Archive for October, 2009

How have you responded to past failures?  Heartbreaks?  Missed opportunities?  Perhaps, like me, you typically sigh, shurg your shoulders and dole out a theological crumb or two: “Well, I guess God doesn’t have that for me”, “I guess it wasn’t His will”,  “I don’t understand this, but God is good, right?”  While the theology of these statements may be good enough, according to Packer, the attitude with which they are often spoken evidences a deficient knowledge of God.   We focus on our past hurts, and respond to them with “dried up stoicism.”  We carry our hurts as “crosses” to bear, and the “unspeakable joy” of knowing God is nowhere to be found.  As Packer says,

These private mock heroics have no place at all in the minds of those who really know God.  They never brood on might-have-beens; they never think of the things they have missed, only of what they have gained.

Packer points to Paul, who considers “everything a loss” when compared to knowing Christ.  He considers everything else rubbish in light of what he’s gained in knowing God through Christ (Phil. 3:7-10).  The glory of knowing God trumps everything, such that any failure (or success) and hurt (or pleasure) pales in comparisson.

What characterizes the people who truly know God?  Packer suggests four traits.  Those who know God: (1) have great energy for God, (2) have great thoughts of God, (3) show great boldness for God, and (4) have great contentment in God.

Speaking personally, Packer’s analysis here cuts deep.  I am particularly convicted by his fourth characteristic of contentment in God.  Herein lies the “joy” in the midst of hardship; though the world may all but kill us, we rest in joyful contentment with our God.  I believe one of the roots of our discontent is that, whether we realize it or not, we have subscribed to the notion that there is always something better out there, be it a better body, better car, better sex, better iPod, better job, better church, better food, or better friends.  Multi-billion dollar marketing machinery strives each day to create and exploit this discontent, from which the only ostensible escape is the proffered product, be it an idea or automobile.

My analysis is as trite as it is obvious, but we cannot deny that the cacaphony of voices which bombard our senses each day easily cloud the fact that there is a greatest good, a One who knows no close rival, no better, and no equal.  When we truly get our arms around the fact that God Himself is the greatest good in every category – and actually believe it – real contentment must follow.  This contentment transcends every circumstance, because the source of our contentment transcends all circumstance.  Our contentment meets our every need, because everything we need is rooted in God.

Loose your job?  Your friends?  Your reputation?  Your health?  In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter, because you have something far superior in every way:  A relationship with the one and only God.  By comparison, as Paul says, everything else is refuse.  This is why Jesus can say that anyone who does not hate is family – even his own life – cannot be His disciple (Lk. 14:26).  The statement is jarring, but the premise is true:  We’re built to love and cherish our relationship with God to such a degree that all else seems as nothing (i.e., hatred).  Therein do we find lasting, unshakable contentment.

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Not Knowing God

Every few months I receive a newsletter from my brothers and sisters at the L’Abri Fellowship in Southborough, MA.  In addition to current events and lecture schedules,  director Dick Keyes always begins with a brief essay.  For this autumn’s newsletter, Keyes, taking a cue from Paul’s encounter with the “unknown god” of Acts 17, reflects on three patterns which he believes are common ways people do not know God.  Since Danny and I will be blogging through Packer’s Knowing God for the next few weeks (months?), I thought Keyes’ observations were apropos.  You can read his short but insightful essay here.

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