Fighting For Joy: True Contentment

Posted on August 7, 2011 by

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The following is the third part of a series of posts that grew out of a sermon originally preached on Sunday morning, July 31st, 2011, at First Bapstist-Las Colinas. You can read the original post here.

2.     True contentment as the key to abiding joy

At his most basic element, mankind is profoundly discontent with his circumstances. It is a sickness of the race, stretching back to the Garden and our first parents.

God had placed our first parents in literal paradise. They had each other for companionship, work for purpose, and daily one-on-one communion with the very presence of God Himself for fulfillment. It was perfection itself. Then the Serpent came, and lied to our first parents. And the lies they believed are the ones that have been ingrained into our consciousness as a race ever since.

The lies

You cannot really trust God (Genesis 3:1) – Satan first seeks to cast doubt into Eve’s mind by asking her, “Did God actually say…” By implication, the Serpent is casting aspersions on God’s trustworthiness. This manifests itself each day in our lives as worry and doubt. Is God really going to take care of me? When God says He is sovereign, does that really mean that He is sovereign over the bad stuff too? How could He be?

The Serpent then goes on to reinforce this lie by stating outright that God was wrong in 3:4. But it isn’t enough for us to doubt God’s word – we insist that He is somehow holding back on us.

 God is holding back on you (Genesis 3:5) – This is the most pervasive, most insidious lie, and it is much harder to see than the first. It is the lie that we choose to believe every time we sin, every time we worship the creature rather than the creator. It is the lie that we embrace every time we deny God’s will and go our own way. It is the root of lust and covetousness.

It’s this second lie that is really the root of ingratitude – and it’s this second lie that seeks to steal our joy. It gnashes its teeth and screams toward the heavens:

God, how dare you! How dare you not give me more!

 How dare you not make it easier!

 How dare you not make my life more perfect!

We have been screaming this in the face of God since the dawn of time – since our first parents. He gave us perfection. He gave us perfect communion with Himself. And still it wasn’t enough. Still we wanted more. We wanted more than Him.

Let the terrible, awful truth of that sink in. We wanted more than Him. Than God. Than the thrice-Holy, infinite, all-satisfying God of the universe. The God upon whom the holy angels themselves dare not look, as they fly around his thrown with their eyes covered and their throats unable to complain anything but the holiness and majesty of God.

The result of this complete blasphemy, this utter, ultimate discontentment, was that we live in a broken world where the awfulness of our sin and the death that we have brought into this world mars creation to its very core. And still, God is good and God is gracious. Instead of justly destroying us, instead of wiping us from existence like the ingrates that we are, He weaves a plan of redemption that stretches over six millennia and culminates in the death of Himself.

His death. God. Dying. The thrice-Holy, all-satisfying God of the universe, stretched out naked upon a cross, whipped and beaten beyond recognition. His blood, staining the sin-stained mud beneath His feet. And He gives Himself – the most valuable thing in all of existence – freely to all who will accept Him by faith. And why?

 I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b)

Abundantly – life that abounds. That spreads. That grows and bounces. Joy. Real joy that the world cannot take away from you. He wants you to have joy.

Still, we gnash our teeth at heaven and we scream defiance.

God, how dare you! How dare you not give me more!

 How dare you not make it easier!

 How dare you take the life of my unborn child!

By now, I hope, you know you are broken. By now, I hope, you have seen that wretched little child inside of you screaming in the department store over toys that wouldn’t be good for him and beating on the chest of a father who only loves him. So how do we fix it? That is what Peter addresses in verse 6:

 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

So we rejoice in our trials now. We rejoice in our pain now. We have joy in Christ now. Why? Because this trial will strengthen our faith, and that will ultimately give you and others cause to praise Jesus Christ. That is the bottom line here. That is all that we are concerned about. That is all that we should be concerned about.

This concept brings a unique kind of hope to our pain – like the hope we have already discussed, and not like it. It is the assurance that God is working through our pain to get His highest glory. That means that nothing is random and nothing happens by chance. There is no senseless tragedy, no meaningless suffering, no pointless pain.

By contrast, the life without sovereignty is a dark and lonely one: it sees all of the sorrow, but none of the purpose, and so it can have no joy.

What, then, does it look like, this glory in trials here to bring glory to Jesus? This is where I am now, and this is what I am still seeking to learn. However, from other passages of Scripture (notably Psalm 78), here are some practical ways I have found to live glorifyingly:

Look for glory in the ordinary – It is not wrong to look for God in the little things. Very often these are God’s way of reminding us that He is still in control. Never make the mistake of thinking that God operates on your same economy of scale. Too often we only look for God in the big events and passages instead of seeing all the “little” ways in which He shows us His love and sovereignty, even in the midst of pain.

Keep a record – Keep a record of the daily ways in which God is touching you with His gifts. These are the little bits of grace, the daily wonders, the serendipities that God sends your way to remind you of Himself and His love. And the trials, too. It will be easier to see God’s purpose in the trials if you keep a record of how He is working on a day-to-day basis. Some absolutely indispensible tools in helping cultivate this habit are a moleskin and Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. All of the great giants of the faith kept journals.

Share – Your trials and your blessings and your happiness and your sorrow are not for you alone. They are for the Body. It is not a “testimony” until you have first shared with others the ways in which God is showing Himself strong in your life. And you will find that joy will come much more readily when you share with other believers.

This connection between joy and glory is so deep because joy is ultimately connected to contentment, and contentment is ultimately achieved when we fulfill our primary purpose as created beings: to bring honor and glory to, and spread the fame and the name of the Creator.

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