August 17, 2010
Alex Crain, Editor, Christianity.com
"Clear your desks. Take out a blank sheet of paper and a #2 pencil..." 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 Ephesians 5:3, 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.
Francis Schaeffer wrote about the gravity of coveteousness in his book, True Spirituality. He said, "There are two practical tests as to when we are coveting against God or other people; first, I am to love God enough to be contented; second, I am to love others enough not to envy." He goes on to say (in chapter one):
"The Bible makes plain that God has made us with proper desires. So, all desire is not sin. When does proper desire become coveting? ...[when] there is a lack of proper contentment on my part. 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, if a quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks is the real test of the extent to which we love and trust God, how's your "pop quiz average" lately? Are you a person with a spirit of entitlement about your way, or do you have an outlook toward the Lord that trusts Him in His way?
A high standard like the two-edged: "do not covet... but rather give thanks in all things" might cause us to shrug our shoulders in despair. Francis Schaeffer, himself, admitted to having low points like this. What made the difference for him was that He rediscovered joy by believing again in the reality of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit's work of inward heart change as spoken about in places like ezek. 36:26, and Jeremiah 31:33 that produces contentment. If we stop believing in Him, we'll be left only to look to ourselves. And a self-dependent life is going to be a life marked by one failed "pop quiz" after another... at those surprise moments when you don't get something you want, you'll have an ungrateful, grumbling heart.
The rigorous internal standard of "thou shalt not covet" finally humbles all of us. Even the "perfect" Pharisee, Paul, in Romans 7:7 confessed that it was the "thou shalt not covet" commandment that gnawed at him and exposed his true inward condition as a sinner before God.
When we are controlled by the strong desire to make things go our way, we are coveting God's place to ordain everything His way. At that moment, we are no longer loving God. What's the right response then? Humble confession of sin and a fresh appreciation for the atoning work of Christ on the cross for that sin.
Humble confession to God through Christ casts us safely into depending on God. His active work in our hearts causes us to give thanks for all things, and that brings Him glory.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
What's your "pop quiz average" lately? Is it bringing God glory?
On the basis of God's New Covenant promise (jer. 31:34, ezek. 36:26) and the finished work of Christ ask God to change you and enable you to do what may seem impossible—to give thanks always for all things.
psalm 62, song by Aaron Keyes
you never let go, song by Matt Redman