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Review by James Jeffery
If you are anything like me, you will struggle with contentment as a Christian. It’s easy to be constantly thinking and contemplating what we don’t have, rather than rejoicing in and appreciating all that God has given us. Our discontentment can lead us to self-pity, which is a vicious cycle that leads us away from Christ. On the contrary, contentment is one of the chief fruits God promises to bless His children with as we come to greater and deeper gratitude for all that He has blessed us with in Jesus Christ, and this is why I believe The Art of Divine Contentment is such an essential book for today.
Written by Thomas Watson — a 17th century Nonconformist puritan preacher — The Art of Divine Contentment is a pithy, accessible, relevant, and soul-searching work which exposes the heart of discontentment:
“[Discontentment is a] disease [which] is almost epidemic. Some who are not content with the callings into which God has set them must seek to go a step higher…” (p. 28)
Watson highlights how discontentment is a malignant vice which is the source and fuel of various other sins, including: envy, covetousness, distrust, and pride. By attacking these sins at the root, which is often discontentment, believers can know — as the Apostle Paul did — the secret of contentment. It is not something we ‘acquire ourselves,’ Watson writes, but rather:
“…becomes ours, not by acquisition, but by infusion. It is a slip taken off from the tree of life and planted by the Spirit of God in the soul. It is a fruit that grows not in the garden of philosophy but is of a heavenly birth. It is, therefore, very observable that contentment is joined with godliness (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6)” (p. 19)
Watson taps into the nature of true contentment: a lasting satisfaction and joy in what Christ has done for us, and for all His benefits unto us.
“Contentment lies within a man, in the heart, and the way to be comfortable is not by having our barns filled, but our mind quiet” (p. 26)
What makes this book magnificent is not that Watson leads us to consider his own advice as to how we can be content, but rather draws us to the source of contentment — the God of all creation. Saturated with references to, and practical illustrations drawn from, God’s Word, The Art of Divine Contentment offers no pragmatic solution to discontentment, but rather leads us to the One who can cure us from our desperate state.
At around ten pages each, the chapters are easily digestible and address the wide range of questions which you would expect to be raised on the issue of contentment. In particular, I found chapter 10 most helpful, as Watson addressed the excuses we may have when considering why we are not content with rich, Biblical responses. Moreover, Watson bolsters his arguments with reference to the testimonies and works of figures throughout church history who exemplified a spirit of contentment, and thus are worthy of emulation.
Thanks to Soli Deo Gloria Publications, puritan treasures like these are accessible for all Christians to read and be transformed by. Whether you are starting off as a follower of Jesus, or have been trusting in the LORD for years, Thomas Watson will lead you to drink from the fountain of life which is Christ, and you will come to see and be content with all that we have in Him.