Today, in our effort to read together some of the Christian classics, we come to chapter four of Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. This is the third and final chapter that has dealt with “The Mystery of Contentment.”
I am not a very good reader. Though I read a lot, I have a lot of trouble with retention and lose far more than I remember. Maybe this is part of why I read so much–I’m seeking to replace quality with quantity. So I tend to set reasonable expectations; if I can take one or two points from each chapter and just a few major points from each book, I am pleased. That is what I have done here. This chapter offered me a couple of things that resounded in my mind. It was a short chapter so I figure that two things is enough!
The first was the importance of being full of grace. Burroughs seeks to prove that a Christian finds contentment within, not from the natural man but from the Spirit who lives within. There is a mystery here, he says, so that only a Christian can understand it. Here is an illustration he provides:
As it is with a vessel that is full of liquor, if you strike it, it will make no great noise, but if it is empty then it makes a great noise; so it is with the heart, a heart that is full of grace and goodness within will bear a great many strokes, and never make any noise, but if an empty heart is struck it will make a noise. When some men and women are complaining so much, and always whining, it is a sign that there is an emptiness in their hearts. If their hearts were filled with grace they would not make such a noise. A man whose bones are filled with marrow, and his veins with good blood does not complain of the cold as others do. So a gracious heart, having the Spirit of God within him, and his heart filled with grace has that within him that makes him find contentment.
In times of suffering, when we are faced with a lack of contentment, there will be the temptation to complain bitterly, to whine and fuss. Those who are full of grace, full of the Lord, will respond with grace in a way that honors the Lord. Those who are empty will sound like a gong, loudly complaining about all they deserve that they have not been given. Do you know people, who at the smallest whisper of trouble begin to cry loudly and bitterly? Do you know people who under the heaviest burden display the grace that only God can give? It is these people who have found the rare jewel of contentment.
The other thing that stood out to me was the importance of prayer in the pursuit of contentment.
Other men or women are discontented, but how do they help themselves? By abuse, by bad language. Someone crosses them, and they have no way to help themselves but by abuse and by bitter words, and so they relieve themselves in that way when they are angry. But when a godly man is crossed, how does he relieve himself? He is aware of his cross as well as you, but he goes to God in prayer, and there opens his heart to God and lets out his sorrows and fears, and then can come away with a joyful countenance. Do you find that you can come away from prayer and not look sad? It is said of Hannah, that when she had been at prayer her countenance was no more said (1 Samuel 1:18), she was comforted: this is the right way to contentment.
It strikes me that prayer, then, is not only a means to greater contentment, but a mark of one who has found contentment. The fact that we should pray to God, not angrily in some kind of “imprecatory prayer,” but humbly and contentedly, this is a sign that our hearts are content before him and that they will remain content before him.
Do you wish to be content? Then pray! Are you already content? Then you will pray all the more.
For next week, please read chapter 5, “How Christ Teaches Contentment,” and then return here on Thursday to join in the discussion.
The purpose of this program is to read these classics together. So if there is something you’d like to share about what you read, please feel free to do so. You can leave a comment or a link to your blog and we’ll make this a collaborative effort.