As the world attempts to fight its way out of the lingering effects of pandemic lockdowns and global recession, the big question that the international Body of Christ needs to ask itself is clear:
What is the message God is sending to His Church today?
Many Christians firmly believe that the latest world developments prove that we are close to the return of Christ, or at least that this pandemic was a very strong birth pang leading up to the end (Matthew 24:8). Others believe that this is the beginning of a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit—a revival of biblical and epic proportions (Matthew 24:14; Joel 2:28-32). And lastly, a growing number of Christians are looking at this in a more personal way. They are asking themselves, "What is God telling me to do with my life? What needs changing? Where should my priorities lie going forward?"
At the very least, these last three months have been a wakeup call to the Church.
My recent talks with national church leaders have revealed an overwhelmingly consistent theme. In sharing their appraisals, they talk not only about where the Church is at this point in time, but also where God is leading them in the future. Believers from every corner of the globe are receiving one clear message from the Lord, and this message is comprised of five main components. Not surprisingly, these are the same components that comprise an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which many of the national churches are experiencing today:
An Insatiable Hunger for God's Word
In the next few editions of Situation Report - Good News, I will share with you these elements, one at a time, accompanied by updates on current and positive Kingdom developments. The first installment for today is Contentment.
A good friend of mine, Stephen Harbridge, who is a leader in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, recently sent out this insightful teaching that encapsulates the principle of contentment. I have pulled from his article several key sections that are fundamental to where the Lord is leading us as believers. He entitled it, "Want What you Have".
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:11-13
So…I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting these days on the mental and emotional effects of COVID-19. One thing I’m hearing God say to me in this season is, “Learn to want what you have.” That’s what Paul is revealing as the secret to living in “any and every situation” of life. Contentment—the quality or state of being satisfied; having a soul at rest. Contentment is synonymous with happiness. Happy are the people who want what they have.
In our western—“first world”—culture, happiness is gained by having what we want, not by wanting what we have. It’s this pursuit of happiness that drives consumerism and fuels our economy. Advertisers appeal to this human nature by creating discontentment so as to motivate sales. It is this same human nature that is presently being exposed by the effects of COVID-19.
I considered myself to be a fairly contented person. I didn’t want for much. That is, until COVID-19 took away what I had—my freedom to visit my family; my ability to gather with friends; the environment of safety I have come to expect; the plans I had and the freedom to fellowship with other believers for corporate worship, to name a few. To be honest, I’ve come to realize just how much my pre-COVID contentment/happiness has been dependent on these privileges and expectations. And I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. There are a lot of unhappy and discontented people these days.
James associates anger with discontentment. He asks the question, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Then he answers it himself. “It’s because you’re not getting what you want right now. You’re discontented and unhappy. So you resort to aggression to get what you want so you can be happy again.” (James 4:1,2) I’m hearing from angry pastors and parishioners who are contemplating civil disobedience because they want to get back to Sunday gatherings. We’re starting to read about armed protestors in the US marching on state government buildings. I read the other day of a customer assaulting a grocery store clerk. Discontentment, and its emotional expressions, is at an all-time high and we Christians are not immune to it.
I’ve been asked by many what the “new normal” will look like. I don’t know for sure, but whatever else it will be, it will require re-learning the secret of contentment. The key to happiness and anger management is not getting back what we’ve lost, but adjusting our wants and expectations to accept what we now have and will have in the future. And to be thankful for it! This won’t be easy. We will need the help of Christ. This is the true context for Paul’s statement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It’s in the real challenges we’re facing today that we need the strength of Christ…
…So, how can I endure this present situation, and learn to be happy in what will be the “new normal”? I can choose to lower my expectations of self and others. I can choose to trust God to supply my daily needs. I can choose to focus on the blessings of the Lord. I can choose to want what I have. And I can choose to be thankful for it.
This is a lesson God is teaching me in this season. Happiness doesn’t come from having what I want. Happiness comes from wanting what I have.
I still remember interviewing a leader from one of Ethiopia's historical religions, who impressed me at my first meeting with him as a man who constantly smiled, and exuded joy and serenity. He said to me, "When I found Jesus, I found what I had always been searching for—peace and contentment. Now that I have Him, I want for nothing, and I can finally rest!" What I saw in this former sheikh is precisely what we are noticing in the world today. The discontent that unbelievers experience because they base their lives on temporal and earthly treasures is vastly superseded by the riches that we have in Jesus, our Saviour. When we cease dwelling on the world's news for a few minutes, and simply listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit reminding us of our position in Christ, we calm down quickly. When we open our Bibles and read verses confirming our safety in trusting a loving Father who embraces us and supplies all of our needs, we sense a growing peace within us knowing we are His children.
Therefore, remember this—contentment is a sign of being a believer in Christ. It is a badge that we wear before a watching world, revealing the power of the Holy Spirit to indwell and control born-again believers.
Christians are becoming known worldwide not as those who want, but as those who are satisfied with what we "have" in Christ.
Our next installment will focus on humility as a key element in a revival. Until then, be safe and encouraged in Christ.