In the closing statements of his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). God desires and expects everyone called by the gospel to experience the same contentment in which Paul had learned to rest. Most professing Christians claim to know that true contentment is only found in Jesus, but with little or no understanding of spiritual matters, find their personal experience to be one of discontent and unrest. It will help you tremendously to enter and abide in Paul’s contentment if you can be brought to understand the root of all discontentment and how the gospel provides the remedy.
Let’s begin with the root because no problem is ever solved unless its root is first exposed and properly dealt with. The Bible often speaks of fire and burning, but these references do not always refer to physical fire or heat. I will share some of these examples because we must rise above carnal perspectives to see things in spiritual light. A prime example is found in the words of John the Baptist as he spoke of Jesus saying, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). Jesus does not immerse His people in physical flames but in the fire, or trials, of refinement — “And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”(Malachi 3:3). John’s words also refer to our being immersed in the fullness of God — “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). God is a Spirit, not physical combustion (John 4:24).Another example is found with the disciples who were visited by Jesus on their journey to Emmaus. Recalling their encounter with the Lord, they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The fire in their heart was not one of physical combustion but rather of conviction and love. Again, as Paul wrote concerning marriage and widows, he said, “It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). Here, the burning refers to lusts in the heart. Yet another example is in the third chapter of James where the apostle wrote,“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of hell” (James 3:5-6). Heat is the source of all energy. As there is physical heat producing physical energy and physical motion, there is spiritual heat producing spiritual energy and spiritual motion. These examples all reflect the spiritual. To see the root of discontentment, and enter into true contentment, we must grasp the reality of spiritual, or unseen, fire. There are two forms of spiritual heat — lust and love. Lust produces unrighteous energy and motions resulting in torment and death while the love of God produces righteous energy and motions resulting in life and peace. Most have heard a statement that goes something like, “Every person is born with a hole in their heart, and Jesus is the only means to fill that hole”. Another, and possibly more accurate, way to state this is, “Every person is born with a fire in their soul, and Jesus is the only means of quenching that fire”. This fire is the burning desire to have one’s self gratified, and it was kindled by Satan in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). The heat of this burning passion for self produces energy and motions spent upon one’s own self interests. This is the root of all discontentment and unrighteousness. Carnal man thinks he will be content and at peace if his worldly, fleshly, and personal interests are fulfilled. He expects to have his fire quenched by economic or physical accomplishments, notoriety, approval of men, sex, drugs, alcohol, cars, trucks, boats, changes in his appearance, gaining knowledge, and the list goes on. However, everything in the world, the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, will only provide false, temporary relief from the fire that rages within. Fighting this fire with carnal knowledge and physical gratification is like dumping a bucket of water onto a forest fire. One small area may be cooled for a moment, but the fire continues to rage all around and quickly reclaims the ground that was temporarily cooled. As each worldly measure of gratification is exhausted, individuals find themselves in a desperate, tormenting search for something new to put out their fire. This is why so few are truly content and so many are suffering from some form of depression or mental anxiety.
I am trusting God will give you grace to see this fiery root and the magnitude of these eternal realities as we look at more scriptures. First, when Jesus spoke of His authority to cast out demons, He said, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, ‘I will return unto my house whence I came out'” (Luke 11:24). Note that when an unclean spirit is gone out of man, it walks through dry places seeking rest. Dry places are those which have no water. In the spirit realm, there are no worldly means to quench the fire of self-interest and gratification. There are no trophies, bank accounts, fine dining, new vehicles, toys, notoriety, sex, or anything of the physical arrangement to provide the smallest amount of water for the fire within. In this realm, Jesus is the only means to quench the fire because through Him, and in Him, one can be in the presence of God. Unclean spirits are separated from God’s presence and thereby have no means in the spirit realm to quench their burning desires. There is no rest (contentment), and this is why an unclean spirit wants to inhabit a physical body. By doing so, the spirit can use the body as a medium, or vessel, to access and experience the temporal relief that can be provided by the worldly, physical arrangement.
Now consider the demoniac who was possessed by legion in the 5th chapter of Mark. Please understand that I am not attempting to give a lesson on casting out demons. I am merely using these scriptures to help you see the spiritual root of discontentment, sin, and the need for Jesus. The tormented man had broken chains, cut himself, and could not be tamed. This is because his body could not suffice to quench the fire of so many unclean spirits. The fire raging within was producing energy and motion beyond human faculties. Knowing they would be cast out of the man, the demons asked Jesus to send them into the pigs in order to have another medium by which they could access the physical arrangement and find temporal relief. The herd of swine ran off the cliff and into the sea because the tremendous demand placed upon them was overwhelming. This is a picture of how the unclean are driven to the world to quench their fire. The swine represent carnal men while the sea represents the world (Revelation 19:15). Man’s relentless desire for self drives him to the world looking for something to quench the fire, but like the swine, find the provision of the world to be death. Like the unclean spirits, he also finds that worldly means are temporary, and that he is consumed with a desperate search for something new to quench his fire. There is no rest, no contentment, and no peace. In this respect, an unregenerated, carnal man is no different from an unclean spirit except for the fact that he dwells in a physical body. Man is a spiritual being who possesses a soul and dwells in a body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Everything in our being originates in the spirit, is communicated to the soul, and worked out through the body. Contrary to the thoughts of many, sin is not wrong doing; it is wrong being. In man’s carnal, unregenerated state, his spirit is consumed with a willful preference for self over God. This is the sin in man’s heart to which he is enslaved. Man’s willful preference for self over God is communicated to the soul and worked out through the body. This sin in the heart is the heat source of all unrighteous deeds as well as the fire that is raging in the souls of the unsaved. Man’s wrong being produces his wrong doing. This is why scientific and most religious practices do not provide healing from mental or physical disorders or deliverance from sin — they merely combat the symptoms while leaving the root untouched. The gospel is the power of God to free us from being enslaved to a willful preference for self and from the fire of self-interest that keeps us from being content. In addition to atonement, the cross provides a revelation of God’s judgment upon sin and of His great love for us (Romans 1:18, John 3:16). These work together to influence and change our will. Those brought to repentance no longer have a willful preference for self over God. A revelation of His judgment and His love compels them to have a new willful preference for God over self. When a person’s will is turned from self and to God, the old man is crucified with Christ (Romans 6). The old man will never be satisfied, and this is why he must be crucified. The love of God in Christ Jesus has freed him from his selfish nature and quenched the fire of self-interest. He is no longer a slave to his own lusts. Through the resurrection, we are justified to have the Holy Spirit who brings a new fire into the heart. This new fire is the divine nature which is a nature of selfless love (Romans 5:5 & 2 Peter 1:4). God is love and He is a consuming fire (1 John 4:8 & Hebrews 12:29). A true child of God learns that contentment is not based upon circumstances or anything in the physical arrangement of the world. His will and desires have changed from lusts to love. Possessing the life of Jesus becomes his contentment.
It is critical for you to understand that receiving the power of God to quench the fire of lust is not an option. The Bible says much about eternal judgment and eternal fire. Jesus declares this place of eternal judgment to be one of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). It is “outer” darkness because God is light, and this place is an infinite measure of distance from Him. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth because it is a place of eternal existence with no possibility of being content and at peace. From the things that have been shared, you may now see that being cast into the “lake of fire” where souls will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” could speak of being engulfed in an eternal void where there is utterly no means of getting any desire satisfied (Revelation 20:10 & 21:7-8). Could this not be the spiritual reality Jesus was speaking of when he referred to hellfire as a place “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-50)?Could not the worm that doesn’t die and the fire that isn’t quenched be representing an inexhaustible desire for contentment that is never satisfied? Could this not be what James is speaking of when he writes, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire (James 1:1-3)? Does this not say that the absence of those things which are loved by sinners will be the fire of torment throughout eternity?
When a person’s spirit and soul leave the body, they will enter the spirit realm. If they are one with Jesus, there will be eternal contentment and peace in the presence of God. If they are not one with Jesus, there will be eternal torment, weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Our time in the body is that which God has allotted us to receive the person of Jesus as our contentment. Where are you looking for contentment — your circumstances, your vast knowledge, a spouse, money, fame, approval of others, a job, a home, or other possessions? None of these can or will quench your fire. Believe the gospel, give yourself to Jesus, and trust wholly in Him. He will make you free and produce godly contentment in you both now and throughout eternity.