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The stone had been formed in the depths of the earth centuries before it was found, transformed from worthless carbon by unimaginable temperatures and pressures. It had been driven to the surface of the earth by tectonic forces and had made its way down various tributary streams until it came to rest at the edge of the Abaetezinho River in Brazil. No one could know how long it was there, unrecognizable, covered with mud and sand. It looked like any ordinary stone, but it was precious beyond words.

In 1990, a Brazilian farmer needed some water for his fields and stooped down to get it. The stone somehow caught his eye, and he scooped it up, dripping and dirty. There’s no way the farmer could’ve known that he had just discovered the largest red diamond in history—13.9 carats in its rough form. All diamonds are rare, but red diamonds are the rarest of them all. That red diamond would eventually be cut into a triangular shape weighing 5.11 carats. It is now known as the Moussaieff Red Diamond, after the collector who purchased it in 2001. Its sale price was undisclosed, but estimates put its value as high as $8 million.

This amazing red diamond is exceedingly precious. An immeasurably more precious jewel to the Christian is contentment.

Priceless Contentment

In 1642, the Puritan pastor Jeremiah Burroughs preached a series of sermons on Christian contentment that were gathered and published in 1648, two years after his death. The title the editors chose was The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. It carries the reader through a powerful unfolding of this vital topic, beginning with the apostle Paul’s assertion in Philippians 4:12, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content” (CSB).

Unfortunately, many Christians in the 21st century have never delved into the topic of contentment. Like the muddy rock scooped up from the bank of a Brazilian river, its true worth has been hidden from many eyes for centuries. I desire that more and more Christians would experience the kind of Christian contentment Paul discovered and Burroughs so skillfully described. Its worth in eternity will prove far greater than that of the Red Diamond.

Why do I say that?

Two Offers

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Imagine you just won the most extraordinary sweepstakes prize ever, but it came through supernatural means. Let’s call it the “Faustian Travel Agency,” owned and operated by a Mr. Mephistopheles. The prize is a two-week all-expense-paid trip anywhere in the world. You’ll stay at the most expensive five-star hotels, eat the highest-quality food, cooked by the best chefs in the world. You’ll see the most spectacular scenery, drive the most expensive cars, and wear a whole new wardrobe specifically tailored for you. The trip will have the best of everything and will cater to your every whim.

But here’s the catch: You would have to agree to be continually discontent at every moment of the trip. Would you do it? Two weeks of constant discontentment in the most luxurious setting possible? For many people, I think the answer might be pretty clear: “No way! Why would I want to be miserable for two straight weeks?”

Actually, we see many of the world’s most elite people essentially living out this kind of tragedy in real life—famous athletes and movie stars, living in spectacular mansions on private estates on rocky coastlines, with architectural plans that maximize the view of the sunrise or sunset over the ocean, yet tragically discontent, going from divorce to divorce, addicted to drugs, bored, even suicidal.

Conversely, suppose a different offer were made to you, this one by your heavenly Father. He is offering a painful trial of suffering. You’ll be publicly beaten, imprisoned in a gloomy dungeon with your feet in stocks. You’ll be deprived of food, water, medical care, and even light. Surrounding you will be other suffering prisoners, the stench of human bodily fluids, and the kind of despair that comes when the end of your agony isn’t in sight. But you’ll also be filled with such a supernatural contentment through God’s presence that you’ll later remember it as one of the sweetest times of your life. And you’ll have the privilege of leading a whole family to Christ (see Acts 16:16–34)!

Rarest Jewel

Which offer would you take?

If you’re a Christian, it’s possible you would choose the second experience, despite its high cost. And if so, you probably already agree that contentment is the greatest state of inner well-being one could ever have in this world. The value of contentment is vastly greater than any that the Red Diamond could bring.

Yet despite the value of this rich, full, continual contentment—and despite the fact that it’s possible for every Christian in the world to experience—this exquisite jewel is rare in our lives. And how desperately the unsaved world needs Christians to discover it.

Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted excerpt from The Power of Christian Contentment: Finding Deeper, Richer, Christ-Centered Joy (Baker Books, 2019). It is published here in partnership with Baker Books.