Feb 2, 2010
"…covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints
…but rather giving of thanks."
Ephesians 5:3 NKJV
"Clear your desks. Take out a blank sheet of paper and a #2 pencil. Write your name and today's date in the top right corner…" Years later, I can still hear the sound of Mr. Young's voice intoning above the moans and groans in our 7th grade classroom. Maybe you had the same kind of teacher… every day was a potential pop quiz day.
Although it wasn't much fun facing the unexpected pressure of a pop quiz, I can see looking back that Mr. Young's intent was to teach me to think hard when reading assignments were given and to listen carefully during lectures. I recall that the answers on the quiz were usually fairly obvious as long as I was half-way plugged into what was going on in class. Rarely, if ever, were the quiz questions about any sort of new or obscure information. This was just his way to review material we had already read or heard.
Now, I see that every day has a potential pop quiz day of another sort. Something happens daily to test the reality of my love for God and others. And, like Mr. Young's pop quizzes, it's usually a matter of review. That doesn't mean that the A-plusses come easily. Often, the pop quizzes of life are about desires going on within my heart—desires balancing on the razor's edge between contentment and covetousness. According to the Scripture passage above, the only response that scores an A+ in the pop quizzes of life is "giving of thanks" ...i.e. having a thankful heart at the very moment I don't get something I want.
The reading this week in chapter one of Francis Schaeffer's True Spirituality may not be anything new or obscure to you, but it's certainly good review. Following on the heels of last week's teaching about serving christ and others in love, Schaeffer speaks further on the matter of what authentic Christians actually do in the living of the Christian life. And his emphasis is, again, on the inward state of the heart.
"I think there are two practical tests as to when we are coveting against God or men; first, I am to love God enough to be contented; second, I am to love men enough not to envy."
"When we talk of the Christian life or true spirituality, when we talk about freedom from the bonds of sin, we must be wrestling with the inward problems of not coveting against God and men, of loving God and men…"
"This immediately raises a question. Does this mean that any desire is coveting and therefore sinful? The Bible makes plain that this is not so—all desire is not sin. When does proper desire become coveting? When it fails to include love of God or men..."
"Even our natural and proper desires bring us into revolt against God. God has made us with proper desires, but if there is not a proper contentment on my part, to this extent I am in revolt against God…"
"When I lack proper contentment, I have forgotten that God is God."
"A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks is the real test of the extent to which we love and trust God at that moment."
So, a quiet and contented heart is one that yields its desires—even its proper desires—to God at all times. There is never a spirit of entitlement in a heart that is full of genuine faith toward the Lord.
Looking up at such an impossibly high standard like this might cause you to kind of shrug your shoulders and walk away sorrowfully, as did another sad figure in Scripture (Luke 18:18). And rightly so. Despair really is the only logical option for those striving in their own strength. Francis Schaeffer, at his lowest point, had to honestly count himself among the gloomy. But there is joy for those who believe in the reality of the Holy Spirit. Christ said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:18).
When we cease striving and rest knowing that contentment is accomplished by the Holy Spirit's work of inward heart change (jer. 31:34, ezek. 36:26), there will be peace and giving of thanks. This is something for which we must trust Him. It can never be accomplished by attempting to keep rules outwardly. Such a strategy only leads to a heart that spirals further and further downward in pride, personal deception and revolt against God. What's the proof of such a condition? A heart characterized by ingratitude, lips that grumble and a life marked by one failed "pop quiz" after another.
Schaeffer points out that the rigorous internal standard of "thou shalt not covet" is what finally humbles all of us. This was the commandment that gnawed at Saul the "perfect" Pharisee regarding his true inward condition as a sinner before God (Romans 7:7). We want things to go our way so badly that we covet God's prerogatives. Thus, we are no longer loving God. The only proper response to this loveless condition (once we are granted the grace to see it) is humble confession.
But being brought down in humility is not an end in itself. Humility casts us safely into dependence on God; and the fruit of such dependence and faith is a transformed heart that responds with "giving of thanks for all things." The pathway to this consistent heart attitude of "giving of thanks" commanded in Ephesians 5:15 is the same pathway Schaeffer had to walk to rediscover the joy of Christian living. Did he always stay perfectly on the path? Probably not. But the spiritual reality experienced in his life as a whole, observed by those who knew him, is the reason many still follow the trail of his thought today.
"Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." (NASB)
Intersecting Faith & Life:
What's your "pop quiz average" lately?
On the basis of His covenant promises (jer. 31:34, ezek. 36:26), daily ask God to do His supernatural work of heart change in you and fill you with His Spirit (Eph. 5:18) so that you might do what is humanly impossible—give thanks always for all things.
psalm 62, song by Aaron Keyes