Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Rare Jewel - Chapter Three

The following is the next installment in the series Reading the Classics Together - The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. I'll try to make each post readable on its own, however I highly encourage your own study of this Puritan classic by Jeremiah Burroughs.

In Chapter Three, we continue with the exploration of the “Mystery of Contentment” which we began in last week's reading. We are examining the many ways by which, through the grace of God, contentment in any and all circumstances is made possible in the lives of Christians.

We begin to see, as we move along that many of these perspectives are similar to others, but with a slightly different nuance. As with a “rare jewel” we examine the mystery of contentment from different angles, in different lights, turning it this way and that. It is a single stone, but its beauty and value are more deeply appreciated the more we become familiar with its every facet and see how it shines in different settings.

So, we are taking this same subject, and putting it through careful examination, in various lights, so that we may recognize it, admire it's luster, and come to desire it for the rare gem that it is, one worth any cost to acquire.

The Mystery of Contentment – continued

8. The contented Christian lives on the dew of God’s blessing. “…they find there is a sweetness in what they do enjoy, and they know by experience that they never had such sweetness in former times.”

  • "Because in what he has, he has the love of God to him....Every good thing the people of God enjoy, they enjoy it in God's love, as a token of God's love.”
  • "What they have is sanctified to them for good...” Unbelievers just have what they have. Believers have what they have along with the knowledge that it is a gift of God's love to them.
  • "A gracious heart has what he has free of cost: he is not likely to be called to pay for it....the wicked in all their pomp, and pride, and finery; they have what they ask for, but there must come a reckoning for everything, they must pay for all at the conclusion, and is it not better to have a little free of cost, than to have to pay for everything?”A godly man may very well be content, though he has only a little, for what he does have he has by right of Jesus Christ, by the purchase of Jesus Christ.” To illustrate his point, Burroughs likens the wicked to a criminal on death row condemned to die the next morning who is given whatever he desires for his last meal the night before: “Now though the criminal has forfeited all his right to all things, to every bit of bread, yet if he is given his supper he does not steal it. This is true though he has forfeited all rights by his fault, and after he has once been condemned, he has no right to anything. So it is with the wicked: they have forfeited all their right to the comforts of this world, they are condemned by God as criminals, and are going to execution; but if God in his bounty gives them something to preserve them here in the world, they cannot be said to be thieves or robbers. But if a man is given a supper overnight before his execution, is that like the supper that he was wont to have in his own house, when he ate his own bread, and had his wife and children about him? Oh, a dish of green herbs at home would be a great deal better than any dainties in such a supper as that. But a child of God has not a right merely by donation; what he has is his own through the purchase of Christ. Every bit of bread you eat, if you are a godly man or woman, Jesus Christ has bought it for you." This is a fantastic subject, worthy of a study all to itself. I recommend reading the first 5 chapters in Romans if you need help in understanding this biblical concept.
  • "Every little that they have is but an earnest penny for all the glory that is reserved for them; it is given them by God as the forerunner of those eternal mercies that the Lord intends for them.” An earnest penny is like what we might call earnest money - money you put down up front to show you are in earnest in your intent to make a purchase. It’s a sign that you mean business, and are not just monkeying around. "Just as every affliction that the wicked have here is but the beginning of sorrows, and forerunner of those eternal sorrows that they are likely to have hereafter in Hell, so every comfort you have is a forerunner of those eternal mercies you shall have with God in Heaven.” There are many hard things in Scripture. The fate of the wicked is a dreadful thing to think on. As we reflect on that, let us also reflect on God’s kindness toward us to whom mercy has been given, and be thankful! (John 3:36; Romans 1: 18-32; Romans 2: 4-10;Romans 5: 6-11;2 Cor. 4: 1-6)
9. He sees God’s love in afflictions. “...in all the afflictions, all the evils that befall him, he can see love, and can enjoy the sweetness of love in his afflictions as well as in his mercies. The truth is that the afflictions of God's people come from the same eternal love that Jesus Christ came from."

"All God’s strokes are strokes of love and mercy, all God’s ways are mercy and truth, to those that fear him and love him.”
(see Ps 25:10) How hard it can be to believe this in the midst of difficulties and pain, in the midst of the modern church where prosperity is seen as a sign of God’s favor, and even more in the midst of a world of broken families, which make the concept of loving discipline nearly incomprehensible! In fact, according to Burroughs it is a sign of a carnal heart to “think God loves them when he prospers them and makes them rich, but they think God loves them not when He afflicts them”. But with God all things are possible and it is His grace which “enables men to see love in the very frown of God’s face, and so come[s] to receive contentment.”

Please read Romans 8:1-17. Have you experienced this grace of God in your life - this grace that makes you cry “Abba, Father” when things go wrong, rather than responding with fear, which comes from a spirit of bondage? Is the Father dear to you when hardship comes, or even when you find yourself suffering consequences of sin or foolishness? If you cannot see God’s love in the “frown of God’s face”, but only fear, then cry to God for His mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of adoption so that you will be able to know His love as the love of a Father for His child.

10. His afflictions are sanctified in Christ.

“...a Christian has another way to ease himself: others abuse and speak ill of me, but did they not abuse Jesus Christ, and speak ill of him? And what am I in comparison of Christ?...Sometimes one who is very godly and gracious, may be found bearing grievous pains and extremities very cheerfully, and you wonder at it. He gets it by acting his faith upon what pains Jesus Christ suffered.” There is nothing we suffer that Christ Himself did not, in some greater sense suffer as well. Ponder the greatest pain you’ve known. Now, imagine having the power to stop it. Now think of Jesus who actually had the power and authority bring an end to His suffering at any time He chose, yet refused, for our sakes. (Read: Matthew 10:24-25; Luke 6:40 &1; Peter 2: 20-25; Hebrews 2: 14-18 & 2 Cor. 1:3-5)

11. He gets strength from Christ. “…if a man has a burden to bear, and yet can have strength added to him – if the burden is doubled, he can have his strength trebled [tripled] – the burden will not be heavier but lighter than it was before to his natural strength.”


In other words, what difference does it make if you are required to lift a weight three times heavier than you’ve ever been able to lift, it you’ve suddenly been made three times stronger? Or, as Paul says in that great passage about contentment: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)


12. He makes up his wants in God. “...he has God in what he has.”
This is one of my favorite sections in the book for perspective on dealing with loss.

What is it that satisfies God himself, but that he enjoys all fullness in himself; so he comes to have satisfaction in himself...God is contented, he is in eternal contentment in himself; now if you have that God as your portion, why should you not be contented with him alone? ...it may be that is the reason why your outward comforts are taken from you, that God may be all in all to you. It may be that while you had these things they shared with God in your affection, a great part of the stream of your affection ran that way; God would have the full stream run to him now...a great deal of your affections ran waste. Now the Lord would not have the affections of his children to run waste; he does not care for other men's affections, but yours are precious and God would not have them to run waste; therefore he has cut off your other pipes that your heart might flow wholly to him.”

13. “He gets contentment from the Covenant that God has made with him.”
As recipients of God’s covenant of grace we are also recipients of promises from God that apply to just about every imaginable need. Those promises are there for our hope and comfort. “...when those who are godly come to hear the Word, they find in it, as it were, a plaster for all their wounds, and so they come to have ease and contentment in such conditions as are very grievous and miserable to others.”

1 comment:

Lisa notes... said...

Another nice summary. I'm blessed that you take the time to summarize the chapters so well. It adds an extra dimension to my own reading.