MGA.The Roots and Fruits of Discontent. Pastor Glen Forsberg.
The sermon seems to be a stand-alone of sorts, which is being used to address the marked state of personal discontent, why it exists, and how to rid oneself of it. Much of the text is taken from the book of Numbers, as well as from Ecclesiastes [more on that later] He begins by distinguishing the types of discontentment, one that is good and one that is bad. A good type of discontent would be the story of Martin Luther King, who was discontent about race relations, and because of that he changed the face of America. A bad type of discontent would be the Israelites grumbling in the desert that Moses delivered them so that they might die. He shares about how there are people who are never satisfied with what they have, and in their ingratitude they covet the material possessions of others. “Their needs are met, and yet they want more. You have water, but you want wine.” He charges that this is pure selfishness, and it is a chronic problem for some people.
Pastor Glen then gives the three roots of this discontentment. The first is mistrust of God. People are faced with circumstances and assumptions that lead to the conclusion that God does not exist, or does not care, or has abandoned them. [example being Aaron and the people building golden calf because they feel God has abandoned them] The second root of discontentment is because we mistrust our leaders. These might be parents, teachers, boss, government, church, etc. They’ve lost our trust, or perhaps have never had it, and we can’t acquiesce to authority figures. [Aaron and Miriam not trusting Moses and the fact that that his leadership was ordained by God] The third root is the attitude of entitlement. We think we deserve better, or we deserve to be where others are. An exmaple the pastor offers is that the opposite of entitlement is story of David vs Saul. David supports Saul, if not at least tacitly, so long as Saul was king, because David didn’t feel entitled to the throne, though he might make a better king.
He then gives four roots of entitlement.
1. Rebellion. This is as the sprit of witchcraft.
2. Futility. Which is the idea that nothing is good or worth living for. We are taught to believe that we are accidents, and there is no purpose in life or any true reason to live, and this makes us futile in our thinking.
3. Blame. When you are discontent and have an attitude of entitlement, you will look for someone to blame. He quotes Numbers 16:3 and talks about the saga of the rebellion of Korah, how people blamed Moses for God killing Korah and his people, an accusation which was wholly misdirected.
4. Death. This is a weird one. Pastor Glen says that the Israelites left wandering in the desert did not die from old age, but from complaining. He says that the only two people to make it into the promise land, Joshua and Caleb, did so because they did not complain.
The thing is that we don’t know why they died wandering, but we know what made them wander in the first place; lack of faith and trust in God. Joshua was 110 years old when he died, and so he was an old man sustained by the Lord through his travails. As such, Pastor Glen’s assertion is pure speculation. Nowhere do we read that anywhere. In fact, we know why Joshua and Caleb were allowed in the promise land.
“But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” Numbers 21-24.
And so I’m not sure what his point is. The reality is that Caleb and Joshua had faith and trust in the Lord and because of this they were rewarded. They did not despise the Lord, but rather had a different spirit about them. I will have to email him about this one, as I’m really not sure what he is trying to say.
To conclude, near the end he says that “The reason for mistrust is because you feel God has abandoned you, or that he doesn’t care. The reason for the attitude of entitlement is because you feel disadvantaged.” He says that the solutions is that we must trust God with our whole heart and not lean on our own understanding. What are other solutions to discontentment? Plant a new tree; the tree of life. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Honour your leaders and submit to the governing authorities. Care for the innocent, etc. Lastly, If there is a holy discontent in our lives, God is calling us to something. If it’s a ignoble discontent, we must repent of it.
I’ve been gone awhile, and I was fairly disheartened to have to return reviewing this sort of sermon. I just don’t understand the point of it. In a way it almost seemed like it was being used to address grumblers in the congregation. I don’t know if that’s true or not, and so I’m not going to speculate on why it was preached, but my impression from hearing many sermons of congregation rebuke was that a few of them may have been getting chastised. Again though, that’s just an impression I get. And such a sermon is not a bad one to preach. I’m just saying that’s what it seemed like. In any case, this sermon seemed to have little to do with the Gospel or with Jesus or really anything spiritual. It was almost like he was preaching self-help with a few biblical subtexts thrown in to make it legit and seem like he was giving the subject of discontentment a thorough biblical treatment. But it seems to me that he failed to identify the problem and failed to diagnose and treat the symptoms
Before I address that though, I want to call attention to one salient point. At one locus during the sermon he misquotes a bible verse. He means to say that a certain verses is located in Lamentations 3 and instead he quotes us Ecclesiastes 3. That’s not too big of a deal, as It’s not the end of the world and happens to everyone. But what really, really bothers me us that he then quotes some bible verses which I cannot find anywhere in the chapter. He says, verbatim:
“Ecclesiastes 3:22. [should read Lamentations 3] Because of the Lord’s great love, we are alive. His compassion never fails, they are new every morning. He does not willingly bring affliction or grief on the children of men, in verse 33. He says ‘I’m looking for a better day. I believe God’s going to lead us there’.”
That’s weird, because my bible says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23. I don’t know know if he had a bible in front of him, or if he was speaking extemporaneously and trying to rattle off the verses by memory, but the reality is that he butchered whatever piece of scripture he was trying to share there, either by ignorance or deceit. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and not assume that he was being deceitful, and so the result unfortunately is a sloppy bit of preaching. From what he said, it seems that he has added some words, deleted others, and then alters the meaning. Furthermore he then tacks on verse 33 in a way that would seem to show that God does not bring pain or affliction on us. And yet that is what this whole chapter and book is about; God directly punishing his people.
Because of the way he has fused verses 22 and 23 with 33, it reads as if God is speaking words of protection and peace over us. And yet you read the chapter and even the book of Lamentations, and you see that the opposite is happening. God is humiliating the people and desiring that they see it as for their own good. God’s anger is burning, though thankfully it is only temporary, but for the moment his wrath is hot upon the people for their faithlessness and infidelities towards him. In Lamentations 43-45 we see that, when it says that God has pursued his people and has killed them without pity, so that his judgment might be thorough. He has wrapped himself in a cloud of his own anger towards his people and he has become silent towards him. And so when it says that the Lord “does not willingly afflict” that carries the literal meaning of “does not afflict from his heart.” God’s first instinct is not to punish, and in fact he does so only when his patience with sinners does not lead to their repentance.
In any case, that bothered me, and that needs to be addressed, because the scriptures did not say what he said it did. Thankfully, a little later on, he makes an excellent point, which is that “So many people feel entitled in our world today. Folks, but for the grace of God we would have nothing and be nothing. It’s because of the goodness of God that we have anything. And that we are something” This is very true, though he didn’t explain it at all, though this is a central key to this whole discontentment thing. Prior to the Lord reaching down and giving us faith and saving us we were children of wrath- objects of God’s wrath really, and we were lost and going to hell. If not for his grace and mercy and loving-kindness, we would have nothing and be nothing, and that’s why we are so thankful that he has saved us and given us faith and repentance. Unfortunately Pastor Glen doesn’t say that, but that is what ought to be communicated.
Why are we discontent? Because we are sinners. That’s it plain and simple. Every single person is discontent, and our only hope to lessen our own selfishness is to have Christ transform us through the long and hard process of sanctification. It’s that simple. We are children of Adam and we are fallen. That’s the root of it all. The problem is that we are not being satisfied in Christ. He is not our all, and we will always be discontent until the love and mercies and joys and blessings and discipline of Christ satisfies us. Because Christ is the source of all satisfaction and contentment, and that is where we always must go in order be restored and reconciled to God. People want more stuff because they are not satisfied by Christ’s goodness to give them a little bit of stuff in the first place. The Israelites wanted more and better food because they were not satisfied with the manna God gave them, nor were they thankful that every day they were being sustained by his hand. People are not happy with their job and are coveting other people’s because in their sin they fail to be pleased and satisfied and sufficiently grateful for the vocation God has given them, and instead seek to elevate themselves in their envy and pride by coveting another. People feel they are entitled, because they have forgotten the work that Christ has died for them on the cross which resulted in their salvation. They take it for granted, and they fail to worship him completely and totally for that. See what I’m saying? Why are people lonely? Because they are not being satisfied by Christ. Why are people hurting, and angry, and fearful, and whatever? Because they are not seeking the One who could satisfy every longing and craving and desire, and who desperately seeks to satiate. Everything is found in Christ, and the pursuit of him, and in the appreciation of him, and in the nearness and intimacy of him.
Root cause of discontent? Sin. Remedy for discontent? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that though we try and fail and stumble and will never live up to the law and to his commands, and will continuously break his heart and wrong him, in his goodness he has died for us on the cross so that we might be forgiven all of that and live in right relationship with him. Going deeper, it’s recognizing that we were saved out of our wretchedness and declared righteous and holy, and in this life we have no one but him. So the ones who are angry and bitter; they need to lay down their weapons raised against God and rest in the goodness of his grace. Those who feel abandoned? Security in the one who sticks closer than a brother. Those who feel entitled; humbled by the immenseness and scope and importance of the work that was done on the cross by Christ, so that we might see that all we deserve is damnation. That’s all we’ve wrought. And the knowledge of that will make even the small kindness and blessing in his life seem like an impossibly generous gift, and will make the gift of eternal life and even more so.
The root of our entitlement is sin. The fruit is sin. The only solution worth hearing about is the Gospel applied to regenerated, born again believers, so that we might be sanctified into his likeness, by drawing close and finding our satisfaction in him. And so in light of that, I just don’t understand this sermon at all.