“Attaining Contentment: The Gift That Keeps on Giving”, Part 5b

For the past five Training Table seatings, we have been ingesting the subject of CONTENTMENT—based upon “The Rare Jewel of Contentment”, by Jeremiah Burroughs. If you would care to, please review the previous segments in the Training Table Archives.

The next several servings will be small yet meaty portions to help all those gathered dine on various ways to consider the vital (RE: life giving) idea of, “Attaining Contentment: The Gift That Keeps on Giving”.

Please take careful note of the following quote, “By contentment, the human soul is fitted to RECEIVE MERCY and to DO ACTS OF SERVICE.” (Jeremiah Burroughs—emphasis added)

It is one of “the two main goals of God” to offer His created order manifold mercies of various kinds. (The other goal being God’s justice being satisfied.) However, here’s the rub: “We must not have hearts hurrying up and down in trouble, discontent, and vexing, but rather still and quite hearts, IF we wish to receive mercies from the Lord.” (Jeremiah Burroughs)

I’m personally stunned by this reminder… (Psalm 23:1-6; 37:7; 46:10; Romans 8; Hebrews 11, and many more).

This truth, soberly considered in the context of the array of our culture’s pathological busyness and distractedness, our unmitigated emotional ambivalences, our proficiency at compartmentalizing our public and private lives, our isolation, our utter disdain for authority of any sort, our moral and character inconsistencies, our celebration of the dissolution of so many societal institutions, and our lack of self-awareness… should drive us to our knees in recalibrating the nature of our faith, the purpose of our lives, and seeking God’s forgiveness and mercies… “TODAY…” (Psalm 95:7-8).

What is God devoid of extending His mercies towards an utterly lost created order and, in particular, a totally depraved human race? What does the measure of trust and peace within our hearts have to do with availing ourselves to the many life-giving mercies of God… or not? What is the real cost of a discontented, grumbling, and vexed life? How far have we come if none of what I’ve just offered supercedes our insistence for being materialistically comfortable or held unaccountable for our every thought and action?

The hardened heart can be nothing other than being discontented. And this is why God’s mercies include “removing our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19-21).

Acts of service—the Christian’s stewardship of his or her  time, talent, and treasure based upon the Gospel of God’s mercies and truth—offers us a window into the nature and details of our faith (James 2:14-26), our level of contentedness, does it not?

Our acts of service will always be in direct proportion to how deeply we know (by the study of God’s Word and living it out) and have experienced and learned (by the trials, triumphs and accumulated wisdom of living in a broken world accrued to God’s providence and redemptive plan) the mercies of God.

a) Doing acts of service devoid of “having been gracefully given and learned the mercies of God” (Philippians) are always “damnable acts” (John Gerstner) chained to our attempts to merit God’s favor… ON OUR OWN. This is not only impossible to do (no blemished being can compare or aspire to pleasing a Holy and perfect God), but it also results in nothing less than a horribly DIScontented and despairing life!

b) However, even after “being born-again from above” (John 3:1-21), our faith, and consistently, gracefully, and truthfully doing acts of service can be constricted, pietistic, and stingy by comparison to God’s immeasurably vast mercies.

Why?  The short and overly-simple answer might be the lack of Biblical discipleship, but the issue has become very complicated by the secularization of a culture and the institutional church. But the God of mercy can redeem it all. One way to look at the problem is how I describe it in my book: “the dilemma of Christians living in a culture of comfort” (Preface, Chapter 7).

Contentment, “still and quite hearts” receiving the mercies of God, BEGINS with being born again and is then ENLARGED and DEEPENED OVER TIME by one redemptive experience of suffering, one redemptive experience of God’s goodness… again and again, day by day… sewn into the Spirit -prepared soil of a supremely thankful heart… cared for like a good farmer would… and then spread abroad by offering others the sweet fruits of God’s mercies and Spirit… each and every day. Hence, Paul’s jounrey, our journey, of “I have learned”.

Yes, “all journeys begin with the first step”! This one just happens to lead to eternity.

Exactly like “the law of the farm” (Hosea 8:7; Galatians 6:7) that God put in place “in the beginning” (Genesis 1, 2), there are no shortcuts to the garnering and/or the gaining of contentment. But it’s well worth everyone’s full attention… and then some!

As Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12–emphasis added).

Until we ‘sup again, may each of us seek in every way possible “the secret”… revealed to the whole world: The rare jewel of Christian contentment in any and every circumstance—while passing along to others just WHO, HOW, and WHY we can be brought low or we can abound: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:24-29)!


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