Can You Be Content AND Change the World?

by Andy Wood on August 18, 2008

in Tense Truths

Tense Truth:  I must learn to accept the world and its circumstances as it is, not as I would have it.  I must also learn to take courageous action to be an agent of change.  The wisdom to know the difference is found in the discipline of hearing God’s voice.


Contentment and Change decided to play table tennis one day.  I was the ball.  Can you relate?

Serve:  Be grateful for all you have.

Return:  Do something to change the world!

Rest in the Lord.  Wait quietly for Him.

Press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ.

Be still.

Get off your butt.


Seize every opportunity.

Be content!

Don’t be complacent!

Don’t be covetous.

Be courageous.

Wow.  I’m tired, and I’m not ever keeping score.  I’ve never bothered to even count the number of times I’ve zigged (tried to change something) when I should have zagged (been content with the situation).  Or vice-versa – when the call was to hit the ground running, I hit the hay.

The Bible presents contentment as a good thing.  It’s something that’s learned, though, and doesn’t come naturally.  Paul once got a stash of cash from his friends in Philippi, and in thanking them, said, “I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, MSG).  The operative word here is “learned.”  Contentment doesn’t come easy when there’s much to complain about and a lot you would change if you had to power to do so.

There’s also something that looks like contentment but isn’t.  Complacency is ugly; it’s spiritual cholesterol.  It’s not resting in the Lord, it’s snoring.  While contentment is desire under surrender, complacency is desire under siege.  A. W. Tozer said,

Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.

Have you ever gotten just to the point where you’re prepared to accept what is as what will be, and the change alarm goes off?

“Get up!  Grab this!  Change this!”

Before you hit the snooze bar, may I remind you, many opportunities come disguised as someone else’s problems, and offer just one chance to take advantage of them?  Act now, or forever hold your mediocrity.

But the problems look so impossible!  The issues look so complex.  My resources or abilities look so inadequate.  Other people seem much more equipped.  What if I fail?

I understand.  That’s why they call it “courage.”  It’s action in the presence of fear.  It’s also action built on the unshakable confidence that you are not alone, that the Lord of Hosts is with you, and the God of Jacob is your refuge.  So be prepared, the next time you want to roll over and go back to sleep, or demand God to change something.  He just may say, “No!  YOU change it.  And I’ll give you the power.”

Just as contentment has its imposter, courage does, too.  Have you ever known somebody who just couldn’t take “Hang it up!” for an answer?  (I’m sure that’s never happened to you or me.)  They get a little bit, and want a little bit more.  They see someone else with something, they think they’re entitled to it, too.

When you keep on ambitiously chasing, and never quite getting there, maybe it’s time to ask if you’re courage has become covetousness.  Is it possible that you’ve made an idol out of your dreams or your solutions?  In the immortal words of John Rambo, “Let it go.”  When the courageous warrior becomes deaf to the commanding general in the name of his cause, then he swings his sword under someone else’s banner.  He soon will die or suffer needless pain.

So how do we know whether to rest or charge?

It’s all in the Voice.

“My sheep hear it,” Jesus said.  “And they follow Me” (John 10:28).

Sometimes the Voice says, “Lay it down.”  Sometimes He says, “Pick it up.”  Sometimes He says, “Rest and trust Me.”  Sometimes He says, “Get up and walk.”

The wisdom to know the difference between the serenity of acceptance and the courage to change is found in listening.  Learning.  Heeding the Voice.

For years people have quoted the first half of a prayer that has come to be known as the Serenity Prayer.  But the second half is as meaningful as the first.  Take a look:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it:
Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

That sums it up pretty well.  Contentment without complacency.  Courage without complaining or covetousness.

And in between?

The wisdom that comes from listening.

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