Balancing Content with Discontent

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

While traveling among the churches in South Africa, I would often sit in my room at night, journaling my experience and how God revealed Himself to me that day.  I’m not a very faithful “journaler” here at home, but I am consistent with it when I travel abroad.  It helps me report back to those who are praying at home.  But often I am not able to articulate what I’m seeing until I get home, as in this particular case.  It wasn’t until I was home, preparing a lesson from Philippians 3-4 that another observation about the South African church struck me.


Paul lived his life in a constant tension between two attitudes which leaned against each other in perfect balance.  The first was his interminable desire to know Christ better.  He had a drive in him to always press forward, always looking for God and always wanting to draw closer to Christ.  His comment in Philippians 3:10 (“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…”) bears witness to this attitude.  Near the very end of his life, the most important writer and church starter of the New Testament church still wanted more of Christ.  It is inspiring.

But leaning up against this constant discontent was the attitude he expresses just one chapter later in Philippians 4: “I have learned to be content in all circumstances…”  Paul was so focused on the eternal, that the temporal, physical circumstances of his life never bothered him much.  Because of this focus, Paul was able to walk in this perfect balance of contentment with the physical but constant discontent  and forward progress with his Spiritual placement with Christ.

A fantastic reminder on the pastor's side of one South African pulpit

And this is when yet another observation of the church in South Africa hit me.  The South African church (at least from my limited perspective of it) has many of the same trappings as the American church.  It has buildings and musical instruments (oh, the music!) and budgets and programs, all the same “stuff” we have.  But I noticed in the hearts of the pastors there (and in the hearts of their people) that there was not nearly so much energy and resources dedicated to making themselves comfortable…not like in the American church.  Temporal circumstances like physical comfort, precisely timed sermons, rigid orders of service, and personal convenience are all pretty clearly secondary to them.  But there was an insatiable desire to hear and understand God’s Word better and there was an expectation in the eyes of most believers when they gathered for worship…an expectation that they were about to meet Christ.  It was more than just refreshing.  It was addictive.  When I was worshiping with them, I honestly never wanted it to be over.

Oh how I long for revival to take place there (they are so very close) so that they can send missionaries here to help us understand this remarkable balance between content and discontent.

© Blake Coffee

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