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Overcoming Discontentment

I Corinthians 7:17-35

Ever since the beginning of creation, when the first creatures came from the hand of God, there has always been someone, somewhere, unhappy with his position in the universe. It all started with an angel named Lucifer, the brightest star of the heavenly firmament, who was not satisfied to be the apex of God’s creation. He wanted something more than his assigned position as the greatest of all created beings. His seething discontentment caused him to lead a rebellion against the Most High. Fully one-third of the angels joined with him in his abortive quest to overthrow the Throne of the Lord. For his rebellion, he and his followers were kicked out of heaven. Ever since that dark day, he has been known as Satan and the devil, and he has been the implacable foe of God and all his works.

It was discontentment that made him do it. And discontentment has been one of his best weapons ever since. His earliest triumph came in the Garden of Eden when he sowed seeds of discontentment in Eve’s unsuspecting heart. By misquoting the Lord, he made Eve think that God was somehow trying to cheat her, to keep her down, to keep her from becoming “like God.” So Eve took the fruit and ate it. She gave it to Adam and he ate it. Thus did sin enter the human bloodstream. The seeds of discontentment brought forth the bitter harvest of disobedience, which led to the loss of paradise and the entrance of evil into our world.

Unhappy Ever Since

And ever since then we have been an unhappy race. After Eden we have never been fully satisfied with anything on earth. And we’re still not satisfied thousands of years later. We always want something different.

If we’re young, we want to be older. If we’re old, we wish we were younger.

If it’s old, we want something new. If it’s new, we want something newer.

If it’s small, we want something bigger. If it’s big, we want something really big.

If we have a hundred dollars, we want two hundred. If we have two hundred, we want five hundred.

If we have an apartment, we want a condo. If we have a condo, we want a house. If we have a house, we want a bigger house. Or a new house. Or a nicer house. Or maybe we want to scale down and live in an apartment again.

If we have a job, we dream of a better job, a bigger job, a closer job, with a bigger office, a better boss, better benefits, more challenge, bigger opportunity, nicer people to work for, and more vacation time.

If we’re single, we dream of being married. If we’re married, … (you can finish that sentence yourself.).

We Were Born Discontented

None of this is unusual in any way. We were born discontented and some of us stay that way forever. And a certain amount of discontentment can be good for the soul. It’s not wrong to have dreams about what the future might hold. The hope of something better drives us forward and keeps us working, inventing, striving, creating and innovating. But there is a kind of discontentment that leads in a wrong direction. Here are five signs that discontentment is dragging us down spiritually:

1) Envy. The inability to rejoice at the success of others.

2)Uncontrolled Ambition. The desire to win at all costs, no matter what it takes or who gets trampled in the process.

3)Critical Spirit. The tendency to make negative, hurtful, cutting remarks about others.

4)Complaining Spirit. The disposition to make excuses and to blame others or bad circumstances for our problems. A refusal to take personal responsibility. Inability to be thankful for what we already have.

5)Outbursts of Anger. Angry words spoken because our expectations were not met.

The discontented person looks around and says, “I deserve something better than this.” Because he is never happy and never satisfied, he drags others into the swamp with him. No wonder Benjamin Franklin declared, “Contentment makes a poor man rich, discontent makes a rich man poor.” Discontentment is the cancer of the soul. It eats away our joy, corrodes our happiness, destroys our outlook on life, and produces a terminal jaundice of the soul so that everything looks negative to us. We cannot be happy because we will not be happy. We cannot be satisfied because we will not be satisfied. Such a person is truly a lost soul—miserable today and miserable tomorrow.

So how can we overcome this debilitating condition? I believe the answer (as always) lies with good theology. Sin always stems from wrong thinking about God, about ourselves, and about life in general. First Corinthians 7 contains some amazingly helpful insights about discontentment even though the word itself is never used. This chapter is unique in that it was written by the Apostle Paul in answer to some specific questions put to him by the believers in the church at Corinth. One problem we have is that this chapter contains Paul’s answers, but not the original questions. We have to infer the question by studying the context. We know in a general way that the Corinthians asked about marriage, divorce and singleness. The middle section of this chapter contains some excellent teaching on these topics that applies directly to the question of contentment versus discontentment. For the purposes of this message, let’s look together at four principles that will help us face and overcome the problem of discontentment.

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