Contentment ≠ Complacency

content not complacentI think we often get contentment and complacency confused.

There’s no question that the Bible commends contentment as a godly virtue (Phil. 4:11-12).  It is a rare jewel worthy of an earnest pursuit.

But does the pursuit of contentment mean that we never reach for something more?  That we never aim for something greater?  That we never seek to do more, or to be more, or to better our condition? Does contentment mean that we simply accept everything as it is and become indifferent about the circumstances in our lives?

This is not what Scripture teaches.

Grace Excites Our Efforts

It is clear in Scripture that we are saved, not as a result of our good works, but on the basis of Christ’s finished work (Eph. 2:8-9). It is equally clear that we were created in Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 emphasis mine)

When genuine grace enters the soul, it produces a desire to do something for the glory of God and the good of others. And this is the opposite of complacency.

The same apostle who wrote “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11) also wrote, “but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Contentment is not opposed to effort.  Contentment does not mean the absence of hard work.  There is a way to pursue contentment, while at the same time not settling down in the lounge-chair of complacency.  That way is by grace.

Charles Spurgeon put it this way:

“The assistance of divine grace is not given to us to put aside our own efforts, but to excite them. God comes to us to work in us—what? To work in us to be indifferent? Ah, no! To work in us to will with resolution and firmness. Does he work in us, having willed, to sit still? Ah, no! He works in us to do. The direct effect of the influence of grace upon the heart is to make a man active, and the more grace he has the more energetic he becomes.”

If we are not careful, we can easily hide complacency under the veil of what we call “contentment.”  We relax.  We slow down.  We take it easy.  We settle in with the rest of the world. We forget that we are pilgrims and strangers on a journey to our heavenly home.  We gradually and imperceptibly become complacent, and all the while we comfort ourselves with the thought that we are “content.”

So, how can one pursue contentment without becoming complacent?

We do this by exercising the freedoms we have in Christ, namely:

The freedom to pray:

What a privilege we have in prayer!  Prayer acknowledges God’s Sovereignty over all things and seeks the favor of God.

To pray is to throw off indifference and to engage our Heavenly Helper for the grace He loves to supply.

Prayer causes things to happen, because in this world God has ordained to answer prayer (Luke 11:9-13).  So, when we pray, we are pursuing contentment and battling complacency (see Colossians 4:12).

The freedom to use our gifts to serve:

The Apostle Paul’s letter to Titus is littered with exhortations to awaken God’s people from apathy and to arouse in them a desire to be active in good works.

Paul exhorted Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (Titus 2:7).  God’s people are to be “ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1) and to devote themselves to good works: “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)

Jesus came to redeem us from our sins and to make us alive and active in our service.

To devote yourself to good works is the opposite of complacency, and to serve others with our gifts is evidence of the grace of God (Titus 2:11-14).

The freedom to entrust the results to God:

We ask.  We seek. We knock.  We strive.  We labor.  We work.  But then, we trust.

And when we trust, we entrust the results of prayers (and our labor) to our Heavenly Father who knows what’s best for us.

There is so much need in the world and we have so little time before we will ultimately enter our heavenly home.  Let us make the most of the time we do have.

With hearts content in Jesus, let us shrug off complacency.  With freedom, let us devote ourselves to prayer and to good works, and may God receive all the glory for the good He accomplishes through us!

The Reviving Effects of Watching the Sunset

 

sunset

I have found that slowing down in the evening to watch the sunset has a calming and refreshing effect on my soul.

There is something about breathing in the evening air, watching the pattern of the birds in flight, and seeing the beauty of God’s creation in its habitual daily rhythm that speaks strongly of the faithfulness of God and soothes the spirit.

One of my favorite quotes from Charles Spurgeon comes to mind nearly every evening when the sky fills with radiant colors in the brilliance of the setting sun:

“The season of sunset as it draws a veil over the day, befits that repose of the soul when earthborn cares yield to the joys of heavenly communion. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of this day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field at eventide, but if not, the Lord is in the town too, and will meet with you in your chamber or in the crowded street. Let your heart go forth to meet Him.”

Peace.  Rest.  Quietness.  Tranquility.  Communion with the Living God.  We all need this desperately.  And it’s offered to us every single evening by a loving God who daily reminds us that he is constantly preserving and governing his creation in total faithfulness:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge”  (Psalm 19:1).

As the sun sets, the heavens are speaking to us of the glory and grandeur of our great and gracious God.  What a privilege it is for us to be able to look and to listen!  Dusk has definitely become one of my favorite times of each day.

Every evening, as our workday comes to a conclusion, it affords us the opportunity to watch God’s handiwork and be reminded of His care.  We can commit ourselves and our work to Him.

The sun also sets every evening with the promise of a new day’s dawning to come.  We know that no matter what today looked like, if we are God’s children we will awake in the morning to mercies that are new (Lamentations 3:22-23).  And as we rest, we can entrust ourselves to the One who works on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).

 

Turning Weariness Into Worship

weary traveler

 

“Oh, how many travelers get weary

Bearing both their burdens and their scars?

Don’t you think they’d love to start all over

And fly like eagles out among the stars” 

Who can’t relate to words of this song? The image of a weary traveler, carrying burdens and scuffed up by the scars of life in a broken world is a powerful metaphor, especially if you are weary in your soul.

The truth is, life is tiring.  It is difficult.  And sometimes we find ourselves utterly exhausted.  (Twice this week, I crashed in bed before 9pm!).

As we travel along, the demands of our time and energy steadily increase and before we know it, we can feel like we are walking along life’s highway utterly depleted.  A friend of mine told me today that he felt “defeated.”  I think he could relate to the words of this song.  In some moments it’s a victory just to keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving along.

Yet, in the midst of all of our weariness, I am convinced that God has more for us than mere survival.  

Weariness is an opportunity to worship the everlasting God

Isaiah 40:28 says “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”  

Next time you are weary and fainthearted, remember this simple thought and let it help you turn your weariness into worship:  God never feels this way.  Let that thought sink in and amaze you.

God doesn’t grow tired and he never faints.  He is never exhausted and nothing can deplete His energy.  He is infinite in his power and wisdom.

When we are weary, we must let our weariness remind us of His strength

Aren’t you grateful that God is not like us?  We can worship Him for his power!

Unlike God, we are not self-existent and we are not self-sufficient.  We are dependent creatures, and we depend on his strength.  The good news is that the infinite, self-existent, all-powerful God gives strength to the weary:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

What a promise!  Weary mom, there is strength for you in the power of your All-mighty God.  Weak and worn-out husband, God can make you strong.  Faint-hearted and fatigued believer, let your exhaustion be an occasion for exulting in the energy of God.  Turn your weariness into worship and find your strength in Him.

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Are you weary?  God never is.  Wait upon the LORD.  Renew your strength. Turn your weariness into worship and fly like eagles out among the stars.