Whew. It has been a while.
Several things have changed in the past couple weeks. The Lord is teaching me trust and contentment. How fitting, since I finished a book on Trusting God and am currently reading a book on The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
Mister did get a job! Praise the Lord. His plan is so much clearer to me in hindsight! It seems obvious that my mister was plucked from the job he hated in order to open a door elsewhere — elsewhere being an hour north of our beloved city.
I am so excited! I just want to get this move over with. I want Mister to feel productive at work again. I want to be able to think about the possibility of a family. I don’t want to rent anymore. I want to get a dog, darn it.
It’s all within grasp, so close. But so far.
We are waiting on a call from the HR department at Mister’s new company. While he has the job, it’s not quite official until the background check comes back. So here we are, in limbo.
Let me tell you, while I praise the Lord for the new job, temptation lurks in the corner of my heart. Why do we have to wait like this? Seriously now.
And then I read my weekly homework for The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. And my heart is pricked. And I don’t like it. So I read quickly over Burroughs’ truths that point their finger at me. Maybe if I skim fast enough, I won’t be convicted.
But (praise God) that little nugget of truth has already nestled itself in my memory. And whether I like it or not, God will tap me on the shoulder and remind me of it a couple hours later as I mumble and grumble about our “halfway there” situation.
And so, without further ado, the persistent lessons I’ve been learning in the “school of Christ”, chapters 5 and 6 in The Rare Jewel.
1. The lesson of self-denial.
This was one of the lessons I wanted to skim through. Every human wants to skim past this one. Who wants to deny themselves? Certainly not my little troll of a soul. But, as Burroughs says so wonderfully and bluntly, “…if you mean to be Christians at all, you must buckle to this or you can never be Christians.”
Now that, that stopped me in my “I refuse to be convicted” track. The initial reaction might be indignation, but a true Christian will shortly realize the severe truth in Burroughs’ statement, and praise God that he had the courage to write it. Burroughs fleshes out the lesson of self-denial with eight sub-lessons:
- Such a person learns to know that he is nothing.
- I deserve nothing.
- I can do nothing.
- I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good.
Let me pause here. I love what Burroughs says about this point: “I am not only an empty vessel, but a corrupt and unclean vessel: that would spoil anything that comes into it.” That takes the “I am devoid of all good” to a more truthful, serious level.
- If God cleanses us in some measure, and puts into us some good liquor, some grace of his Spirit, yet we can make use of nothing when we have it, if God but withdraws himself.
Clarifying again. Not only do we contaminate goodness, but we are incapable of even using the talents God gave us for any good purpose without God working in us. This makes sense. If all we are good for is contaminating God’s goodness, why on earth would we be able to produce any good without God?
- We are worse than nothing… “Sin makes us more vile than nothing and contrary to all good.”
- If we perish we will be no loss.
Okay, this is important for, I think, a lot of Americans. It’s somehow embedded in the American psyche that we are the most needed, most missed, most desired nation on the planet. It’s only natural that this is a mindset that Christian Americans struggle with when it comes to the lesson of self-denial. God did not create us because He needed us in any way. He made us because He wanted to. That’s it. And as Burroughs says, “If God should annihilate me, what loss would it be to anyone? God can raise up someone else in my place to serve him in a different way.”
- Thereby the soul comes to rejoice and take satisfaction in all God’s ways
“I beseech you to notice this. If a man is selfish and self-love prevails in his heart, he will be glad of those things that suit with his own ends, but a godly man who has denied himself will suit with and be glad of all things that shall suit with God’s ends. A gracious heart says, God’s ends are my ends and I have denied my own ends; so he comes to find contentment in all God’s ends and ways, and his comforts are multiplied, whereas the comforts of other men are single.”
Well. That last point really hit home for me. Here I am, complaining that our lives aren’t moving fast enough for my taste, instead of aligning my will to God’s will and being content because my life’s ends are suited to God’s ends. Whew.
I cannot possibly unpack all of chapters 5 and 6, but I will list the remaining lessons and perhaps comment on them with a Burroughs’ quote in another post. I do, however, recommend this book, again and again. I think when I have finished it with the study, I will read it again. Heaven knows I’ll need the reminder