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Posts Tagged ‘rare jewel of christian contentment’

Thus, when an affliction befalls you, many good senses may be made of God’s works towards you. You should think thus: it may be, God intends only to try me by this, it may be, God saw my heart was too much set on the creature, and so he intends to show me what is in my heart, it may be, that God saw that if my wealth did continue, I should fall into sin, that the better my position were the worse my soul would be, it may be, God intended only to exercise some grace, it may be, God intends to prepare me for some great work which he has for me: thus you should reason. – Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

The Piano on the Head or Hand of Grace?

Do you gravitate towards what Burroughs says above or towards Larsen’s view displayed in the comic? We may read Burroughs’ quote above and claim that it is our view in most circumstances but I think we honestly veer towards the view that we just got a piano dropped on our heads. I know in my own heart, I am so quick to think the worst in what God is doing. This financial hardship is a punishment and an a hindrance to us. That sickness is too hard and more than she can handle. Another miscarriage, really? Another stillborn? How is that a good thing, God? And when I sin I can still tend to hide in shame from God and go silent. My heart still shows more often than not that I still think God to be the man in control at his computer dropping a piano on me or someone I love.

God does not Deal with You as You Deal with Him

Here is where Burroughs had a piercing word for me that called me out on how little I believe God for good and how quick I am to misinterpret God’s ways:

I beseech you to consider that God does not deal by you as you deal with him. Should God make the worst interpretation of all your ways towards him, as you do of his towards you, it would be very ill with you. God is pleased to manifest his love thus to us, to make the best interpretations of what we do, and therefore God puts a sense upon the action of his people that one would think could hardly be. For example, God is pleased to call those perfect who have any uprightness of heart in them, he accounteth them perfect: ‘Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’; uprightness in God’s sense is perfection. Now, alas, when we look into our own hearts we can scarce see any good at all there, and yet God is pleased to make such an interpretation as to say, It is perfect. When we look into our own hearts, we can see nothing but uncleanness; God calls you his saints, he calls the meanest Christian who has the least grace under the greatest corruption his saint. You say we cannot be saint here, but yet I God’s esteem we are saints. You know the usual title the Holy Ghost gives, in several of the Epistles, to those who had any grace, any uprightness, is, to the saints in such a place; you see what an interpretation God puts upon them, they are saints to him. And so I might name in many other particulars, how God makes the best interpretation of things; if there is an abundance of evil and a little good, God rather passes by the evil and takes notice of the good.

Did you catch that? God does not deal with us as we would deal with him. God has given us every reason to trust his ways and his goodness through the Cross and His tender dealings with us a father. He gave up his only son for us, do I really believe then that my temporary circumstances are an evil He is pouring out on me? Oh, how I must grieve him. I wept when I read that this morning. God esteems me, a sinner, as a Saint and I esteem him, a gracious, loving father, as an angry taskmaster. I grumble at financial struggles or sickness or loss or not being able to conquer a certain sin as if God is ambivalent or indifferent or uncaring. I become very discontent because somehow I know better how my life should go. Really?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:31-35 ESV)

God is Not the Hard Master I Judge Him to be

So should we do, if there is only one good interpretation that we can make of a thing we should rather make use of the good one than the bad. Oh, my brethren (I would I could now speak only to such as are godly), retain good thoughts of God, take heed of judging God to be a hard master, make good interpretations of his ways, and that is a special means to help you to contentment in all one’s course.

God is for me! He has not been a hard master. He is not like us. He counts sinners righteous. He calls enemies his children. He sacrifices his only son for those who hate him. He is working for the good of his children when we don’t even know it or realize it. He is not waiting for you to screw up or waiting to drop another trial on your head just to crush you. Your heavenly father has good for you and me in all things.

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And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did. (Numbers 17:10-11 ESV)

Jeremiah Burroughs had another good word for me on “murmuring" and open rebellion, not necessarily 2 sins that I put together.

mur·mur·ing Noun /ˈmərməriNG: A subdued or private expression of discontent or dissatisfaction

reb·el Noun /ˈrebəl: A person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler

Complaining and murmuring can be such a subtle heart issue even when we’re actively voicing it and we definitely don’t put discontentment in the category of rebellion but that is exactly what Burroughs calls us out on referencing Numbers 16 and 17.

Murmuring is but as the smoke of the fire: there is first a smoke and smouldering before the flame breaks forth; and so before open rebellion in a kingdom there is first a smoke of murmuring, and then it breaks forth into open rebellion. But because it has the seeds of rebellion, it is accounted before the Lord to be rebellion. Will you be a rebel against God? When you feel your heart discontented and murmuring against the dispensation of God towards you, you should check it thus: Oh, you wretched heart! What, will you be a rebel against God? Will you rise in rebellion against the infinite God? Yet you have done so. Charge your heart with this sin of rebellion. – Jeremiah Burroughs (Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment)

The battle to be content in God and in what He has for us is no easy one but we should be well warned against where discontentment leads.

Many of you may say, I never thought that I was a rebel against God before, I thought that I had many infirmities, but now I see the Scripture speaks of sin in a different way than men do, the Scripture makes men, though only murmurers, to be rebels against God. Oh, this rebellious heart that I have against the Lord, which has manifested itself in this way of murmuring against the Lord!

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Of course, if a man were at home and the rain poured into his house, he would regard it as an intolerable hardship; but when he is travelling, he is not so troubled about rain and storms. When you are at sea, though you have not as many things as you have at home, you are not troubled at it; you are contented. Why? Because you are at sea.

Storms at Sea I Painting - Storms at Sea I Fine Art Print

In a recent post I mentioned two paradigms that Jeremiah Burroughs has been helping me with from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment: The hope of eternity and the truth that this world is not my home. In that post, I focused more on the hope of eternity. In this post, I want to dig into what has actually been more of the paradigm shift for me, the truth that this world is not my home.

You are on a Journey at Sea

You are not troubled when storms arise, and though many things are otherwise than you would have them at home you are still quieted with the fact that you are at sea. When sailors are at sea they do not care what clothes they have, though they are pitched and tarred, and but a clout about their necks, and any old clothes. They think of when they come home: then they shall have their fine silk stockings and suits, and laced bands, and such things, and shall be very fine. So they are contented while away, with the thought that it shall be different when they come home, and though they have nothing but salt meat, and a little hard fare, yet when they come to their houses then they shall have anything. Thus it should be with us in this world, for the truth is, we are all in this world but as seafaring men, tossed up and down on the waves of the sea of this world, and our haven is Heaven; here we are travelling, and our home is a distant home in another world.

If you are at sea, you are not expecting a nice steak dinner or to sleep in a comfy sleep number bed, you anticipate the hardship and differences. Of course, most of us are not travelling via Paul Allen’s Octopus or a Disney Cruise. This is no 3 day trip to Bermuda but a long voyage.

You are at an Inn

Consider what your condition is, you are pilgrims and strangers; so do not think to satisfy yourselves here. When a man comes into an inn and sees there a fair cupboard of plate, he is not troubled that it is not his own.- Why? Because he is going away. So let us not be troubled when we see that other men have great wealth, but we have not.-Why? We are going away to another country; you are, as it were, only lodging here, for a night. If you were to live a hundred years, in comparison to eternity it is not as much as a night, it is as though you were travelling, and had come to an inn. And what madness is it for a man to be discontented because he has not got what he sees there, seeing he may be going away again within less than a quarter of an hour?

You don’t have all your things when at a hotel. You might unpack but all you have is from a suitcase. You eat more on the go maybe at an unfamiliar restaurant. You don’t have your own pillows or your own bed. It’s only a temporary residence.

The Indicative: This World is Not My Home

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11 ESV)

I think I understood before that, like a journey at sea or a stay at a hotel, this world is not my home. But my problem is that I think I took verses like 1 Peter 2:11 as commands and missed the indicative. Peter does not tell us to “act like sojourners and exiles.” He calls us sojourners and exiles. He gives us an indicative that we are sojourners and exiles. This is the truth not something to obey. I am never told to act like this world is not my home – I am told that this is a truth that I need to accept and believe. That steak I might be looking forward to is merely salted meat aboard the ship or bland hotel food.

We’re not told to take the sea voyage but we’re on the sea right now. We are away from home right now. We don’t have a choice. We can try to naturalize and throw away our citizenship and simply forget about home or maybe work for the enemy but those options will only lead to more heartache, pain, dissatisfaction, and disorientation. We’re merely passing through here. We have to accept we’re sojourners, remember our short term mission & ambassadorship, and take joy in the fact that we will indeed be home someday and it will be infinitely better than this world.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

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I have been immersed in the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs now for almost 2 months and it has been extremely good for my soul. Two themes in particular has been huge: that this world is truly not my home and that the world of eternity promised to us in Christ will be better than I can fathom.

The World is Exhausting

These past few days I played Mr. Mom as my wife helped out with our local twins club and their biannual used kids sale. The first day I was amped up and motivated, vacuuming almost the whole house and doing some outside work around our house as well on top of taking care of my 5 little ones. It was an enjoyable day. The next day I was feeling it. I was struggling to get moving in the morning. But, the day went well and I felt like I was able to delight in my kids and even made a fun dinner for them. Day 3? I was toast. Of course, my kids were tired and cranky as well. I was struggling to delight in them, to joyfully serve them, to not fall asleep. Fatigue and my own selfishness fought to taint everything on day 3 without my wife. I honestly was trying to trust Jesus to sustain my but I was exhausted. I almost couldn’t think straight and was starting to become harsh with my kids as Hyde was screaming to take over.

What is My Hope in?

How did I finish the day? I started to put my hope in when my wife got home and my time with her! The evening went pretty well because I was simply looking forward to her. It tainted everything I did from that point forward. I thought about what we might do together and even had some sparkling wine ready to enjoy together. Thinking about my wife impacted the rest of my day and helped carry me through the fog of exhaustion.

The reality is, due to circumstances out of her hands,  she got home later than we both thought and, by that time, we were both walking zombies (date night tonight though!). This anticipation plays out many a time though. It can affect my wife’s entire week to know we have a date night coming. On days we have a date night, my work day flies by and I have an anticipation that can carry me. Eternity should be like this for us. Everything we end up hoping for in this world can carry us only temporarily and can disappoint. This is not the case with what Jesus has stored up for us.

The Hope of Eternity

When you sailors see the haven before you, though you were mightily troubled before you could see any land, yet when you come near the shore and can see a certain land-mark, that contents you greatly. A godly man in the midst of the waves and storms that he meets with can see the glory of heaven before him and so contents himself. One drop of the sweetness of heaven is enough to take away all the sourness and bitterness of all the afflictions in the world.

We know that one drop of sourness, or one drop of gall will make bitter a great deal of honey. Put a spoonful of sugar into a cup of gall or wormwood, and it will not sweeten it; but if you put a spoonful of gall into a cup of sugar, it will embitter that. Now it is otherwise in heaven: one drop of sweetness will sweeten a great deal of sour affliction, but a great deal of sourness and gall will not embitter a soul who sees the glory of heaven that is to come. A carnal heart has no contentment but from what he sees before him in this world, but a godly hearts has contentment from what he sees laid up for him in the highest heavens.

There is a great deal of hope in these thoughts from Burroughs. We who trust in Christ do indeed have a light at the end of the tunnel and it is a glorious light. There is land ahead of this journey on the sea and we will get there. It feels so far away as the world and trials beat down on us but it is there. In hoping for heaven and eternity, God will use that anticipation to give us the joy and contentment we need to thrive and not merely gut it out in the here and now.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

This life can be complex and feel like the walls are caving in. Simple tasks can be painful. The rug can be pulled out from beneath us so quickly.  But it will not be this way forever. This world is not our home and we are just passing through.

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…should be a believer in Jesus Christ:

It may be said of one who is contented in a Christian way that he is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world; these two together must needs be mysterious. I say, a contented man, just as he is the most contented, so he is the most unsatisfied man in the world.

You never learned the mystery of contentment unless it may be said of you that, just as you are the most contented man, so you are also the most unsatisfied man in the world.

– Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Content, yet the most unsatisfied? Say what? Wonder where Burroughs could have gotten that thought from.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:18-26 ESV)

More to come soon from this “rare jewel” of a book by Burroughs…

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