the baby and the bathwater

September 23, 2008, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

content: satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

I have learned the secret of being content (Philippians 4, 12)

What is the secret of being content?

Contentment seems to be a quality in very short supply in our time and in our culture. In fact, more often that not, discontentment abounds. Most obvious in material things, it also rears it’s often unattractive head in relationships, in family life, in work and career. And it also seems to be evident by the bucket load in ministry. We want the bigger portfolio, we want the wider repute, we want the greater sales, we want to be leading the bigger conference.

And actually, some discontentment is good. It is good to want more of God, it is good to want more of his kingdom reign. It is good to want to be more effective in our lives. But how do we differentiate between a ‘good’ discontentment, and a ‘bad’ discontentment, because the lines are often very blurred (or at least, it is very easy for us to make them seem blurred).

It seems to me that most people I come across in ministry know their identity in Jesus. They know that they are saved, that they are a children God, that God loves them and has set them apart for a purpose. But there are far fewer people that have gone beyond this and worked out what that purpose is: what their calling really is. This lack of understanding about calling leaves a vacuum which gets filled with unhealthy ambition which all-to-often is never really satisfied, and leads to constant discontentment.

The ‘bad’ sort.

It tends to result in the chasing after things that shouldn’t be chased after in order to gain praise or recognition; trying to build empires of responsibility and influence that give an illusion of purpose and power; fighting your own corner to give an impression of significance or importance. In a word – insecurity.

Discontentment and insecurity. What a potentially explosive and destructive combination!

So the question is – do we really know what our God given calling is?

Of course, it’s very hard to condense into a few sentences but for me:

I think I am called to be a dedicated ‘second chair’ leader. Understanding this stops me trying to pursue being the ‘number one’ in a church, going for ordination, or church planting; I think I am primarily called to lead worship in my church. Understanding this stops me feeling undervalued when I don’t get asked to do hundreds of huge conferences all over the world; I think I am called to write and not preach. Understanding this means that I am not putting wasted energy in getting better at public speaking, or getting distracted to pursue speaking engagements; I think I am primarily called to be a songwriter, but not a recording artists. It means I focus my time writing songs, either on my own, or in partnership, and don’t try and pursue record deals; I think I am more and more called to use what position and influence I have to give other people every chance of success. It means that when people I invest in do well, or better than me, I take it as a compliment rather than a threat.

And in this process I have found out that often my effectiveness, my passions, my enjoyment, my strengths all tend to point towards my calling. The things that come more naturally point to the things I think I should, if I can, put most of my efforts into.

It’s not that calling doesn’t change over time – God may very quickly shut some doors and open others – and so we constantly need to have listening ears. But there is a great sense of contentment at understanding what we are called to do, and trying to do that – and only that – with as much enthusiasm and excellence and fruitfulness as possible.


3 Comments so far
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Content-ers ready….gladiators ready…

Comment by Andy

but oh to be both.

Comment by Neil Bennetts

Strength and honour…

Comment by Andy

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