Contentment Is A Rare Jewel
Here is a "must have" book for your library, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (1648). You can find it from time to time on Amazon.
Definitions are critical for understanding, so here is the definition of contentment that I have adapted from Jeremiah Burroughs.
A sweet, inward, quiet, gracious, active frame of spirit that freely submits to and delights in God’s wisdom and perfection in all circumstances.
Each word or section of the definition is briefly discussed below.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content... – Philippians 4:11
This is not just about what shows up on the outside. It is not the Dennis the Menace cartoon “Sitting down in the corner, but I am standing up in my heart!”
“Truly, my soul silently waits for God. From Him comes my salvation.” – Psalm 62:1
“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” – Psalm 62:5
Not opposed to
- - knowing that you are in a difficult time, in suffering, but recognizes this too is part of growing and becoming the vessel and tool that God desires that you are to be
- - communicating the pain and difficulty of going through a situation to God and appropriate friends
- - seeking help or desiring to be delivered by lawful means
Is opposed to
- - Murmuring and complaining
- - Fretting and worrying – vexing is a great older word. Not be consumed with the difficulty to create a doubt toward God
- - Inner commotion and turmoil creating confusion
- - An unsettled spirit that is distracted from the perfection of God which can easily result in rash actions (Acts 19:36)
- - Distracting, heart consuming cares that allow the separation of our thoughts from the goodness of God and His care for us
- - Sinking discouragements that prevent us from depending on Him even though we see no way or method out
- - Sinful shifting and shirking to get relief and help by means other than trusting in God
- - Rebellion
- - A grace that spreads itself through the whole soul
- - A grace that comes from the disposition of the heart
- - A grace that comes from habitual character
Not dull of spirit, stoic in affliction, but you actively honor God in the face of all affliction. This is not about having the mental strength to withstand suffering, but the intimate relationship with God that chooses to honor Him no matter the suffering. You consistently trust in the strength of the Lord to provide the ability to have this suffering used to become more like Jesus.
...frame of spirit
That inner element of mankind that is our energy and source of life. Our essence and disposition that shows in our thoughts, feelings and actions.
For clarity, we use "freely" in front of submission, but our definition of submission does not need it. In fact, it is redundant, because our definition of submission is "an internal, voluntary act of the will to yield to another."
The definitions in some English dictionaries are similar ours, but the usage examples aren't.
For example, the New Oxford American Dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person." They then use this sentence – they were forced into submission.
Contentment follows our definition of submission, a voluntary act of the will to yield.
Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. 6 He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday – Psalm 37:4-6
...God’s wisdom and perfection
Volumes can be written about both of these elements. When you read some of God’s wisdom literature like Proverbs, He is tells us what is wise for mankind. It does not tell us about the vast wisdom of God Himself, although, we have glimpses through the marvelous ways He instructs us.
It is difficult to accept the PERFECTION of God when viewed through our eyes. Our view of life is so limited that we do not see how this current painful situation is actually best for us. Contentment helps us accept the situation and trust the perfection of God.
Our definition of best is so different from God’s. God's view is very different, just like Jesus’ statements about the "first will be last and the last will be first." IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE CONTENTMENT WITHOUT TRUSTING A PERFECT FATHER GOD!
...in all circumstances.
Not just some, but ALL. Nothing is left out, both the big and small, important and unimportant, painful and pleasurable. This requires a belief in a PERFECT Father God Who pursues our best in ALL circumstances. Since we are so sight oriented, faith is too often ignored, but faith is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). It takes faith to believe that ALL circumstances are for our best.
Please let me know what you think about this definition of contentment.
5 Key Learnings
Finally, here are 5 key thoughts I took from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. There are many more, but I really like these.
- Contentment can be learned - it does not just happen
- Contentment is internal and not external - it is deep within, unrelated to the external
- Contentment is subtraction not addition - subtracting everything except God
- Contentment seeks to please God - because He is the source of contentment and rest
- Contentment is pleased with what God is doing to us - not what we are doing for God
GR8 Relationships—Pursuing the BEST in work, in life, in love.
Right Thinking—Right Relationships—Right NOW!!