Dear Church Family,
Last week, I was driving in my car with my two oldest boys and listening to the local classic rock station on the radio (Yes, the days of ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round’ are over – Praise the Lord!). Suddenly, I heard the familiar guitar licks of the intro to the 1993 Aerosmith song, “Living on the Edge.” You have to understand. I owned this album when it first came out, but unfortunately had to sell it when I was in seminary (not because I was convicted that I needed to clean out my music collection; actually, I was convicted that I needed to eat more than I needed that CD, so I sold it to a local store that traded in used CDs).
Learning from Aerosmith
Anyway, as the song began, I cranked it up and yelled to my sons, “Listen to this song! This is awesome!” As my boys listened and I belted out the lyrics along with Steve Tyler, I was struck by the fact that not only was the song musically enjoyable (for me, anyway), but the lyrics are actually a bit profound. Now, before you go bashing my musical taste or accuse me of musical child-abuse, hear me out [By the way, not that it’s the end all of musical standards, but the song did win a Grammy for best rock performance by a duo or group in 1993.]. The song is actually a reflection on the sorry state of the world, and there’s even a reference to how our world is different than how God intended it. Here are the first two stanzas of the song:
There’s something wrong with the world today
I don’t know what it is
Something’s wrong with our eyes
We’re seeing things in a different way
And god knows it ain’t his
It sure ain’t no surprise
OK, it’s not the most profound set of lyrics ever written. Granted. Still, it struck me that this song expresses the sense of most people, believers and unbelievers alike.
Learning from William Cowper
Then, this past Sunday in our morning worship service, we sang “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper. Obviously, the tune will not get your blood pumping like an Aerosmith song (that’s kind of the point), but the words are much more profound and based in Scripture. William Cowper edifies in ways that Steve Tyler never could. Cowper (1731-1800) lived a life of many afflictions. His mother died when he was six. He was bullied at his boarding school. Throughout his life, he suffered from severe bouts of depression and ‘madness.’
And while this song touches on a similar theme as “Living on the Edge” (the world does not seem right to us), Cowper encourages a much different response for the Christian. Consider the last three verses of this hymn:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Cowper reminds us that, for the believer, though the world does not seem right to us, though our life in this world is marked by affliction and discontent, “behind a frowning providence, [the Lord] hides a smiling face.” Our present life may have a “bitter taste,” but in eternity “sweet will be the flow’r.” And, one day, God will make plain His purposes (I assume here that Cowper has in mind the day of Christ’s return).
Discontentment with the World
So, here’s the thing. It is right that you are discontent with the world. Both unbelievers and believers recognize that, as Steve Tyler put it, “there’s something wrong with the world today.” Yes, it is right that you are discontent with the brokenness of this world. When God made this world and man in His image, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But, because of man’s sin, sin and death have spread to all men (Romans 5:12ff) and to all of creation (Romans 8:20ff).
Because of this common condition, man has sought a fix of his own making. By using the word ‘fix’ here, I mean how it is used to describe how drug addicts seek a fix to dull the pain of withdrawal. Fallen man is addicted to distractions – things that will help him to cope with the discontentment, frustrations, and afflictions of this world. This could be something as obvious as sexual addiction or alcoholism, or as subtle as perusing through the advertisement circulars for bigger and better products, bigger and better houses. Discontentment. Covetousness. But the Apostle John warns us:
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
However right it is to be discontent with the world, the fix is not to be found in man or man’s work – in the world or the world’s stuff. As John says, “the world is passing away.” It is transient. According to God’s Word, “the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Though creation will, on the day of Christ, be set free, it is still subject to futility and in slavery to corruption (Romans 8:20-21). For this reason, we are presently and rightly discontent with the way things are.
So, instead of allowing our discontentment to encourage our lust for the things of this world – to seek a this-worldly fix – let it drive us to prayer. Let us pray that the Lord Jesus will return, and that soon. Maranatha! (1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:20).
Contentment in Christ
At the same time, if you are ‘in Christ,’ then you also ought to be content in Him. God’s work of redemption in Christ is the only work that brings true satisfaction and contentment. The Apostle Paul teaches us this truth in his letter to the church in Philippi:
11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
So, the question is: are you ‘in Christ.’ If so, then be content. If you have believed in the promises of the Gospel and trusted in Christ, then you have already entered into that rest which Christ has purchased for you (Hebrews 4:3). Therefore, “let us be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11) and resist the allurements and quick fixes of the world.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch