CONTENDING with CONTENTMENT
We live in a bad world. It’s full of bad things, bad people, bad breaks, bad breath, etc, etc. In the midst of all that badness, Christians are called to CONTEND for the faith, for righteousness. That is a different battle. Not only is our war NOT with flesh and blood (human logic, tactics or against individual human beings) but is clearly to be a CONTENDING without CONTENTIOUSNESS. Before getting into the contrast between those, let’s just take the subject of CONTRAST. Why CONTRAST or CONFLICT or ANTAGONISM, at all?
ANTAGONISM: Hostility, active resistance, opposing force or principle.
In our time-and-space world, contrast or antagonism is a necessary phenomena. For example: To recognize light, there must be darkness. To conclude, “It is dark,” there must be light. For right to be chosen, there must be the possibility to choose wrong. That is the mechanism that provides a field for choosing and also a tangible standard for testing those choices. (The Yin & Yang stops there, supposing itself wise it is actually retarded) A “good” character would not be noticable unless there existed “bad” character and “love” is not really love unless it supercedes a tendency toward selfishness. In this way our Creator has provided for His lost Children the means by which to make a simple choice. The real deception of “darkness” is the obscuring of that simple choice-making. The Lie, the deceiver-who-comes-as-an-angel-of-light, suggests that each of us has authority, responsibility, intelligence, wisdom, etc; in other words, power to control our lives and world. The fact that we were originally created with those endowments clearly does not mean we have the prerogative to wield that power now, in our lost state and in this present age. The only human being that has that restored fullness of capacities is Jesus, the “first born of the resurrection”. But I digress. Back to CONTENDING.
Our contending for righteousness is to be done in the mounting contrast of a rising ocean of unrighteousness drowning this planet, our country, our city, our church, our neighborhood, our homes; pollution which has its source in our own hearts. Yes, we would like to point at “bad” people or unbelieving parents or the politicians and mount campaigns to build a dam against the ugly, killing river of slime. But who are they but us? Who are we but them? We all possess human hearts, the fountain-head.
Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
Matthew 15:18-19 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
It is at the fountain-head that we are to contend for the faith. Jesus said, “You’ve heard it said…”, “but I say to you…”, etc. (see Matthew 5) His words show us we can, and normally do, mis-aim our contending. In essence, “You’ve thought the barrier against the corrupting forces of evil were to be set up ‘out there’ and I’m telling you that they are to be set up in here, in your heart. That’s where the leak is. It’s been there since the day Adam & Eve allowed the breech.”
It may help if we take a militant attitude toward plugging the crack but that’s not enough. Even if you do a “great job” at keeping your finger in the hole, you’re still just a human being. Eventually, you’ll die, blink or at least have to go to the bathroom. And acting like you’ve done enough is no good when your family is all neck deep in sewage. The only thing that will stay the flood is to apply the pressure of the entire Kingdom of Light. The pressure of the Kingdom of God is “dunamis”, explosive! and will force the entire dam to retreat! But the key is that it be aimed directly at the point of weakness. Those points are graphically described in scripture.
2 Timothy 3:1-5: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
There is a clear difference between contending and being contentious.
Contentious – 1 Timothy 6:3-5: If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
Notice a very key phrase “godliness is a means of gain.” This points to people within the ranks of Christianity who are acting out their “godliness” as a means of getting more business or even of padding their own wallet with the offerings of giving albeit gullable saints. These people, no matter how they sound on TV or their fund-raising letters, are “proud, knowing nothing, obsessed with disputes and arguments over words… [controversies. These people and their organisations can only produce] envy, strife, … useless wranglings. Withdraw from that sort of person, especially if it is you! Delete their emails. Don’t read their Facebook posts. Don’t answer their phone calls.
Contending – 1 Timothy 6:6-12 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
If godliness is your motivation, loving God with all…, “gain” is all that can happen to you! Jesus said that he who seeks to save his life will loose it but he who lays his life down in love for God and other people will receive eternal (God’s) life!
GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT – the ultimate weapon.
The phrase goes by too fast to notice the significance. These two words add up to just about as much contrast as can be imagined. Godliness in the face of a world full of every opposing force; Contentment in the face of a world that is anything but Content! Godliness is not only the result of redemption. Godliness is the application of God’s nature IN our daily lives, IN the materialistic (matter-based) world, working out into the physical world what His redemption has installed within us. As Paul said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”(Phil 2:12) There are only 2 possible reasons a human being could actually be content in the world as it is. (1) Mental illness, or (2) Complete faith in God.
The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. People’s immediate response to seeing a really content person is the conclusion that they are on drugs or mentally ill. But that conclusion will soon fade if that person is consistantly contented with a lack of grasping, striving and pushing for visability and significance, together with a patient, caring, giving nature. The next conclusion will be, “They know something I don’t know.” If that is the product of your presence at home or work or school or in your neighborhood, you, beloved, are “Fight[ing] the good fight of faith, lay[ing] hold on eternal life…”
Fighting the good fight is not done with an arrogant, pushy and manipulating “charisma”. The power made available to us as re-instated children of the the Most High is a force very foreign to our sense of the heroic. It is the quiet unperturbable dominion of the King of Creation willingly led as a lamb to slaughter. Submitting to all the insult and torture that the world, hell and the devil himself could muster, for the joy set before Him. What was that joy? Well beyond our wildest imaginations! And what effect did all the violent and murderous arrogance of hell have on the plan of God? None, except to make the joy more dear and the outcome more sure.
If you are a Christian business person and you have fallen into the trap of currying favor and posing as a godly person to enhance your business, I would like to encourage you to take an honest look at your motivations and even more importantly at your relationship with our Father. Dale Carnegie was not an incarnation of Jesus Christ. Meaning, if your kindnesses and social graces are tools of your striving for financial or positional gain, you are in deep sewage and you may not even know it. That mode of operation may be making you rich but what kind of rich? Maybe it is hard to descern at first but there is a difference between that and the prospering of the gracious hand of God and the contentment that comes as you hunger and thirst for His righteousness and see Him as your provision, your meaning, your reward.
If you are a person in or “called to” the ministry, I want you to know what God thinks of Shepherds who mistreat His Sheep or leaders who won’t simply, humbly and honestly lead the way to self-denial, intimacy with our Father and desperate dependency upon the gift of His indwelling Spirit.
Jeremiah 2:8 The priests did not say, `Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me; The prophets prophesied by Baal, And walked after things that do not profit.
Jeremiah 23:2,9-40 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the LORD. My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; All my bones shake. …For the land is full of adulterers; For because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, And their might is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness, says the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; In the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; For I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment,” says the LORD. …They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. …Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD. They continually say to those who despise Me, The LORD has said, You shall have peace; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, No evil shall come upon you. For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury–a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.
Ezekiel 34:2-4,7-12 Woe to the shepherds… who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? …The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: as I live, says the Lord GOD, surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock — therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand;… Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.
Living a simple, content life may seem impossible in our time and society. But it only seems that way. To God, nothing’s impossible and He is personally seeking out His sheep. Peter says we have been given ALL things that pertain to life and godliness. If that was true for the man who refused to even be crucified in the same way Jesus was in that day of persecution, it is certainly applicable today. Fight the good fight. Do what the Lord puts in your hands and be content. Let the peace of God overrule your heart. Contend with contentment.