The Power of Christian Contentment-A Book Review

Contentment. That’s an odd word. It’s even more odd to say that Christians should be content. What do you mean that I should be content? Don’t you know what I’m going through? Don’t you know that I’m suffering? What do you mean that I should be content? Don’t you know that I’m prosperous? What is contentment, really? Is it even attainable?

Andrew Davis has written a superb work on the Christian doctrine of contentment, titled The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer Christ-Centered Joy. As the world around us grows all the more inconsistent, what we need is to hold fast to this glorious doctrine.

Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist church of Durham, North Carolina, and visiting professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, ministered to my soul through this book. I was incredibly encouraged by the timeless truths that he laid down throughout its pages.

Besides the fact that this book was rich in glorious truths about Christ, God’s sovereignty and providence, this book is a great read due to its clarity and organization. One of the most frustrating things is to read a book that is disorganized. Davis organized this book into 4 parts: The Secret of Contentment, How to Find Contentment, The Value of Contentment, and Keeping Content. Further, Davis explicitly stated the thesis of his book when he writes, “My thesis for this book is that Christian contentment is finding delight in God’s wise plan for my life and humbly allowing him to direct me in it (18).” You can’t get any clearer than that!

As the world around us grows all the more inconsistent, what we need is to hold fast to this glorious doctrine.

In 1643, a Puritan pastor by the name of Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book titled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Andrew Davis has taken this old work and helps the reader rediscover the remarkable truths found in this largely forgotten work (quoted from the back cover). Although Davis is building off of Burroughs’ work, he does so in a fresh way.

For example, Jeremiah Burroughs’ definition of contentment is as stated, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition (40).” Davis shortens (but doesn’t lessen the power) of the original definition to, “Christian contentment is finding delight in God’s wise plan for my life and humbly allowing him to direct me in it (54).”

You’ll notice that Davis’ definition of contentment is the same as his thesis. The two most powerful portions of this book came from the chapters titled, “Contentment and Providence,” and, “Contentment and Suffering.” In the former, Davis argues,

“without a whole-hearted embracing of the doctrine of providence, lasting Christian contentment will be impossible to attain. And the more vigorously we study, meditate on, and delight in the detailed providence of God, the easier it will be to grasp Christian contentment (56).”

Our world today likens circumstances to “luck” or “karma”. However, “The doctrine of providence sees a Person behind everything. There is purpose, intention, plan. There’s a wise and loving Father behind every experience you walk through in life, every person you “chance” to meet, every bruise or cut you receive, every paycheck you earn, every flat tire you endure, every missed connecting flight, every possession that slips out of your pocket (57).” Furthermore, Davis states, “When God created the universe, he did it in such a way that everything in it requires his constant active involvement for it to continue to exist (57).”

How encouraging is this for us today? There are no coincidences in the economy of God. God is actively ordering or allowing all things for the praise of His glory and for the good of His people. Davis says, “God’s purpose in ruling so meticulously over every atom of matter and every second of history is that he would be glorified in the salvation of his elect people. God orchestrates all these events so that not one of Christ’s sheep will be lost, but every single one of them will be raised up on the last day (66).”

At the conclusion of this edifying chapter, Davis writes, “Without the belief that God rules over every atom and every moment, we might think, as unbelievers do, that this or that situation had come to us by “luck” or “karma.” We would miss the wise purpose in all of life’s events. And it would be impossible for us to maintain a sweet, inward, quiet submission to a set of random events that did not come from God (68).”

“without a whole-hearted embracing of the doctrine of providence, lasting Christian contentment will be impossible to attain. And the more vigorously we study, meditate on, and delight in the detailed providence of God, the easier it will be to grasp Christian contentment (56).”

The second chapter that encouraged my soul was “Contentment in Suffering.” Davis writes, “There is no time in a Christian’s weary and painful pilgrimage to heaven when contentment is so precious and yet so hard to come by as during times of suffering (129).” We live in a world that is cursed by the Fall (Gen. 3). Everywhere we look we seem to find another person diagnosed with cancer, some other traumatic disease, poverty, death, and sickness. However, Davis writes this chapter with the hopes that what we read in the following pages will “prepare you for the hammer and chisel that the Master Sculptor must bring upon your soul to shape you for eternal glory (130).”

Davis recounts a story about his wife, who had recently returned home from the hospital (receiving a major neck fusion surgery). He writes,

“She had been a remarkable soldier through some of the worst pain of her life, but now it was two or three in the morning and her shoulder muscles were having aggressive spasms on both sides of her healing incision. I was holding her from behind, trying to get her shoulders in a less painful position. With tears streaming down her face, she begged me, “make it stop!” I said to her, “I can’t. And the One who can is choosing not to (133).””

The author details practical steps that Scripture encourages us to follow in times of affliction and sorrow. They are: Ask for wisdom (James 1:5), Rest in God’s goodness (Gen. 50:20-21), Expect suffering (John 16:33), Acknowledge our limited perspective, Accept that suffering can sanctify, Anticipate our eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17), and Share hope (Matt. 5:14-16).

A powerful moment in the chapter was when Davis recalled the letter Sarah Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards, that she wrote to her daughter following her husband’s death. The letter reads,

“What shall I say: A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left to us! We are all given to God: and there I am and love to be. Your affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards (142).”

What a beautiful testimony of faith in God’s goodness and sovereignty! May we all be able to respond with the faith that Sarah Edwards displayed in that moment.

Davis rounds out his book by writing on how to display contentment in prosperity and the process by which saints can remain content throughout their lives. Christian, are you struggling with contentment in this moment? If so, I would encourage you to read this work. More than that though, run to Christ! Trust in His goodness and in His sovereignty. If that seems to be a struggle for you in this moment, Andrew Davis will help minister to you through this period of your life.

If you would like to purchase this work, you can find it here.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Josh Chambers

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