Affliction: The Moment We Need to Learn More Contentment

For Lord’s Day, February 26, 2017

Dear Saints,

Our next installment of Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment deals with being content through affliction (which we saw from our recent Wednesday night studies with Watson’s book on the topic is the main classroom of learning contentment).  Burroughs writes:

So far as your heart sinks and you are discouraged under affliction, so much you need to learn this lesson of contentment.

His point?  The worse our affliction and deeper our agony, the greater we need to apply ourselves as learners of contentment, which is its own medicine.  In fact,

This is quietness of spirit under an affliction … when the soul is so far able to bear an affliction as to keep quiet under it.

This call to quietness and meekness of spirit does not mean we may not lament (we must not be stoics, as Watson and Plumer guided us this Wednesday night).  But in taking it to God we come to be still before God and go away calm within our storm glad to have been with God. Like we studied and sang Wednesday night in Psalm 73:21-28: Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins … Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever … But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

This all makes me think of a subtle reminder the Lord sent to me early this morning while listening to Refnet.fm preparing for the day.  It was the time when they play lovely music, and the instrumental of “It is Well With My Soul” was beckoning my soul to embrace it; remembering and identifying with the writer’s personal situation behind that song, I did. And it helped and it is helping.

Let us learn contentment more when we need it more so we have more of it when we need it more in certain moments.  More on that in the next installment of Burroughs’ guidance on contentment.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Contentment: Christian Self-Sufficiency

For the Lord’s Day, February 19, 2017

Dear Saints,

Here is our next supplemental installment to Watson’s, Art of Divine Contentment on Wednesday nights from Burroughs’ Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Chapter 1, “Christian Contentment Described.”

His starting point for the book is the same as for Watson’s study on the same subject, Philippians 4:11, the second part: I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Burroughs writes, “Our great Apostle holds forth experimentally in this Gospel-text the very life and soul of all practical divinity.” Well then, we are wise to learn this lesson of contentment for our own soul’s practice of gaining godliness.

He notes that the word “content” technically can only be attributed to God because the LORD alone is self-sufficient (related to the attribute of God we have studied, His aseity). Yet, because Paul knows Jesus Christ personally and has His Spirit within him, Burroughs points out that he can say, “I have a self-sufficiency, which is what the word [contentment] means.” This is not the idea of self-reliant independency of God, but rather of being independent of the need for others to be satisfied within ourselves because of our sustaining relationship with God and within His Body.

Thus, we who know the grace of God in Jesus Christ can say verse 13 of the same chapter teaching us to build more Christ-esteem: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And we in Christ can then indeed say for ourselves, “A good man is satisfied from himself” (Proverbs 14:14).

Lastly, Burroughs offers us the following description (notice, not a definition, which is probably the above as “self-sufficiency” in Christ’s adequately strengthening abundance):

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.

Or, as Paul puts it, “in whatsoever state I am … I can do all things”: namely, be content. May we learn to put it that way for ourselves, that is, in our own growing exercise of Christian self-sufficiency.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Peaceful Contentment in Peacemaking

For Lord’s Day, February 12, 2017

Dear Saints,

Having begun our Wednesday Night study with Thomas Watson’s, The Art of Divine Contentment, let us begin our supplemental e-devotions with Jeremiah Burroughs’, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

Before we actually get to his own words, I’d like to take a look at what was said about him in the forward by Michael Boland related to Burroughs’ work as a member of the Westminster Assembly. Boland shares that although Borroughs was part of the Independent minority (a very small one) that opposed the majority’s work on certain features of Westminster’s form of Presbyterian church government, he “deplored the deep division which ensued” related to the ‘Five Dissenting Brethren’. “One of his most famous works was Irenicum or Heart-Divisions Opened, in which he pleaded for the unity of all who loved the truth, and argued that what made comparatively minor differences into causes of rigid divisions was a wrong spirit and wrong motives.”

We may not be able to have organizational relations with all whom we should yet otherwise call and purpose to treat as brethren in organic ways. We should be eager for such friendship and fellowship and go out of our way to foster it as a church with other churches, especially with those most like-minded. This doesn’t mean we don’t have to draw lines at times that may cause some distance with some in certain regards. But may we have a right spirit and motive for all those whom God shed His own blood in ways that witness we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) and trust that Christ will reward us with the fruit of more peaceful contentment which is not of this world.

Semper Reformanda,
Pastor Grant

PS: Have you had more classrooms for learning more contentment present themselves to you this week just as we saw how Paul’s practice lessons were procured? So did I. Let’s make sure we are good students of God’s precepts in these providences so that we grow more content in all these things.