After the latest mass shootings at the Uvalde, Texas elementary school, where 19 children and 2 aduts were gunned down, more faculty and staff are carrying guns to defend against future tragedy…. In 2021, 70,601 died from a fentanyl overdose in the U.S. That figure is up 25% from 2020…. Former trans kid shares agony of side effects from mutilating medical transition: “I have lost all my trust in my health care provider and possibly even health care,” she said. Chloe Cole was put on puberty blockers and testosterone at age 13; she underwent a double mastectomy at 15…New York celebrates legalizing abortion until birth…. It is estimated that between 15,000 to 50,000 women and children are forced into sexual slavery in the United States every year… Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 15-24 in the United States. Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives according to the national Alliance on Mental Illness… And that is just the surface. The polluted waters run far deeper to a seemingly endless sea of wickedness, misery and despair.
Something is very wrong in our country, in our world. A tidal wave of evil is now crashing down, people are trying to escape to higher ground, seeking shelter from the devastation that now seems inevitable. (Outside of a full blown miracle, that is.) How does one keep one’s sanity in the midst of the frenzied and chaotic waters? How can we possibly say with Paul, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation to be content” (Phil 4:11). Might we not say, ‘What a wonderful platitude, Paul. But that is just one of those things we “say” to encourage or to lift someone’s drooping spirit.’ But what if Paul means exactly what he has said? What are the implications if there is a real substance behind these words, a truth with a power that is otherworldly, that can be experienced and can be counted upon? A contentment and peace that are the tranquil waters of the soul even when the riptides and eddies threaten to drag us under?
I would submit to you that Paul was not speaking glib platitudes and back-slapping advice. The Apostle Paul was well acquainted with the tidal waves of evil and pain in his day that threatened to pull him under. This (Phil 4:11) was the meat on which he fed from and the well in which he drank from. Paul penned these words in prison while chained to a Roman soldier facing imminent death. His list of sufferings included, “many imprisonments, with countless beatings, often near death. Five times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned, three times shipwrecked: a night and a day adrift at sea; frequent journeys, in danger from rivers and robbers, dangers from his own people and the Gentiles, danger in the city and the sea and the wilderness. False brothers threatened him, and he often went about in toil and hardship, with many sleepless nights. Hunger and thirst were constant companions, as was the cold and exposure and the daily pressure and anxiety for his churches. And he penned those remarkable words in a later letter to the Corinthian church. Then finally our beloved Apostle Paul was martyred only a few years later, executed by the Roman government, standing steadfast in faith and the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He stood firm and lived out his own exhortation to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” So, while our own world is going under, we would do well to hear the Apostle’s secret. And Jeremiah Burroughs is just the man to tell it.
Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) was a 17th century Puritan pastor and teacher who preached a series of sermons in 1645 while the nation was in turmoil. The Civil English War was raging, and as a tender hearted pastor and faithful minister, it was his job to comfort them. Little did he or his congregation know that the worst of the battle was over and that their fears would soon be put to rest. He called them to “live out their faith” instead of buckling under the pressures of the times. So the book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, was born and has given admonition and comfort to Christians for centuries after. The book is actually based on a number of sermons he preached during this time period. The text was Philippians 4:11, Paul’s exhortation to the church that we learn to “be content” wherever we are in life. Burroughs penned many other books as well, including Gospel Worship and Gospel Fear, or The Heart Trembling at the Word of God. Many are now available in Modern English.
The book demonstrates four main ideas:
- What Christian contentment is
- The art and secret of it
- What lessons must be learned to bring the heart to contentment
- What the glorious excellence of this grace chiefly consists of
This is Burroughs’ definition of contentment: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, grace-filled condition of spirit which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly management of every condition.”
I must admit, that out of all my beloved Puritan books, this ranks in the top three. It truly is a rare jewel. Whether we live in times of war or times of peace, in health or sickness, in prosperity or financial distress, whatever your situation is at this moment in your life, this book is a candle in a dark room. What greater attainment could be sought for than contentment in Christ? I can think of none. In our Christian life, God has so wrought grace in to our hearts, that our very lives and the core of our pleasures are when we say with David, “I delight to do your will O my God, Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8) That is an easy thing to say when God’s countenance is smiling upon us. But can we truly say that “we have learned to kiss the waves that throw us against the Rock of Ages”? (to paraphrase a Spurgeon quote). What a mystery of grace and a divine art this is, and it is a special mark of God’s own people.
The world neither sees nor understands this mystery. For their satisfaction is dependent upon attaining things outside of themselves. Burroughs likens contentment to an inward attitude of the soul, being like the warmth a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of his body. When a healthy man gets dressed, and on a cold morning, his clothes feel cold at first. But they are soon warmed by his body heat. But the sickly man, when he gets dressed, his clothes do not feel warm, even after a long period of time. He must warm them by the fire, or they will soon be cold again. It is the same with the contented soul. When troubles and misfortunes come, although it is at first chilling, finally their attitude makes it easy. Others see misfortunes as a very troubling thing. They may be calmed for a while, but sadly it will not last. There is a reason you see many godly men who have very little living happy and peaceful lives, for they have learned this precious art. There is a satisfaction and uniformity even when God has brought the tides of misfortune to your world. But this is a skill that must be learned through discipline and practice.
In the following section, Burroughs contends that contentment is more than just a simple attitude; it is deeply rooted in knowing and trusting God. Believers are to learn from Christ, as he was in submission to His Father and the perfect example of true contentment in every circumstance. He then moves on to show the importance of gratitude and humility and the correct understanding of God’s providence. He also makes a good argument for” the great burden of prosperity “and “the dreadful evil of being allowed to have your own way” which I thought were extremely insightful and also terrifying to consider. He then shows the evils of a grumbling spirit, and the dangerous attitude of a discontented heart, how it is a foolish sin, and it not only causes God to turn a deaf ear to your prayers, but provokes God’s wrath. He ends with a wonderful chapter on just how we can be contented in any condition: “The bible shows us the way to peace and comfort in this world. You may live a happy life in the midst of storms and tempests. Enter this ark and and no man in the world may live as comfortably, cheerfully and contentedly as you.”
I would encourage every Christian to make this timeless book a part of your library. Even though it was written over 300 years ago, the truths in it are timeless and a great help to any Christian who, like Paul, wishes for the peace of Christ to rule in your heart. I would suggest using the translation that is in Modern English, and have included the link below.
Until next time, salutations & selah.