Final Words on Contentment

Not that I speak in respect of want:

for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,

therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

We’ve spent 2021 looking at what Pastor Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) had to say about Learning Christian Contentment in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. One thing I’ve learned in this year of Covid 2.0 is how difficult it is to be truly content with what God is doing in our lives. I will be honest that I find it discouraging sometimes to see how God is working in the lives of other believers. When I find myself being critical or judgmental, I need to stop and say to myself, “Let God be God! Let Him work out his plan in me and in others through this pandemic. Leave it all in His hands.” This has been a year to observe the contrast between the sinful works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and of the Holy Spirit (2:22-23). Because of what I’ve seen in myself and in others during the past year, I want to be more spiritual. We will examine the topic of Spirituality in 2022!


A few final encouraging words from Jeremiah Burroughs:

“I have spent many sermons on this lesson of contentment, but I am afraid that you will be longer in learning it than I have been preaching of it: it is a harder thing to learn it than it is to preach or speak of it. I have been thirty-eight years learning this lesson and have not learned it thoroughly. The truth is, there are many, I am afraid, who have been (believers) near eight and thirty years, who have hardly learned this lesson.

“Contentment is a necessary lesson for a Christian. Paul said, he had learned in all estates therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11). Oh, do not be content with yourselves till you have learned this lesson of Christian Contentment, and have obtained some better skill in it than heretofore.”


How to Attain Contentment – Part 4

I am crucified with Christ:

nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

and the life which I now live in the flesh

I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me,

and gave himself for me

Galatians 2:20

This last list of suggestions from Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) on Learning Christian Contentment has gems of wisdom for our consideration.

Number 15 (below) is a truth that holds forth the sanctification of every believer in Jesus Christ. Romans chapter 6-8 are too often overlooked. They speak of our “co-crucifixion” with Christ (Galatians 2:20 above). When Christ died-we died with Him. When Christ was buried-we were buried with Him. When Christ rose from the dead-we rose with Him. When God saved us we became so identified with Christ that we are in Him and He is in us. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4).


  1. Do not reckon on too great things. Paul says, ‘And having food and raiment let us be therewith content’ (I Timothy 6:8). He did not soar too high aloft. Those who look at high things in the world meet with disappointments, and so they come to be discontented. Be as high as you will in spiritual meditations; God gives liberty there to anyone of you to be as high as you will, above angels. But for your outward estate, God will not have you aim at high things; as the Lord said to Baruch, ‘And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not’ (Jeremiah 45:5). ‘For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith’ (Romans 12:3).

  1. Labor to get your hearts mortified to the world, dead to the world. We are baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-5) that is to signify that we have taken such a profession as to be professed to be even dead men to the world (Colossians 2:20-23). The things in which our happiness consists are of a different kind, and we may be happy with these; this is a kind of deadness to the world.

  1. Let not men and women pore too much upon their afflictions: that is, busy their thoughts too much to look down into their afflictions. You find many people, all of whose thoughts are taken up about what their crosses and afflictions are, they are altogether thinking and speaking of them. It is just with them as with a child who has a sore: his finger is always on the sore; so men’s and women’s thoughts are always on their afflictions.” ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’ (Philippians 4:8).

  1. Do not so much regard the fancies of other men. For the reason of our discontentment many times is rather from the fancies of other men than from what we find we lack ourselves. ..almost all the discontent in the world is rather from the fancies of others than from the evil that is in themselves. Oh, do not let your happiness depend on the fancies of other men!

  1. Be not inordinately taken up with the comforts of this world when you have them.” ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’ (I Timothy 6:10).


How to Attain Contentment – Part 3

This next-to-last lesson from Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) on Learning Christin Contentment fits well with my topic for 2022! Using terms from a different century, he touches on things like the Christian’s relationship to the evil world system (Greek – cosmos), contentment is living by faith, and being spiritually minded

In January we will examine this critical question: “What does it mean to be spiritual?” God instructs us to live our lives “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), but what does that mean? The answer to that questions is foundational to living the Christian life the way God wants us to live it. Stay tune!

Set your mind on things above,

not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2 (NKJV)

Burroughs gives us five more considerations for attaining contentment:

  1. Do not grasp too much of the world. Do not take in more of the business of the world than God calls you to. Do not be greedy of taking in a great deal of the world, for if a man goes among thorns, when he may take a simpler way, he has no reason to complain that he is pricked by them. Must you of necessity go among the thorns of the world? Then it is another matter. But if you choose to walk among the things of the world, you will meet with disappointments and discontentments in everything we meddle with.

  1. Be sure of your call to every business you go about. (Ephesians 2:10) Though it is the least business, be sure of your call to it, that whatever you meet with, you may quiet your heart with this: I know I am where God would have me be. Oh, this will quiet and content you when you meet with trouble.

  1. Walk by rule in the work that I am called to. I must walk by the Word of God and order myself in this business according to God’s mind as far as I am able. Let men and women keep within the bounds of the command of God, of the rule that God has set them in his Word. But if they go beyond the pale, if they pass their bounds, then they may expect to meet with troubles, and afflictions, and discontentment. [I understand that Burroughs is not advocating legalism here. God’s Word is to be our guide in all we do in life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105]

  1. Exercise faith. A life of faith is the way of contentment. Master Perkins said, ‘The life of faith is a true life.’ Exercise faith, not only in the promise that all shall work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28), but likewise exercise faith in God himself, as well as in his Word, and in God’s attributes [loving-kindness, mercy, grace, etc.]

  1. Be spiritually minded. Meditate on things above and not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2; Philippians 2:5-11). Many Christians who have an interest in the things of Heaven converse very little with them. Their meditations are not much upon heavenly things. (Psalm 63:5-6)”



How to Attain Contentment – Part 2

And Jesus saith unto him,

The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests;

but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Mathew 8:20 (KJV)

As these lessons in Learning Christian Contentment draw to a close, our instructions from Jeremiah Burroughs arrive at recommendations about “How to Attain Contentment.” My next few blog posts will divide each of these into two short sections that will bring us to the end of the lessons on contentment and the end of 2021. Watch for the last post in December for a peek at the topic in view for 2022!

Burroughs continues with four more considerations for attaining contentment:

  1. “Consider the condition that others have been in. Moses might have had all the treasure in Egypt, and some historians say of him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him for her son, and so he was likely to have come to the crown. Yet what a low condition he lived in, when he went to live with Jethro his father-in-law forty years tending sheep in the desert! …the great instruments of God in the first Reformation lived in great straits, in a very low condition. But above all, set Christ before us, who professes that the birds of the air had nests, and the foxes holes, yet the Son of man had no place to hide his head, such a low condition was he in.

  1. “Consider that, before your conversion, before God wrought upon your souls, you were contented with a world without grace and you had no interest in God nor Christ. Why cannot you now be contented with grace and spiritual things without the world?

  1. “Consider, when God has given you such contentments in the past that you have not given him glory. When God has given you your heart’s desire, what have you done with your heart’s desire?

  1. “Consider all the experiences that you have had of God’s doing good to you even though you have lacked some comforts. It is true, when ministers only tell men that God will work good out of afflictions, they hear them speak and think they speak good words, but they feel little or no good. They still feel nothing but pain. When I tell you that God will work good out of your affliction, have you yourselves not found it to be so by your own experience? Think this to yourself: Lord, why may not this affliction work as great a good upon me as other afflictions have done in the past?”

I have seen this last consideration in my own life and in the lives of others. A woman’s husband went through the suffering of a heart attack, surgery, and a full recovery only to praise God that the experience worked so powerfully in his life that he could not imagine being as close to God as he was if he hadn’t gone through that experience. A woman I knew went through treatments for pancreatic cancer and before she died she testified that her daily prayers and time in God’s Word were the best she’d ever had in all her years as a believer.

I think of the chorus to the hymn, His Yoke is Easy by R.E. Hudson where he reflects on the yoke that God placed on him and found from experience that it was not a harsh, crushing burden, but an easy yoke and a light burden because God was with him each moment.

His yoke is easy; His burden is light.

I’ve found it so; I’ve found it so.

He leadeth me by day and by night,

Where living waters flow.



How to Attain Contentment – Part 1

As these lessons in Learning Christian Contentment draw to a close, our instructions from Jeremiah Burroughs conclude with timely recommendations about “How to Attain Contentment.” He divides his suggestions into what he calls considerations and directions. My next few blog posts divide each of these into two short sections that will bring us to the end of the lessons on contentment and the end of 2021. Watch for the last post in December for a peek at the topic in view for 2022!

In previous lessons, Burroughs showed various reasonings for murmuring and discontented heart. He picks up now with his considerations:

  1. We should consider in all our wants and inclinations to discontentment, the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the meanness of the things we lack. The things we lack, if we are godly, are things of very small moment in comparison to the things we have, and the things we have are things of very great moment. For the most part, the things for the want of which people are discontented or murmur are such things as the unsaved have, or may have. ‘Blessed by God,’ says the Apostle in Ephesians 1:3, ‘who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.’ The consideration of the greatness of the mercies that we have, and the littleness of the things that God has denied us, is a very powerful consideration to work this grace of contentment.

  1. “The consideration that God is beforehand with us with his mercies – this should content us. I remember reading of a good man who had lived fifty years of age and enjoyed his health for eighth and forty years exceedingly well, and lived in prosperity, but the last two years his body was exceedingly diseased, he had the strangery [a urological condition such as kidney stones or bladder stones] and was in great pain. Cut he reasoned his case with himself thus: ‘Oh Lord, you might have mad all my life of torment and pain, but you have let me have eight and forty years in health. I will praise your mercies for what I have had, and will praise your justice for what now I feel.’ Oh, it is a good consideration for us to think that God is beforehand with us, in a way of mercy. (God will not all us to be test above what we are able to bear…)

  1. “The consideration of the abundance of mercies that God bestows and we enjoy. Name any affliction that is upon you: there is a sea of mercy to wallow it up. So, afflictions considered in themselves, we think are very great, but let them be considered with the vast sea of God’s mercies we enjoy, and then are not so much, they are nothing in comparison.

  1. Consider God’s ways toward all creatures. There is a vicissitude of all things in the world: the sun does not shine always on us here, but darkness comes after light. …there is a mixture of conditions, why should we think it much that there should be a vicissitude of conditions with us, sometimes in a way of prosperity and sometimes in a way of affliction?

  1. Consider that we have but little time in this world. If you are godly [saved] you will never suffer except in this world. Why, do but shut your eyes and soon another life is to come, as that martyr said to his fellow martyr: ‘Do but shut your eyes,’ he said, ‘and the next time they are opened you shall be in another world.’ Consider, we have not long to live, it may be over before our day is at an end. But supposing it should not, death will put an end to all, all afflictions and troubles will soon be at an end.”


Excuses for Complaining in Troubles


From The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599-1646, come these helpful thoughts on excuses people can make for being discontent with their circumstances. We’ve all said or thought variations on some of these observations, which are no excuse for not being content with all the rich blessings God has given us in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-12)

“A discontented heart may say, ‘I am not so much troubled with my afflictions, but it is for my sin rather than my affliction, and I hope you will give leave that we should be troubled and discontented with our sin. Were it not for sin that I see in myself, I should not be so discontented as I am. Oh! It is sin that is heavy upon me, and it is that which troubles me more than my affliction!

Do not deceive your own heart; there is a very great deceit in this. There are many people wo, when God’s hand is out against them, will say they are troubled for their sin, but the truth is, it is the affliction that troubles them rather than their sin. Their heart greatly deceives them in this very thing.

You were never troubled for your sin before this affliction. But you will say, ‘It is true I was not troubled before, for my prosperity blinded me, but now God has opened my eyes by afflictions.’ Has He? Then your great care now will be rather for the removing of your sin than removal of your afflictions.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then even if God should take away your afflictions, yet unless your sin is taken away also, this would not content you – you would still not be satisfied. We see usually that if God removes their afflictions, people seem to have no more trouble for their sin.

If you are trouble for your sin, then it will be your great care not to sin in your trouble, so as not by your trouble to increase your sin. But you are troubled in such a way that, the truth is, you multiply your sin in your trouble, and since you say you were troubled for your sin, you have committed more sin than you did before.

If it is your sin that troubles you, then you have the more need to submit to God’s hand, and to accept the suffering of your iniquity. There is no greater way to take away complaining and murmuring, than to look upon my sin as the cause of my affliction.”


My Affliction is Unique!

The word “temptation” often means a solicitation to sin (as in James 1:13 where God cannot be tempted to evil), but this verse can also be speaking about enduring a particular trial or time of adversity. God brings difficulties and sometimes tragedies into our lives to refine us. His goal is not to destroy us, but for us to grow in Christlikeness through the difficulty. It is a comfort that although my personal suffering seems, at the moment, to be unique to me, it is in fact common to endure suffering as part of God’s plan of sanctification. I am drawn to many examples in Scripture where individuals faced problems similar to or much worse than I am facing to find instruction and encouragement.

Jeremiah Burroughs notes that our difficulties or afflictions are not unique when he poses this hypothetical objection: “You will say, ‘Yes, but you do not know what our afflictions are,’ yet I know what your mercies are and I know they are so great that I am sure there can be no afflictions into his world as great as the mercies you have. If it were only this mercy, that you have this day of grace and salvation continued to you  it is a greater mercy than any affliction. Set any affliction beside this mercy and see which would weigh heaviest; this mercy is certainly greater than any affliction.

Burroughs points out two passages of Scripture to encourage us in our afflictions:

Job 2:8-9 “‘What?’ said Job, when his wife would have him curse God and die, which was a degree beyond murmuring. Why, he said, ‘Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh…shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil [calamity or adversity]?’ You see, Job helped himself against all murmuring thoughts against the ways of God with this consideration: that he had received so much good from the Lord. What, though we receive evil, yet do we not receive good as well as evil? Let us set one against thither–that is the way we should go.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 “Here you may see what course is to be taken when the heart rises to murmuring: ‘In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.’ When you are in prosperity, then indeed every man can be joyful, but what if afflictions befall you, what then? The consider—consider what? That ‘God hath set the one over against the other.’ You have a great deal of afflictions, and you have had a great deal of prosperity, you have many troubles, and you have had many mercies; make one column of mercies and one column of afflictions, and write one against the other and see if God has not filled one column as full as the other. You look altogether upon your afflictions, but look upon your mercies also.”

See the hymn below!

Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring


Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,

points out that the sin of discontent is further aggravated by the sin of murmuring against our circumstances (actually against God who is the author of our circumstances) especially when we have been blessed by Him with such abundant mercies. Murmuring aggravates, amplifies, compounds our sin of discontent.

“Because it is very hard to work upon a murmuring spirit, there are many aggravations which we must consider for the further setting out of the greatness of this sin.

To murmur when we enjoy an abundance of mercy; the greater and the more abundant the mercy we enjoy, the greater and the viler is the sin of murmuring. For example, when God had newly delivered the [Israelites] out of the house of bondage, for them to murmur because they lacked some few things they desired, Oh, the sin against God after such a great mercy, is a great aggravation, and the most abominable thing (Exodus 15:22-24ff).

“Has God given to you the contentment of your hearts? Take heed of being the cause of any grief to your brethren. Do not think that because God has been gracious to you, that therefore he has given you liberty to bring your brethren into bondage by your murmuring. Nothing is more grievous to the heart of God than the abuse of mercy, as, for example, if any way that is hard and rigid should be taken towards our brethren, and those especially whom God has made such special instruments of good to us; if now, when we have our turns served, we let God and his people and servants who helped to save us shift for themselves as well as they can. This is great aggravation of our sin, to sin against the mercies of God.


“For men and women to be discontented in the midst of mercies, in enjoyment of an abundance of mercies, aggravates the sin of discontent and murmuring. To be discontented when we are in the midst of God’s mercies, when we are not able to count the mercies of God, still to be discontented because we have not got all we would have, this is greater evil.


The Evils of a Complaining Spirit

Our teacher, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) has three observations about learning to be content. This first lesson focuses on an uncomfortable subject: the evils of a complaining (murmuring) spirit. We like to minimize our complaining so much that we don’t notice it when we grumble and snap at the slightest provocation. Trust me, loved ones notice our whining and are often hurt by it.

Maybe you’ve experienced something like this: a child is given a simple chore like taking out the trash or maybe putting away his toys. The rebellious child throws a tantrum, yelling, crying and stomping around the house. He finally does the chore and then gripes, complains, and sulks for an hour more while the household is thrown into turmoil. Adults do this too and it causes “much vexation of spirit” in homes, workplaces, and schools. It tarnishes our testimony for Christ if we become known as a “complainer.” Where’s our Christian contentment then?

Let’s admit with Dr. Burroughs that complaining is a major hindrance to learning Christian contentment. Until men, women, and children get victory over the habitual sin of complaining (Yes, it’s a sin!) we will have a difficult time being content. As he points out, the evil of murmuring is worse than the affliction that prompts it.

Part 1 – There is more evil in a murmuring heart than you are aware of.

“This murmuring and discontentedness of yours reveals much corruption in the soul. As contentment argues much grace, and strong grace, and beautiful grace, so murmuring argues much corruption, and strong corruption, and very vile corruptions in your heart. So is murmuring in your heart, if every little trouble and affliction makes you discontented, and makes you murmur, and even causes your spirit within you to rankle.

“So it is, just for all the world, in the souls of men: it may be that there is some affliction upon them, which I compare to a wound; now they think that the greatness of the wound is what makes their condition most miserable. Oh no, there is a fretting humour [bodily infection; bacterial contamination], and inflammation of the heart, a murmuring spirit that is within you, and that is the misery of your condition, and it must be purged out of you before you can be healed. Let God do with you what he will. Until he purges out that fretting humour, your wound will not be healed.

“A murmuring heart is a very sinful heart; so when you are troubled by a physical affliction you had need to turn your thoughts rather to be troubled for the murmuring of your heart within that is much more grievous.

“Oh, that we could but convince men and women that a murmuring spirit is a greater evil than any affliction, whatever the affliction… a murmuring spirit is the evil of the evil, and the misery of the misery.”

The Lamp of Spiritual Contentment


Jeremiah Burroughs suggest that spiritual contentment is like a lamp to comfort us in the darkness of our storms.

“Contentment is a comfort to a man’s spirit in that it keeps out whatever may damp his comforts. I may compare this grace of contentment to a sailor’s lantern: when a sailor is at sea, no matter how much provision he has in his ship, yet if he is thousands of leagues from land, or in a route where he will not meet with a ship for three or four months, he will be in a sad state if he has no lantern on his ship by which to keep a light in a storm. He would give a great deal to have such a lantern. When a storm comes in the night and he can have no light above board, but it is puffed out at once, his state is very sad. So, many men have the light of comfort when there is no storm, but let any affliction come, any storm upon them, and their light is puffed out at once, and what can they do? When the heart is furnished with the grace of contentment, this grace is, as it were, a lantern in the midst of the storm or tempest. When you have a lantern in the midst of a storm, you can carry that light everywhere up and down the ship, to the top of the mast if you wish, and keep it alight; so when the comfort of a Christian is enlivened with the grace of contentment, it may be kept alight whatever storms or tempest come—he can keep the light of contentment in his soul. Oh, this light helps your comforts very much in the storms of life!”