Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rare Jewel

I’ve been reading a book lately that I highly recommend. It’s called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, written by Jeremiah Burroughs, who was a minister in England in the 1600’s. I have found this book to be convicting, yet at the same time encouraging. It has taught me much about contentment, and today I’d like to share a couple of the things that have stood out to me.

First, let me say that this book has caused me to examine my heart in a number of areas. One of the things I have found there is a covetousness of others’ gifts, strengths, and successes. The most prominent ones are physical capabilities that I no longer have. Seeing the strength and fitness of others can tend to make me turn inward to what I do not have. This is sinful self-focus, and must be put to death. Burroughs shares insight here. To paraphrase what he says, “Well, they may have something I’ll never have, but I can have something they may never have: Contentment!” 

Contentment is rare indeed, and very few people really have it. But the Lord has promised that we believers can have contentment, if we will only practice it. So, when I hear of others’ trail hiking and long walks, I will think on my wonderful Christ who loves me, who saved me, and who is preparing a home for me right now, where I will have no pain. These thoughts will bring me to that place of contentment, where I truly believe that all I need is mine.

Another great blessing I received from this book is the instruction to examine my expectations. As I strive to change or improve some aspect of my physical problem, I am often disappointed as it actually becomes worse, or stays the same, after an expenditure of time, energy, or other resources. In these times, Burroughs reminds us to check our expectations. What has God truly promised? After all, only the promises of God can truly be counted on to come to pass. When I base my hopes or expectations on something else, I am setting myself up for disappointment. If I know that that disappointment will lead to sinful self-pity, then I am really setting up my own stumbling block! Based on this wisdom, I will look at my expectations through the lens of Scripture instead of the latest ad or medical study.

The overall tone of the book is one of great reverence and love for God. It urges us to see that our afflictions are actually gifts of God, to teach us to be content with such things as we have. In fact, the opening Scripture of the book is Philippians 4:11: I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Oh, beloved, can we reach this state? Our great apostle Paul proves that we can. But in order to do so, we must believe that our Sovereign God loves us, and wants us to have the greatest gift available to us: Contentment! Can you imagine a more pleasant state in which to live? If we had true contentment based simply and solely on God’s great, eternal love, nothing else would matter. That contentment would trump any trial, and would keep our eyes firmly locked on heaven.

I’ll close with the context of Burroughs’s theme verse for his book, Philippians 4:11-13. Meditate on this passage, and ask the Lord to grant you this gift of contentment.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.