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Why Am I So Unhappy?

I Am My Worst Enemy

Why are so many people so unhappy in so many different circumstances? Why are so many Christians, who supposedly have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their hearts, so not joyful?

At first glance it would seem that circumstances are to blame. Can you blame a guy for being unhappy when he hasn’t had steady work for six months and he might lose his home? You wouldn’t think so, until you meet the six-figure Christian businessman who hates his job and is just hanging on until retirement. The twenty-something single woman doesn’t think she can be happy until she gets married and has children. But the thirty-something housewife with four kids can barely make it through the week without collapsing in a trembling heap of exhaustion. Circumstances aren’t to blame. There’s something much more sinister at work.

That something is my sinful, discontented heart. Jesus spelled it out in Mark 7:21–23 when he said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” The problem is me. I am my own worst enemy. The raging, covetous, discontented desires come from within. They’re not the product of my circumstances, and the desires won’t be satisfied when circumstances change.

First it’s marriage. We dream about meeting that perfect someone—a person who likes long walks and French poetry and is kind toward animals and strangers alike. Or at least someone who is decent looking and doesn’t have a criminal record. Finally, after years of yearning, the wedding day arrives. But the idol factory doesn’t shut down after the wedding day. As soon as the marriage god is appeased, the factory belches forth the idol of a new house. Then it’s a new car, an end-of-year bonus, and a sweet retirement package. There’s no downtime, no coffee break, no union strike in the factory of our hearts. They are constantly churning, constantly stirring up discontentment, constantly producing new idols.

Then “catastrophe” strikes. The dream promotion is handed to someone else. A relationship never materializes. Our desires are thwarted, and we don’t get what we want. When we don’t get what we so desperately want, we throw the adult version of a temper tantrum. Our passions rage within us. We become angry at God and discontent with life. We grumble and complain, and happiness appears to be out of reach. We become a casualty of war.

Shutting Down The Factory

So is there any hope for raging discontents like me? Can the circus of discontentment in my heart ever be stopped? Thankfully, it can. In Philippians 4:11–12 the apostle Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

These words should startle us and cause us to catch our breath. Paul says that he has learned to be content in every situation. Not just happy, comfortable, “why, yes, I will have another latte” situations. Every situation.

Paul could find contentment in any season and any circumstance. He knew how to be brought low, and few people were brought lower than Paul. He was thrown into filthy prisons, savagely beaten with rods, stoned within a breath of death, whipped until his back was a bloody, dripping mess, driven out of cities, betrayed by friends, and shipwrecked on multiple occasions. In the midst of all this, Paul found contentment. The difficulties faced by Paul make my life look like a Boy Scout campout.

Paul also knew how to be content in the midst of prosperity. Prosperity and contentment don’t always go together. In fact, they rarely do. Rich people are unhappy just like everyone else. Members of the yacht club need to learn contentment too.

In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul says of contentment, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment.” False teachers were invading Timothy’s church and telling people that if they were godly they would also be rich, that if they followed Jesus, they would get their Lexus chariot or Rolex sundial or whatever it was they wanted. But Paul won’t have any of that nonsense. He says that following Jesus isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. If you follow Jesus, you will have every spiritual need met. Forgiveness, adoption, spiritual strength, everything. And if we have all our spiritual needs met and are content with what we have, that is great gain. If we have every spiritual need met and are content with what we have, what more could we want? We have everything we need for joy. Following a Jesus genie who gives us whatever we want is not great gain. Contentment is great gain.

If you need any further motivation to pursue contentment, there you have it. Godliness + Contentment = Great Gain. I’m into gain. And when God himself, speaking through the Scriptures, says that something is great gain, we need to pay close attention.

Adapted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, by Stephen Altrogge

November 29, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Gratitude,Idolatry,Joy,Life & Doctrine,Sanctification,The Christian Life,Worship | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:00 am | 1 Comment »

When Ministry Becomes a Mistress (by Dave Kraft)

Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread, reaching epidemic proportions. It is showcased at network and denominational gatherings, where the focus and conversation is often not about Jesus, but about us and what we are accomplishing and achieving. Leaders discuss the latest poster children for ministry success and their methods so we can all emulate them, buy their books, and attend their “how we did it” seminars and conferences.

“Idolatry creep” sneaks up on you because you can easily and quickly justify it by saying that everything you do is for the Lord, believing your motives are pure. We recognize this in businessmen who work obscene hours while insisting they do it all to benefit the family, when in reality it’s all about them.

Leaders must guard against ministry becoming a mistress. A mistress is someone who takes the place that only your wife should occupy. Ministry must never take the place of Jesus himself in your heart and in your values. As 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” The New Living Translation says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Our hearts are idol factories, and ministry, for many leaders, is the king of idols.

Why Do You Want to Lead?

We can start to rely on ministry instead of Jesus to meet deep needs in our own lives. I am convinced that many people move into leadership roles because of people needing them or because being in control satisfies something missing in their own sense of value or worth. I remember John Maxwell once saying, “If you need people you can lead people.” One leader told me that the motivation for “his call” to ministry was the opportunity to resolve the problem of his own insecurities and feel better about himself. The devil is out to snare Christian leaders, rendering them “ineffective or unfruitful” (2 Pet.1:8), and if he can’t achieve his purposes through obvious sin, he will achieve it by taking something that is admirable and good and turning it on its ear to cause us to stumble.

The apostle Peter, in his insightful chapter to leaders, says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Our enemy can devour us through ministry by letting the ministry itself replace Jesus in our affections. Unfortunately, we are often quicker to recognize this happening in others than in our own lives.

What Now?

There is no “four easy steps to deal with ministry idolatry.” But I do want to share some things I am learning about dealing with each of the mistakes leaders make. Let me state again that I have made all these mistakes myself, and I have seen people in ministries, organizations, groups, and churches that I have been associated with make them.

So, how have I dealt with ministry idolatry?

  • For me the first step is realizing that this is a problem for me. I deeply desire to want to confess and repent when this sin comes to my attention, as opposed to making excuses and rationalizing. It should grieve my soul that I am allowing something to take the place of Jesus in my heart and affections. Like King David, I want to pray, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). My primary sin here is against God!
  • Most every day I make the issue of ministry idolatry a matter of prayer, asking for the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to occupy center stage in my life. For me, I find that ministry idolatry is an attitude, a mindset, as opposed to an action. It begins with the way I look at things, the way I think.
  • Colossians 3:4 is helpful to me: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.” Jesus is my life—not ministry, success, converts, disciples, developing leaders, being respected by my peers, etc. I need to keep being reminded of this truth. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” For me to live is Christ, not someone else or something else. I have several passages of Scripture memorized (in addition to those just mentioned) on ministry idolatry, including 1 John 5:21 and Revelation 2:4.

When the Lord makes it clear that I am starting to drift, I want to immediately own it, repent, confess, and ask for his help in agreeing with him that he is central. I want to be especially sensitive to others in my family or on the teams I am a part of when they bring this sin to my attention. One of my life values is to immediately respond to God’s revealed truth, whether that truth comes directly to me through Scripture or through the rebuke of a family or team member. Pity the Christian leader with no friends or coworkers who care enough to confront him, especially in the area of ministry idolatry.

Content adapted from Dave Kraft’s forthcoming book Mistakes Leaders Make

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September 10, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Idolatry,Leadership,Life & Doctrine,Ministry,Pride and Humility | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:01 am | (5) Comments »

Video: Justin & Taylor Buzzard on 100 Huntley Street

Justin Buzzard and his wife Taylor discussed his new book, Date Your Wife, in this 100 Huntley Street interview. Listen in as they look at:

  • Why Adam and the Garden of Eden show up in the book
  • The difference between a “religious” approach and a “gospel” approach to marriage
  • Practical ways for men to start (and continue) dating their wife
  • How to keep Jesus as the center of our lives and marriages

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  • Why Read “Date Your Wife”?
  • Marriage is Harder and Easier Than You Think
  • Date Your Wife: Creating a Date Plan
  • That Idol That You Love Doesn’t Love You Back

    By Justin Buzzard, author of Date Your Wife (original post here).

    Everyone has to live for something and if that something isn’t the one true God, it will be a false God–an idol.

    An idol is anything more important to you than God. Therefore, you can turn even very good things into idols. You can turn a good thing like family, success, acceptance, money, your plans, etc. into a god thing–into something you worship and place at the center of your life.

    This is what sin is. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything (even a good thing) more than God. Do you know the idols you’re prone to worship? At our church we talk about 4 root idols that we tend to attach our lives to.

    CONTROL. You know you have a control idol if your greatest nightmare is uncertainty.

    APPROVAL. You know you have an approval idol if your greatest nightmare is rejection.

    COMFORT. You know you have a comfort idol if your greatest nightmare is stress/demands.

    POWER. You know you have a power idol if your greatest nightmare is humiliation.

    Here’s what you need to know about your idol: That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back. False gods don’t love you. Idols don’t keep their promises. Anything you worship and build your life on other than God will suck the life out of you and destroy you.

    A relationship with Jesus starts when you identify and turn from your idols. Notice what Jesus was always doing with people during his ministry–he was constantly identifying and challenging people’s idols, calling them to turn from their false objects of worship in order to follow and worship him.

    I’m convinced that the reason there is so much shallow Christianity in our culture is because many people never displace the idolatry in their lives with Jesus, but instead simply bring in Jesus as an “add on” to their life, keeping their idolatry firmly in the center.

    Americans think freedom is found in casting off all restraint and being masters of our own lives. What we are blind to is the reality that everybody has a master. We all worship something and whatever we worship is our master. Idols make bad masters. They enslave. Until you identify the idols in your life you will feel enslaved, tired, and unhappy and you won’t know why. You will feel this way until you discover the only master who can set  you free: Jesus. Jesus is the one master who will love you even when you fail him. Your idols don’t do that. Jesus is the one master who loved you when you were at your worst and who reigns over your life with perfect wisdom, power, and goodness. He’s the one master you can trust. Only he can give you freedom.

    “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21


    Justin Buzzard (MDiv, Fuller Theological Seminary) is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church in Silicon Valley. Buzzard is the author of Date Your Wife, writes about culture and the church at JustinBuzzard.net, speaks widely, and is part of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. He resides in Silicon Valley with his wife, Taylor, and their three young sons.

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    May 2, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Idolatry,Life & Doctrine,Sanctification,Sin & Temptation,The Christian Life,Worship | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

    The Idolatry of Spiritual Laziness

    by Jared Wilson from Gospel Wakefulness

    Let’s talk about laziness.

    Laziness is idolatry. It is closely related to its opposite—workaholism. Both the sins of laziness and workaholism are sins of self-worship. The behavior looks different, but the root idolatry is the same. And the problem we face is that the law cannot do for either of these sins what grace does. There is no saving power in law. Further—and this is the crucial point in this particular discussion—there is no sustainable keeping of the law apart from the compulsion of grace. We can (and should) command repentance from sin, but it is grace that enables repentance and belief that accompanies it. Repentance problems are always belief problems. When we are set free from the law’s curse, we are set free to the law’s blessings. The difference-maker is the gospel and the joyful worship it creates. Any other attempt at law-abiding is just behavior management.

    So we cannot cure spiritual laziness by pouring law on it. God turns dry bones into living, breathing, worshiping, working bodies by pouring gospel proclamation into them. When we truly behold the gospel, we can’t help but grow in Christ and with the fruit of the Spirit. Paul captures the essence of this truth in 2 Corinthians 3:15–18:

    Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

    The law cannot lift the veil. It cannot supply what it demands. But when by the power of the Spirit we turn to behold the Lord—not just see him, but behold him—the veil is lifted and we are transformed bit by bit, so long as we are beholding. This is not self-generated. It comes, Paul says, “from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Vicky Beeching’s song “Captivated” captures this truth well with these lyrics:

    Beholding is becoming, so as You fill my view
    Transform me into the likeness of You.

    According to 2 Corinthians 3:15–18, beholding is becoming. See how Psalm 119:18 relates “beholding as becoming” to obedience:

    “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” What must happen for a lazy person to be able to become diligent? He must behold the wondrous things in God’s law.

    Does he just decide to do that? No. Okay, well, yes, sort of. But he must be moved to decide to be diligent from a force outside of himself. His eyes must be opened by the Spirit. And in this opening, the law and his keeping of it become wondrous, not tedious. This is really what we’re aiming for with gospel centrality, and it’s what gospel wakefulness (super)naturally produces: obedience to God as worshipful response, not meritorious leverage. We are fixing our eyes on the finished work of Christ so that we may be free, and therefore free to delight in the law, not buckle under it.

    Religious people can’t delight in the law like the psalmists do. They have to be set free—and feel free—from its curse first. This is where accusing gospel centrality of facilitating antinomianism becomes nonsensical. Generally speaking, people aren’t lazy because they think they’re forgiven for trespassing the law; they’re lazy because they think the law doesn’t apply to them. The truth is that we worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out. When people are lazy (or restless), they do have a sin problem, but the sin problem is just a symptom of the deeper worship problem. Their affections are set somewhere else. And wherever our affections are set is where our behavior will go.

    So gospel wakefulness does not mean or produce laziness. But what gospel wakefulness does to the work of obedience is something we cannot muster up of our own power. It is the difference between driving our car and pushing it. Or, better, it is the difference between seeing the Christian life as a rowboat and seeing it as a sailboat.

    Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. He is an award-winning author whose articles and short stories have appeared in a number of periodicals, and has written the popular books Your Jesus Is Too Safe and Gospel Wakefulness, as well as the curriculum Abide. Wilson lives in Vermont with his wife and two daughters, and blogs daily at GospelDrivenChurch.com.