Contentment: “A Gracious Frame of Heart”
Especially in one of The Ways it’s most wonderfully described in the Bible: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Marathoning of any kind is demanding and hard, but the glories offered us by God as we have been “saved to serve” (a synonym for “running the good race”) are innumerable… offered every day… in so many, many ways!
Would you agree that Biblical Christianity is not a spectator sport? There is no more exhausting and yet exhilarating “race”, or journey, Beloved of God.
It’s in line with the third element of the Feast of the Heart Mission, “Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment.”
Summer Reading Rendering Great Rewards!
Since the summers start, I’ve been big-time-blessed by a book entitled, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”, by English Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs. It’s so packed with the truth and love of God I could barely get through the first page (of 235) before I had to put it down to rest… and rejoice.
Please join me as I cook-up a few vittles for some upcoming Training Table meals based on the book—and about one of the most important subjects in all of life: CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT.
A Caveat: “Christian contentment”, by definition, is possible due to a real and radical change of heart that the God of the Bible has made possible purely by His manifold mercies, for His glory, and for our blessing. Short of being born again (John 3:16, 18, 36; 11:25… tons more), “contentment” is nothing more than an “emotional shell game”: A highly complicated set of behaviors that enables us to play hide-and-seek with reality… ending in disillusionment, despair, and dead men walking.
A Biblical definition: “…I have learned, in whatever situation I am in, to be content” (Philippians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Hebrews 13:5).
Admittedly, when I first beheld the title at The Covenant Presbyterian Seminary bookstore, I was struck by what I felt was the operative word: Not as much “contentment”… But rather, “RARE”! More on this in the second installment…
Three Starter Planks: Contentment Consists of an Arduous Journey, a Refined Jewel, and a “Holy Jealousy”
First, make careful note of a key word in Paul’s claim (and necessary preface) about reaching a place of abiding contentment: “I have learned…” What Paul did in his life was to allow God to be God in the majority of highs and lows of his life. Over and over again… Trial by trial. Joy by joy. Moment by moment. It’s a journey towards better knowing, loving, and trusting God.
In Paul’s life of trials and of triumphs, he had acquired invaluable lessons on the subject of contentment: “When I am weak, I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10; Romans 7, 8). Not once, not perfectly, but repeatedly, Paul’s will was graciously obedient, and, over time, contentedly bent on serving God and the Saints.
As Paul states in verse 12, it’s a journey of divinely orchestrated circumstances and trust, “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. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Wow! Is this not the sort of abiding trust and peace we all hope to secure and increase in over the span of our lives?
Contentment consists of an arduous, yet amorous, journey: A repeated and growing trust in trials is difficult, but the only way to refine the heart, and our “divinely contented love of God and neighbor”.
Second, recall how a diamond is created: the raw material + pressure + heat + time. The more refined a jewel, the more rare, valuable, and valued. Oddly enough, the Greek for “contented” is a word that literally means “self-sufficient”. Here’s an irony:
Please pause to reflect: Paul was a model of worldly self-sufficiency before his conversion on the road to Damascus. Like all who have moved self-sufficiency to God-sufficiency, by being “made a new creation and born again from above” (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 3), Paul’s “new-born self-sufficiency” was gained through the power of the Holy Spirit in his conversion, the loss of his old works-sufficiency, and the supernatural beginning (Ezekiel 11:19-21; Genesis 1) of his new “Christ-sufficiency”:
As Paul said, nothing was of him, but of Christ in him.
“Such is the confidence (or “contentment”) that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant…” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
Every heart desires contentment: The refined and rare jewel of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice for our sins offers us a whole new start: BY GRACE: All of our manifold insufficiencies in exchange the complete sufficiency of the very Son of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Contentment is a Refined and Rare Jewel: Steward it well, by giving it away!
Third, contentment is about a “holy and sanctified jealousy” for aspiring to the likeness of Jesus Christ, a faithful service of the Saints, and a devotion to serving and redeeming a fallen world.
“The more any gracious heart can bring itself to be in a contented disposition, the more fit it is for any service of and for God” (Jeremiah Burroughs).
Please read the above quote again: CHRISTIAN CONTENTEDNESS governs SACRIFICIAL SERVICE. And contentedness cannot be fabricated or whipped-up by any manmade program, process, or religious propaganda:
It’s mysteriously wrought in the heart! Or it does not exist at all.
This is so huge; I’m paralyzed by how to explain and encourage anyone about it. Allow me to simply say that the more discontented I am in life (self-centered, grumbling, whining, doubting God, and compartmentalizing and hardening my heart against Him), the more tightly I grasp all things that have to do with the freedom I have to sacrificially and happily give away my TIME, TALENT, and TREASURE.
One of the mysteries of contentment is that there is nothing we desire more deeply to acquire, and nothing that needs to be given away more to others… at the very same time. In God’s purview, “the law of the farm” promises us that the more we sow, the more we will reap! And seed stored out of discontentedness… ROTS, SPOILS, FADES!
And I confess to owning silo’s-full of rotted, stinking, and useless grain… (Luke 12:18-21)!
I believe that in no other time in history have we witnessed such a wide and deep DISCONTENTMENT in the hearts of humanity:
“So, if you have learned this art of contentment, you will not only be content and quiet your hearts after a great tumult, but as soon as you come to see, regain contentedness, and trust that it is the hand of God, your heart will act readily and begin at once to freely offer others the same” (Jeremiah Burroughs, see also Philippians 2)!
More than ever before, we should seek to be self-aware and more honest about the level and source of our contentedness.
Avoiding by the issue by distrations and/or denial due to instincts about the journey of facing our demons need not dominate our lives and fill us with fear:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Can’t wait… in a contented sort of way… to see you at the Training Table again next week.