Contentment: “A Gracious Frame of Heart”, Part 3
For the past two Training Table menu offerings, we have been chewing on the subject of CONTENTMENT—based upon “The Rare Jewel of Contentment”, by Jeremiah Burroughs. If you would care to, please review the previous segments in the Training Table Archives.
“Running the good race” while harboring significant discontentedness in the heart is akin to trying to run a marathon with “cinder block running shoes” on: It can be done… sort of… but at a very high cost in all sorts of respects!
Part 2 consisted of introducing the three forces that war against Christian contentment (or anything GOOD): the world, the flesh, and the devil. We began the journey of drilling down into these forces (that include supernatural and natural manifestations) by looking at THE WORLD’s influence:
The world’s ways are at war with the born-again Christian: Now “alien” (1 Peter 1:10-12), “in the world but not of it” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3; John 17), “urgently redeeming the world” (Romans 13.8-10; Galatians 5.14; James 2.8-13), “saved to serve” (Philippians 2; 1 John 2), “awed by God” (Matthew 22:34-40), and “unafraid of men” (Psalm 29:25),
The world (kosmos), in this sense, is the enemy of God—and all those who serve Him. Romans 12:1-2 says it best, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (emphasis added).
This one passage of God’s Word is jam-packed with enough reason and faith to fill the heart, grow the fruit of the Spirit, and set the Christian aflame for Kingdom—”on earth as it is in heaven”—works!
The world is very wary and even warring about contentment: It can appear to the world like sloth, abdication, a “works righteous betrayal”, or grand disengagement of some kind. To the world’s frantic and frenetic, contentment feels like R.P. McMurphy’s (played by Jack Nicholson) giving up on the insanity of the cuckoo’s nest by having a lobotomy: It’s much better, more laudable, for us if we just fit in!
However, true Christian contentment is, at once and the same time, at deep peace but never passive. An incessant and happy sower, but not an anxious reaper. A joy amidst the suffering. An unceasing prayer warrior, trusting in the promise, and not in some predisposed outcome. An open-handed offer of mission and unity, but never dependent on man’s approval or outcomes… That’s the realm of God’s business.
To whatever degree we are CONFORMED (molded, accommodating, assimilated, complicit, yielded, promoting, identified by…) to the patterns of this fast-passing world, we will be DISCONTENTED… deep within our hearts, and with everything we come into contact with.
As Stephen Covey so insightfully coined a phrase, it’s the difference between a scarcity mentality and an abundance mentality: The world is an ever-expanding realm of blessing with more than enough to go around, and not a fixed state whereby we need to scratch and claw and kill for all we can get (“Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”)!
Christian Contentment and the War with the Flesh: “The Key Issues with Our ISMS”
Even though this might appear totally out of context, I grabbed a headline today that has application, “The Tiger Woods freefall continues…”
Now, if anyone out there has struggled in any way with any thing of any significance in life… And you are REMOTELY REAL about it… You will know well how accurate (and likely unwittingly insightful and Biblical) this headline really is! (I talk a great deal about it in my book—Chapter 1, 8, 9.)
Amongst other things, Tiger Woods (allegedly) struggled greatly with “the things of the flesh”. We are bombarded daily with similar and distinctly egregious infractions which wreak havoc in “told and untold” ways. I would submit that, amongst other things, a leading driver for such destructive behavior is DISCONTENTMENT.
Even, nay ESPECIALLY, when you “have it all”!
Anyone of us who “suppresses our discontentedness” for long enough, WILL end up in an absolute freefall of disillusionment, despair, and destruction. It’s not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN. Just in the last month, I lost a friend to suicide who struggled with this very issue—amongst other things.
But, in Christ, God has made a foundation that will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)—as long as God is God. Amen. (Please pray for Tiger to be blessed by God’s foundations to slow and halt his freefall.)
A comparison may be helpful: St. Paul (Romans 7) and St. Augustine (Confessions) (explicitly and amongst many others) both used a synonym for discontentment when they spoke of their own insights concerning their utter depravity and resultant total dependencies upon God, and God only, for the cure: COVETOUSNESS infected their heart.
Joseph Conrad, in “The Heart of Darkness” wrote, “There is no credulity so eager and blind as the acceptance of covetousness, which, in its universal extent, measures the moral misery and the intellectual destitution of mankind.” That’s kind of strong, eh?!
Some Insights on the Flesh-ISMS: But, “God So Loved the World…” (John 3:16)
In 1 John 2:15-17, Jesus Christ speaks as lovingly and truthfully as can be. He loves us and warns His followers with True Truth about the nature of their heart and “its care and feeding”: To love God, love neighbor, and avoid with every fiber of their being,
a) “The lust of the flesh” which refers to HEDONISM—living for the gratification of physical and sensual desires.
b) “The lust of the eye” which refers to MATERIALISM—living for the accumulation and enjoyment of material things.
c) “The boastful pride of life” which refers to EGOTISM—living for self-aggrandizement and people’s approval vs. living as a self-effacing servant for God’s approval.
These “ISMS” (the fruits of worldviews), devoid of God’s redeeming love and truth, will first destroy the heart of any human being… and then increase to conflagrate entire societies and civilizations.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1)
If we don’t believe this to be true, or perhaps attribute the characterization to some sort of extreme exaggeration, or scare tactic by some sort of fanatic, we may have flunked history, or haven’t read a newspaper in quite some time…
Or delayed the necessity of looking realistically at the nature of our own hearts, AND THE OUTLANDISH MERCIES OF ITS REDEMPTION THAT GOD HAS PROMISED:
“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
(MERCY): I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’
(REPENTANCE): And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations.
(RENEWAL): And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh….
(GRACIOUS OBEDIENCE): … that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:18-21—parenthesis, emphasis added).
May God richly bless your heart, your emotions, and your life-in-action with the presence and increase of CONTENTMENT so that, “by contentment, we come to give God the worship (in word and deed) that is due His name” (Jeremiah Burroughs—parenthesis, emphasis added)!
Reserve a place at the table next week when we’ll dig into how the DEVIL aims to eliminate or erode our contentedness.