September 21, 2014

A Tale of Two Hearts II: A Story of Thrones

So what do we see in the contrast between the discontent of the Israelites of Numbers 11 and the discomfort of Paul in Philippians 4? The contentment in the righteous behavior of Paul in Philippians 4 is radically different and the polar opposite from the thinking of sinful men in Numbers. In truth it is simply a matter of asking ourselves one question.
“Do we pray to God to move us into situations where we will be content or do we pray to be content in the situation God already has us in?” 
If we pray the first prayer we are discontent and in rebellion against God. It shows we are not willing to follow through with where God has us now…which is clearly His current will for us. This has to be the case or He wouldn’t have us where we are at in that given situation! If we pray the second prayer we are asking God to change our hearts to be content in the situations He wishes us to be in…which is His will at that moment.

Contentment does not come from a change in our external conditions or situations in this life. It comes from the grace and power of God at work within us. True contentment can only be the result of a transformed heart, not a rearrangement or reordering of external circumstances in our lives. If we understand our contentment this way we will abandon the idea that when a situation is bad we will always seek to find a solution to get out of it. Paul did not do this in his Epistles to the Philippians. He found contentment in his current circumstances by turning to God for comfort and contentment. Our focus needs to be on what we are called to now, not where we wish to be tomorrow.

We need to focus more intently on God and what He wants of us. This comes from studying the Scriptures and prayer. In also means reconciling a symbiotic familiarity with our trials, suffering and pain. We need to do this not so we can solve our plight but so that we learn how to live with them and deal with them without becoming self-absorbed. This ability to not become self-absorbed in our own afflictions is critical. Sinful man too often becomes obsessed with their situations in attempts to try and solve them. Sinful man tries to save himself and that is the exact problem. Sometimes our goal should be to learn to live within the trials and learn from them. The answer isn’t always a release from the pain but rather a form of reconciliation with our God ordained discomfort or trial. Discomfort may sometimes be a choice if we chose to do uncomfortable things or subject ourselves to harm but discontent is always a choice.

The only way to gain mastery over our pain or to even learn to live with it, is to stare it down and walk directly into the midst of it. We should never do this alone. We walk towards it letting God lead the way. It may last a day or it may last the rest of our lives. We must never forget that is is God Himself that allows discomfort to enter into our lives. If He is the One allowing it to enter, then it is most certainly He that allows to stay, increase, decrease or leave. Contrary to Victoria Osteen's recent comment, God doesn't always necessarily want you happy. A happy contented heart is often an independent heart. A heart that thinks it will do just fine without God. 

Discomfort and trials makes our hearts malleable and pliable, useful for service. It makes us realize that life is not always an individual effort but more like a communal effort. Discontent makes us bitter, resentful and worthless for helping others. Why does discontent do this? Because it makes us believe our needs are above the needs of others. We become selfish and self-consumed with how we feel, not how others feel

This must be firmly understood… 

To focus solely on ourselves in painful situations will always lead to discontent with our lives provided by God…therefore a discontent with God’s providence. If we begin to focus on others and their pain and discomfort we will begin to realize by comparison that we might not be as bad off as we think. We will be more inclined to serve to help alleviate other's discomfort. We will be distracted from a selfish self-pity and disgruntled attitude. In so doing the discomfort of one is lifted by another. We carry each other's burdens. We might even become thankful that we have it better off than others. We allow other's to sit in our mercy chair to heal rather than constantly and selfishly attempting to seat ourselves in it.

There is no way around this logic. The only way I have learned to avoid this is found in Scripture. We submit our desires to Christ and the Gospel. 

How do we submit our needs and desires to Christ? Look at what Paul did in his trials outlined in Philippians. Its all about the Gospel folks. We put Christ and what He has done first. Paul was given the mercy by God to evangelize his guards. Additionally, even though there were some speaking ill of Paul, they were still pushing the Gospel and Christ forward while Paul was incarcerated. Paul was okay with this fact. Paul had found a contentment in Christ even though his own situation really wasn't that great.

Instead of Paul using his will and tongue to malign God, Paul gave thanks and pushed the Gospel of Christ forward. Even in his discomfort and the uncertainty of his life Jesus took precedent. Christ was above the trials. Christ was above the discomfort. Christ was above it all. Paul did it by turning outward not inward. There was no room for discontent. Paul had more important things to contend with outside of himself. Paul was others focused, not self-focused. He loved his neighbor.

Here is where I think the heart of this post lies. When we murmur or complain unbibilcally against God, we have lost sight of what is important. We have lost sight of God’s holiness. We have totally misinterpreted God and lost the awe of His presence in our lives. We have become irreverent and flippant with God. We have taken God for granted….just like the Israelites in Numbers 11 and Exodus 17. 

The Israelites in Numbers 11 were directly under God who was in the Pillar of Fire. Christian believers have had the veil of the Temple torn and we all have access to the Holy of Holies since we ourselves are the Holy of Holies in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells. Yet I suspect many believes don’t feel the weight of this at all.

We are standing before God in the Holy of Holies in our lives everyday. Yet many do not live like this is the true reality. There was to be immense gravity and reverence when dealing with being in the presence of God. This applied not only to Moses on Mt Sinai but also in the Israelite wilderness wandering and even on the Day of Atonement in the Temple. We seem to have lost this reverence when we turn to our own problems without God. The presence of God has lost the impact in our lives and the effect is to treat God with disrespect. It shows visibly when we manifest discontent instead of reverence in our discomfort. 

When we are in the sanctuary in God’s presence…we need to be God focused, not self-absorbed. We need to love God as we love our neighbor also. Since God’s Spirit is ever-present in our lives as believers, we are always in the sanctuary with God in our lives whether we be in the ICU in the hospital, in a bad marriage, in a lousy work situation or even in the funeral of a spouse or child. I didn't say this won't hurt, I am just saying that a focus on the Gospel puts all of these things in perspective. 

If God is ever-present in out lives it stands to reason then that we are in a constant state of worship and praise in the way we behave and more importantly..the way we live. Even when we are raging against the guy that just cut us off in traffic or when we were wronged and disrespected by someone at church, school or in public.

As Christians we are always in the sanctuary of The Most High. Every minute of our lives is spent directly before His throne. The light and the weight of this should be convictng and our will should meld to God’s thereby dispelling the discontent. The weight of God’s holiness should be driving us not to dwell on our discontent but recognize our discomfort for the mercy that it is. It is a divine reminder to us to confess our sins to God and seek repentance every day, every hour and every minute of the day. We need to humble ourselves before the Almighty God in the Holy place of the sanctuary. We are in His presence no matter where we are...everywhere is holy ground.
Exodus 3:5 ~ "God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."
This is what allows us to outlast the storm. It is indeed a game of two thrones. Whatever takes mastery over life sits on the throne only God deserves. Is it your discontent or God’s intentions behind the discomfort in your life? Asked another way...
“Who or what is your God? The One True God of Scripture or the idol you have made your discontent into and the search for a relief from it?"
Once we recognize the sin and the idol that discontent is, the sooner we can repent of it and put ourselves in the same position as Paul when he says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” Like Paul we need to understand that external circumstance are irrelevant and that God is to be treated with reverence. Our external circumstances are shaped by God but our internal circumstances are our choice. Like every other choice we make that choice can be righteous or unrighteous, sinful or not. 

So i have one more question. Who or what sits on the throne in your life?

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