Monday 23 October 2017

#struggles - Recovering Contentment (Chapter 1)

Excerpts from '#1 Recovering Contentment' in #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel:

Let's take a few minutes to expose any discontent - which is another way of saying envy - that you might be harboring in your heart. First, do you battle with material and financial envy? Second, do you harbor relational envy? Finally, maybe you battle with circumstantial envy. You see what other people are doing, where they're working, how they're living. Do you then look at your life, your circumstances, and wonder why you don't have the things they have or get to do the things they're doing? If you do you're probably green with envy.

I can't think of anyone in history who had a better understanding of managing his responses than the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:12-13). Paul is essentially saying, "I've gone without the things that I need before. But I've also had times when I had more than enough. Life happens in seasons. I've had good seasons when everything was going well, and I've had hard ones when nothing went my way. But in all of that living, I've learned that there's one secret to being content, no matter what my circumstances happen to be at the time. And that secret is that I can do anything and everything not by my power but through Christ. He's the one who gives me the strength to handle anything that comes my way."

Don't miss this truth. You will battle with discontent until you let Christ be all that you need. Don't believe me? Then prove me wrong. Achieve, conquer, accumulate, repeat. Sound familiar? None of it works. At the end of the day, every day, you'll still feel empty.

When Christ is all you have you'll finally realize that Christ is all you need. He's everything that matters.

If you keep searching, comparing, and envying, you'll never have enough. So let's look at three ways we can help ourselves battle the sin of envying, keeping in mind that we'll need Christ's strength to win the war.

James 3:14-16. Notice that wisdom is in quotes because James was being sarcastic; these attitudes are not wise. But also notice this: envy is demonic. Where envy is, there is disorder. Where envy is, there is every evil practice. Look at these words. Demonic? Every evil practice? This is serious. Envy is not from heaven. It's earthly. It's unspiritual. It's demonic. I don't want to participate in activities that the Bible calls demonic. I'm sure you don't either. And James doesn't say, "Probably it would be a good idea if you considered being careful about envy." He says that with envy there is evil.

Envy isn't just unhealthy. In God's eyes, it's downright sinful (Ex. 20:17). We need to kill our comparisons, because comparing ourselves with others is not wise.

The first step in combatting evil is to consider what you can and should give up. Just choose one thing to stop doing today. For example, stop checking your Facebook feed before bed. Don't post a picture of the delicious plate of food you've been served at a restaurant. Stop reciprocating with everyone who follows you on LinkedIn, especially if you don't know them. Practice stopping that behavior over and over. Ask others around you to help you stop. Commit to yourself and to them that you will stop.

The second practical thing you can do to kill comparisons is to celebrate other people's successes. When you see someone else being blessed in a way that you hope to be blessed, celebrating with them can purify the intentions of your heart. When you see someone else get that thing you've always wanted, try thanking God instead of wallowing in jealousy: "God, thank you so much that your hand of blessing is on them. Please continue blessing them." Celebration sends a kill shot right to the heart of envy.

A third way to kill comparisons is to cultivate gratitude. I read an excellent definition of envy that went something like this: envy is resenting God's goodness in other people's lives and ignoring God's goodness in your own life. Proverbs 15:15 says, "For the despondent, every day brings trouble" (NLT). The despondent see every single day bringing more trouble. They can't see the blessings because their glass is always half-empty. But Proverbs 15:15 doesn't end there. The second half says, "For the happy heart, life is a continual feast" (NLT).

Are people who start the day miserable living in the same day as people with a happy heart? Of course they are! The difference is in what they're looking for. Despondent people are looking for trouble - and they find it. People with a happy heart are looking for God's goodness - and they find it!

You want to have a nonstop party? Enjoy what God has given you, instead of longing for what you don't have. Be thankful for what God has given you, instead of resenting other people's instagrams: "Oh, I wish I had their life!" Guess what? They're longing for your life in ways you don't even know about!

Let's worship our God not because he gives us everything we want but because he is worthy of our praise. Let's worship him because we've learned the secret of being content, whether we're living in plenty or living in want. That secret is that we can do all things through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gives us strength.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 2 - Restoring Intimacy
Chapter 3 - Revealing Authenticity

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