The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment was written by Jeremiah Burroughs in 1651. I learned about the book from my pastor’s top ten reading list and since I suffer with discontentment, I decided to read it. On the third page, I found the following “description” and decided to dig in and mull upon it:
“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.”
I’ve been digging and mulling for a while now (I’m beginning to think there’s enough here to fill a lifetime!) and here’s what I have so far.
Christian contentment, not human, or material, but the contentment of a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Lord and Savior. Indeed, those who do not have a believer’s world view would probably find the above description to be ludicrous. It’s difficult to imagine freely submitting to anyone or anything when you’re self-focused and/or hurting, let alone to imagine delighting in it.
Contentment is sweet. It is tender, innocent, very special, precious.
Contentment is inward. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with outward circumstances. Contentment comes from within us no matter what is going on around us. Contentment is inward, not inner. Contentment doesn’t naturally reside within us. I picture “inward” as moving forward. We channel out thoughts, emotions and especially our will from our discontent toward contentment, from our self-focus on our situation toward focus on God’s view of and purpose in and for our situation. This inward movement is a constant process, sometimes flowing smooth and freely, somethings rough and choppy, but always moving, never stagnant.
Contentment is quiet. There is so much noise in the world and so much noise in our minds, hearts and spirits. We are constantly bombarded with reasons to not be content. Material reasons, lies we believe, painful memories, attacks from our enemy, Satan. Contentment is that inward special place where all of those are shut out and the only thing that enters is the love and peace of God.
Contentment is gracious. Contentment is filled with the grace of God. All the blessings we are freely given that we don’t deserve. We spend our earthly lives seeking things we believe are rightfully ours to have and demand to be given or obtain while we are totally clueless to the fact that as sinners before a holy God what we really deserve is every punishment unimaginable – hell. Yet, once we admit this and ask for forgiveness, a gracious God and Savior freely gives us all that we don’t deserve – every spiritual blessing unimaginable in this life and eternal life in the next.
Frame of spirit, not a frame of mind. If a frame of mind is “a particular mood that influences one’s attitude or behavior” (the first definition that comes up on my internet), then a frame of spirit would be a particular conviction that influences one’s attitude and behavior. I was struck by the word “frame”. My first thought was of a literal frame as an outward border of something, but as I was meditating, a picture came to mind of contentment starting small and growing until it became the frame of thoughts, emotions and actions. Contentment can become the frame of our inner being which influences our outer being.
Freely. Willingly. No compulsion, real or imagined. We want to, not have to. We freely choose who and what we follow. Contentment can’t be forced, it must be freely and willingly chosen. When we choose contentment, that choice brings even more freedom to enjoy and delight in God’s plans for us. We have freedom in Christ. Freedom to live in contentment instead of misery. Freedom to live as God intended instead of as Satan intrudes.
Submits to. In the Greek, the word is hupotasso. Hupo means under, and tasso means to place or arrange. Therefore, to submit means to place or arrange yourself under. As believers we are to place and arrange ourselves, our thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions under the authority of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives and spirits. We do this freely. The Trinity doesn’t force anything upon us. We are free to choose whose authority we submit too – theirs, our own, someone else’s or Satan’s. Freely choosing to submit to God’s plans for us brings us contentment and contentment enables us to more freely and easily choose to submit.
Delights in. Worldly speaking, delight is a step above pleasure and happiness. Biblically speaking, delight is “to bend towards, to be inclined towards”; or “to take delight or pleasure in”. First on Daniel L Aikens list is “God delights in the obedience of His children more than in sacrifices “(Hosea 6:6). Freely choosing to delight in God’s plans for us brings us contentment and contentment enables us to more freely delight in those plans.
God’s wise and fatherly. God’s plans for us are wise. He knows all things, we know very little. We should believe and trust that He knows better than we do. God’s plans for us are those of a loving, tender, encouraging Father. He constantly thinks about and plans for our good and not our harm. He constantly thinks about and plans for giving us a future and great hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Disposal. Merriam Webster defines disposal as “the power or authority to make use of as one chooses”. God certainly has the power and authority. He created all things with a word. “You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6 NIV). His authority is what brings the multitudes of heaven to worship Him. Philippians 2:10 tells us that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”. God makes use of us, our gifts and our circumstances as He chooses. We may not agree or appreciate His choice, but the choice is His, not ours. Everything we are, everything we have, everything we do is a result of His choice. Even when our poor choices result in unpleasant or unprofitable consequences, He redeems them when we allow Him to and turns them into good.
In every condition. In, not of. Condition, not circumstance. God is in every part of our lives. He is with us in every external condition – marital (single or married), physical (healthy or not), financial (paycheck to paycheck, no paycheck, or money in the bank). Most importantly, God is in every condition of our lives, minds, hearts and spirits. When we are in despair, He is right there with us. When we could care less, He is still there. When we are at the pinnacle of delight, He is with us. In sin, He is there waiting for our confession, repentance and return. In our confusion, He is there with His wisdom and will impart it to us if we would only ask (James 1:5).
Content or not, He is still with us, but He is definitely more easily evident in our contentment.