Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Struggle with Discontent

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NIV)
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

                We all struggle with discontent from time to time. In a way, we cannot help it, because we live in a culture of discontent. Every time we turn on the radio or TV, we are being told that we need something new. Every newspaper and magazine is filled with enticements to buy something. These appeals are usually coached in the guise of discontent. Whatever you currently have is not good enough. You need this new and improved version of XYZ.

                Discontent is an insatiable hunger. No matter how much a person has, it is never enough. As soon as a person acquires the latest thing, there is something else calling to them. Solomon understood this all too well. Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NIV)

                The Apostle Paul points us in a different, counter-cultural direction. He tells us that godliness with contentment is the path we should follow. Godliness is focusing on doing the good things that please God. It is living in such a way as to reflect the character of God into our world. Contentment is being satisfied with what we have, without the need for more. Contentment is not asceticism, which rejects the material pleasures of this world. Contentment is fully enjoying the good gifts that God has given to us.

                Paul warns us about the dangers of following the path of discontent. Discontent robs us of the joy of our current situation. If we always have our eyes on what is just out of our reach, then we fail to see and appreciate what is already in our grasp.

                Discontent clouds our judgment. We believe the inflated claims of those who promise us personal fulfillment. We are tempted to compromise our moral values to attain worldly pleasures that cannot last. 

                Discontent leads to more discontent. Discontent is like drug addiction. The more that we give into its demands, the more we need to give us a temporary sense of satisfaction. Instead of being more fulfilled, or happy, or satisfied, we are less. Discontent breeds unhealthy doubts about God’s grace and goodness. Satan convinces us that God is holding out on us. But discontent does not produce true happiness. Instead it causes self-inflicted wounds.

                Jesus addressed this issue of discontent in Matthew 6:25-34.
                        "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

                True contentment is not complacency. True contentment is seeking Christ’s kingdom with all of our hearts, and trusting God to deal with the details. True contentment understands the difference between things of eternal value and things with only temporary value. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

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