This year, on Christmas morning, my daughter said something that made me reflect on an important reality, particularly for me and in general for all Christians.
After opening gifts for about 15 minutes my wife and I hit the pause button on our morning gift exchange in order to get some breakfast going. Once we returned to the living room I told both of our kids that another gift would not be opened until all of the trash on the ground (wrapping paper and such) was picked up. “I’ll be your garbage girl,” my daughter joyfully exclaimed. It made sense. She was willing to do whatever she needed in order to pursue the fullness of her satisfaction opening the rest of her gifts.
The truth is that she, nor her brother, are ever that excited about cleaning. In fact, they have an apathetic attitude towards it because they don’t believe at this point in their stage of life that it brings them any joy. The reality is that satisfaction and contentment in their fullness lead to complacency, apathy and the end of pursuit.
More popular is the subject of contentment, which is biblical and obviously important. Perhaps more popular because it makes us seem more mature than we really are. So, we cloak ourselves with being “content” in front of others, yet in our hearts we envy so many others for what they have and we don’t. Contentment is an important spiritual discipline, but it is only one side of the coin and should never be over emphasized at the expense of another biblical reality. Maybe just as important as contentment is a holy, or a right, discontentment.
A holy discontentment causes us to continue to pursue hard after a deeper level of satisfaction and contentment. After marrying your spouse how hard and consistent is your pursuit for her/him now that you’ve won them in marriage? Now that you’ve received your degree how hard and consistent is your pursuit toward continuing education?
Once we are satisfied with what we’ve attained we become complacent and apathetic towards a further pursuit of something we already “have.” Sadly enough this is a reality in our pursuit of God as well. We get comfortable with where we are at with God and become apathetic in our pursuit of Him. I’ve heard more that two dozen times, “I’ve been a Christian for 30 years. I’ve heard it all, but it’s good to be refreshed with the way different preachers preach a passage.” That, my friend, is apathy. We are never to old, to smart or too mature to not grow more in every area of our lives.We have never “heard it all” or have arrived at some place spiritually where we can stop intentionally pursuing God and just passively grow when it’s convenient.
Too many Christians all of the sudden reach some status of perceived maturity in some Christian discipline and then become complacent and judgmental towards others who may not be in the place that they are at. Oh, that’s great, you’ve read the Bible 30 times? Well you must be super spiritual. Read it again. Oh, that’s great, you have made over 20 disciples? Well you are the best disciple maker out there! Make more. Oh, that’s great, you give 18 percent of your income to your church? You are so mature and spiritual! Give more. Every Christian, from pastors to non-member, regular attenders of a local church is being sanctified in these different areas of spiritual disciplines and much more. Your status of where you land in any of these areas does not make you any more spiritual or more mature than another person. What is important is that we continue to develop a holy discontentment with where we are at so that we continue to press harder and grow more in every area as opposed to getting comfortable with where we are at.
The more satisfied we are with ourselves, we become less satisfied with God because “WE HAVE ATTAINED SUCH A GREAT STATUS.” But, a holy dissatisfaction causes us to press forward to continue to pursue a higher level of knowing Christ and to find our satisfaction in Him.
In addition to developing a holy discontentment is to remove anything in our lives that is hindering our relationship with God. While for some complacency is birthed out of past success or current status, for others it comes from being bound to past hurts and failures. Some are so chained to their past hurts and failures that they have lost their pursuit of God. They have accepted defeat. In both instances, we are called to wage war on and remove anything that hinders us from our relationship with God, which can only truly happen in community for the sake of accountability and encouragement.
The apostle Paul would go as far to say that those who do not have a holy discontentment consistently and are satisfied and content with where they stand in their relationship with God are enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:12-21). Meaning, if there is not a continual pursuit that flows from a holy discontentment and your satisfaction is in your won achievements than there may not be a real relationship to begin with.
My prayer is that you and I would either begin or continue to develop a holy discontentment in order that we would press in harder towards knowing Christ. Being content and satisfied with where we are in our relationship with God is a dangerous place to be. Moreover, be encouraged. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
This article was originally published in 2015 HERE for Trinity College of Florida, where Pastor Stephen also serves as an adjunct professor.