Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Contentment in Christ and Service to Others

While doing some research earlier today, I came across something I wrote a few years ago on the connection between contentment in Christ and service to others. It's been so long since I wrote this, that it almost felt as though I was reading someone else's writing! By the grace of God, it served as a good reminder for me, and I hope it will for you, too. 

Our Father uses every single part of the body to build up the body in love to the glory of his name (Ephesians 4:1-16). There are no extra parts, there are no unnecessary parts, there are no superior parts, there are no inferior parts—rather we who are many become one in Christ as each of us submits to the Father and plays the part he’s given us to play. And in this way God utilizes the differences in gifting and position among us to work for the unity rather than the disunity of the church. What a mighty and gracious and ingenious God we serve! 

So for those of us who are leaders in the church, or who aspire to be leaders some day, we must understand that we’re not called to be big-shots or to make much of ourselves or to lord it over people. As our Lord said in Math 20:25ff, we know that the rulers of this world seek to lord over others and that they take much delight in exercising their authority. But it’s not to be that way among us. Rather, whoever would be great among us must become a true servant and whoever would be first among us must become a true slave. We must die to ourselves, die to our agendas, die to our right to govern our lives, and put ourselves in the hands of the Master for the glory of his name and the good of his church. Power in the church is always power for others and never simply power over others. 

And I think what enables leaders to embrace this way of thinking in the depths of their hearts is this: contentment in Christ. When a person’s soul is not content in Christ, when Christ is not enough for them, they tend to seek after power or prestige or possessions or pleasures or praise in order to fill up the infinite black hole that’s swirling at the center of their soul. But the problem with this pursuit is that the things of this world are finite and they can never fill up the infinite longings of our hearts. They may satisfy for a time but in the end they will always disappoint. They will always fade away. They will always leave us longing for more and feeling like we’re worse off now than we were when we started—that’s just the nature of the things of this world. I remember hearing a famous actor say some years ago, after he had reached the top of the world and gained access to all the things of the world, “Is this all there is?" And that’s the inevitable feeling of hopelessness one always feels when he or she tries to fill the infinite longings of the heart with the finite things of this world. 

But when, by the grace of God, a person turns to Christ and learns what it means to be content in him alone, he simply has no need to clamor for earthly things like power and position and praise because Christ is enough for him. He becomes free to lay his life down for the good of others without thought of himself because Christ has become his all in all. If he’s called to serve as a Pastor, great. If he’s called to serve as an administrative assistant, great. If he’s called to have secular employment and serve the church as a volunteer, great. If he’s called to be a prayer warrior who no one ever sees or recognizes, great. The particular role he plays is completely unimportant because his satisfaction is in Christ alone and his joy is to do the will of God alone. So I say again to those of us who are leaders in the church, or who aspire to be leaders, let us content ourselves in Christ alone and take our joy from being a servant, even a slave, of his people. 

And for those of us who are called to submit to the authority of God’s appointed leaders—which, by the way, is all of us—I would say much the same thing. A person who does not submit to authority is a person who is not content in Christ. A person who rebels against authority is a person who rebels against Christ. I understand that it takes time to build trust and to lay our lives in the hands of others, especially for those who’ve been wounded in the past. But I’m talking about the person who, even over time, is unwilling to submit to authority—that person is not content in Christ and is in rebellion against Christ. 

But a person who’s content in Christ and therefore delights to do his will, gladly submits to whatever authorities Christ places in his or her life. She won’t dwell so much on the particulars of who she’s submitting to and why, rather she’ll look to Christ and trust in him and gladly play whatever role he’s assigned to her. Her joy will be found in being one with Christ and participating with him in the great work of the Kingdom and frankly the details of her particular position will be unimportant to her. So I say again to those of us who are called to submit to authority, which is all of us, may we all learn the beauty of faith-filled, humble submission, knowing that Christ means to build us into one body and one temple and someday take us as his bride.

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