Satisfied: Peace, Contentment, Fulfillment

The Christianity that Most Christians have Missed

A Radical Call to Authentic Christianity

By Grantley Morris


As someone who looks to drugs for fulfillment will find himself hollowed out by cravings and gnawing emptiness, so are we when we look for fulfillment in whatever is popularly hoped could bring it. There are many contenders – sex, romantic highs, financial prosperity, status, popularity are a few – but the net result is an endless striving, a chasing after a vapor.

Our current economy is fuelled by greed, envy, covetousness, lust, dissatisfaction and insecurity (such as fear of being rejected if we don’t have the latest clothes, accessories, beauty products, status symbols, or whatever). We fill with frustration, and the only answer we’ve got is more, more, more. We find ourselves so frantically spinning our wheels on ice that we don’t realize that our only direction is down.

This is so much the disease of our age that if we want solutions we will have to look somewhere other than modern society. We need to discover the power of an ancient secret. The liberating truth we need is in the Bible, of course, and yet we are so infected by the inferior – so frenzied and diseased by the incessant craving for more and more of what never satisfies – that we rarely even see the answer when we stare right at it in the Word of God.

We will start with the glaringly obvious – materialism – but these Scriptures highlight a broader issue: although it is important never to settle for less than God’s best, there are many things that God expects us to learn to be content with.

We rarely recall the context of the famous Scripture, “I can do all things through Christ” (KJV). It refers to being empowered to find contentment in less than ideal circumstances. Don’t just slide your eye over it; read this as if your life depended on it:

    Philippians 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

How many of us have the slightest desire to follow the Apostle’s lead in learning the secret of being content with an empty stomach? (Yes, that Scripture says “ . . . whether well fed or hungry . . . ”) And yet if we dare open our eyes, this keeps popping up in the Bible. Study these words:

    1 Timothy 6:6-11 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this . . .

For most of us, our thinking is disturbingly at odds with biblical thinking. Note that the first Scripture below, written in an agricultural society, speaks of life-threatening, economic disaster:

    Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

    Hebrews 10:34 You . . . joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (Emphasis mine.)

Materialism is just one of the roads that takes us further and further from contentment and fulfillment. There are other dangers to expose, so we won’t dwell long on material prosperity. This is just a launching pad, but could you bear with me briefly? Here are some more thoughts that tend not to sit too comfortably with modern Christians.

    Proverbs 30:8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

    Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

    Luke 8:14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

    Luke 12:15  . . . “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

    Matthew 5:39-42 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    Matthew 6:25,27,31,32,34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? . . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  . . . So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. . . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I’ve shared just a few samples from a biblical theme frequently emphasized by the inspired writers. For a few more examples of warnings about the dangerously addictive and deceptive hollowness of material prosperity see Affluence.

Here’s an inkling that being content with what we have goes way beyond materialism:

    1 Corinthians 7:17,18,21,24,27 Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. . . . Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you – although if you can gain your freedom, do so. . . . Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to. . . . Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.

You might think, “Ha! That’s okay for Paul to talk about being content as a slave! He might have denied himself marital and family joys, but he was a free man traveling the Roman Empire!” Not quite. It was from prison that he wrote in Philippians about having learnt to be content in all circumstances. He was in chains with even less freedom than many slaves when he kept writing about joy and rejoicing in the Lord (Scriptures).

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst,” Jesus told the woman who had five husbands and was now living with yet another man (John 4:13-14). The woman at the well was driven by a craving that was clearly not being satisfied. At an exorbitant emotional cost, her restless searching had taken her from man to man to man to man to man to man, with her heart being repeatedly shattered into smaller and smaller pieces.

Sadly, this is disconcertingly close to what most modern Christians, even those with high morals, suffer today. They call it dating and vainly hope the habit they have concreted into their lives will somehow magically disappear after signing a marriage license. The mentally dangerous habit commonly nurtured by modern Christian singles is that of going from heartbreak to heartbreak in a blind search for a drug-like euphoria known as being “in love”. Those who seem to succeed in this quest usually find themselves hooked on romantic highs that scientists insist can only last with one partner for a probable maximum of thirty months (See The Chemical Cocktail of Love). Like the woman at the well, hoping for lasting happiness through romantic highs just keeps its victims aching for more.

Other societies have dealt with matters of the heart quite differently to the mess our society has made of things. I Kissed Dating Goodbye is a Christian book by Joshua Harris that challenges current worldly wisdom on this matter. Never expecting to find women willing to date me, I’ve not read the book but more normal singles might like to check it out.

Just as materialism is not the focus of this webpage, neither is romance and marital fulfillment. We are considering these matters only because they are symptoms that point to the problem – a problem even bigger, and scarier than we dare think.

So, back to the woman who kept finding herself thirsting for more. Jesus claimed to be able to do what years and years of frantic searching and countless men had failed to do – to totally satisfy this desperately needy woman.

I must hit you between the eyes with something so obvious that most of us miss it: Jesus did not offer her a divine matchmaking service. The frightening thing about most Christians is that we hope to use God as our Fairy Godmother who will grant us what we think we need. Don’t ever expect to find the Lord of creation in drag, waving a magic wand. Expect a God-sized solution that is so radically different to what you thought you needed that you probably won’t even recognize it as the answer.

The stupendous intellect of the infinite Lord moves in ways that soar as far beyond the powers of human imagination as the stars are distant from this planet’s dirt. God’s ways are shatteringly different to what any politician or scientist or fashion expert or overpaid entertainer can dream up.

You’ll soon see why I’ve saved the following Scripture until now:

    Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Here again, God’s Word speaks of finding contentment in situations where few of today’s Christians could find contentment. What this Scripture highlights, however, is that the basis of true contentment is not ease or possessions or even human relationships, but you enjoying never-ending companionship with God himself. The above Scripture culminates with the staggering claim that with God as your companion, you’ve got it made, even if all of humanity is against you.

To me, the following is one of the saddest verses in the Bible:

    Jeremiah 2:13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

The Bible does not say seek God in order to find happiness and contentment. It says seek God. It does not say God is your ticket to getting what you really need, it says God himself is what you really need. To dare put in your life anything else in God’s place is dumber than substituting dust for everything you eat, or substituting pure laughing gas for the air that keeps you alive.

Consider this Scripture:

    James 4:2  . . . You do not have, because you do not ask God.

Taken out of context – something we tend to be experts at – we can think, “Wow! Forget a genie in a magic lamp, I’ve found the secret to getting everything my greedy heart lusts after!” The context, however, reveals something very different:

    James 4:2-3  . . . You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

God, in his Word, is saying, “You miss out on what you really need, because instead of seeking God for eternal things, you think you can use him as a means of getting what non-Christians foolishly crave.”

If a heroin addict should not claim, “My God shall supply all my heroin according to his riches in Christ Jesus,” neither should an addict to worldliness expect God to provide us with what seems to shine with excitement and gleam with the promise of fulfillment but is actually the bait on a deadly trap laid by the sinister spiritual forces that manipulate the world system. God tells us to forsake the things we crave, not because he is a killjoy, but because they kill joy.

Each of us are capable of being so mesmerized by the illusion of worldly happiness that we suppose it must be the way to true happiness and therefore must be of God. So we start building it into our theology and even our salvation message, just as the New Testament warns. 2 Peter 2:1 promises “there will be false teachers among you.” It goes on to say of those who had once “escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord”:

    2 Peter 2:18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.

Likewise another apostle warns against a way of church growth:

    2 Timothy 4:3,5 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. . . . But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, . . .

Christians like me do not realize the enormity of the gulf between God’s ways and our ways because we are so drugged by worldly presumptions that we cannot think straight.

Wrong thinking permeates every part of us, corrupting us far more extensively and profoundly than we would ever have guessed. Worldly thinking hits us all. It is not like a wound that hurts only part of us, it’s like an infection spreading throughout our entire being. Tolerating just one aspect of worldliness – perhaps selfish ambition or pride or lust– and hoping it will not contaminate completely unrelated parts of us, is as dangerous as tolerating cancer in part of our body, hoping it will not spread.

As a consequence, sins are more interconnected than we imagine. For example, when describing the sins of Sodom, Ezekiel didn’t even mention sexuality. Instead, he zeroed in on arrogance, affluence, and selfish disregard for the needy (Ezekiel 16:49). Today’s sexual decadence is but a symptom of a much more extensive moral sickness. It is frighteningly easy for us to point the finger at others when we are as infected by the same basic corruption as those we feel superior to.

Let’s briefly explore an example of this interconnectedness.

Almost all of us have been bitten by the deadly, disease-carrying “bigger, brighter, better” bug. This spiritually crippling disease affects us far more extensively than we realize. Why is it that Christian marriages are falling apart almost as rapidly as non-Christian marriages? Because we think in some areas of life we can get away with ignoring God’s directive to be content with what we have, without it corrupting other areas of life.

    Proverbs 5:18-19  . . . rejoice in the wife of your youth. . . . may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.

If today’s Christians can’t stay content with their income and status, what makes us suppose they could stay content with their marriage partner?

We live in a society where anyone who does not keep trading up and up, is seen as a failure. Do you expect people to feel good about themselves if they still have the same car, house, furniture and appliances that they had when they married, twenty years ago? If not, can you really expect those same people to feel good about having the same old spouse they had twenty years ago?

A man is almost considered a loser if he remains faithful to his employer for life (and if he does remain with the one company he is seen as a failure unless he keeps “advancing” to position after position in his career). If this is so, who can expect him to feel good about himself if he keeps the same old wife, year after year after year?

For today’s man to be regarded as a success he is expected to trash last year’s gear and surround himself with things that are sparklingly new, look good and are the latest fad. Just as he “needs” the car that people drool over, he must have the wife that men lust after. The woman on his arm is his latest fashion statement and status symbol. Do you seriously expect him to keep trading up to the latest model in everything except this wife? If he must have the latest model car, his wife must also be the latest model. Unless she is sleek and new and beautiful, his claim to success looks decidedly drab.

    Ecclesiastes 4:4 And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

We are immersed in a world that exalts competitiveness – secretly hoping others will fail; trampling on other people in one’s rush to the top – and ambition – never happy; always clawing for more. The world presses in on us from every side and is highly contagious. Have we escaped the corruption of the world, only to become re-infected by its deadly restlessness; a continual striving for what never satisfies?

    Ecclesiastes 1:8 . . . The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.

    Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

    Ecclesiastes 6:7 All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.

    Jeremiah 2:13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

I worry that we are drunk on this world. We don’t want to give it up, yet we want to keep our marriage and the spiritual things we value. Does that make us like drunks who don’t want a hangover but want to keep drinking? Could we be hooked on one of the world’s mirages of fulfillment – a soul-destroying emptiness that first entices, then ensnares and finally depraves?

Continued: The Shocking Secret of Happiness

© 2008, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.

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