Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thoughts on Contentment

I mentioned in a previous blog post that Tim Challies is encouraging us to read through the book “The Rare Jewel of Christian contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs. This book was first published in 1648 and so the perspective and vocabulary are a bit different than we are used to, but it gives some great thoughts on learning to be content. I’ll share some of them here from time to time in between my posts on reading and other things that I’m thinking about.

Burrough’s key verse for chapter 1 is Philippians 4:11: I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. This of course was written by the Apostle Paul. Burroughs points out that in verse 12 where Paul says, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed…” the word “instructed” means to learn the secret of something. Burroughs calls it a mystery. Contentment is something that can be learned and there is a secret to it, just as someone who is a cook might say, “I’ll show you the secret of making a great pie crust.” It isn’t really a mystery as in mysterious. There are just certain skills and attitudes that need to be developed to learn contentment.

Burroughs gives the following definition of 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.”

A couple of points that really spoke to me were first of all that it is inward. Contentment can’t be forced from without. In fact the outward circumstances don’t matter much when it comes to contentment. Another point is that it is gracious. That is, it comes from the grace of God and it forms the entire frame of the spirit. It is not just something that is partially content. Everyone can be content at times or in various ways. This is contentment that forms the very frame of our spiritual being. Finally, the most difficult aspect for me is that of freely delighting in God’s handling of every situation. The key words there are freely, delighting and every.

I’m looking forward to working my way through the entire book and learning a great deal from it. If you’re interested in joining in, you can find Challie’s posts here.

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