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Mar 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 24, 2013 – Genesis 3:1-7

A Spiritual Mentor helps us reconcile ourselves to life

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. Genesis 3:1

INTRO: There is a subtle but important detail in this story we might easily overlook

“LORD God” translates God’s name, Yahweh, and who he is, Elohim
– that God has a name is critical to the story developing in these first three chapters
• he is not merely a Creator manipulating his creatures
○ e.g., creating a set and then manipulating his “action figures” on it
• he is Person, and confers personhood on humans
– because God is person and humans are persons – relationship exists between them
• so throughout chapter 2, from verse 4 through 22, God is mentioned by name

But when the serpent speaks, he does not refer to Yahweh
– God’s name is left out of this conversation
• but it is picked up again when the narrative resumes in verse 8
• this is a good example of what we’re told about the serpent, he’s “crafty”

This subtle move does two things:

  1. it depersonalizes God – Eve forgets that he is loving provider of all that is good
  2. it creates a sense of distance between God and the woman
    – she is manipulated into seeing God as over against her
    – for a moment, “God” appears to be far away and unconcerned

I remember, years ago, my mother saying, “Eve’s temptation was discontent”
– from now on, how could Eve be satisfied knowing there was more?
– discontent creates conflict with God, “Why is he holding me back?” “Why is he depriving me of good things?”

A spiritual mentor helps us make the most of our lives as they are

I asked you for questions you would like to put to a spiritual mentor
– my intention has been to illustrate the sort of help that mentors provide us
– this is the last one I’ll try to address, and here’s how I see it possibly coming up in conversation:

Disciple: For the most part, everything’s okay – I have no complaints. Every day I thank God for my work, because the financial burden of my family rests on my shoulders.
Mentor: But there are other times . . .
Disciple: Other times, it’s this whole season of my life. If you look at the average person who is my age–well, I’m just not where they are. I suppose in some ways, carrying the burden of my family has stranded me on a plateau. It seems like I’m in a holding pattern, but never able to land.
Mentor: Do you feel God is preventing you from moving forward?
Disciple: Well, I don’t see what else I could do.
Mentor: To be clear, let me tell you what I hear you saying. You have in your mind a model of a normal life and it seems to you that everyone is entitled to enjoy that normal life.
Disciple: Really, I’m not asking for that much.
Mentor: Maybe it also seems like everyone else–or most everyone else–gets to enjoy a normal life, but not you. God won’t change your circumstances so you could have what everyone else has.
Disciple: I don’t feel this pressure all the time, only every once in a while. Then I wonder, What about me? When will it be my turn to enjoy what others have and take for granted?
Mentor: Have you considered the possibility that God may have called you to something else than “normal”?
Disciple: Yes, of course. But if he has, wouldn’t I feel it inside? Instead, I feel conflicted.
Mentor: Perhaps this is just a season of life and God has something he wants to teach you or have you doing for now.
Disciple: If that’s the case, then what I want to know is how I can be at peace during this season? How can I learn to be content in my current situation? I want to know how I can be satisfied with an incomplete life.

At this point, they may spend some time in silence, listening to the Holy Spirit together

A few nights ago, Barb worked late so I picked up Chinese

We have fun with the fortune cookies – “What does your’s say?”
– “The near future holds a gift of contentment”
• fortune cookies and horoscopes work, because their messages could apply to anyone
– discontent is a spiritual epidemic in our culture – most of us are infected

A myth of our culture: Some people have all ingredients for contentment
– advertisers use this myth to intensify our discontent
– but think about it: are wealthy people content? Married people?
• religious people? Attractive people? Powerful people? Popular or famous people?
– a married person may be content regarding that one part of their life,
• that is, “having a spouse”
○ but marriage itself is not the secret to contentment
○ in fact, it can create many new areas of discontent

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried . . . is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you . . . (1 Cor. 7:32-35)

We fantasize a life of contentment under different circumstances
– a different job, living in a different city, and so on
– but it is impossible for us to be honest about these things
• we romanticize what our lives could be and are unrealistic about the potential downside

It would help to work through our confusion regarding contentment

Contentment is not satiation
– our bodies have needs that must be filled to survive — air, water, food
• but the same thing is not true of our souls
• the soul’s cravings are not the same as the body’s needs

We see our inner life as having all these holes — empty spaces, unfulfilled longings
– and assume each one has to be filled in order to be content
• a hole money must be poured into – a hole to fill up with family, with friends, with fun
– we assume we’re discontent because there are too many holes or because we haven’t filled them all
– but the problem is we’ve been told to treat our desires as needs
• holes drilled into our souls where there weren’t any, and where no need exists
○ discontent can be manufactured, like the serpent did with Eve

Contentment isn’t achieved by satisfying every possible desire
– we can find two people with identical circumstances, yet one is content and the other is tormented by discontent
• the reasons have nothing to do with possessions, status, health, popularity, etc.
– if you’re discontent, it won’t matter how many times you change your situation, what you achieve, or what you add to your portfolio
– our situation in life will always be less than perfect
• there will always be unmet needs – we’re not in heaven yet
• the slogan, “You can have it all” is simply not true

“But what about my real needs?”

The last thing God wants is for us to become complacent
– we must ask, Am I making the most of my current circumstances?
• Am I doing all I can to make my marriage the best it can be?
• What am I doing to daily refresh my soul and renew my mind?
• What am I doing to manage stress and curb anxiety?
• What am I doing to suck all the juice out of this present moment?

We must not think that the holes in our lives can be filled from empty bottles

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance
(Isa. 55:2)

Francois Fenelon, “Do people seek to draw water from a dry well? Surely not. Then why should they look for peace and joy from famous or great people who themselves . . . are consumed with inward weariness amid all their outward display? ‘Those who make them will be like them,’ as the psalmist says of idolaters. Let us fix our hopes higher, further from the casualties of this life.”

CONC: At least one half of contentment is resisting discontentment

Moving away from God results in discontent
– and discontent carries us from God
– contentment lies in drawing close to God

When we experience nothing in prayer, staying with helps to teach us contentment

Spend as much time as you can with healthy, growing Christians

The flip-side of tat is, limit the time your mind is immersed in worldliness

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5)

One Comment

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  1. Ingrid / Mar 4 2013

    God had a plan. His plan was the apple. His gift to the woman was discontentment.

    Fast-forward the story to the year 2000. I am a woman in the church. I tremble when opening my mouth to share ideas (wisdom). My mind plays tricks on my soul, echoing voices heard in the past, “You are woman. You are weak minded and easily persuaded. You are evil, because you bring the worst out in men. Cover up! Your job is to make babies, look good for your husband and keep your mouth shut.”

    Do you remember that woman?

    God placed discontent in my heart back then. He not only placed it in my heart, He became my discontentment, and I have loved every minute of His sandpapery affection, because He moves me from misery to prosperity. I’m not talking about the temporary trill of finding a duffle bag full of US currency. I’m talking about the deep satisfaction that walks hand-in-hand with the desire for something more.

    Today the something more God wants me to bite into is the knowledge of my worth. God never held me from anything. He calls me to everything. He plants desire in my heart to gather my thoughts, organize them and write them down. He nurtures me to find my voice and speak truth. Not an easy task for a person that was one step away from illiteracy thirteen years ago.

    As a human living in the material world I sometimes find the spiritual journey confusing. When I feel envy, overwhelmed by frustration, temptation and restlessness, I take a step back. I notice the feelings without judgment. I notice the emotions are energized and where the physical sensation rests in my body. I experience the energy as constant and constantly moving. I thank God for the gift of life lived as a woman and ask if there is something I must do? And then I do it.

    Chuck, thanks for your Reflextions. I never know where they will take me but it’s always fun.

    Peace out!

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