the Lord is with him.
And everything that the Lord does it good.
How do you get to this point in your life? How do you get this still, quiet soul.
God does the weaning, and you have to cooperate.
1. God does the weaning.
Over the course of your life, Lord, in various ways tests your contentment.
He takes away things, or he doesn’t give you things you really want.
And sometimes he arranges things so that you can see that you are never
going to get these things that you want so badly.
Not going to achieve the things you want so badly.
Lord does this, not because He is cruel, wants to spoil your fun,
but because He loves you. Knows that as long as you cling to these things,
will never experience true contentment—quiet and still soul.
Lord’s exact method is different for every person,
but he essentially does it through hardships, losses, and discipline
that He brings into your life.
Weaning is hard. There are lots of tears and temper tantrums.
What you have to see, as you experience hardships and disappointments,
they are not signs of God’s hatred or His indifference, his love.
When a mother weans a child, she refuses to give him her breast,
but she never refuses to give him herself.
She is always there to hug him, care for his every need.
And it probably hurts her to see him in such distress, but she knows
that it is time for him to grow up.
That’s a picture of the Lord. How he treats you.
Jesus suffered this for you. Over the course of his life, everything was taken away.
At the very end, his disciples deserted him and his clothes were taken from him.
Then, even the Father’s loving presence was taken from him in the three hours
of darkness on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
He suffered all that loss, so that God’s presence will never be taken from you.
So that all your losses are redemptive.
2. He expects you to cooperate.
Look how David puts it in Psalm 131.
“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”
What this means is that there must be, on your part a conscious
shift from discontented craving to contented hope in Jesus.
In other words, you have to identify the objects of your discontent.
What are the things you are discontented about?
Is it your money or status, it is your marriage or your job?
Identify the object of your discontent—this thing that God has not given you—
recognize that this is his weaning process—and then say,
these things aren’t my source of contentment, Jesus is.
Don’t fight God when he weans you—cooperate with him.
He wants you to be able to sit quietly on the couch with him,
content just to be with him, trusting him to give you what you need,
at just the right time.
Paul, in Philippians 4 talking about contentment says:
“I have learned to be content in any and every situation.”
Contentment in times of plenty and want doesn’t just happen.
It is a great truth about Christian life that is learned.
God is teaching you, and he wants you to learn it.
How do you learn? You learn it by arguing with self until convinced.
If you are ever with a Christian who know contentment,
and you ask him or her how he can be calm and quiet during a trial or loss,
you will always get the same answer.
They quote some Scripture or speak some Gospel truth.
I’m calm because Jesus died for me, and I’m going to heaven.
Because I know that my God will supply all my needs according to his glorious
riches in Christ Jesus.
Because I know God is good and loves me.
And you realize they’ve been working this out in mind, putting hope in Lord.
Cooperating with his weaning.
Many of you men have been reading Richard Simmons’ book:
The True Measure of a Man.
He quotes Alexander Solzhenitsyn who was arrested under Joseph Stalin’s regime
and put in a harsh Siberian prison camp. He went in an atheist, and he came out
a Christian. When he finally got out eight years later he said:
“I bless you prison. I bless you for being in my life. For there, lying on rotting prison straw, I learned the object of life is not prosperity, as I had grown up believing, but the maturing of the soul.”
One New Year’s Eve years ago we were with some friends—
reflecting on the past year. These friends had a number of financial setbacks.
But they began to tell how this had brought them closer to God,
and how they had seen his hand, and learned to trust him more,
the wife said with utter seriousness: “I am a rich woman.”
They could have fought God’s weaning.
It could have been a bitter, discontent New Year’s Eve party.
But is wasn’t. There was a delightful contentment in God’s fatherly hand.
CONC: Are you seeking contentment in Christ?
Are you fighting discontentment? Are you cooperating with the Lord?
It’s worth it. Paul says godliness with contentment is great gain.
Let me leave you with two stanzas from an old hymn, written about 150 years ago.
Maybe these will give you words for your own prayer:
Spirit of God, descend upon my heart:
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear—
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.