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The previous post in this series may be found here

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Study Guide 4, Pages 51-60

1. What is the fifth element of contentment?

2. Burroughs contrasts two ways of thinking about a circumstance. How does a carnal heart think (this would be the automatic response of most people)? What does one who lives contentedly think?

3. Note: Naomi and Marah mean pleasant and bitter. Since God has called to a bitter rather than a pleasant place. Consider for a moment the lines of the contemporary song, Blessed Be the Name.

Blessed be Your name

When the sun’s shining down on me

When the world’s ‘all as it should be’

Blessed be Your name


Which line of that song fights against contentment for the Christian? Contrast that with Burroughs’ use of the words pleasant & bitter to describe our circumstances.

  1. If in a bitter place I think of how I wish my circumstances would be different, is that likely to result in me being more contented? How does Burroughs direct one’s thoughts (bottom page 51)?
  2. On the top of page 51, Burroughs gives a particular title to wishing things were different: how does he describe it?
  3. Read James 4:1-3 and then James 1:14-15. How does desiring something other than what I have lead me to sin? Now read 1:16-17. How then should we think of God’s providence for our lives?
  4. Take a bitter or difficult circumstance which presents itself to you (if there is no difficulty at present, pick a recent circumstance). What is your duty in this circumstance? How do you show love to God & neighbor in your present circumstance? If your goal is to glorify God, to obey & worship God and to do good to your neighbor, how can you still be discontent with your circumstance?
  5. If this is true, then why do we insist on our own desires even when it leads to further discontentment?
  6. What is the sixth element of contentment?
  7. Whose will do I favor? How does desiring my own will lead to discontentment?
  8. Is God’s will always done? See, e.g., 1 Kings 12:15.
  9. If I were to get my own way, would I actually be content? Read Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. What kinds of things (categories) did Solomon obtain/enjoy? Note that the language of Solomon’s wealth parallels the Garden of Eden in some ways. How did Solomon value everything that he received? Consider again contentment on the basis of getting what I desire?
  10. Think of advertisements and popular media: what story are you constantly being told (with respect to contentment)? Think about advertisements for children’s toys. Now think of the reality. What does this teach you about contentment?
  11. A different way of thinking this through may be of help. David Powlison’s essay, “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire” explains that human life flows out of desires: We want something and so we do it. “The in working power of grace qualitatively transforms the very desires that psychologists assume are hardwired, unchangeable, morally neutral givens” (Seeing Through New Eyes, 147.) He goes on to write: “Can you change what you want? Yes. Does the answer to this question surprise you? It counters influential contemptorary views of human motivation. Most Christian counseling books follow on the heels of secular psychologists and take your desires, you ‘felt needs,’ as givens. Many leading Christian psychologists make the unchangeability of what we long for the foundation of their systems. For example, many teach that we have an ‘empty love tank’ inside, and our craving for love must be met, or we are doomed to a life of sin and misery. Desires to feel good about ourselves (“self-esteem”) or to accomplish something meaningful are similarly baptized. This creates the psychological equivalent of “Health and Wealth” theology, which similar selects certain common desires and accepts them as givens that God is obligated to fulfill. The psychological versions of health and wealth miss that God is about the business of changing what people actually long for.”  (160).
  12. What is the seventh element of contentment?
  13. Read (again) James 1:14-15: What causes you to be discontent?
  14. What is the eighth element of contentment (page 56)?
  15. When something comes to us, how should we think of it (top page 57)? Example, when we do something for a child, even if the child does not desire it (like a dental visit), how should the child understand it?
  16. Read Romans 8:18-30. Now read the second aspect of seeing all aspects of God’s work as our blessing (middle of page 57). Think of how one difficulty has worked for your holiness.
  17. On point three: we sometimes use the word “grace” to refer only to the initial act of God justifying a sinner. However, all that God gives to a creature is grace. How are even difficulties grace?
  18. Consider how all grace has been purchased by Christ: When you think of even the least grace that you have received, do you consider it to have been bought by Christ’s blood? If even bitter trials are things which God has brought together for your good; and that such good was purchased by Christ’s blood; then what must grumbling and complaining be?
  19. What is the fifth aspect of seeing all things as coming from the blessing of God?
  20. Read Titus 2:11-13, 1 John 3:1-3, Romans 5:1-5. What sort of view should we constantly have our of circumstances? How should we consider the present in light of what is to come?
  21. Consider a present difficulty. Now think of that difficulty in light of what God is doing.
  22. To better understand the difficulty we have in thinking rightly, consider the popularity of the book Your Best Life Now. You don’t need to know the contents to understand the thesis. How does that thesis compare with Burroughs’ instructions for true Christian contentment?