“Instead of being sourced on the outside and subject to changing circumstances, biblical contentment comes from within and ensures through the spectrum of circumstances.” ~ Erik Raymond
Whenever I sit down to write it is a result of working through something for a period. Over the last few months my life has done a 180 and I am walking brand new grounds. By now my journal has a multitude of scribblings of jumbled thoughts and feeble prayers. My mind compiles thoughts, new and old, until I can never seem to come to a clear-cut conclusion of what I am learning. My internal processing is so deep that I can only truly grasp myself what it is the Spirit is guiding me through until I take the time to connect the internal rambling. Which is as you can say-what I am about to attempt to do:
I honestly entreat you to ask yourself ~ have you ever dared to face your own wickedness?
I have found more recently the danger of the wake-up call to the expectations from the world. The warm and welcoming nature of standards, perfectionism, comparison and achievement I have become too familiar with. This deeply woven pattern is the root cause of why I think of myself in the destructive nature I do. The gripping and delicious grasp on life in a way that yields affirmation from others, a way that facilitates increasing pride and the deep longing for greatness is holding my hand. Well, my hand is holding it so tight that my knuckles are turning white. It is so because it is so challenging to know where the line draws. The line between biblical hope and stewarding opportunities well. The line between living at the center of your prideful dreams and pursuing something out of obedience. Yet, it is even more challenging to determine whether moving forward towards something is out of a God-placed passion or out of pride.
Despite my own wayward journey searching for where that line is, my finite nature sings one song true- I long for my own rule over my life. Building my own kingdom, pursuing my own dreams and receiving glory. I desire the ultimate pat on the back from the world and it is what fuels the fire of sin in our souls. For we all long to seek our own glory to a degree because full holiness and righteousness cannot be attained under the sun. You cannot deny that you have that little pit deep in our heart that believes you know your best interest. Yet allegiance cannot be given to us, because the only resulting path is one of destruction. Our finite vision is so narrow, we only see right in front of us and cannot even begin to see the infinite. On the other hand, God’s vision spans from before the foundation of the world through eternity. This is where you must ask yourself whose viewpoint is more trustworthy. The answer is one that cannot be questioned, for God is our good and faithful potter and he knows exactly what he is doing.
I am learning that not every season has to be one of moving upward, but seasons of healing are vital. The plague of self-sufficiency, accomplishment, and perfectionism locked my being in chains for far too long. The crippled nature and debilitation are real, forcing yesterday, today and tomorrow into one battle for quantity and speed. Our heart is at the forefront of the battlefield, standing between folly and wisdom. Folly wins this battle far too often in our lives, and I know that I am not alone is confessing that. However, in this daily spiritual war, we cannot follow the path of contentment until our contentment is first found in Christ.
Contentment in seasons of life can only be cultivated by contentment in Christ. How vast is the distance between these two? I have learned that I can seek to be content in life’s circumstances, but I will never grow mature and bear fruit until I am first content in who I am in Christ. Exiting a dragging season of affliction, I am finally tasting freedom from it. A gift of time in a season of healing has been granted lovingly by my Father, for he knows exactly what I need in light of his eternal plan of redemption. Of which I am just a speck, a mist that will vanish at dawn. Yet, the voice of worldliness reminds me daily that less is not more. That pursuing endless things and opportunities is the only thing that will allow me to continue my ever-engrained path of fast, speedy and quantity. However, seasons that are slower, quieter, more open are gifts. A true gift, providing time to heal and time to be renewed. Biblical time and quality will always trump the worldliness quantity and speed. This is the exact detrimental and dangerous tension that we face.
The true challenge here? Not falling into the trap of comparison, the trap of fearing man above all else and believing in the entitlement of success. When man is more feared than God in our lives, we should tremble in heartbreak. The truth of who we are in Christ and the death of unbelief in our identity, directly offsets the spiritual war for our affections. The truth that God’s electing love secures us fully in adoption as sons. As his child, you’re are a saint who has been invited into a royal priesthood. Not one that is invited into the patterns of destruction in conformity to the world.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? The persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” ~ Galatians 5:1, 7-9
Finishing one season and directly craving the next is the dangerous force I am in. I confess honestly that I know that I have been set free from my daily efforts of achieving affirmation with my hands in vain. Yet I constantly submit again to the yoke of slavery. This is true in my life and yours, no matter what the sin pattern may be. A little leaven will always leaven the whole lump. That is why we have the assurance in John 15, that the branches in us that do not bear fruit are taken away. As well as the branches that can bear more fruit, will be pruned. If our hearts are abiding in Christ, our minds reverently reading and storing his word, our hearts deepening in awe and worship, our branches will be pruned or removed as our Creator sees fit. The growth that results from working out our salvation with fear and trembling will guard us against those who hinder us from obeying the truth.
The truth here is that God is omniscient, and we are not. This is a good thing. He is fully present everywhere. We are not, yet we believe that we are capable of being. God is limitless, and we are not, yet we believe that we can be limitless in our tasks to become something great. Our covetousness nature for God’s omniscience and omnipresence sends us into a frenzy of deep desire to be exactly what we are not. If we could truly be in all these places we desire and achieve everything that we believe we should be able to, then our lives would be the greatest disaster. If you are like me, I have already found myself in this exact feeding frenzy. Filling my calendar left and right, believing that more activities will restore the demands and sufficiency I was just freed from.
In these moments, praying for discernment is challenging. Praying for it feebly is so easy but praying while laying down prideful stubbornness is incredibly difficult. Out pride must be crushed, and it needs to be replaced with contentment and biblical peace. Satan crawls through my heart, prowling around my thoughts daily, whispering to me words of failure, inadequacy and inferiority. These thoughts are only changed when our thoughts are challenged considering eternal significance. In 1 Corinthians, Paul commands that our thoughts must be taken captive in obedience to Christ. Challenge your thoughts in juxtaposition with the truth that our citizenship is not where our feet are currently planted, but it is in heaven. Our name here does not and will not reign. For our existence is to know God and to glorify him forever. If we cannot earn this status on our own, what do we think we gain with the toil under the sun? We have to cling to the promise that God’s grace is sufficient for us today and tomorrow, and his lavishing mercies will be new. Our calling is to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ Jesus no matter the ground we walk. Therefore, I dare ask, are you facing your wickedness, bitterness and discontentment in whatever area they may be?
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
I appeal to you therefore, brother, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 11:33-12:2
“Nobody is ever envious of others, who is not first proud of himself.” ~ John Stott