Contentment: “A Gracious Frame of Heart”, Part 4
For the past three Training Table servings, we have been ingesting 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.
As always, the basis of today’s menu consists of chewing on and digesting for “running the good race” SO THAT we are growing as a force of reformation, revival, and constructive revolution. As it pertains to this series, we’re looking at the THE DEVIL’S role in undermining Christian contentment—as the basis for self-sacrificial service.
The Devil in Our Day: A Throwback, an Enthrallment, or a Sober-Minded Reality?
CS Lewis wisely said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about Satan. One is to disbelieve in his existence all together. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in him” (The Screwtape Letters—highly recommended).
Today, a disbelief in Satan (or much of the immaterial, supernatural) is a sign of being a modern, intellectually enlightened, and supremely pragmatic and useful person. No longer mired in traditional ideas or anachronistic mores, today’s “modern” is free to make up the rules as she or he goes along; free to be a non-judgmental, tolerant, and an emotionally unobtrusive contributor; free to be free of any unacceptable encumbrances of the past or the future: E.g., Free to live in a relativistic culture.
Similar to mentioning SIN in public, mentioning SATAN can often brand us as being, heaven forbid, old fashioned or, even worse, a fundamentalist.
On the other side of the same coin, I work alongside many Christians who might too quickly attribute some universal or personal hardship, poor choices, or simply “the messiness of life” to the Devil’s personal and direct hand. This is not Biblical, and plays perfectly into Satan’s plan ().
An over-attribution or blaming the Devil for all yukiness of life or own hearts, can tend to deflect and get ourselves off the hook far too quickly and easily: For the Christian, sanctification, becoming more like Christ, is mostly about things like the cycle of true repentance, forgiveness, and acts of service “cathartically applied” to expunge the sins of the flesh overtime—but not completely.
Satan is alive and well and yet a defeated foe who is only allowed as much as the tether of God’s love, truth, and sovereign plan will allow (Romans 8:28). However, God has ordained the Devil be strategically yet lovingly (towards the Saints) USED to separate the wheat from the chaff, to make us holy as God is holy, to more deeply root our faith, before Jesus Christ returns to make all things new.
The Devil cannot remotely be compared to God’s omniscience (all-knowing), omnipresence (in all places simultaneously), omnipotence (all-powerful), and immutability (not subject to change). The Devil is real and powerful, but cannot twitch devoid of God’s behest.
Let’s take a gander at a handy yet useful way to characterize Satan’s wiles—his “tools” for undermining the Christian’s faith and effectiveness. Please, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The Five Sharpest Instruments in Satan’s Tool Shed: For the Time-Being, Dulled AND Sharpened by Use!
It’s very important to conduct a more in-depth study of Satan’s names, and his past, present, and future*. In battle, knowing our enemy is key. Being armed to be victorious is key. But for the purposes of this Training Table, familiarize yourself with a handful of the Devil’s most commonly used schemes:
Makes Christians question God’s Word; and His goodness.
Makes Christians look at our problems; rather than the God and Grace.
Makes the wrong things seem attractive so that Christians will want them more than the right things.
Makes Christians feel like a failure so we’re filled with fear and don’t even try.
Makes Christians put off something so that it never gets done—at all, or as effectively.
The path towards continually reducing “the purpose and power of the Devil’s D’s” is not to focus on the problems, but rather the solution; not the counterfeit, but the Real McCoy: “…for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14).
“NOT ONLY IN GOOD THINGS DOES A CHRISTIAN HAVE THE DEW OF GOD’S BLESSING… and find them very sweet to him, but also in all the afflictions, all the evils that befall him, the Christian can see love, and can enjoy the sweetness of love in his afflictions as well as in his mercies. The truth is that the afflictions of God’s people come from the same eternal love that Jesus Christ came from. Jerome said, ‘He is a happy man who is beaten when the stroke is a stroke of love. Be ever engaged in God’s love, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you well occupied’”. All God’s strokes are strokes of love and mercy, all God’s ways are mercy and truth, to those that fear him and love him (Psalm 25:10).” (Jeremiah Burroughs)
Please reserve a place at the Training Table for next week as we gobble up the last part of this series on contentment: “Attaining Contentment: The Gift That Keeps on Giving”.
May God richly bless you and yours, as you run the good race,
* The Character of Satan, John MacArhur