Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Avoiding Discontentment

The Bible teaches us what a right relationship to God really looks like. Throughout scripture we learn that God has some characteristics that man does not:

1. God is Sovereign - He is almighty and omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for him. Every event that transpires in our lives is known and allowed by Him. (See Matt 19:26, Luke 18:27, Rev 1:8). Our lives are completely in his hand whether we recognize it or not. It is at his will that we continue living and it is at his will that we have health, intellect, emotions and provision for our needs.

2. We are God's Creation - (Gen 1:27, Eph 2:10, Col 1:16). Because God created us, we are subject to him. He is the chief authority in our lives and we have no claims of independence from him.

3. God is holy - Not only is God all powerful, he is Holy, Righteous and Perfect. Man does not achieve holiness in his own power by his own devices. Man by nature is sinful. We think, say and do things that are not honoring to God and often repulsive to him.

I know that I am prone to discontentment from time to time and I have been thinking this week about the different things that impede my thanksgiving and contentment.

1. Coveting and greed: In coveting and greed we communicate our dissatisfaction with the things God has provided to us. It is as if we say, God, you haven't treated me fairly and your plan is insufficient for me. God calls this idolatry (Eph 5:3-5).

2. Bitterness and anger: Like coveting and greed, we are prone to be bitter and angry when others have hurt us for some reason. We are communicating to God that we have not been dealt with in the way we feel is fair and we expect (maybe demand) better treatment than we have received. The Bible tells us that when we are bitter we are held captive by sin (Acts 8:23) This is the very thing that Jesus came to save us from.

3. Unforgiveness and Malice: These are often our outward actions when we have allowed bitterness and anger to build in our hearts. We withhold from others the forgiveness that we freely received from God toward us. We act as if the offenses of others toward us are greater than any sin we may have committed toward God. In withholding forgiveness we assume the role of God in relationship to other people and we diminish our own sin before God. Luke 6:42 cautions us against judging someone else by a different standard than we hold for ourselves. The Pharisees were noted for such behavior and Jesus reproached them for this.

4. Criticism and Sarcasm: Oh the evil twins. We are so prone to minimize our sins and maximize the offenses of others. When we recognize our position before God, we are humbled indeed and can see how we are not the recipients of justice nearly as much as we are the recipients of grace. Praise God he doesn't give us what we deserve for we all deserve to be in hell.

5. Pride: Probably the source of all of our frustration with other people and our discontentment is our inner self telling us that we are better than we really are and whispering that we can be independent and make our own way in the world. What a sad state of affairs, but isn't that what Eve chose when she followed the snakes advice to eat the apple? She questioned God's authority and relied on her own reason to make her decisions. When we do the same, the results are just as devastating.

Almost every barrier to contentment has its root in pride and wrong thinking about our merit and God's authority. We must take captive our thoughts before God if we are to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

This year I have been trying to apply Philippians 4:8 in my life so that my thinking can be more in line with God's. Paul tells us: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, - think about such things."

When we realize our relationship to God as his creation completely dependent on Him for our every provision, health, wisdom, material needs our response can be nothing but adoration and thanksgiving for his kindnesses toward us. God's greatest blessing toward us has been the offer of adoption as his own children through the sacrifice of His son Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins and made the provision for us to be able to approach God the Father in Heaven.

This Thanksgiving, no matter how hard our circumstances we can bow and give thanks to our Father in Heaven who keeps us in his care and offers us a way of salvation.

God bless!

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