The secret to Christian peace and contentment is not a gnostic secret. It is not concealed knowledge only revealed to those who achieve higher degrees of holy enlightenment. This secret is hidden in plain sight throughout the Scripture and is available to anyone who is willing to believe it.
God has not only gone public with this secret, but he invites us and longs for us to know it. He does not want us to merely know about this secret — not to merely preach it, explain it, enjoy the idea of it, or wish for it — but to know it by experience.
Jesus described the kind of experience he wants us to know:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. . . . [For] your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:22, 30–31)
Paul, from prison, shared his experience of the secret with all who would listen:
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11–13)
The secret to contentment is very simple. And it does not require heroic acts of piety. No, in fact it requires a childlike response from us. The secret is beautifully summed up in this phrase: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).
Could It Really Be So Simple?
Is it really that simple? Just trust God? Yes. So simple, but its reality is revolutionary.
God designed us to operate on trust. We are reasoning creatures made in God’s image. But God did not make us gods; he made us in small measure like God. He did not give us his capacities to contain all knowledge and all wisdom. We only contain very small amounts of each. Nor did he give us his power to bring into being whatever we wish. Our power is very limited. God designed us to trust him in whatever knowledge, wisdom, and strength he provides us and to trust his knowledge, wisdom, and strength when ours reach their limits.
What happened with Adam and Eve in the garden is that they broke trust with God by eating the forbidden fruit. When they did this, they unhinged their reason from Reality (Genesis 3:6) and besides living in a world subjected to futility (Romans 8:20), they had to deal with the overwhelming complexities of the knowledge of good and evil without the capacities of wisdom and knowledge and strength to adequately process them.
The story of redemptive history, culminating in Jesus’s incarnation, death, and resurrection, is God undoing the catastrophe of the garden and restoring sinful humans to holiness and once again trusting in him with all their heart.
No matter who we are, no matter what our gifts and abilities, no matter what our background, it all really does come down to trusting God with all our heart. If we trust him, our hearts will not be sinfully troubled (John 14:1). And trusting is simple. But it is by no means easy.
Why Trusting (and Obeying) Is Hard
The devil’s treachery and Adam and Eve’s fall from grace is why God chooses to save us by grace through faith, and not through works (Ephesians 2:8–9). God is looking for trust. Our works are important, in fact they’re crucial, but only in that they demonstrate that we trust God.
God knows that our living in simple trust in him will be hard for us in this age. Jesus promised that it would be (Matthew 7:14). It’s hard because we’re called to trust Jesus, demonstrated by our obeying Jesus, in a world under the power of the evil one that rejects and hates Jesus (1 John 5:19; John 14:15; 15:18), while living in a body of death that has faithless impulses (Romans 7:23–24).
But what we need to remember is that every time we are called to trust Jesus’s promises over our perceptions and the devil’s deceptions, we reenact what happened in Eden. And every time we exercise trust Jesus by obeying what he says, it’s a smack in the devil’s lying mouth.
We do not need to understand the “why” to every command of God or be able to answer every objection or shadow of doubt cast upon God’s word. But we do need to trust God and therefore obey him. In fact, God is particularly glorified when, in the face of disorienting temptation, we do not fully understand God’s reasons and we trust and obey him anyway — we rest our reason on the Reason of God.
Experience the Secret
Trusting God is not easy, but it’s not complex. The knowledge of good and evil is complex. It produces Gordian knots we cannot untie. But we were never meant to. We were meant to trust God with them. And when we do, it is a great relief.
Trusting God is the secret:
- To forgiving those who have sinned against us (Ephesians 4:32).
- To turning away from sexual temptation (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
- To giving generously to kingdom needs, even beyond your means (2 Corinthians 8:3).
- To not allowing material abundance to choke the word in us (Matthew 13:22).
- To rejoicing even when sorrowful (2 Corinthians 6:10).
- To contentment even when experiencing deprivation (Philippians 4:12).
- To boldness even in the face of fearful threats (Acts 4:29).
- To peace even when facing pressured trials (Philippians 4:6–7).
- To joy even when enduring withering affliction and illness (2 Corinthians 1:3–5).
- To hope when all around our soul gives way (Psalm 42:11).
- To gracious patience under pressured labors (Colossians 1:11).
- To blessing those who persecute us (Romans 12:14).
- To courage in leaving family and property for Jesus’s sake (Matthew 19:29).
- To overcoming discouragement due to adversity and weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- To not allowing indwelling sin to reign over or condemn us (Romans 6:12, 8:1).
- To loving saints who sin and sinful unbelievers (John 15:12; Romans 12:10; Romans 9:1–3).
- To facing every other fear and anxiety-producing temptation.
God promises to give us peace and contentment if we trust him (Philippians 4:6–7). He really wants us to experience them in increasing measure, even here in this troubled world (John 16:33). So he has given us the simple, hard secret: Trust me. It is the only way.
More from Desiring God
Help Me Trust in God’s Sovereign Goodness Over My Wearisome Life | John Piper responds to a listener’s plea for help to “see the supreme sovereign hand of Christ in the monotony of life, specifically when the kids are crying and bills are stacked up to the ceiling.”
The Insanity of ‘Self-Care’ | Only Someone stronger than your greatest weaknesses, bigger than your worst failures, and brighter than your deepest darknesses could address the things you fear or regret.
Anxieties: To Be Cast, Not Carried | John Piper preaches on 1 Peter 5:1–11 and addresses how God makes provision for us to get rid of our fears and anxieties.