“There is an ark that you may come into and no [people] in the world may live such contented lives as the saints of God.”
That we might enter that “ark”—that’s why 17th century English Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I want to be able to say with the apostle Paul ” . . . I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11b). I think you might want to also. So I’m reading and briefly summarizing the book, and adding my thoughts along the way. Since I wrote last a few weeks ago, you may wish to click on “Contentment: A Mystery (Part 1)” under “Recent Posts” to the right.
Burroughs defined contentment as “that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal (arranging, managing) in every condition.” “Mystery” is “a profound secret beyond human comprehension.” But the mystery of contentment can be learned. Last post Burroughs gave us seven counter-intuitive clues we must understand to learn it. Here are six more . . .
The contented Christian lives upon the dew of God’s blessing. “Dew” is the moisture we find on cool early morning ground. Remember how the Israelites found manna from heaven on the ground? So through Jesus Christ God will freely provide the “dew” of his blessing on our journey. By that “dew”, he sustains us. And so we can be content in him.
In all afflictions, the contented Christian can enjoy the sweetness of God’s love and mercies. Afflictions, wrote Burroughs, “come from the same eternal love that Jesus Christ came from.” Afflictions come from God’s love. Thus the ways of God are not only ways of prosperity, but also of pain. “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies” (Psalm 25:10). We can taste sweet love and mercies of God in our ability and disability. And in that taste we can learn to be content.
A contented Christian sees all his afflictions sanctified in Jesus Christ. In other words, afflictions for the believer become holy things shaping us toward increasing holiness. Adversity hits. It hit Jesus—not to spare us from it, but to take the curse (Burroughs calls it “the sting and venom and poison”) out of it. So we see our afflictions “sanctified” in Christ toward sanctifying us. Seeing this, we learn to be content.
A contented Christian gets his strength from Jesus Christ. A prosperity preacher proclaims, “There is a power in you greater than any power that comes against you.” But, as Burroughs wrote, ” . . . a Christian finds satisfaction in every circumstance by getting strength from another . . . by . . . faith acting upon Christ, and bringing the strength of Christ into his own soul, he is thereby enabled to bear whatever God lays on him . . . Of his fullness do we receive grace for grace.” The power is in us, but it is from Another in us. We learn to be content by drawing on his strength.
A contented Christian enjoys much of God in everything he has, and knows how to make up all his wants (what he doesn’t have) in God himself. “What is it that satisfies God himself,” said Burroughs, “but that he enjoys all fullness in himself . . . Now if you enjoy God as your portion, if your soul can say . . . ‘The LORD is my portion, therefore I will hope in him’ (Lamentations 3:24), why should you not be satisfied and contented like God? . . . Since God is contented with himself alone, if you have him, you may be contented with him alone, and it may be, that is the reason why your outward comforts are taken from you, that God may be all in all to you.” As Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Through Christ we have God who is content, and having God, we have all things. So we can learn to be content in him whatever our situation.
A contented Christian relies on the Covenant God has made with him. Burroughs taught, “There is no condition that a godly man or woman can be in, but there is some promise . . . in the Scripture to help him . . . ” Take Psalm 91:10. ” . . . no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.” But, we’ve found it does come near, haven’t we! Burroughs explains. While in the days of the Old Testament God kept these promises outwardly, now in these days of Messiah God keeps them inwardly or spiritually. He may allow a plague to come near “to show that his ways are unsearchable, and his judgments past finding out.” And if he allows a “plague”, it will not be for evil, but for a greater good (Romans 8:28). This is covenant grace. From it we learn contentment, because to those who are his, God promises evil will not win. Contentment results from relying on his covenant.
“There is an ark that you may come into . . . “