Jeremiah Burroughs addresses many of the failures of our churches. It may just be a sign that nothing is new under the sun. Reborn but not new. Burroughs argues that contentment is hardest found during times of prosperity rather than times of trial. He points his reader to Christ as our foundational joy, to Christ who can sustain us through prosperity and poverty. Says Burroughs,
There is poison sometimes in a poor condition; that is there are temptations to great evils in a poor condition. Yes, but those temptations have bitterness in them. By contrast, the temptations of a full condition have sweetness in them, and therefore there’s a greater danger in them, making it more difficult to avoid those temptations. (p. 41)
What I loved. First, Burroughs attacks the mentality of ownership among Christians. He argues we do not own anything but are stewards of God’s gifts.
But the temptations that go along with a full condition are, for the most part in lawful things, and it is in these things that we most often fail. When the temptation comes along, it sounds so reasonable. We are tempted to say, “Why? May a man not take liberty to comfort himself in God’s gifts? May a man not take what is his own? May not a man make use of what is his own?” For the most part, appear in things that seem to have no harm in them; therefore, they are subtle, and a man needs to be very cautious of them. (p. 42)
In close relation, he argues the prosperity provided by God is given to be used in his service. Those who are not generous with their prosperity are hindering the gospel. “Oh, how the gospel is hindered by such men, who have outward prosperous estates, yet despite that do not have hearts to make use of it” (p. 64).
Finally, Burroughs admonishes us to use our prosperity for God’s glory. So we can say with Paul that if we are rich or poor we are content in God because of Christ. “Oh, if Christ would say [we used our prosperity for God’s glory], wouldn’t it be worth a thousand times more to you than your estate?” (p. 71).
Most of us in America are rich especially in comparison to our brothers and sisters around the world. Much of the sin in the American church could be traced back to our failure to find contentment in our prosperity. We have become greedy. We have become wealth-mongers. We are far less generous than we should be. “If adversity has slain her thousands, prosperity has slain her ten thousands” (p. 68).
The application of the gospel provided by Burroughs here addresses a crucial topic for the church. We must learn to rejoice in God first and his gifts as an outpouring of that. Burroughs ends with some piercing questions after examining David’s praise of God and sorrow in Psalms where he had prospered and others where he had suffered:
[Y]ou should consider whether you can make use of the same Scripture in one condition as well as another. Are you able to make use of those Scriptures which comfort you in one condition in another condition? Consider whether you can praise God in one condition just as well as you can in another condition. God’s grace so satisfies and strengthens the heart that the things that are outside of it in the world make very little difference to it. (pp. 118-119)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory free from Reformation Heritage via Cross Focused Blog Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”