REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 12: Contentment when it’s easy to be otherwise!
We were at a zoom Morning Prayer on Friday when one of the members prayed a prayer for those who are working hard to be content in their circumstances. Understandably, the example was of younger parents wishing park playgrounds would be open soon.
It was a good prayer that made me realise that I was becoming discontent by allowing myself to become focussed on what I am not able to do rather than rejoicing in what I can. Perhaps I am the only one who feels this temptation, but just in case I’m not, here a few thoughts that have come into my mind today as to how I can make this an opportunity for my contentment to grow. Put another way and to borrow a similar book title, how can I not waste my discontent? (I think the book title would be ‘don’t waste your discontent!’ Here goes:
- It was good to have Sam pray his prayer for those in his pastoral care. Thankfully this not only enabled Christine and I join in his prayer, but alerted me to the simple fact that I need to take myself in hand and pray for my own contentment.
- As I was walking around our local park I realised that there are so many reasons for me to be content. Just being able to walk for one, not to mention the glorious weather with a fresh, but not too chilly edge, all bathed in sunshine. No bombs to avoid, no major risk of infection and the list goes on.
- We were reminded during the service from Exodus 35:20-36:7 of the remarkable willingness of those normally recalcitrant grumblers, aka as the people of Israel, in giving themselves and their goods so willingly to build the tabernacle. I have been the beneficiary of so many generous Christians (not only in providing buildings in which to worship and fellowship but to employ pastors who have helped me as a disciple of Jesus). Of all people in this world I have more reasons than most to be content.
- One of these is that I have always sat under ministers of the gospel who have been pre-occupied with both living like and making Jesus known, and central to our thinking and lifestyle. I observed them living out the apostles’ exhortation to 1 Timothy 4:15-16 and example to the Thessalonians 1Thess 2:7-9). Indeed by seeing the latter, I was moved by God to believe, and hopefully practise the former.
- But it was also my privilege to observe many parishioners whose example commended the Lord Jesus, confirmed that the Bible was not only authoritative, but entirely sufficient in giving us everything we need for knowing God through Christ alone and living for Him under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-18, Ephesians 2:8-10, 2 Thess. 2:16-17). With pastors who preached Christ as Lord, and fellow believers, both peers and elders, seeking to wholeheartedly live in Christlike ways, how can I remain discontent?
- I saw in them models of contentment, since many were struggling with health, financial, family difficulties and the usual ups and downs of life outside of Eden. No pandemics for sure, but sharing in and finding grace (like the apostle 2 Cor. 12:7-10) to contentedly grow in their circumstances.
- This led to two compelling fruits. The first to enable them to become absorbed in comforting others as a result of finding God’s comfort themselves (2 Cor. 1:3-7). The second to grow in the assurance of daily renewal (no doubt the ministry of the Holy Spirit, compare 3:18) and growth as minds and hearts were drawn more to the counter-cultural 4:18: so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
- Though comparisons are so often odious, they can be beneficial when they remind us, as we were in the prayers at our zoom service, of the far worse effects of the pandemic in places like the UK and USA and for out of work persecuted believers and those whose nations are much poorer than ours. My discontentment is given a massive wakeup call as I remember how well off I really am here in Australia.
- There are plenty of Biblical reminders and exhortations that will assist me to be content. Hebrews 13:5-6 and 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Luke 3:7-14 come immediately to mind.
- The beneficiaries of my winning the battle with the discontentment temptation are firstly myself, then those who have to live with me, not to mention my fellow believers but also those who will benefit from my contentment. This will only be complete when my discontent blossoms into gratitude for what I have, which will free me up to share my (God-given) bounty with others. This appears to be the genius of the apostle expressed in Ephesians 4:28, where a thief is only truly converted when he has become an active giver.
Peter Brain 9th May, 2020