We Must Learn to Be Content in Any and Every Situation, Even If Culture Goes Awry

No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need – The Rolling Stones

The Stones had their finger on something. I wish the Church would grasp it sometimes.

Whether it’s homosexuality, abortion, religious liberty, etc., some Christians come out sounding like petulant toddlers when we don’t get what we want. Some churches become shacks of whining instead of bastions of strength.

Not all Christians are this way. Some Christians go with the flow, handle the punches given to Christians in America. They say, “OK, this is a blow, but let’s see what we can do positive instead.” Abortion is legal? OK, let’s host a ministry for single-mothers-to-be to encourage them to have the baby and either help raise the kid or give the kid up for adoption. Gay marriage is legal? OK, let’s talk about the value of marriage God’s way and the joy that comes from following Jesus, and let’s love people without asking them to change who they are first.

If things don’t go the way we want them to, we get all up-in-arms like we’re owed things to be exactly how we want them. And that’s not the case.

The basic foundation of Christianity is that we’re owed nothing, and God freely gives us something so great and beautiful called the Gospel. So why do we act like we need the world to behave and act just like we’re supposed to act? That’s right, not “act like we act” but “act like we’re supposed to act.”

This is perhaps my biggest frustration with evangelical culture. We don’t like something, so we go out of our way to complain. And I know that I’m doing the same thing right now. But sometimes it takes doing what you hate to point out that something you hate is going on. If we’re supposed to hate sin, why don’t we hate our own, our grumbling, our complaining?

Since the Church is full of sinners, there will always be sin. But I get the sense that we’re coming off as whiny toddlers, and that’s not what the first church members did.

You never hear Paul or Peter complaining about their circumstances or whining about the governmental policies enacted in their day. In fact, we hear the opposite:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

So isn’t there a chance that we’ll be more reflective of Christ by accepting the situation we’re in as a Church and simply make the most of it? Finding out how to be content while, admittedly, the culture is going opposite of how we would like it to be?

This is a difficult balance to find. And I know plenty of people will disagree with me. But I’ve read the book of Acts. We don’t see the apostles going out of their way to speak into the culture. They’re not going to war with the culture. Jesus didn’t go to war with the culture either. I might be misinterpreting Scripture, so if I’m wrong please let me know. Paul argued spiritual matters, he reasoned in the synagogues. But he didn’t go grandstanding.

We often interpret not taking a strong stand as approval of a certain sin. And that’s just not true. You can disagree with certain decisions your sports team makes, but that doesn’t mean you go picket outside the team’s headquarters until something changes.

Yes, in the United States of America, we have the right to petition the politicians and make our voice heard. And I understand the desire to help people see the right way to live. But it starts with the Gospel! It’s always started with loving God and loving people. That’s the greatest commandment:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

And you see some ministries doing that. XXX Church (my favorite example) is pursuing loving those in the pornography industry without actively campaigning for the end of the business. They’re loving God and loving people.

And that’s what’s most important.

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Jesus’ Purpose Wasn’t Himself. Too Bad I Fail at Imitating Him.

Reading through the gospels over the last couple weeks has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done when it comes to reading the Bible.

As a Christian in today’s society, it’s really easy to get a twisted, inaccurate view of who Jesus is and what He was about. And that’s not just from the secular world, but also from the Christian world. Different religions and different groups of people have different views of who Jesus is and what He was about. The answer to the question “Who is Jesus?” separates the world’s major religions, and even some minor ones, from Christianity. Judaism, Islam and Mormonism all differ from biblical Christianity on their interpretation of who Jesus is, and it makes all the difference.

The secular world looks at Jesus and generally has one of two reactions. One: they scoff and say He’s not worth their time, He was a bigot who had a bunch of rules. Two: they talk about His love and His goodness to people and say Christians should be better at following Him.

How often do Christians really line up with that first group? I think a little too much. Maybe they don’t say He’s not worth their time, but the way they act, the real Jesus clearly isn’t worth their time. And some Christians take what the second group says and goes way overboard.

I could use any number of examples of who Jesus really was to illustrate how we all miss the mark at following in His obedient, God-glorifying footsteps. Today, the one that sticks out to me is His humility.

In Mark 9, Jesus is transfigured on a mountain in a shocking display of God’s power, leaving Peter, James and John terrified. After the transfiguration, Jesus says, “And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (v. 9). There are several instances like this in the gospels where Jesus performs some miracle or something awesome happens and Jesus tells the person He healed or His disciples to not say anything.

As I read this, I wondered why He took that approach. There’s something really interesting in Jesus’ constant insistence on not telling what He’s done or not until a certain time. It’s a unique approach compared to other religions’ leaders, who are generally either super “look-at-me” or super-secretive or guarded about their actions. Jesus wasn’t guarded or super-secretive with what He did; most of His ministry was public for lots of people to see. He just displayed a heart of humility.

This is no surprise, really. I mean, a good chunk of Philippians 2 is all about Jesus’ humility and what it means for us:

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I don’t know exactly why Jesus told people to not talk about what He did for them. I can’t say for sure what it was. But my best guess is that He wasn’t doing what He did for Himself. He did it for two other entities.

First, He did what He did for God His Father. One instance where Jesus does permit someone He healed to speak was the demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes in Mark 5. He tells the man, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19). Everything Jesus did was for the glory of God, it was FOR God. In John 5, Jesus says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (v. 30). He spoke, healed, obeyed for God.

Second, He did what He did for us. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

And when I examine why I do things and match it up to Christ, I fall woefully short. Now there are some things I should do for myself. It is good for me to eat so I can be nourished. It is good for me to sleep so I can be refreshed. And, every once in a while, if the funds are available, it is good for me to buy a new soccer jersey so I can look fly.

OK, maybe that last one is a little iffy.

But here’s the point: Often I do so many non-life-preserving things for myself. Often I serve others for myself. Often I give money for myself. Often I lead prayers for others for myself. Often I follow Jesus for myself. My life can become very insular and encapsulated by one word: me. Oh how I wish this were different! I see the example of Jesus and I know that I fall short. Often I don’t do things for God or for others, but for myself.

Praise God for grace.