Search Results for 'The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment'

What the Bible Says About Contentment

Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I was reading 1 Timothy 6, and verse 6 reminded me of a lot of other verses on contentment, or closely related to it. Looking at the context is always encouraged.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Psalm 131:1-2 NIV (all)

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9

What is crooked cannot be straightened;
what is lacking cannot be counted.

Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 1:15, 7:13

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Colossians 4:11-13

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love; but when I am contented with the hand of God and am willing to be at His disposal, that comes from my love to God.

― Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I have created a one page PDF file with only the Bible verses if you would like to save it or print it out.

Also see:
Find two great books that I’ve read on the subject on Amazon:
The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The former is shorter. The book by Burroughs is very thorough[s].
or
Search for them as E-books from Monergism. The Crook in the Lot is similar subject matter.

Photo of a Bible

Contentment in Self-Denial

One thing I’ve been noticing in reading the Bible, especially Psalms and NT letters, is how often we’re asked to be thankful, which I see as a parallel to the quote below.

Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
Colossians 4:2

Whatever the Lord shall lay upon us, yet he is righteous for he has to deal with a most wretched creature. A discontented heart is troubled because he has no more comfort, but a self-denying man rather wonders that he has as much as he has. Oh, says the one, I have but a little; Aye, says the man who has learned this lesson of self-denial, but I rather wonder that God bestows upon me the liberty of breathing in the air, knowing how vile I am, and knowing how much sin the Lord sees in me. And that is the way of contentment, by learning self-denial.

The lesson of self-denial is the first lesson that Jesus Christ teaches men who are seeking contentment.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Contentment

Contentment – The Wrong Way

I’m reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. About three years ago I read The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson. I don’t remember a lot about the latter except that there was a big revelation for me in that murmuring is sinful. That I haven’t forgotten (for the most part). I wrote a post about that.

In dealing with various conditions, contentment is one of the most difficult things. These authors don’t make it any easier. If anything, they explain how difficult it is, and how much grace we need to learn (Philippians 4:11) it. The Puritans don’t coddle the reader, nor are they harsh or without encouragement.

If you’re pressed for time, just read the first paragraph.

Let me spend my thoughts in thinking what my duty is, ‘O’, says a man whose condition is changed and who has lost his wealth, ‘Had I but my wealth, as I had heretofore, how would I use it to his glory? God has made me see that I did not honor him with my possessions as I ought to have done. O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

Don’t long for “the good old days.”
Ecclesiastes 7:10

What Providence Isn’t

This is a repost from a little over a year ago. I’ve shortened one quote and added another by John Owen that I recently read.

Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.

–D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about what providence is not at the beginning of a chapter on Providence from the book Great Doctrines of the Bible. I’m going to attempt to summarize his brief warnings, and hopefully won’t confuse the matter.

there are people who claim special providences in their own personal lives. ‘It is most amazing,’ they say. ‘Do you know, this is what has happened to me …’—and they describe to you how certain things seem to have been arranged particularly in order to suit their special circumstances! And then, when you tell them that they cannot say things like that, they resent the whole doctrine of providence.

I’m going to bluntly postulate that this is self-centered extra-Biblical guesswork.

He never really seemed to explain just what he meant until the end (somewhat):

Be careful—it is a warning! Always be careful in your application of any particular event. Let me explain: whenever anything good happens to us or to our country we are all very ready, are we not, to say that it was undoubtedly an act of God—the providence of God. I have explained what the doctrine of providence teaches, but I would warn you that it is dangerous to particularise about any particular thing. … In 1934 German Christians—and very fine Christians among them—issued this statement: ‘We are full of thanks to God that He as Lord of history has given us Adolf Hitler, our leader and our saviour from our difficult lot. We acknowledge that we, with body and soul, are bound and dedicated to the German State and to its Führer. This bondage and duty contains for us as Evangelical Christians its deepest and most holy significance in its obedience to the command of God.’ That surely makes us think, does it not? …

Now those people were absolutely sincere; they were absolutely genuine. They were evangelical Christians, and they believed that! So I think you will agree that we must be a little cautious when we come to make particular claims. … Let us be judicious and cautious, and have a great concern for the glory and the name of God when we claim any particular event as an instance of His special providence either with regard to us or our country.

God orders things in his way for his people mainly for the purpose of our continuation in salvation. We have to be cautious in trying to determine what he’s doing and why. The same goes for affliction. We can usually only go by what the Bible says–that it’s for our continued perseverance, perfection, righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t normally indicate to us what he’s ‘teaching’ us if it’s not a consequence of sin. Nor can we usually tell exactly what he’s doing as he orders his web of a multitude of things far greater than we can ever imagine.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

If this is confusing, reading the whole chapter online may help. It’s one of the better treatments I’ve read on the subject.

Extra Credit:

In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

John Owen expounds on Zophar speaking to Job in Job 11:12 in Walking Humbly With God:

“Vain man would know the secrets of the counsels of God, the reason of his ways; but, in his attempts after it, he is as an ass, as a wild ass, as the colt of a wild ass;”

Not just an ass (donkey), not just a wild ass, but the colt of a wild ass. That’s pretty emphatic.

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Book Lernin’ – Topics

I just found this post in the Drafts area of the blog, so I thought I’d finish it up and post it, even though it’s more than a half a year late:

Last year may have been the year of topics as far as reading. I wanted to learn about what God’s glory is, exactly, what God’s Kingdom entails, what The Name of the Lord means, and more about contentment. These were the highlights of the year.

The Glory of God, Christopher W. Morgan (Editor) – Each chapter is written by a different person. A most excellent book.

Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd – This has been mentioned so many times, and I finally read it–very worthwile.

Name above All Names by Alistair Begg, Sinclair B. Ferguson – This was the most easy to read book, with everything explained at a popular level.

The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs – One of the two or three classic books on the subject by Puritans.

The winner is:
The Glory of God

Being Content In All Circumstances

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Contentment is a terribly difficult subject for those who’s lives aren’t what they’d like them to be. The Puritans wrote some great books on this subject, including The Crook in the Lot, The Art of Divine Contentment, and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (quoted from below).

‘O if I had it again, I would do better than I did before.’ But this may be but a temptation. You should rather think, ‘What does God require of me in the circumstances I am now brought into?’ You should labor to bring your heart to quiet and contentment by setting your soul to work in the duties of your present condition. And the truth is, I know nothing more effective for quieting a Christian soul and getting contentment than this, setting your heart to work in the duties of the immediate circumstances that you are now in, and taking heed of your thoughts about other conditions as a mere temptation.

I cannot better compare the folly of those men and women who think they will get contentment by musing about other circumstances than to the way of children: perhaps they have climbed a hill and look a good way off and see another hill, and they think if they were on the top of that, they would be able to touch the clouds with their fingers; but when they are on the top of that hill, alas, they are as far from the clouds as they were before. So it is with many who think, If I were in such circumstances, then I should have contentment; and perhaps they get into circumstances, and they are as far from contentment as before. But then they think that if they were in other circumstances, they would be contented, but when they have got into those circumstances, they are still as far from contentment as before. No, no, let me consider what is the duty of my present circumstances, and content my heart with this, and say, ‘Well, though I am in a low position, yet I am serving the counsels of God in those circumstances where I am; it is the counsel of God that has brought me into these circumstances that I am in, and I desire to serve the counsel of God in these circumstances.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Monergism Ebook Edition

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

Book Cover

What Providence Isn’t

Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.

–D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

Martin Lloyd-Jones writes about what providence is not at the beginning of a chapter on Providence from the book Great Doctrines of the Bible. I’m going to attempt to summarize his brief warnings, and hopefully won’t confuse the matter.

there are people who claim special providences in their own personal lives. ‘It is most amazing,’ they say. ‘Do you know, this is what has happened to me …’—and they describe to you how certain things seem to have been arranged particularly in order to suit their special circumstances! And then, when you tell them that they cannot say things like that, they resent the whole doctrine of providence.

I’m going to bluntly postulate that this is self-centered extra-Biblical guesswork.

He never really seemed to explain just what he meant until the end (somewhat):

Be careful—it is a warning! Always be careful in your application of any particular event. Let me explain: whenever anything good happens to us or to our country we are all very ready, are we not, to say that it was undoubtedly an act of God—the providence of God. I have explained what the doctrine of providence teaches, but I would warn you that it is dangerous to particularise about any particular thing. … In 1934 German Christians—and very fine Christians among them—issued this statement: ‘We are full of thanks to God that He as Lord of history has given us Adolf Hitler, our leader and our saviour from our difficult lot. We acknowledge that we, with body and soul, are bound and dedicated to the German State and to its Führer. This bondage and duty contains for us as Evangelical Christians its deepest and most holy significance in its obedience to the command of God.’ That surely makes us think, does it not? Here is another declaration of theirs in 1933: ‘This turn of history,’ they said, referring to Hitler’s coming into power, ‘we say God has given him to us, to God be the glory. As bound to God’s word we recognise in the great events of our day a new commission of God to His Church.’

Now those people were absolutely sincere; they were absolutely genuine. They were evangelical Christians, and they believed that! So I think you will agree that we must be a little cautious when we come to make particular claims. … Let us be very careful lest we bring God and His cause into disrepute by unwise and injudicious claims. … My point, then, is this: the doctrine is plain and clear, but let us be judicious and cautious, and have a great concern for the glory and the name of God when we claim any particular event as an instance of His special providence either with regard to us or our country.

God orders things in his way for his people mainly for the purpose of our continuation in salvation. We have to be cautious in trying to determine what he’s doing and why. The same goes for affliction. We can usually only go by what the Bible says–that it’s for our continued perseverance, perfection, righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7). God doesn’t normally indicate to us what he’s ‘teaching’ us if it’s not a consequence of sin. Nor can we usually tell exactly what he’s doing as he orders his web of a multitude of things far greater than we can ever imagine.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Ephesians 1:11

If this is confusing, reading the whole chapter online may help. It’s one of the better treatments I’ve read on the subject.

Extra Credit:

In a clock, stop but one wheel and you stop every wheel, because they are dependent upon one other. So when God has ordered a thing for the present to be thus and thus, how do you know how many things depend upon this thing? God may have some work to do twenty years hence that depends on this passage of providence that falls out this day or this week.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Great Doctrines of the Bible by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Philippians 4:13-What Is Everything or All Things?

This is a Repost from 2008 (if you’d like to see the comments), except a comic from Adam4d has been added here that a friend tipped me off to, and an addendum. Also, this post was written when the TNIV was the update of the NIV which they released in 2005, before they changed it back to NIV in 2011. (If that’s confusing, there’s basically an original NIV from 1978 and it has been updated, with the TNIV rendering the same as the [more] updated NIV.)

Comic - Philippians 4:13

Click on the comic to go to his site.

Philippians 4:13 NASB
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 NIV [’78]
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 TNIV/NIV [2011]
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I really like the TNIV rendering. Can you imagine if the TNIV was the standard rendering throughout the years how this wouldn’t be constantly taken out of context (shown below) and/or misinterpreted? Even if it is a little bit interpretive.

Philippians 4:11-13 TNIV
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I’m not only learning the importance of context [and still am] but also that the word all or everything isn’t always “an amount or quantity from which nothing is left out or held back” even in English:

Everything
1.
a. All things or all of a group of things.
b. All relevant matters: told each other everything.
2. The most important fact or consideration: In business, timing is everything.
American Heritage Dictionary

Addendum:
This has implications for a lot of Bible interpretation.

Two books based on Philippians 4:11 are The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and The Art of Contentment, both written by Puritans. I’ve read both and they’re excellent. The latter is shorter, but I prefer the former.

Will you be content by running up and down in the ship?

It isn’t often that the Puritan authors would write with such force, but sometimes it’s warranted. This is at the end of a portion where he is writing about the power and reach of God’s providence in everything.

So I may say to every discontented, impatient heart: what, shall the providence of God change its course for you? Do you think it such a weak thing, that because it does not please you it must alter its course? Whether or not you are content the providence of God will go on, it has an efficacy of power, of virtue, to carry all things before it. Can you make one hair black or white with all the stir that you are making? When you are in a ship at sea which has all its sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship? No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can. Do but understand the power and efficacy of providence and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn this lesson of contentment.

–Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

This is but just one of the many components of learning contentment.

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
Ecclesiastes 7:13

Contentment