Tag Archives: godliness

How my Google Home taught me about discontentment (and how to be more content)

3 May

My smart phone was due for an upgrade recently, so when an advertisement came via email offering the newest version of my phone; I took a look.  The advertisement on that email said that if I pre-purchased the new phone—it was due to be released in a few weeks—I could also get a Google Home and a new TV.  I was ON THAT.

We didn’t need these things.  We already have a TV.  Our life is fine without a Google home.  But they were free!!!!

My new phone eventually arrived in the mail, and I got it set up, but there was no Google Home and no TV.  I started questioning.  Was I too late in signing up?  Nah, couldn’t be…I signed up literally within hours of receiving the email.  Where was the TV or Google Home?  A feeling rose up inside me.  You know what that feeling was?  Discontent.

I called my cell carrier because I wanted to know what happened.  They told me that I had to go to a separate website and register my info, sales receipt, etc., and that’s how I could redeem the offer.   I found the website for the Google Home offer and got my info registered and approved!  Yes!

Then when the email came that my Google home was being shipped, you know what I did?  I tracked that sucker five times every day till it was on my front porch.

But there didn’t seem to be a way on the promotional website to redeem the TV.  That led to more discontent!  Why did this have to be so hard?  I started feeling grumpy.  What if I had never called them?  This was horrible customer service!

I called them again.  They told me to go back to the same website.  What?  I was already there.  There was no button to redeem the TV offer like there was for the Google Home.  Oh, I needed to read the fine print…the TV offer wouldn’t go live for another week.  You know what I did?  I set up an appointment in my calendar for the day the TV offer website would go live and made sure I wouldn’t forget.  I had to get my TV.

Discontentment.  The TV still isn’t here.

Is it possible to find contentment in life?  Will I feel better when the TV arrives?  Maybe I should call again to make sure it is on its way?  Have you experienced any similar feelings in your life?

We continued our Sunday morning series through 1st Timothy this past week, and in 1 Timothy 6:3-10 we learned in verse 6 that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  That’s a short, but loaded phrase!

What is godliness?  What is contentment?  Let’s take a closer look.

While Paul refers to godliness in verse 6, he had already referred to it in verse 5, but very differently. Look at the end of verse 5.  He says that those false teachers (he called them arrogant ignorant false teachers) thought that godliness would lead to financial gain. Paul says in verse 5 that those false teachers are robbed of truth.  They think godliness will lead to financial gain, and they are simply wrong.

So what is this godliness he is talking about? In the original language this word is defined as “appropriate beliefs and devout practice of obligations relating to supernatural persons and powers—‘religion, piety.’[1]

We Christians tend to dislike the word “religion”.  We say that when it comes to our faith in Jesus, it is not a religion but a relationship.  Religion gives us the idea of buildings and set prayers and rules and something very fake and empty.  We say relationship is where it’s at.  Talking and walking with Jesus and having lives transformed, filled with the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control.

So what is Paul talking about here?  A religion or a relationship?  Because he says in verse 5 that the false teachers think godliness leads to financial gain, that kind godliness must be a false religion, right?  The problem is he uses the very same word in verse 6 when he says that godliness with contentment is great gain.

Look at the definition of godliness again.  It actually encompasses both religion and relationship.  Religion and piety. Religion refers to outward acts of connecting with God, while piety is inward, relational, what we would call our heart and mind connecting with God.

That means godliness is a very well-rounded word here.  You can see why Paul would use it.  So he says godliness is not a means to financial gain.  We should not be using the outward or inward elements of our connection with God to try to enrich ourselves financially.  Using God for personal gain is the stuff of the arrogant and ignorant.

Instead, Paul says godliness with contentment is great gain.  What, then, is contentment?

Contentment is “The state of being content with one’s circumstances or lot in life.”

Have you heard that you are not supposed to use the word you are defining when creating a definition of that word.  So for example, “running is when you run.”  That might be true, but we have not learned much about running in that definition.  How about “running is the act of moving your legs rapidly, starting from a standing position then allowing your body to go in motion”?

So therefore, how do we define contentment?  It can’t just be “the state of being content”. We discussed this at sermon roundtable, and one person said that “contentment is to know that we are children of the King, and he will care for us.”   Additionally, we are content when we feel an inner sense of being okay with ourselves.  One author describes it like this:

“Self–sufficiency in a good sense, sufficiency with oneself as spoken of a satisfied mind or disposition[2].”

I like that.  A satisfied mind.

There is such a thing as holy discontent.  That is when something is not right, maybe an injustice is happening, and you feel discontent about it.  Holy discontent motivates you to right what is wrong.  Paul is not talking about that.

Paul is talking about being content in life.  Contentment is a satisfied mind.  I will admit that this one is a struggle for me.  I don’t always handle stress well.  The years of 2013-2015 had some difficult elements.  And in the late summer/fall of 2015 I started experiencing strong anxiety and even a couple panic attacks.  I was not content with life.  I did not have a satisfied mind.  I couldn’t sleep well, and I needed help. And I sought out that help.

For me discontent has manifested itself emotionally.  Discontentment might also be experiential.  What I mean is that we might be very tempted by the things of this world.   We live in a culture where we are trained to be discontent. Businesses want us to be discontent.  They create advertising so that we will feel discontent and buy their products, which they promise us will make us feel good.

 

Instant gratification trains us to only be happy if we get what we want immediately.  What is the trend of the week that we have to have in order to feel satisfied? The reality is that many of us think it is completely normal, this ongoing discontentment.  We feel that if we have things to hold on to, or if we have the right clothes, gadgets, homes, then we will feel fulfilled, normal.  As if that is just the way life is.

What does this say about us?  What is going on inside us that we can be deceived into believing that these things can provide us the satisfaction we deeply desire?  It is what some have called the “empty self”.  A God-shaped hole. That’s a big hole to fill.  No amount of stuff can fill that hole.

That’s why this principle is so very important!  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Paul’s statement is a direct judgment to those false preachers who look to godliness to achieve financial gain.

But Paul says that true gain is only found in the combination of godliness with contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6 could be translated like this:

“Religion is a source of great wealth if it is accompanied by contentment with what one has.”[3]

If you are like me, struggling with discontent, then what I say next probably sound very normal. I have literally asked God for $1,000,000 as that would pay off our mortgage, pay off small debts, and get our kids set for college.  What this prayer request shows me is that I am not content, and I believe that removing money concerns from my life will make me feel better.

How many of us think more money will help us feel content?  Paul warns us about this in verses 7-9.  We think the things of this world will be the answer to our discontentment, but what we need is to learn to be content with just a few things like food and clothing.  Contentment comes, Paul says, when we learn to be satisfied with just a few things.  And that is a battle in our society.  But it is a battle followers of Jesus must fight.

Why?  Because discontent can lead to disaster.  It’s a trap, a temptation that is too powerful for most. Paul says, “Nope.  The love of money is a root of all evil.”  To be clear, money is not the problem.  Money is neutral.  It is the love of money that is the problem.

I can’t tell you how many times you will hear the phrase “money is the root of all evil.”  That is not what Paul says.  Look at verse 10.  It is the “love of money”.  It is a heart issue.  It is greed, avarice.  Who can spot what is wrong with this picture?

Image result for in greed we

“In greed we trust”.   It should be “In God we trust.”  But money is temptress and trap.

Money shows how discontent we are.  Like this guy:

When you love money, you are greedy, you are passionate about wanting more and more.  And that is why it so often leads to evil.  Theft, crime. Though we might not be in prison because we committed a financial crime, we might have done some other things.

Did you strive to report your taxes properly?

What about the issue of being demanding when you are not treated right or given the right deal on something you purchased.  Might greed be at the root of that desire?  We might say “Well, I wasn’t treated right, and I want justice.”  Justice is quite important, but is it possible that we can use justice to mask greed?

When we recently visited our son who completed Army Basic Training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, we arrived at our hotel to find they had given our party of four a room that slept two.  There were literally no rooms left in the hotel.  None in their sister hotel.  None in two other hotels nearby.  It was 1:30am.  I slept on the floor.  The next day, thankfully, a room opened up in their sister hotel next door and we moved over.  But that day I spent some time talking with management about this.  My internal question was how far should we go in getting a refund for the inconvenience?  I had the confirmation email which clearly stated the type of room we paid for.  The hotel was wrong.  They gave our room to someone else, and they took the blame for their mistake.  Were we not due a refund or discount for our troubles?

Or maybe that sense of what was due us was motivated at least in part by greed? Maybe “godliness with contentment” could help us to view this situation from another angle?  Maybe we could take the hit and show grace?  Just like Jesus did for us?  At what point do I just allow myself to be content and avoid the nagging feeling of greed that wants more and more.  As Paul said in Corinthians “why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be faulted?”

So what does it mean to live a content life?

Evaluate your life.  Get someone who will provide a real honest assessment to evaluate you.

Seek examples to emulate.  Who is an easily recognizable person or example of someone who demonstrates contentment in life?

Contentment is possible.  Not in money.  Not in material things.  But only in Christ.  So pursue godliness.

 

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996 : 530. Print.
[2] Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament 2000 : n. pag. Print.
[3] Louw & Nida, 298.

Do you need a spiritual HIIT trainer?

22 Mar

Image result for spiritual training

Have you heard of HIIT?  High Intensity Interval Training.  This winter my workout partners and I have done some HIIT workouts.  They’re really tiring.  You exercise hard for 20 secs, take a 10 sec rest, and then exercise again, rest again, etc.  We’ve done a variety of exercises and work/rest patterns, and every time we finish, I’m wiped out.  Then at night, I’m sore.

So you might like to know that we did a HIIT workout at the beginning of my sermon this past Sunday! We did 8 rounds of 20 sec exercise and 10 rest.  4 minutes.  It was great!  I invited anyone from the congregation who wanted to come up front and do the workout.  About ten people of all ages came up front, while one lady from our congregation who is a HIIT trainer led us in exercises.  That 4 minutes is all it took for me to start sweating.  When it was over, I tried to continue with the sermon, and I couldn’t catch my breath.

You do a 4 minute HIIT workout and then try to read the Bible out loud!!!  It’s hard!!!

So why would I have our congregation do a HIIT workout in a worship service?  Read the passage I was struggling to read, and see if you can find out.  It is 1 Timothy 4:6-10.

In that passage Paul teaches Timothy to do two things: Stop and Start.

Stop anyone who is involved in telling false stories.  Start training yourselves for godliness.  The word “train” where we get our English word Gymnasium. It is the Greek word “Gymnadzo” and the scholars tells us that it means “to control oneself by thorough discipline…In a number of languages the equivalent of ‘to discipline oneself’ is literally ‘to make oneself obey.’ This may sometimes be expressed as ‘to command one’s heart.”[1]

Before we look at explaining what spiritual discipline toward godliness is all about, look at what Paul says in verse 8. He says that bodily discipline does have value, but he describes it as some/little value. Godliness, though, has value for all things.  It has promise, Paul says, for the present life and for the life to come. So physical training is good.  But its value is of comparatively small value to spiritual training. Physical training benefits us for the here and now, whereas spiritual training benefits us here, now and for eternity.

Paul is saying that spiritual training, then, should be given more time and priority. How about you?

I spend a lot of time in physical training, and I do not look at my time spent running or working out as wasted time.  Not one second of it.  I think it is really important.  The question I need to ask is whether or not I give spiritual training an ample amount of time.

Let’s talk about spiritual training, then.  What does Paul mean in verse 7 when he says “train yourself to be godly”?  To try to answer that, let me first ask you: What does it take to be physically fit?

If you ask me how to train to be physically fit, that is a pretty easy question to answer.  Look at a show like The Biggest Loser, and they have it all worked out.  It involves exercising, a trainer, and healthy eating.  Then take those components and implement them consistently in your life.  What happens?  The pounds fall off your body, and your build muscle.  Ailments start to fade.  A person moves from sickness to health.   I love that show.  I love to see the transformation take place in people’s lives.

Probably because I personally experienced a bit of that myself.

You don’t have to get on The Biggest Loser to train yourself physically.  There are tons of local gyms with trainers and there are training apps.  For me it was Joe Yu.  Joe was an LBC student and pastoral intern here at Faith Church back in 2008-2009.  He also had a background in being an exercise trainer.  He was regularly asking me to work out.  I was in seminary then and never thought I had time.  Then my wife Michelle also started saying I should work out.  I knew I had gained weight over the years, but nothing out of control.  Had some back problems.

One day after Thanksgiving 2009 Joe was at our house, and he and Michelle were both saying I should starting working out.  I said “Ok, ok…but the only time I could meet is early in the morning.”  Joe was a part-time security guard late at night, and I figured it wouldn’t work for him.  So he shocked me when he said “Great! Let’s do it!”  Joe is a very enthusiastic guy.  So that next week, we met up at the gym at 5:30am.  Joe brought one of his friends along, Matt, who was a professor at LBC and also very into training.

I’ll never forget that first day.  And especially that first night.  Those guys put me through a beginning training workout that morning.  At night, I was SO sore.  I woke up in pain, and then put muscle cream on.  But I put too much cream on, and it stunk up the room.  I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.  Michelle couldn’t sleep because of the smell!

Little by little, though, through Joe and Matt training me, leading me, encouraging me, my weight came off.  I started working out four times per week, and eating less, cutting out sugar.  In about six months, I figure I lost 50 pounds.

The running started that spring when Brandon Hershey, Matt Marvin and I ran my first 5K, the Race Against Racism in the city. Now years later at Faith Church we have an informal running group that has completed 3 half marathons and 2 full marathons, and a slew of other events.  We do quite a bit to help each other out.  Accountability during training.  Entering events to give us motivation to achieve a goal.

For me it was personal, and it was communal.  I wasn’t shocked by any of the methodology it took to get fit.  And I think most of us have a pretty good idea of what getting physically fit will entail.  We might not do it, but we at least know how.

But what about training for godliness?  How do we do that?

Spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible, praying, deeply participating in a church family, are all wonderful steps to take.  But I have to admit, those are all standard answers.  Good answers, but they bring to my mind some questions:

Do you do these things on a regular basis?  More time than you give to physical exercise?  More time than you give to TV, phone, etc.

If you don’t do them, why?

And if you do them, have you found them to be helpful in training you to become more godly?

If not, what else do you need to do to train yourself to be godly?

Could it be that something more is needed?  As I think about how I’ve experienced physical fitness, it has always been best accomplished with other people.  Especially when I’ve had people training me, leading, me, helping me see the way forward, encouraging me, holding me accountable.  So when it comes to your spiritual life, maybe you need a trainer?  Spiritual Director.

When we have done marathons and half-marathons, we have done 18 or 12 week training programs.  You run 4 or 5 times per week.  And you follow the plan.  You don’t want to get to race day unprepared.  Race day is going to be hard enough.  But if you don’t train, it might mean either the race will be super painful, or unfinishable.  So we faithfully follow the training plan, and little by little it builds you up to run 26.2 miles.

But do we give anything close to that amount of time and energy to allowing a spiritual director to train us?

Keep that question in mind.  If you know a trainer at the gym could help you get physically fit, then how much time have you spent with a spiritual trainer to get spiritual fit?

This makes me think again of discipleship.  We all should be training ourselves to be godly.  We don’t have to hire a professional spiritual director, though I suspect that for most of us hiring a spiritual director would be a good thing.

During my upcoming sabbatical one activity that I am going to seek out is a spiritual director.  There is a Jesuit retreat center that offers spiritual direction retreats for 5, 7, and even 30 days.

And here in our church family we should also focus on discipleship relationships that emphasize helping one another train for godliness. Who is helping to train you for godliness? And then after you answer the question about who is training you for godliness, the next question to answer is “Who are you training for godliness?”

Paul will say to Timothy in his next letter, in 2 Timothy 2:2, “the things you’ve heard me say, teach other also, so they can teach.”  Paul trained Timothy, and then he wanted Timothy to train others, so that others could train even more!

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

Go out and get a book that will coach you on how to train for godliness:  Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life – Donald Whitney.  This is a book that is like a trainer.

I urge you to read that book, and then pick one spiritual discipline to work on this year.  But don’t do it alone.  Get a trainer to help you.  Talk with someone who is better at this spiritual discipline and have them train you!

 

Next, who is your spiritual trainer?

Who are you training?

Have a trainer, be a trainer!

 

 

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 751. Print.