Now, it is much better for things to be in a state of confusion so we will wake up, for if we were at peace, we would be asleep, we would no longer be aware of anything, anything at all. But if things go badly, we are forced to think about God and put our senses on alert and think about a judgment that is prepared, which is not yet apparent, and that is how our Lord leads us to hunger for the last day and the resurrection which has been promised. But the fact remains that men continue to surround themselves with false and wicked fantasies. For, as I have already said, inasmuch as events do not happen as we would like, we are tempted to suppose that God does not think of us or watch over us any longer, that serving him is a wasted effort and that there is no difference whether we live an upright life or not and that the good gain nothing by walking in fear under him.
John Calvin, Sermon on Job 24:1-9
The most recent post in this series may be found here
Upon a Rock
It is the saying of the moralists, that accidents which befall men have a double handle by which they may be apprehended. So as they be rightly taken they become less burdensome and unpleasant, and also of use and advantage to those that sustain them (like bitter herbs that are by the skill of the physician turned into wholesome medicine).
The same may be said of this present subject, that it hath a double aspect under which it may be represented to our consideration, each of which will suggest thoughts far differing from one another, and yet both have their rise from Scripture.
Does not God bid us look uno the rock from when we are hennaed to the pit whence we are digged? [Isaiah 51:1] And then what can it hold out to our view but the misery of our natural condition, our deadness, deformity, barrenness, and intractableness to any good? Is it not the complaint of the best that there are hearts are stony & rocky, and that they are apt to stand it out with God and not to yield to the work of his grace? Is there any evil that in their account is more insuperable than a flinty heart?
When Moses, who had faith to work many miracles, most distrust but when he was to make the Rock to yield water? [Numbers 20:11] And yet is it not the promise of God to take away the stony heart and to give a heart of flesh? [Ezekiel 11:19] And is it not that which I beg, that God would mollify both my natural and acquired hardness and preserve me from judicial hardness; that so I may not resist Pharaoh-like his [God’s] messages, his miracles, his judgments, and his mercies, and worse instead of better.
I would that God might be a Rock to me; but I would be as wax to unto him, that so I might be apt to receive divine impressions from him. It is my sin to be as a rock to God, inflexible and sooner broken than bent. But is my unspeakable comfort to think that God will be a Rock to me, who stand in continual need of his aide and power, to uphold me, who, if it I be not built upon him, cannot subsist. And, if I be not hid in him can have no salvation.
I cannot therefore but give some scope and line to my thoughts, that I amy the better take the honey and sweetness that drop form this metaphorical name of God, who is often styled in Scripture, the Rock of Israel, the Rock of Ages, the Rock of Salvation. But here I must use the help of the schools, who rightly inform us, that we anything of the creature is applied to God, it must be via remotions, by way of remotion; and via eminentiae, by way of transcendent eminency.
First, by way of remotion: All defects and blemishes whatsoever are not in the least to be attributed unto him who is absolutely perfect. As heralds say of bearings, the resemblance must be taken from the best of their properties, not the worst. Is a rock deformed and of unequal parts? God if the first of beauties, as well as of being, and all his attributed are equally infinite. His justice is as of large an extent as his mercy; and his wisdom as his power. Is a Rock insensible of the straits of those that fly unto to it for succor? So is not God, who is both a Rock and Father of Mercies: who can read the expression of his tenderness and note be affected?
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?
how shall I deliver thee, Israel?
how shall I make thee as Admah?
how shall I set thee as Zeboim?
mine heart is turned within me,
my repentings are kindled together. [Hosea 11:8]
Is the strength of a Rock intransigent, and fixed in itself, not communicating its virtue to what lies upon it? So is not the strength of Israel [God], who is a living and not a dead rock; and gives both life and power to those that united to him.
I can do all things (as Paul says) through Christ strengthening me. [Philippians 4:13]
Is a rock barren and can yield no food, though it afford shelter? So is not God who is a full storehouse as well as a free refuge; a sun as well as a shield.
Secondly, by way of eminency: all perfections whatsoever, either for degree or kind, which put a worth or value upon the creature are to be found infinitely more in God. Is a Rock strong, and dashing to pieces all resistance made against it? God is incomparably more: He (as Job says) is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? [Job 9:4].
Is a rock durable, and not subject to change by the many revolutions of Ages that pass over it? God is far more immutable, his years are throughout all generations: he is the same yesterday, and today and forever: In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. [Isaiah 26:4]
Is the shadow of a great rock desirable in a weary land, to bear off the scorching of the sun and to revive the fainting traveller? What a covert and hiding place then is God against all storms and heats whatsoever, raised either by the rage of men or by the estuation [agitation] of a troubled conscience, and fomented by the malice of Satan?
Is a rock of an awful aspect for its height and apt to work upon the heard of them that looks down from the top of it? How great then is God whose glory is above the heavens? Whose faithfulness reaches unto the clouds, whose righteousness is like the great mountains, and whose judgments are a great deep?
And now methinks I may say to my soul, as David did unto who, Why art thou downcast O my soul? And why are thou disquieted within me? [Ps. 43:5]
Cannot God keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on him? Is not he a very present help in times of trouble? What evil can befall me, under which his everlasting arms cannot support me? What sea of trials can overwhelm me when God shall set me upon a rock that is higher than I? As I myself cannot climb it, so neither can my enemies’ power ever reach it.
A believer can only be wounded by his own fears; as the diamond is only cut by its own dust. Peter sunk not till his faith failed him: if his confidence had risen as the wind and billows did blow, he would have greatly honored his Lord, as his Rock, upon whom he was built, and have been highly commended by him as he was for the good confession he made of him.
But, O blessed Savior,
If Peter cry out, Save Master I perish!
How much more shall I, who fall far short of his little faith?
And am apt to fear, not only in the deeps seas, but in the shallow brooks:
Not only when the waves roar, but when the petty streams murmur?
Do thou therefore, holy Lord,
Teach me to know what a Rock thou art
And cause all thy glory to pass before me
As thou didst before Moses
That so I may see every attribute of thine
As so many clefts in the Rock
To which I may run in time of danger
And rejoice to find how I am compassed about,
With thy power, wisdom, faithfulness, goodness,
From when more sure comfort will arise,
Than if a numerous host of angels should pitch their tents round about me.
Contentment Fits us for Mercy
1 What relationship does Burroughs draw from receiving mercy from God and contentment?
2 Burroughs makes multiple analogies help illustrate God’s actions. Recount them and explain how they apply.
3 When we are discontent, what must we believe about God’s power? Goodness? Wisdom? Strength?
4 When we are discontent, are we seeking what God has provided for us, or what we have determined we deserve?
5 Read James 1:2-4. What does God here intend for those who fall into trials?
6 Read Romans 5:1-5. What does God intend for those who fall into trials?
7 Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. What does God intend for those fall into trials?
8 When we are discontent in a trial, what do we seek?
9 Look again at Burroughs’ definition of contentment?
10 Contentment is a willingness to receive what God has to give us.
11 All temptation preys upon discontentment: We are in a circumstance. We face X, but we desire Y. We are not content with what we have at present. Temptation comes along and offers to us Y, at the cost of disobeying God. The temptation takes place in the distance between what we have and what we want.
You Current Reality
You What you desire
You may become angry, covetous, deceitful, slanderous, envying, lustful, stealing, et cetera to get what you want. At one level, discontentment is a desire to sin and a desire to not be satisfied with what God has provided.
This relates to idoltary as follows:
An idol is a thing which use to get what we want. Israel prayed to Baal because they thought Baal could make them rich, et cetera. When we throw a fit and demand that God give us what we want because we want it, we are treating God as a servant, as an idol. In such a circumstance, what can God give to us?
This is how idolatry functioned in Old Testament. The fundamental problem with the Israelites in the Old Testament was that they reserved for themselves the prerogative to determine what they needed and when they needed it, instead of trusting the Lord. The self-oriented hearts of the Israelites then looked to the world (the neighbors in their midst) and followed their lead in blowing to gods that were not God in order to satisfy the lusts of their self-exalting hearts. When this is comprehended, it portrays the terrible irony of Israelite false worship. When the Israelites followed the lead of their neighbors and bowed before blocks of wood, that act of false worship underlined their desire for autonomy and, in an ironic way, was an exultation of themselves even more than of the idol. The idol itself was incidental; (in our world it could be a pornographic picture, a spouse as the particular object of codependency, or an overprotective mother’s controlling fear attached specifically to her children) the self-exalting heart was the problems, which remains the problem today.
The main problem sinful people have is not idols of the heart per se. The main problem certainly involves idols and is rooted in the heart, but the idols are manifestations of the deeper problem. The heart problems is self-exultation, and idols are two or three steps removed. A self-exalting heart that grasps after autonomy is the Grand Unifying Theory (GUT) that unites all idols. Even though idols change from culture to culture and from individual to individual within a culture, the fundamental problem of humanity has not changed since Genesis 3: sinful people want – more than anything in the whole world – to be God.
Heath Lambert, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 148. Considering this: how can one who is insistent upon God bowing to his will expect anything from God.
12 Read Psalm 131 and explain how the psalmist is at peace. How does this relate to contentment and temptation?
When the godly are burdened and afflicted that way and the wicked are hardened and go unpunished and God sits in wait for them as if the affairs of this world were of no concern to him, what can be said but that he appears to be doing one thing but is doing another and does not wish to reveal that he is the Judge until he knows the time is right? Now, if we want to know why, we will be left in confusion. Consequently, we must conclude that God’s judgments are secret and astonishing and surpass human understanding and that our minds fail us, but that we must revere God’s secrets, which are not known to us even as we confess that he is just despite the fact we find what he does strange. Moreover,
John Calvin. Sermons on Job, Volume 2: Chapters 15-31 (Kindle Locations 7559-7564). The Banner of Truth Trust.
let us realise that we must not come before God to plead our case, for we are all obliged to be condemned without his conducting a long trial against us, and all the more must our sins be compounded, since we think we have many defences and excuses to offer. So, there is no other remedy except acknowledging we are all indebted to him and asking for his pardon and mercy. This is how we must come to God: we must not claim to be righteous or be able to satisfy him; we must acknowledge the sins we have committed and ask him to receive us out of his pure kindness and mercy, and we must not open our mouths to plead our case, for that debate is not ours. That office is in the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ. As for us, let us keep our mouths shut and allow Jesus Christ to be our advocate and intercede for us so that our sins may be buried in this way and we may be absolved instead of condemned. That is the first thing we have to remember. And that is how we will be forever delivered by our Judge, as Paul says: ‘Who will lay anything to the charge of God’s children, since he justifies them?’ (Rom. 8: 33) Who will bring a suit against them, since Jesus Christ has taken their case in hand and wants to plead it? That, I say, is our only refuge, and without it we are lost and have no need to think about approaching God, for we will be struck down by his wrath, as we deserve.
John Calvin. Sermons on Job, Volume 2: Chapters 15-31 (Kindle Locations 7147-7151). The Banner of Truth Trust.
4 There is beauty in contentment.
A. What is the relationship which Burroughs implies between “beauty” and “glory?” What sort of glory is displayed in contentment — whose beauty shines in contentment?
B. What is the point of Burroughs quoting a pagan philosopher at the beginning of this section?
C. The furnace of Daniel 3: Read and recount the story. What did the contentment of these three do to the king? Dan. 3:28. Whose beauty was displayed — what did the king see?
D. Read Acts 16:16-40: recount the story. Why would Paul & Silas be tempted to despair and discontentment? How did they respond to trial? v. 25. See Acts 5:41. How is God shown to be beautiful in this event? How do we know that God’s glory was displayed and found beautiful? Acts 16:30.
E. What is the effect upon as we see God’s beauty? 2 Cor. 3:18.
Some quotations about spiritual beauty:
The beauty of a Christian is borrowed:
Ans. It comes from without. It is borrowed beauty, as you have it, Ezek. 16:1, 2. By nature we lie in our blood. There must be a beauty put upon us. We are fair with the beauty that we have out of Christ’s wardrobe. The church shines in the beams of Christ’s righteousness; she is not born thus fair, but new-born fairer. The church of Christ is all glorious, but it is within, not seen of the world, Ps. 45:13. She hath a life, but it is a hidden life, ‘our glory and our life is hidden in Christ,’ Col. 3:3. It is hid sometimes from the church itself, who sees only her deformity and not her beauty, her death but not her life, because her ‘life is hid.’ Here is a mystery of religion, The church is never more fair than when she judgeth herself to be most deformed; never more happy than when she judgeth herself to be miserable: never more strong than when she feels herself to be weak; never more righteous than when she feels herself to be most burdened with the guilt of her own sins, because the sense of one contrary forceth to another. The sense of ill forceth us to the fountain of good, to have supply thence. ‘When I am weak, then am I strong,’ saith Paul, 2 Cor. 12:10. Grace and strength is perfect in weakness.
Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 2 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet And Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 135.
The beauty of holiness:
Tenthly, Consider, that of all things, holiness will render you most beautiful and amiable. As holiness is the beauty of God,1 and the beauty of angels, so it is the beauty and glory of a Christian too. Holiness is a Christian’s greatest honour and ornament: Ps. 93:5, ‘Holiness becometh thine house’—that is, thy church—‘O Lord, for ever.’ There is no garment that suits the church, that becomes the church, like the garment of holiness. It is sanctity that is the church’s excellency and glory; it is purity that is the church’s ornament and beauty. Holiness is a beauty that beautifies the church; it is the gracefulness and comeliness of the church. Holiness is so beautiful a thing that it puts a beauty on all things else. As holiness is the greatest ornament of the church triumphant, so it is the greatest ornament of the church militant, Eph. 5:26, 27. The redness of the rose, the whiteness of the lily, and all the beauties of sun, moon, and stars, are but deformities to that beauty that holiness puts upon us. If all natural and artificial beauty were contracted into one beauty, yet it would be but an obscure and an unlovely beauty to that beauty that holiness puts upon us: Ps. 29:2, ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:’ Ps. 96:9, ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness:’ Ps. 110:3, ‘Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauty of holiness.’ You see beauty and holiness is by God himself still linked together; and those whom God hath so closely joined together, no man may put asunder. The scripture last cited doth not only speak out holiness to be a beautiful thing, but it speaks out many beauties to be in holiness. Those Christians that are volunteers in the beauties of holiness, they shall be very beautiful and shining through holiness.
Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 4 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1867), 171.
Contentment makes one beautiful and fit for service (which is the same point made by Burroughs):
O then, how excellent is contentment, which doth prepare, and as it were, string the heart for duty? Indeed contentment doth not only make our duties lively and agile, but acceptable. It is this that puts beauty and worth into them; for contentment settles the soul. Now, as it is with milk, when it is always stirring, you can make nothing of it, but let it settle a while, and then it turns to cream: when the heart is over-much stirred with disquiet and discontent, you can make nothing of those duties. How thin, how fleeting and jejune are they! But when the heart is once settled by holy contentment, now there is some worth in our duties, now they turn to cream.
Thomas Watson, The Select Works of the Rev. Thomas Watson, Comprising His Celebrated Body of Divinity, in a Series of Lectures on the Shorter Catechism, and Various Sermons and Treatises (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 703.
The following question comes from a long article in the Journal of Pastoral Theology (3.3, 1979) by Harvie Conn. Conn discusses how a church has a “model” for ministry; an often unarticulated self-understanding of what a church is, does, and how it functions. A great of the discussion is how to make change (do more evangelism for instance) when the inherited culture stands against that change.
In the diagnostic section, Conn quotes this question (cited to Dr. Ward at Michigan State):
Pride and status. Has leadership become something of an end in itself? Have the teachings of Christ about servanthood become culturally clouded by the Horatio Alger syndrome: one begins low in order to become great? How real is the danger in ministry that servanthood becomes a temporary or transient period of initiation or demonstration of eligibility? Is leadership defined too often not by service but by privileges?
This question struck me, because it points to a poison I have seen destroy too many churches and harm too many Christians. It is a poison from the broader world and culture. Because it is so common in our world it can become nearly invisible in our church.
Below is a copy of the study guide which as far as it is complete (through page 122 of the Banner of Truth edition).
The previous post in this series may be found here
Strength in the Christian, and pointedly strength in contentment, proceeds by paradox. We are weak when it comes to contentment and we cannot force ourselves into a true godly contentment by any force of will. To be strong in contentment we “boast” in our weakness and be receptive to the strength of God which is super-abundant grace for contentment.
Paul learned this (remember that contentment is a skill which is learned) in weakness forced upon him by God.
A Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
1 What has the unnamed man (Paul) received? vv. 1-2
2 Why do you suppose Paul refers to himself in third person?
3 Of what will Paul boast? v. 5 (see 2 Cor. 11:30-33).
4 What did God do with Paul? v. 7
The identity of the thorn has been the subject of a great many speculations. Paul does not say what it is. What we do know is that it was a matter of extraordinary pain and suffering for him.
We might miss this, because “thorn” sounds like something which would only scratch or annoy us. But,
The word translated “thorn” (skolops) occurs only here in the New Testament. It refers to something pointed such as a stake for impaling, a medical instrument, or a thorn. “Stake” would be a better translation, though “thorn” has dominated English renderings of the word. The metaphor carries “the notion of something sharp and painful which sticks deeply in the flesh and in the will of God defies extracting.
David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, vol. 29, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 519, fns. omitted.
5 Why does God do this? v. 7
6 What does Paul do? v. 8
7 How does God answer Paul’s prayer? v. 9
8 What is the answer? v. 9
9 Does God provide Paul help? In what way? v. 10
11 How does this teach Paul contentment?
Human beings are by nature deficient, dependent creatures. We were created dependent upon God for existence, strength, knowledge, holiness. We cannot cause ourselves to even exist. We need food and clothing. (1 Tim. 6:6-8). We need the help of others. We need counsel from God. The first temptation was temptation to be autonomous: it was the illusion that we could live independent of God. (Gen. 3:5). The result of that foolish act has been insanity. (Rom. 1:18-31). The idea that we could live independently of God has resulted in our discontentment. Therefore, we must be brought to see that we cannot live without Him: we must know how weak we are in fact, so that we will willingly receive the strength of God. 2 Cor. 1:8-9.
XXXVI. Prayer answered by Crosses
1 I ask’d the Lord, that I might grow
In faith, and love, and ev’ry grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
2 ’Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
And he, I trust has answer’d pray’r;
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
3 I hop’d that in some favour’d hour,
At once he’d answer my request:
And by his love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
4 Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev’ry part.
5 Yea more, with his own hand he seem’d
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Cross’d all the fair designs I schem’d,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
6 Lord, why is this, I trembling cry’d,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord reply’d,
I answer pray’r for grace and faith.
7 These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayst seek thy all in me.”
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 3 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 607–608.
This section replaces a previous version of this study guide found here
There is a Great Deal of Grace in Contentment:
The second point made by Burroughs has to do with the “grace” which is poured out in contentment.
To understand this argument, it will be necessary to understand that the Puritians routinely used the word “grace” in a different manner than it is typically used by contemporary Christians. In contemporary usage, the word “grace” often refers only to the initial act of God’s saving work, “For by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). More broadly, it is God’s mercy towards our remnant sin.
When Puritans used the word, they routinely referenced God’s grace as the various operations of God’s good will toward us and work in us.
Consider the following passage from John Owen:
If we neglect to make use of what we have received, God may justly hold his hand from giving us more. His graces, as well as his gifts, are bestowed on us to use, exercise, and trade with.
John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, “The Mortification of Sin,” vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 13. And:
By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. So the apostle opposes the fruits of the flesh and of the Spirit: “The fruits of the flesh,” says he, “are so and so,” Gal. 5:19–21; “but,” says he, “the fruits of the Spirit are quite contrary, quite of another sort,” verses 22, 23. Yea; but what if these are in us and do abound, may not the other abound also? No, says he, verse 24, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” But how? Why, verse 25, “By living in the Spirit and walking after the Spirit;”—that is, by the abounding of these graces of the Spirit in us, and walking according to them.
John Owen, at p. 19. Grace is something that God does in us and through. Grace is not merely the disposition of God nor just our realization of God’s disposition, but grace God’s good work. That is why Burroughs writes in this section, “That in Contentment there is much exercise of grace“.
Contentment is to be prized by the believer, because in action evidences much of God’s good work in our lives.
Before we analyze Burroughs’ argument, why would evidence of God working in one’s life be desirable? In this prayer from The Valley of Vision, the unknown author refers to his preconversion life as “graceless”:
O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between my receivings and my deservings,
between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,
between the heaven I am bound for
and the hell I merit.
Edited by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision (Kindle Locations 213-215). The Banner of Truth Trust. What does “graceless” mean? Does that help understand what clear knowledge of God’s grace would be a comfort and encouragement?
Much exercise of grace, There is a composition of grace in Contentment, there is faith, and there is humility, and love, and there is patience, and there is wisdom, and there is hope, all graces almost are compounded, it is in oil that hath the ingredients of all kind of graces, and therefore though you cannot see the particular grace, yet in this oil you have it all;
A What are the various things which Burroughs lists as separate graces? What makes up the “composition of grace”?
B Use your knowledge and a concordance to find passages in the Bible which extol each faith, humility, love, patience, wisdom.
C Exercise of faith:
1 What must one believe to exercise contentment when the present circumstances do not support any contentment? What must one believe about a difficult circumstance to be able to exercise contentment?
2 Read 1 Peter 1:3-9: What basis does Peter provide for the believer to exercise contentment in the midst of trials?
3 Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-18: What basis does Paul provide for the believer to exercise contentment?
4 Think of what makes it difficult to exercise contentment in the midst of difficulties: how then to do Peter & Paul provide a basis for contentment? How do the promises of God answer the trouble such that one can be contentment now where troubles are great?
5 What made the disciples troubled? Mark 4:35-41.
D Humility. How do you think that humility relates to the question of contentment? Consider it the opposite way, how does pride spur discontentment?
1 Read Isaiah 66:1-3. What makes a person humble? How is humility described in this passage?
2 Compare this aspect of humility (trembling) with faith which supports contentment: how does humility support faith and contentment?
1 Read Proverbs 1:20-33. What is promised here by humility?
2 Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.
a What is the wisdom of this world when faced by trouble?
b How does God’s wisdom display itself in this world: what did God’s greatest act of “wisdom” look like when played out on earth? (Read Psalm 2 and realize that the Psalm refers to the crucifixion of Christ. How did Christ’s death look to God (when on earth it looked like defeat)?
c How then does such wisdom relate to a contentment which is not dependent upon present appearances? Phil. 1:27-30, 3:7-11; 2 Corinthians 12:10
F Hope:Read Romans 5:1-5
1 What is the hope which Paul identifies in this passage
2 What produces this hope?
3 Understand that hope controls human direction, motivation, conduct, et cetera. We do what we hope. Hope is not merely motivation for something which we otherwise desire: hope is bound up in the desire itself. Our will is formed by our greatest desire/hope. We are discontentment, because our hope has been thwarted. (Imagine you wanted to get a ticket for some event. If you do not get the ticket, you are disappointed. Imagine now you hear some “sold-out” event which did not want to attend. You are not disappointed. This is a trivial example, but it helps illustrate the point).
4 Read Col. 1:24-28, compare this Paul’s words in Romans 5:1-5. Are suffering and hope contrary? If we obtain that for which we hope, how can be not be content?
5 Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-8, what does suffering produce? Do you see how suffering causes the loss of one hope so that it will be substituted by a better hope?
G How then do these elements help produce contentment in the believer?
H If our hope and faith are set upon God’s provision of what God promises, and if we are sufficiently humble to not substitute our own goals for God, will that produce contentment?
For over three centuries now, atheists and skeptics have catechized the West in the belief that as cultures progress, belief in God or at least in extraordinary divine intervention in nature and history will wane. What proponents forget is that this concept of “progress” itself presupposes a certain kind of faith: an interpretation of reality that requires personal commitment. Among other things, it presupposes that reality is entirely self-creating and self-regulating (autonomous), such that the very idea of a personal God who enters into a world that we have defined as “without God” already precludes the possibility of entertaining specific claims to the contrary. The most rigorous physicist can become the most rigid dogmatist, closing his or her mind arbitrarily to every argument or evidence that might challenge such presuppositions. Narrative paradigms are resilient. They can be overthrown, but everyone works hard at preserving them from impeachment. Once upon a time in the West, one could become an atheist or deist only with considerable difficulty; the widespread narrative within which everyone operated rendered unbelief implausible. Today, it is exactly the opposite. To believe in the triune God of Scripture who speaks and acts in history requires an act of apostasy from the assumed creed of our age.
The Christian Faith