Friday, March 7, 2014

The Curse of Contentment

As people start into Lent, one general topic that comes up is contentment. Oftentimes, when people talk about contentment, they are referring to a lack of desire for more. That's the type of contentment I am writing about today, and in specific, I am writing about a lack of desire for spiritual things.

When any of us accepts Christ as Savior, we reject the old religion of the world:  Put on your best behavior, and be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We reject this religion in favor of the truth that we are NOT good enough, but we are deeply and truly loved by God - and we would be wise to ask for help so that our future doesn't have to be so terrible (sin and sad consequences).

If someone comes to your turf, walks up to you, and criticizes you, what is your (current) natural reaction:  Is it to feel hurt that someone so close to you is misunderstanding you; do you go on to justify yourself and disprove them?  Or is it excitement at the possibility of being able to receive more spiritual blessings from God?

The first reaction can be called defensive (I'm fine where I'm at), while the second reaction can be called upgrade-oriented (Want).

After we become Christians, I think that probably all of us go through a stage in our life where we fall back into the mental voice:  Put on your best behavior, be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We try our best, and then we are content with where we are at. We are fine. We can't complain. We are doing better than we deserve. We are tired. It doesn't feel like abundant living because it *isn't* abundant living, and we are content to stay here. This is "good enough" and if anyone is judgmental enough to try to point out our flaws, we feel that we have every right to get upset. They are walking about looking for flaws to critique. What jerks!  We commend ourselves on our patience and good temper if we can defend ourselves to these people without losing our temper at their presumption.

But as long as we remain in this stage, we are the Laodicean church. While Jesus stands outside and knocks, we ignore the door and talk about how we are perfectly content where we are. While He counsels us to buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we may be rich, we continue to respond: "I am rich, I have become wealthy, and I have need of nothing."  

While we are thinking, "Why is this person ripping on me?" Jesus is telling us: "As many as I love (desire to benefit), I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (accept upgrades)."

Accepting Upgrades: Growth is *accepting* (not building) something from God.  The reason we are being confronted is not that we just need to try even harder and spread ourselves even thinner to get any appreciation, but rather that we are suffering from the lack of spiritual blessings that God is offering to us (and we are busy telling him that we are good enough).

And what is the alternative to being fine where we're at?

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested."  (1 Chronicles 4:10)

"Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.'
But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'

...Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.'
And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there."   (Genesis 32)  [Extra note: Jesus Christ, Immanuel, that is the name of God. The Israelites were the first ones to meet God by name in person.]

"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?' Elisha said, 'Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.'

So he said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.' Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it..."    (2 Kings 2 )

What do you desire?  For me, I want God. I really really want God. I want upgrades and spiritual blessings. I know that I am loved (and therefore I don't need to be good enough). I do not focus on "good enough" and "bad," but rather "less awesome" and "more awesome." I always want to be more awesome. Therefore, I beg God for more understanding than I have now (He also uses people in this process to confront me or prove me wrong), and every time I hear of a possible flaw (which tips me off to a possible upgrade that I might now be able to access) I am happy and curious to know more details. I enjoy where I'm at in my journey, but I am never content to stay - I want MORE Jesus.

I think that God gives grace to the humble because they are the only ones who truly desire it. The proud would never acknowledge that they are spiritually poor, and therefore do not desire help.  Now, God is not stingy - He has an infinite amount of the stuff, and if you aren't using it, then that extra capacity is just going to waste.  Therefore God encourages us to ask him for things (Mt 5) and delights to give it to us when we ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  - James 1:5

Dream big. Abraham dreamed of being a father of nations, since that's what his name was all about. But that dream died after he reached old age without children. In the end, though, God's plan for him was for him to be a father of nations - God was the one to plant that desire.

Desire. Ask God for more. Don't turn away potential upgrades when they are offered (in the form of painful feedback from reality, most often).

How do you know whether you desperately need more truth and a deeper relationship with Christ?  If you have a pulse, you do.  It's not a one-time transaction where you accept Christ into your life and then all your needs are met. It's an ongoing relationship - we are like a stream of water. Unless we want to become become a stagnant algae-filled swamp, we must *always* be getting more and more from God (water flowing in) and passing along to others what we ourselves have received (water flowing out).

So, people who are "fine," you need more Jesus. And, people who are very mature (maturing) and have a deep and close relationship with Christ, you need more Jesus.  It's awesome, because He wants us to want Him enough to wrestle with Him - He desires to give good things to those who would enjoy them.


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