Holy discontent

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I write a lot about contentment.

It is something that I highly value and believe to be a key to happiness and well being.  It is nothing less than a gift from God to wake up and love what you already have.  There is peace and freedom with this kind of gratefulness that is worth pursuing.

But I had a realization today.

Sometimes I am content with things that I shouldn’t be.

Just as I am learning contentment in the areas of my life where I am prone to perfectionism, so I also need to learn when a good healthy dose of discontentment is needed.

Here are a few from my life.  Maybe you can relate.

Sometimes I am content with a remote, rather business-like relationship with God.  Sometimes I am okay with just going through the motions of Christianity. There are times when going to church, singing songs, going to mid-week meetings and serving in Sunday school feels like enough for me, even though it isn’t.  In these times I can feel close to God, but I am actually further away than I know, following a second-hand lifestyle instead of the voice of my Shepherd.

In the middle of one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, Jesus speaks these words, I have loved you, just as the Father has loved me.  Remain, abide, stay in that love and live there.  (John 15.9)

It is possible for me to live every day in the living reality of God’s love.

It is also very possible, even likely, that I can regularly miss out on it all together because I allow myself to be content with less.

The problem is that I am easily satisfied with all sorts of things other than Jesus.  I am by nature a girl who loves to have fun.  I am never happier than when I am spending time with those I love, eating out or having coffee, playing games or watching football.  I love trips and holidays and special occasions.  I love shopping and a good box set.  They fill me up.  And if I let them, they will keep me full and satisfied and completely oblivious to the call from Jesus to come close and know Him.

John Piper says, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I am always in danger of being content with small things.  They can be good things, even wonderful things.  They can be gifts from God’s hand.  But I have to remind myself to enjoy them in a way that moves me to worship the Giver, not the blessings themselves.

Because in my life, this satisfaction with small things always results in a satisfaction with a powerless faith.  I have this tendency to accept defeat in my life, to habitually keep fighting the same battles over and over again.  It is embarrassing how easily I become comfortable with fruitless prayer or a sporadic, feelings-led relationship with God’s Word.

My problem is that I am too easily pleased. 

But it’s not okay, it is not enough.

It is a weak, pasty version of my destiny and it falls very far short of what Christ bought for me on the cross.

The Bible tells me that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives inside of me!   Do I really believe that?  If I do, then I should expect to see God’s power at work every day of my life, changing hopeless situations, bringing answers and victory where there is bondage and defeat.  I should expect healing and wholeness and answers for my questions.

And I should become very uncomfortable with any other kind of Christianity. 

There is a holy discontentment that should keep me up at night.  It is a dissatisfaction with anything that falls short of God’s will in my life.  There is a Godly frustration I need to cultivate that won’t rest until victories are won.  I need to get mad when the enemy steals from people I love or when he whispers lies to my heart.  I need to be offended when the advance of Gods kingdom is thwarted.   It should matter to me.

My prayer today is that God would make me a woman who is consumed with this kind of discontentment, who is utterly dissatisfied with defeat, stagnation or status quo.  I pray He would fill me with gratefulness for everything He gives and discontentment with even a drop less than His perfect will.

May God bless us with good friends, loving families and fun.  But, may only a life filled up with testimonies of the goodness and power of God ever satisfy.

Redeemed significance

 

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Life is so short. Whether you live to be ninety years old or 19, life is just a breath.

We, humans, handle that information in a number of ways.

Some of us try the ‘carpe diem’ approach.  We seize minutes and hours and days and try to squeeze every drop of adventure out, travelling the world with our ‘bucket list’ in hand.  The mantra is, ‘no procrastination, no regrets.’  And hopefully, no time to think about much else.  We live for experiences and pleasure, grabbing life by the throat before it has a chance to disappoint us.

Others of us believe we can outwit ageing.  With a mixture of denial, health food and exercise we pretend we have control of our mortality.  If I look young and feel young I can close my eyes to the reality and just absorb the unrealistic optimism shared by those next to me in the gym.

Still, others worship at the altar of mindfulness and spirituality.  We believe this is the way to add meaning where there isn’t any.  We hope that crystals and candles will bring something eternal, something transcendent.  If only we can live life in the moment, maybe it won’t slip through our hands so quickly.  If we can tap into something bigger, something greater, perhaps we can infuse our existence with significance.

But the Bible always deals with truth head-on.  Life is short.  We will all die and we don’t get to choose when.  We cannot preserve our lives or prolong them substantially.  If we keep them, we lose them.  If we hold onto to minutes and hours in the hope of getting more out of life, we actually get less.  Even bucket lists disappoint and mindful living falls short.

In fact, there is only one way to live this life carefully and that is to spend it well.

John Piper, in his book, ‘Don’t waste your life,

“But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.”

Life isn’t to be saved, it is to be spent.  We live life well when we spend it on what matters.

That is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5.  when he says to redeem the time.  The Greek word for redeem is ‘exagorazo’, which means to pay a price to recover something from the power of another.

You see, there is a price to pay to buy back our lives from futility and that price is faithful obedience.  Nothing else works, no Instagram worthy trips or fancy stuff or youthful skin. The only way to inject meaning into our lives is to see opportunities to do good and to take them.  Every moment spent worshipping Jesus or loving my kids or sharing my faith or praying with a friend has eternal value and it rescues my life from the curse of insignificance.   

Our lives are meant to be given away in love for God and others.  Our time, instead of trying to save it, can be spent generously and without regret.  We can buy back our daily routines from the world’s value system, that so often produces emptiness and despair.  And, we can redeem every day of our lives for the glory and God and the good of everyone who is a part of it.

What a gift, what a privilege this life we have been given is.  It is precious Kingdom currency.

Invest it well.

Start today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love that is large

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Less than a week after my daughter’s wedding, my husband’s aunt died.  Dear Ruth was well into her nineties so it wasn’t a surprise but it was a really sad moment for Paul as he had developed a close relationship with her over the last couple of years while she has been in a nursing home.

With the wedding flowers still filling my dining room, it was time for another trip to the florist to choose pink roses and lilies for the casket.  Then today we had a look at the little chapel where her funeral will be.  It had beautiful stained glass windows and that musty smell of old church pews and hymnal dust.

And I kept thinking the same thought, over and over again, that life is only as rich as our relationships.  

Sweet Aunt Ruth never married or had children.  Any colleagues or friends she had have already gone.  There will only be 20 people at her funeral, but her nephew wept as he chose flowers for her today.  And loving and being loved is what makes life full.

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I will never forget arriving at the imposing chapel on the morning of Hannah’s wedding.  It was pouring rain and I was running slightly late.  As I entered the room and looked around I was completely overwhelmed.  It is not very often in life are you in a room with everyone you love.  It really doesn’t get much better than that and I still feel so grateful.

But, relationships are hard work.  In even the most loving families, churches or friendship groups there are endless opportunities for upsets, misunderstandings, grudges, gossip and pain.  No one can hurt us like those who are close.

When I was a child I experienced a terribly painful rejection.  For many years afterwards, it marred me and affected how I lived life.  When rejection has a hold of you it tells you to hold back, to protect yourself.  It whispers that you should love small and give away only what you can live without.  The result is a gnawing fear in your soul that you will always love more than you are loved.

But God’s love, this agape gift, calls us to something much bigger and freer.

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I recently read 1 Corinthians 13 in the Passion Translation of the Bible.

‘Love is large and incredibly patient.  Love is gentle and consistently kind to all.  It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else.  Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance.  Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour.  Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offence.  Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong.  Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.  Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

God’s love is large and extravagantly generous.  It goes the extra mile and turns the other cheek.  It will compel you to forgive and to forget and to never give up on anyone.  If you let it, it will turn acquaintances into friends and it will bring prodigals home.  Agape can fix families and it can fix you.

In God, there is nothing to fear. We can pour our lives out in His service, love past annoyances and offence, forget about ourselves for a bit and trust that He has us in the palm of His hand.  We can live a life free from self-promotion, selfishness and self-pity. We can trust our own needs to a good Father and then happily celebrate the blessings of others.

1 Corinthians 13.13b in the Message Bible says, ‘Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. 

I am convinced, the older I get, that this is the only way to live life.

Trust God in every moment of every day.  Trust Him when you don’t understand and when things don’t make sense.  Trust Him above your circumstances and your feelings.  Trust Him because He is good.

Then hope, without exception.  Know that everything He promises will come to pass and that one day absolutely everything will be put right.  Put all your hope in Jesus, knowing that He has done enough and is enough for you, period.

And finally, love without reservation.  Worship God wholeheartedly.  Serve Him only out of love, not duty.  Show your gratitude with your availability.  Love people.  Love difficult people.  Love them more than your hobbies or vacations or things.  Love the people who have hurt and misunderstood you.  Love your messy, moody teens and your annoying colleague.  Love your ageing aunt whose mind is fading and foggy and who keeps repeating the same stories over and over.  Love people who are different than you.   Make new friends and treasure old ones.

Decide every day to love with extravagance and sacrificial generosity.  This is the path to fullness.