There are two verses that have been much in my mind this last week. The one is “In godliness and contentment there is great gain.”1 That’s in First Timothy. The other is “I have learned, in whatever state I’m in, therein to be content.”2 That was spoken by the apostle Paul.
These have been impressed on my mind because of contact with a young woman lately who seems to know nothing about contentment. Just since I’ve known her in not quite two years, she has changed churches six times, her living quarters five times, her position twice, and friends at about the same rate. Before I knew her, she had changed husbands also. It seems she has so much to make her content; I’m amazed at how much she does have. Yet she lives in a state of constant discontent.
There are others like her who feel there’s always something better “just over the hill.” But this is not new, for David the Psalmist also was so—and he was so full of praise—but at the time of this [writing] he was full of discontent. For he cried out one day, “Oh that I had wings of a dove. I’d fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6).
I don’t know why he spoke thus of a dove, unless he had been watching them from his window. Doves, it seems to me, are sort of restless birds. They only fly a little ways, and circle around and then light back, and it seems like, in the same place. But anyhow, he’s describing the feeling that he had of confinement and the certainty that there’s surely something better in the “over there” than there is in the “right here.”
That’s the attitude of so many people. Any place but just here—just any place but here. “Something else is surely better than that which I have.” But everyone knows that real contentment—and I say this with a depth of earnestness—real contentment has never been found in places and things. It sounds trite, doesn’t it? But if I could just impress it upon some hearts, and could make you really know that it’s not in what you have, and it’s not in where you are. It’s an attitude of your own heart and mind, and it comes from finding rest and peace in God Himself. You hear so much, don’t you, and it doesn’t go in very deep. But we’ll learn.
A group watching the astronauts in their preparation for the Gemini flight expressed various thoughts the other night. One said, “What a wonderful way to get away from it all. Surely up there out in space there won’t be all this hurry and confusion, and so many responsibilities. I’d certainly like to get away and get up there myself.” It was the same old discontent that David was expressing.
But you know, there is a far sweeter thought. I would lift you to it for a moment: a little verse of scripture that’s on that beautiful jeweled window of Wesley’s Chapel in London. He had ingrained into the glass these words: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”3
He’s saying that even though you fly so far away, it’s only God that can satisfy your restless heart. Fly as far as you can—that isn’t going to help. But the peace will come because you know His hand is leading you. The rest comes because His right hand is holding you, just as it said in the verse.
What you’re looking for is here, and not there. It’s not out in outer space; it’s within, within your own spirit. When the precious Holy Spirit dwells within, and if His Spirit takes full possession of your life, then there’s going to come that sweet contentment, because you’re going to be content in Him. Your peace, your joy, all that you have will come from Him. It’s an age-old cry isn’t it? “If I had wings”—if I had the wings of the morning.
You know, across the very dome of the universe today, one could write the word “wings.” For man is flying everywhere above the clouds, way above where the eagle flew, now above the clouds into outer space.
Long before man had any wings and went circling around the world, the great poet Alfred Tennyson wrote a strange prophecy. You’ll not appreciate it unless you know that what he wrote was long before the Wright brothers ever even tried to fly. Listen carefully, or you’ll not get the benefit of it. He wrote this prophecy. Remember that Tennyson died in 1892, years before the Wright brothers tried to fly, and this is what he wrote:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.4
How much we hear today about the federation of the world. I remember well, because it was in my day, in 1903, that this flying machine—the first one that was heavier than air—rose above the ground with the Wright brothers. How they shocked the world by remaining in the air for just 12 seconds! That was over the sand dunes of North Carolina.
It seemed so impossible at that time that a reporter on the New York newspaper lost his job for writing up such a fantastic story as that. They didn’t believe such a thing had happened. But then it wasn’t long after that, that the Lone Eagle flew alone across the ocean.
This was just the beginning, for not only are there wings over every sky today, but man goes hurtling through space in the strangest kind of crafts. They scorn wings. Today he’s challenged the moon in his space craft, and his voice shouts from a satellite way up in the sky. What marvelous things are taking place and how prophecy is being fulfilled, and how all of Tennyson’s prophecy has been fulfilled.
Of course, we are not talking of real wings, just the symbol that God gives His children. Every one of us can have this kind of wings. Sometimes, as someone has so beautifully said, “Wings are born out of weights.” When wearied with the strain of it all, then we fly to God for the rest He’s promised and the relief that He alone can give, and then the weight becomes a wing. God really uses that weight to lift us to Himself, and then it does become wings.
An acquaintance of mine has this little poem tacked above her kitchen sink:
Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I’ve no time to be a saint
By doing lovely things.
Or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawn light,
Or storming heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint,
By getting meals and
Washing up the plates.5
That always reminds me of that beautiful verse in the Psalms: “Though ye have lien among the pots, ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and your feathers with yellow gold.”6 Isn’t that beautiful? If you’ve lain among the pots, then you know exactly what this means, if you’ve had to strive down in the lowly place and amongst the sordid things, and then God lifts your spirit and it seems to fly away on the wings covered with silver feathers with yellow gold.
So what brings such a miraculous change? David knew the secret, and he knew just how to mount up with wings as a dove, because in the third Psalm, he cries out like this: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. But I did lay me down and slept. I awaked, for the Lord sustained me.” Oh, that’s the secret of it, isn’t it?
Then he continues: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me.”7 The Lord sustained David, and his weights were changed to wings.
As this person has said, wings are born of weights. There isn’t a truer scripture in God’s Word than this: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as the eagle.”8 Oh, putting that in the simplest words, just as like to a child, the one that flies to the Word of God, and there you’ll meditate and seek the presence of the Lord and wait in prayer until God touches your soul.
That’s what prayer is: prayer is the soul of man tired of earthly wanderings, flying to the bosom of God, and waiting there in prayer until God speaks to his heart and revives his spirit. You really mount up and up to realms of peace and rest, and just as the verse says, then you’re sustained by the Lord.
Oh, there’s a sort of devilish gravitation in this old world that daily strives to keep you from the noblest and best, to pull you downward. But the Word tells us that there’s an upward pull that lifts you right up to the very heart of God. That’s for those that wait upon the Lord, who wait there in prayer.
It’s a practical, everyday religion. If you’ll just go apart by yourself, and take your Bible and read and read and wait upon the Lord, talk to Him, and wait for Him to speak to you, soon you can run and not faint. You’ll walk and not grow weary.
You need His strength, and it’s available to you, if you’ll just give God a chance. Won’t you do it? The Lord’s waiting to lift your spirit. He’s waiting to rest you. He’s waiting to give you peace. He’s promised it to you. But remember, you’ve got to give Him the time. You have to wait upon Him or He cannot reach your soul.
God bless you and help you that you might live in His Word this week.
- 1 Timothy 6:6.
- Philippians 4:11.
- Psalm 139:9–10.
- From “Locksley Hall,” by Lord Alfred Tennyson, 1835.
- From “The Lord of all Pots and Pans and Things,” written in 1928 and attributed to a 19-year-old girl in service, author unknown.
- Psalm 68:13.
- Psalm 3:1,5–6.
- Isaiah 40:31.