It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, and I certainly appreciate the emails reminding me of that fact. I’m glad to know that someone is reading! I’ll try to do better. I promise.
Today, I want to pose to you a question…are you content with where you are in your life? Sadly, many studies have shown that the vast majority of Americans fall into a category of being, at the very minimum, “somewhat unhappy” with their current circumstances, while many are in full-blown discontentment. This unhappiness could be the result of almost any combination of human factors, but it is most likely the result of something much deeper and increasingly more profound…spiritual discontentment.
When our spiritual life (our intimacy with God) is ordered properly, happiness tends to emerge to the surface, regardless of our present circumstances. Just as air bubbles escape the cold and dark depths of the ocean, bubbling to the freedom of the waters surface, when our walk with God is healthy, contentment and happiness have a way of bubbling to the surface of our current situation. Even in the midst of a storm, we can genuinely smile.
The Apostle Paul writes of this in the book of Philippians…
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV)
Can you imagine being in prison? Can you envision yourself seated in a small cell, bound in heavy chains, awaiting the sentence for your crime? Can you feel the emotional weight and heaviness that ordeal would bring into your world? In this scenario, how much room is there for real happiness and contentment to flourish? For most, there’s probably very little room for anything other than full-blown fear and crippling anxiety. However, the Apostle Paul, having written this letter while imprisoned in Rome, found great contentment in this very situation. Notice that he has grounded his contentment in a wonderful truth. That truth is this: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (verse 13).
Isaiah 12:2 comes to mind…“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”
I often wish that I had that type of unbending faith and profound intimacy with the Lord on a consistent basis. Sadly, my own superficial opinions regarding situations in my life often outweigh the delicate, and often very thin nature of my immediate walk with God. Circumstances begin to dictate my outlook and actions, and, as a result, contentment seems lost in the confusion. But, contentment is not really what’s lost; what’s lost is my trust in God’s sovereignty regarding my situation. I’m not allowing myself to rely on His discernment. I’m attempting to captain the ship, and the ship, under my leadership, is sinking.
Let the Praying Begin…
Discontentment and unhappiness should always lead us to prayer, but we need to be careful in our approach to Almighty God. I’ve always been an advocate of praying to God in an honest manner…a manner which is a genuine reflection of what’s really in our heart…even if it’s greedy. If we can’t be honest with God, then who can we be honest with?
“…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
God already knows our heart, (I Samuel 16:7, Acts 15:8, Jeremiah 20:12) so let’s not pretend to fool Him with prayers that “sound good.” In prayer, reverently speak your concerns and your desired outcome; however, be sure to relinquish your opinionated agenda to the sovereignty and perfection of His will…and mean it when you do! God’s desire is what will ultimately prevail, so we should seriously pursue it, even though we may pray for our personally desired outcome.
Christ prayed in this manner when pleading with the Father regarding His own life. You see, in the intimate relationship that Jesus had with God the Father, Christ felt free to pray that the “cup” of the cross pass from His immediate future…
“…He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
– Matthew 26:39 (ESV)
Notice though, that Christ was also concerned with the will of God the Father. Christ never intended His own desires to supersede the sovereign will of Almighty God. Moreover, Christ was willing to follow the will of the Father into the darkest moments, not just of His life, but in all of history. Christ was obedient even unto death…content and trusting in the will and the discernment of God.
Many Roads, But Only One Way…
Contentment, from the ignorance of our earthly gaze, can be grounded in a myriad of different things. From the material to the supernatural, we can always assume that “something else” will bring us more fulfillment than we are currently experiencing. It could be another job, more money, more alcohol/drugs, another spouse, reading another self-help book, or more respect. We seem to be convinced that there are multiple ways to achieve a full and lasting contentment. Just like Oprah Winfrey believes that there are multiple paths to God (salvation), both of these assumptions are dangerous, foolish, and dead wrong.
True and lasting contentment is not cheap, and satiating our ever-changing momentary lusts do not create a fully-contented life. It’s like trying to extinguish the inferno of a fully involved forest fire with a squirt gun full of lukewarm gasoline. Physical and material means of contentment only fuel more discontentment. Our cure only serves to exacerbate the problem, and difficulties increase. Sadly, as difficulties increase, trust in God can take the inversely proportional path. We find ourselves lost in a haze of unhappiness, confusion, faltering faith, and profound discontentment.
Only a relevant and ordered relationship with Almighty God can bring true contentment. Let’s not be fooled, knowing about God just won’t cut it. Periodically seeking God through our problems will not extinguish discontentment, and hours of immersion into popular pod-casts and self-help books, written by renown authors and preachers, will not bring about true contentment. What brings true and lasting contentment and happiness is a growing and intimate relationship with Christ…a relationship that carries over even when things are good.
The Real Point…(finally)
I’ve been down many roads in my life. I’ve prayed many prayers, and God has always answered them His way. I’ve lobbed my pitiful opinions in God’s direction on a multitude of occasions, and He has often let them fall directly back to earth and land squarely on my head. I’ve been trusting of God’s discernment in my life, and I’ve distrusted His discernment. However, let me say that the older I become, the more I’m beginning to understand that His way is truly the best way. Frankly, His way is so spectacular that I’m often confused as to why I ever dare to question it…but, I do. Dumb.
In our unhappiness of heart or circumstance, do we really trust the discernment of God? Are we willing to honestly pray our heart to God, reveal our desires and agendas, and still trust Him…even if His way doesn’t line up with our way? Are we still willing to relinquish control of our circumstances to His will and discretion?
God’s desire for us is far greater than we could ever imagine. He is keenly aware of our wants. God knows you want that new car…you know…the one that talks and drives itself…the one with the tan leather interior that never loses the new car smell…the one that costs $95,000…twice your annual income?! He knows. But, more importantly, He also knows our needs based off of the context of His perfect will for our life. If that car is within His perfect will for your life, then have no fear…it will be yours. However, if it’s not in His will, the costly sacrifices you will have to make to attain it will, in the end, cost you much more than it’s worth.
We encounter such extreme anxiety when we don’t have our will taken care of our way. Consequently, our lives should be revolving around the proven perfection of God’s will and not the imperfection of our whims and desires. Anxiety, resulting from the lack of trust in God, is deceitful. In our anxious mentality, we question God’s real understanding of our situation and His ability (or willingness) to give us what we want. Satan uses this anxiety to nullify the relevance of our intimate walk with God by elevating our desired agenda to a place of greater importance than our trust of, and ultimate submission to, God’s discernment.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)
One of the truths where we should store up treasure is in the unwavering trust of God’s discernment regarding our life. Realizing that God is in control is the starting point. Trusting that His “good pleasure” is to “give us the kingdom” should encourage a healthy dose of trust into our insecurities. And patience…have some patience. Not only is it a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), but it is essential to the life of the disciple of Christ, as it reveals the depth and relevance of our trust in God, His timing, and His discernment.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (patience). Let perseverance (patience) finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
– James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Lay your life down to the discernment of God and His will. Forgo the stranglehold we tend to have around our own agenda, and surrender the navigation of our life to the course that only God can plot. He is unfailing, trustworthy, and without equal. We could ask for nothing more, and we should accept nothing less than God’s complete control. Be willing to “let go and let God.”
Blessings for your day, my friends! Make Jesus known!
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!