Week of Feb. 3

The Detours of Discontent

Why does it seem so easy to go from living the abundant life that Christ promised to living a life that is bleak and frustrating? How do our hearts get disengaged from these spiritual activities, leaving us to simply go through the motions of attending church and reading the Bible?  Where did we go wrong? How can we find our way back?

There are four primary detours that throw us off course in our Christian walk. They are designed by the enemy to keep us restless and to steal our peace and joy. The first detour is an unwillingness to confront our weaknesses. We all have weaknesses which cause us pain. We may have a physical weakness that has led us to depression. We may have a moral weakness that leads us into sin. We may have a character flaw or a lack of spiritual discipline. Whatever our weaknesses are—whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual—they can lead to discontentment if we do not apply God's grace to those areas.

Paul wrote, "But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). If we find that God's grace is not sufficient for us, then that insufficiency is signaling a problem—either we are focusing too much on the problem itself and not on God's grace, or we are ignoring our weaknesses altogether. As Paul explains, the secret to dealing with weaknesses is to trust in God's grace, allowing Him to give us victory in those areas.

Another dangerous detour to contentment is legalism. Legalism elevates our rules to the same importance as God's commandments, whether the rules are moralistic guidelines, worship etiquette, or additional conditions to salvation. Yet no matter how well-intentioned these manmade rules may be, they are inferior to God's commandments. When we follow our faulty human thinking instead of God's perfect ways, we will find ourselves headed for discontentment. We can never live up to our own harsh standards, and every time we fail we lose another piece of our joy. Only God's grace gives us the peace of salvation—not God's grace plus our church attendance or our charitable activities or who we associate with. Jesus did it all on the cross. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

The pitfall of pride can also lead us away from contentment. Pride lurks at the core of our weaknesses. Pride deceptively presents itself as righteousness when in reality it is self-serving. Pride hinders our prayers as we lose focus on bringing glory to God in all things. Pride arrogantly shifts our confidence in God to confidence in ourselves. Yet as imperfect humans, we will fail ourselves. Our focus on ourselves will only lead to discontentment. The Bible tells us, "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'" (James 4:6).

A fourth detour from contentment is a lack of generosity. Even when life grows financially difficult, a generous person can remain joyful. God wants us to give out of love and gratitude to Him, not out of obligation or for the sake of appearances. God is concerned with the heart of our giving.

The gospel of Mark gives us an example of generous and wholehearted giving. "Jesus…watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins…Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on'" (Mark 12:41-44).

Have you experienced a detour in your Christian walk? Are you allowing your weaknesses to drive you further from God? Has a legalistic mindset shifted your focus from God's grace to manmade rituals and rules? Are you allowing pride to determine your own path? Has your generosity crumbled? Seek God's forgiveness today for whatever has caused you to stumble in your relationship with Him. Ask for His help to overcome that roadblock and to lead you back toward contentment in Him alone.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." 
Philippians 3:7

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