My wife is a shopper, but not the kind of woman from whom you have to hide the credit cards every time she goes to town. Rather, she loves to shop at stores that sell used (or sometimes purchased but not used) items. There is nothing wrong in this, and in fact, she routinely finds quality items for less than a tenth of what they would cost new. Among the things she loves to find for very little money are books. As a pastor, such efforts have helped to build my own library as well as the libraries of a few others. Recently she came home with a copy of a book by Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. This work, first published in 1648, two years after the author’s death, reminded me of another Puritan work by Thomas Watson that he entitled The Art of Divine Contentment. When asked by a Christian book seller several years ago what was the best book I had read in the last year (the Bible exempted from the answer list) I replied to him that it was Watson’s book. His surprise at my answer was obvious from the look on his face, to which I replied, “Don’t be so surprised, you sold it to me.” And yet there was surprise, and perhaps that is due to the fact that with so much bounty in our land, there is still a terrible lack of contentment, and that in general we want to sweep our discontentment under the proverbial rug.
After receiving the book (i.e., The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment) and confirming that I did not have it in my library, I gladly cataloged it in the computer file where all my books are listed, and then placed it on the part of my shelf reserved for Puritan writings. And then I started to remember some of what Watson had said in his book on contentment in the Christian life and was almost tempted to remove both books from my shelf and rid myself of the convicting titles. I personally struggle with contentment, and so too do most Christians. It is sometimes difficult to remember that, “Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body: it puts it out of temper and much hinders its regular and sublime motions heavenward.” (Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment [first published 1653; reprint, Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 2001], v.) How then can we be content and not allow the disease of discontent to hinder our walk with Christ? Watson says in part, “The Almighty is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:4), and of salvation (Psalm 68:20), in which respects neither deficiencies nor disappointments, losses nor crosses can cause disquieting discontents in that bosom where faith is the commander-in-chief.” (Watson, ix.) The believer walks by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and when we fall to the temptation to walk by sight, discontentment is never far behind. Yes, most all of us struggle with discontentment, but it is possible for believers to walk contented before God and man. Let us learn the lesson learned so long ago by the apostle Paul who said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11). Truly contentment is a rare jewel, and sadly that is true even in the lives of believers. BTW, thanks Honey for finding books for my library, even ones that bring conviction and correction to my own life.
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