Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Wrong Kind of Contentment

There is nothing like contentment. If a person lacks contentment about what God has given them in life, out of that discontent can arise petty quarrels, jealousies, enmity, and strife...when contentment reigns, those joy-killers are far less likely to rear their ugly heads. There are at least two kinds of contentment though, and I've been pondering one type that the Bible never advocates; still, I can easily come to rest in this contentment when no one challenges me in it: the contentment about where I am in my growth in Christ. This type of contentment is actually stagnation, lack of growth, in fact a death of sorts, and the type of thing that we are called upon to challenge out of one another when we see that it has taken hold.
I can so easily make the mistake of being spiritually content; that is, content with where I am, not seeking to challenge myself, to learn, to grow, to interact with others, Christian and non-Christian, who might show up my various weaknesses. When I avoid fellowship or deep interaction with others, I stagnate. It is their loss, but mostly my own. The vitality of my faith is lost in that case, and it stunts my development, my fellowship in our church, the "iron sharpening iron" that I so need.
A few weeks ago a person in our congregation presented a list of the "one anothering" verses from the Bible to the pastor, who made a passing reference to it, and I found a copy of it on our back table. This list is one of the things that could help a person emerge from the stagnation of this contentment. I looked them up on the internet, and found a website with a project that I think is designed for kids, but that would be applicable to any of us. It assigns the use of these verses, one at a time, so that the participant would decide on whom they would apply the use of that one-anothering verse and how in the coming week. We could easily do this with index cards posted on the fridge, with the verse, the intended recipient, and the resolution of what intended action we should take.
The one-anothering verses make for a good study. Most of us probably could rattle off a few of them: Love one another; be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other; bear one another's burdens; encourage one another; pray for one another; practice hospitality to one another...and even in rattling off those that we know off the top of our heads, couldn't most of us pick out one or another which we could improve on exercising? Have I been encouraging those who I see struggling? Have I been faithful in prayer for all those in tough or uncertain times? How long ago was it that I had a family over for lunch, dinner, dessert--especially someone who I haven't gotten together with before outside of church?
So, maybe it's good enough for a while to work with the one-anothering verses that we already know. Once we've challenged ourselves in applying those to the point where it's become a more fruitful lifestyle, maybe we should look up some more and do the same with them. It's not an uncommon study; googling it brings up various lists of the verses and approaches regarding them. We can also look the verses up on any Bible software or website, or in our concordances.
In suggesting this to my dear readers, I hope that I'm doing Hebrews 10:24, which has continually come to my mind over the last few weeks: "...and let us consider how to stimulate (KJV: provoke; NIV: spur; Amplified: stir up, stimulate or incite; NLT: motivate) one another to love and good deeds..." directed, of course, as much toward myself as to anyone else.

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