Many believers are familiar with 2 Cor. 12:9 which says, “My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” The life of the apostle Paul was not easy because his body was weak and his ministry was strenuous. But the Lord told him that His grace is sufficient. And the grace that the Lord gives to believers nowadays is sufficient, too. But sometimes our hearts do not see, hear or understand this precious grace. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is really an amazing gift from eternity.
What does the Bible tell us about grace? First of all, it is God’s relation to man and mankind which is seen in His good attitude to people, His mercy and love. God is the Savior of mankind, and He reaches out to rebellious men through Jesus’ substitution death on the cross. He proves powerful, faithful and holy, or separated from evil. God’s grace which is so precious and mysterious reflects the heart of the loving and holy God, revealed to us in Christ.
So, God’s grace is sufficient, but as we learn about the sufficiency of His grace, we encounter a strong adversary of our soul. This adversary is opposite to contentment, it is called discontentment. If we look at ourselves, at the world around us, we will realize that discontentment is a great evil. It is our great enemy. It is very destructive because it affects the person’s soul. This discontentment with us, with God, with life takes a form of angry comments and rebellion against God. We cannot say that discontentment is typical for the people of this world only. It becomes our adversary as we move towards eternity, as it tries to overcome and took over our souls.
I just want to talk about several ways this discontentment shows. Unfortunately, it can become a normal state of our being which does not even surprise us. I think of one story about a man who said that KGB was dealing with discontent people. He was asked, “You mean there were content people?” “OBHSS (a branch of police) was dealing with the content ones.” Consider this question, “You mean there were content people?” Discontentment is such an ordinary thing. Moreover, if we see a content person who differs a lot from others, we think he is weird and we become suspicious of his contentment. Why in the world is he content? What reasons could he possibly have for his contentment?
If we try to examine ourselves, we will find the inner enemy who is hard to spy out sometimes. Discontentment becomes not only our usual state, but it starts to grow and develop in our lives. We all remember a well-known tale about the fisherman and the gold fish. Remember the fisherman’s wife, “I want this and I want that, it’s too little for me to be an aristocrat, I want to be a queen.” What did she come to? To her own broken house. The same tendency can be seen in our lives as we grow in discontentment. We are discontent with what we have, with who we are. Solomon was right when he said in Prov 30:15, “A bloodsucking worm has two daughters. They cry out, “Give! Give!” We hear that saying, “It is not money that brings happiness, but the amount of money that you have.” We ran after the mirage of happiness. But this is not how it is supposed to be. Even now we are happy people. Our happiness is based on the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And this is not the happiness that will come tomorrow it is a happiness of today that Jesus is giving us.
Discontentment becomes a dangerous state. We see the discontentment of the Israelites as they went out of Egypt. They were not content with Moses’ leadership, they were not content with the food they had in the wilderness. God’s care and provision for 3 million people in the wilderness were amazing, and the discontentment of the Israelites was no less amazing. It was so dangerous that God decided, “All those who were murmuring against me will die in the wilderness and will not enter the Promised Land.” The Promised Land was a symbol of prosperity and abundance. God called it the Land flowing with milk and honey. This was the land He was going to give to the Jewish people. But several spies who were sent into the land did not see the abundance of Canaan, but they saw the strong fortresses and tall people. “Moses, you brought us here so we will all die here!” And because of the discontentment, the people did not enter the land for another 40 years.
Dear friends, discontentment is a dangerous state which can simply kill our souls. We can be discontent with the church we go to, with our pastor, our deacons, our Christian brothers and sisters. We can be discontent with ourselves and with our unsaved relatives, “I’ve been sharing with them for such a long time, yet they don’t’ want to become Christian.” This way, our discontentment becomes our enemy who chases us.
We need to point out several things. Discontentment is the state of our old sinful nature. It was in the Garden of Eden that Satan put the seeds of discontentment in the heart of man, “God knows that when you eat the fruit of that tree, you will know things you have never known before. You will be able to tell the difference between good and evil. You will be like God.” That was when the wicked thought about God came into the man’s mind. They thought that God is withholding something from them, and it was the beginning of their discontentment.
We encounter discontentment when we try to achieve perfection. It is good to try to reach perfection. It is good to try to be a better husband or a better wife or a better servant of Christ. Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “I forget what is behind me. I push hard toward what is ahead of me. I move on toward the goal to win the prize.”
In Corinthians he urges us to strive to win and he uses the image of a sport contest. He also says that all athletes abstain from certain things. Some do that to receive a perishable crown, others for the imperishable crown. In the same manner, even you, run as if to win.
It is good to strive for good. Jesus says, “Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” But on the road to perfection we see our adversary – discontentment. Where are we aspiring to go? To the Heavenly Jerusalem. Who should we look at? At Jesus Christ. Where will we experience healing? At Calvary, because Scripture tells us to grow strong as we see at Christ crucified. As soon as I start to look at myself in my striving for perfection, I begin to experience what Paul wrote about when he said that nothing good lives in my flesh. It does not mean that there is nothing good in us, because God created us and put much good in us. But there is something in our lives that will never be good. And at the moment when we look at ourselves, the problem of discontentment arises. Selfishness and self-sufficiency are false solutions to this problem. The book of revelation talks about someone to whom God says, “You think you are rich and do not lack anything but you do not know that you are poor and miserable and blind, and without clothes…” The Lord shows us the real state of things, which is very different from what that person thinks about himself. The Lord reveals his real condition from which man tries to escape into self-sufficiency.
Dear friends, self-sufficiency is not a solution of the problem. That is why Scriptures offer us another solution, a way which will lead us to victory over the enemy of our souls. In the battle with this enemy we have to be aware of two things. First of all, we have to take heart and accept the reality in which we live. This world is not perfect, and Scriptures say that it lies in evil. God is going to destroy the corrupted system of human values. The Bible says that the earth and all that is in it will burn in fire. God is working a new creation in the hearts of Christians. God works in two ways: He destroys the old nature and creates the new. It is very important for us to agree with God’s methods.
This is a strong Christian position, “Yes, I do live in an imperfect world, among imperfect people, with imperfect relationships, and I myself am imperfect. But in the midst of this my heart longs for God’s perfection, and this is my portion.” It is not simply because “in much wisdom there is much sorrow.” When a person takes this position, it is hard for him to see the reality and accept it, “This is what my wife is like, this is what I am like, this is what my children are like, and this is what people are like.” Being idealistic is a Christian disease. We should not catch it. We are not going to find here on earth an ideal person, an ideal church, an ideal relationship. But when we see a beautiful scriptural example of perfection, we are inspired to strive for perfection and holiness. And the firmer our position is, the harder it is for us. When we see ourselves, our own flaws and faults, we find out that it is not easy to learn to love your neighbor. It is sad to realize that we are not capable of tender and caring love. But our first step is to accept the reality of the seen world, accept the imperfection in relationships and people. And the next step that we can make is to accept the reality of the unseen Kingdom of God, to understand and accept the riches which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. Then our imperfect human relationship will be a startling contrast to the riches which the Lord has given us. Paul says in 2 Cor 4:7, “we have the treasure of the good news in these earthly bodies of ours.
That shows that the mighty power of the good news comes from God. It does not come from us.” You see, on the one hand, we are in the real world, with its unfriendliness; on the other hand we experience the reality of our heavenly citizenship, the riches of sonship, because God gave us authority to be called children of God. Paul says that he is pushed hard from all sides – this is the outward reality, but he is not beaten down – this is his inner state. Paul was in jail – pushed hard from the outside, but he understood his inner freedom. He was content. “We are bewildered, but that doesn’t make us lose hope.” Even the chosen Apostle was not kept from hard circumstances. The Holy Spirit says through Isaiah the prophet, that when we go through fire and water, we will not drown nor be burnt because God is with us. What does it mean? Because of God’s presence in our lives, even the laws that govern nature cannot do us any harm, because God created these laws. God lets us walk through fire and water. Both fire and water are outer reality. But a person, who is experiencing God’s grace, does not lose heart. He sees the way and has God’s counsel, because God’s grace, the unseen reality of the Kingdom of God is with him. “Others make us suffer, but God does not desert us, we are knocked down, but we are not knocked out,” continues Paul. “We who are alive are always in danger of death because we are serving Jesus.” When the weather is extremely cold, we begin to appreciate the warmth of our homes more. In the same way, when our circumstances are hard, our inner beauty is well seen.
Do we like it? It is hard to overcome discontentment. People are trying to upset you and they do something that will move you go grudges, but you rejoice. If a man loves his wife, the taunts of other men will not hurt her. And surely, when it happens people around you will say, “What an unusual person, not of this world,” just as Scriptures tell us to be.
The Lord told the Apostle Paul that His grace is sufficient, and it will be clearly seen in weakness. Human weakness is a good soil for God’s grace to grow. “Treasure is kept in clay jars.” When the jar is broken, the treasure is revealed. When our hearts are broken, God’s beauty is revealed in it. “We are poor, but we enrich many, we possess nothing but we have all.” Paul also says in 1 Tim 6:6, “You gain a lot when you live a godly life. But you must be happy with what you have.” I think we all want a great gain. And if we want it, the Bible gives us simple advice – become content, take the biblical way of reaching this contentment and this will profit you greatly. “You must be happy with what you have.” God bless us in this way, and may we all experience this biblical truth.
Philadelphia church pastor