14 January 2014

The right discontentment, the wrong contentment

by Dan Phillips

Too often, professed Christians are both contented and discontented about the wrong things.

God has given His church an absolutely sufficient, living, inerrant revelation of His person, works and will. Yet rather than focus all our prayerful energy on mastering and being mastered by all of its contents, we allow a dangerously unbelieving and ungrateful discontentment to divert our attention and leave us open to harmful substitutes, as well as pastorally-disastrous schemes and mazes.

In that case, we need to re-read the book of Numbers. We need to remind ourselves just what raging death God visited on those who were constantly, repeatedly, whiningly discontented with His provisions. We need to repent of our unbelief and ingratitude. We need to revise our approach to Christian living, by joyfully embracing a robust affirmation of God's own testimony to the sufficiency of His Word.

Then on the other hand (and, as I think on it, relatedly) we are too easily contented in our relationship with God. Let me 'splain.

All of us professed Christians, if asked "Would you like to know God better?", would answer "Yes." But what if we were asked a different question? What if we were asked if we are willing to do what it takes to know God better, know His word better, be better prepared to serve Him, be more immersed in worship and service, be more fruitful and productive and effective in serving Him (see the sermons on Proverbs 3:1-12 in this series)? What if we were asked if we were willing to do what it takes to move ahead in those areas?

In that case, I'm certain that candor would force too many to reply "No thanks, I'm good."

I'm called to consider this by that arresting, alarming verse, Proverbs 1:32 —
For the turning away of the gullible will slay them,
And the complacency of the stupid will destroy them. [DJP]
"The complacency of the stupid," the wise man zings. In context, this complacency would take in everything the stupid man does to quiet, dull, numb, defang, decaffeinate, and otherwise deflect God's call. He refuses, rejects, belittles, doesn't want... in short, he's complacent. He's good. He's A-OK, he's five-by-five.

And that's stupid, God says; and that will destroy them, God says.

Knowing people as I do (I met one once!), I imagine some will say "Well yeah, but that clearly is talking about unbelievers, lost people. Not saved people."

In response to which, rather than going John Owen on you, I'll just leave you with this question:

You really think God likes complacency better in professed believers, and thinks it's smart?

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Kent McDonald said...

"Hit me between the eyes,Dan" I said. "Please, do it again!" Wow. Wake up call. Just...wow.

Zorro! said...

Would this complacency be related to being "lukewarm"?

donsands said...

Good word. I need to get my heart's eyes off of me and my discontentment, and look to see Jesus, the Word.
When Mary went to the tomb she saw 2 angels sitting there, and she talked with them, and they said, "What's up with your weeping?"
Then she saw Jesus, and heard Him say, "Mary."
What a blessing. My.
And how many in the Church today want the same thing, and say, "I just want to see angels and the Lord, and then I will be on fire!"

Jesus said to Thomas, (and to us), after His great testimony of who Jesus is, "Blessed are those who believe and do not see."

Thanks for the uplifting exhortation brother. It is true food for our soul, heart, and mind.

Lynda O said...

Yes. Fits right in with one of Spurgeon's sermons I read this weekend (number 455 http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols7-9/chs455.pdf on knowing the love of Christ. He actually put doctrine, and the effort to study and learn doctrine, as the first rung in the ladder (analogy to the ladder in Jacob's dream) on the way up to know Christ and His love -- great quotes about the importance of studying and understanding God's word, and then "moving up" by experience and putting doctrine into practice.

Jim Pemberton said...

The article just before this in my news feed was this one about discipleship by Joe Stengele at Resurgence. (Yeah, yeah, I know: Driscoll.)

The article has a good point: We should be about making disciples. But that begs the question if there are people out there who want to be discipled, which is where this article comes in.

Should one be content if there is no one to be found who will disciple them? Should one be content if that person can find no one who wants to be discipled?

Anti-intellectualism as a matter of being content with ignorance is killing the mission of the church. It's frustrating to those who are trying to feed people who don't know they are hungry. It's frustrating to those who are hungry but can find workers in the kitchen who are content only with feeding themselves. No program will solve this. We need to foster counter-cultural expectations in our churches.

Michael Coughlin said...

Excellent word, especially the final point made.

Burrito34 said...

I think a related lesson can be gleaned (no pun intended)from Matthew 13:8 about the seed that fell on good ground and produced "some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." It seems to me that plants are programmed to produce as much seed as possible but each can only do so much; and some believers will produce more than others but it should not be for the lack of a fervent heart and a lack of trying.

Kathy said...

Very good word and certainly one that I need to spend more time thinking about. There is a temptation to make some effort that can be over and done with, and feel that we've really done quite nicely and become rather mature in our faith on that basis. It's so much easier than living out the reality that there is a daily component to discipleship.