Podcast: Greed Vs. Contentment

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • most people don’t think this leadership killer impacts them [0:30] 
  • we share our personal experiences of leaders placing “me” in front of “we” [2:06] 
  • here’s what this killer does to our teammates [2:58] 
  • sharing is better than taking—this is a key part of an abundance mindset [3:53] 
  • discontentment and low self-esteem lead to feelings of greed [5:14] 
  • what squashes greed? what is our leadership builder? [5:20] 
  • discontentment is the path of least resistance, so we have to choose to be contented leaders [6:43] 
  • Greg shares a contentment lesson he learned while on a missions trip [9:11]
  • how the senior leader should address discontentment or greed in other team members [10:56] 
  • leaders are the thermostat for their team [13:20] 
  • where does work fit into the overall scheme of life? [14:14] 
  • Greg gives us a leadership challenge to help us win the battle against greed [15:40]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Learning Contentment

A mark of a maturING saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! Even the most mature Christian you know hasn’t “arrived”; we are all a work-in-progress. Going through the dark nights is one way God helps mature our understanding of contentment. 

You know the differences between a need and a want: a need is something vital, something I require to survive; a want is something that would be nice to have. 

In good times I can convince myself that my wants are really the same as my needs. In the bright, sunny times a lot of wants mistakenly get called needs. But in the dark nights, this confusion is quickly clarified! 

In Philippians 4, Paul explains what he has learned about needs as he went through some very challenging, dark times. When he says he knows what a need is, he isn’t exaggerating a bit (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). And yet the Amplified Bible has Paul saying, “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want.” 

That’s because Paul was learnING contentment. The verb tense here means I have learned, I am learning, and I will keep on learning. It was an ongoing process that helped him clarify needs from wants. The word Paul uses for content is unique in all the New Testament and it means independent of external circumstances, or as the Amplified Bible says, “satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am. 

Paul uses another unique word in verse 12 when he says “I have learned.” This is a different Greek word from the previous verse. This time it means disciplined by experience to know how to respond. In other words, Paul disciplined himself to reflect on the lessons he learned in the night. The cliche “Experience is the best teacher” isn’t necessarily true. Lots of people go through experiences and never learn a single thing. Instead, we should say, “Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” That’s exactly what Paul is saying here: “I have learned lessons in my time of meditation after going through a dark night.” 

The English dictionary defines contentment in two important phrases: 

  1. Satisfied with what I have. In Psalm 16, David learned that he had everything he needed in God, and Jesus reminded us that “your Father knows what you NEED before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
  2. Satisfied with who I am. Paul knew that “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased” (Galatians 1:15). God made Paul on purpose and for a purpose, and Paul was satisfied with who he was in Christ. God made you on purpose too! 

Our relationship with Jesus is a maturING one. It’s only IN Christ that I can be satisfied with what I have, and satisfied with who I am. It’s only IN the night that my wants get separated from my needs, by learnING contentment.

I can be thankful in the night because I am learning contentment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Killing Discontentment

Fading gratitude is a terrible thing. Not being thinkful of our past not only keeps us from being thankful, but it also keeps us stuck in the past. And allowing gratitude to fade also sucks the life out of our every-day experiences.

Asaph told us about the manna that God provided for the Israelites to eat every single day that they were in the wilderness. He called it the bread of angels. But even this wasn’t enough for people who weren’t thinkful nor thankful. Instead, they craved more (Psalm 78:25-30). 

The dictionary defines forgetfulness as “ceasing to think about something.” Gratitude, then, is to continue to think about Someone—that “Someone” being God who daily provides for us.

Fading gratitude brings two ugly realities: 

(1) Discontentment. The dictionary calls this “a restless desire or craving for something one does not have.” In other words, it’s counting up what you don’t have instead of being grateful for what you do have. 

(2) Entitlement. This is discontentment’s sickly twin sister. Where discontentment counts up what it doesn’t have, entitlement says, “I deserve what I don’t have!” Jesus told a story about entitled people who had been given land, a vineyard, and everything they needed to be successful with their farm. Yet when the owner of the farmland asked for his rightful payment, the renters thought they were entitled to keep it all. 

There are serious—and potentially eternal—consequences for our unchecked discontented entitlement. Jesus said, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9). And Asaph reported that for the discontented, entitled Israelites, “God’s anger rose against them; He put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel. … So He ended their days in futility and their years in terror” (Psalm 78:31, 33). 

One of two things is going to happen: either we kill discontentment, or discontentment will kill us! 

It’s not complicated to kill discontentment, but it is hard work. We kill discontentment with contentment. We learn to separate the dis from discontentment with the sword of gratitude! 

The apostle Paul wrote “…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 all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). 

One way to learn contentment is to keep reminders around you of all the things which with God has blessed you. Don’t let your gratitude fade for one moment! 

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by considering what can happen to our future outlook if we let gratitude fade from our hearts and minds. I hope you can join me! 

Bernard Of Clairvaux On Discontentment

Bernard of Clairvaux“It is natural for a man to desire what he reckons better than that which he has already, and be satisfied with nothing which lacks that special quality which he misses. Thus, if it is for her beauty that he loves his wife, he will cast longing eyes after a fairer woman. If he is clad in a rich garment, he will covet a costlier one; and no matter how rich he may be he will envy a man richer than himself. … No matter how many such things one has, he is always lusting after what he has not; never at peace, he sighs for new possessions. Discontented, he spends himself in fruitless toil, and finds only weariness in the evanescent and unreal pleasures of the world. In his greediness, he counts all that he has clutched as nothing in comparison with what is beyond his grasp, and loses all pleasure in his actual possessions by longing after what he has not, yet covets. … They wear themselves out in vain travail, without reaching their blessed consummation, because they delight in creatures, not in the Creator.” —Bernard of Clairvaux

Killing Mammon’s Covetousness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Max Lucado wrote, 

“The United States economy endured ten recessions between 1948 and 2001. These downturns lasted an average of ten months apiece and resulted in the loss of billions of dollars. Every five years or so, the economy dumps its suitors and starts over. What would you think of a man who did the same with women? What word would you use to describe a husband who philandered his way through nine different wives over fifty years? And what word would you use to describe wife number ten? How about this one? Fool. Those who trust money are foolish. They are setting themselves up to be duped and dumped into a dystopia of unhappiness.” —Max Lucado, Fearless  

Yikes! It sounds like money can be a scary thing. So let’s consider statement #12 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?”—Money is the root of all evil. Is that in the Bible? No! 

That phrase is close to one that is in the Bible, but “close” misses the real meaning. What Paul actually wrote to Timothy is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). 

That three-word phrase “love of money” is actually just one word in Greek, and it means “friend of silver.” 

The Bible teaches that money itself is neither good nor evil. It’s merely a tool like a hammer that is used for building something or for destroying something. If the hammer builds or destroys, it’s not the hammer that is good or evil but the attitude of the one gripping the hammer determines the good or evil outcome. 

So too with money. Money keeps the lights on, puts gas in our car, clothes on our backs, and food in our stomachs, it even helps people share the Gospel here and around the world. It’s our attitude toward money that leads us to good or evil thoughts and actions. 

In describing people who were a friend of silver, Paul uses phrases like this to describe them: teaches false doctrine … does not agree to sound instruction…and godly teaching … who think godliness is a means to financial gain … want to get rich … eager for money (1 Timothy 6:3-5, 9-10). 

In 1923 a group of the world’s most successful financiers gathered at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Together these men controlled more wealth than the United States Treasury! They met together to discuss how they could use their present wealth to gain even more wealth. Their plan was put into place and it began to reap the results they planned: they expanded their influence and their bank accounts. 

Then six years later, on October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday happened. The worst day for the New York Stock Exchange ever and the beginning of the Great Depression in the USA. 

What about that group of wealthy financiers who wanted more, more, more? 

  • Charles Schwab—president of Carnegie Steel Company—lived the last years of his life on borrowed money and died penniless 
  • Arthur Cutten—the world’s largest wheat speculator—died insolvent 
  • Richard Whitney—president of the NYSE—served a prison term for embezzlement 
  • Albert Fall—a member of the president’s cabinet—also went to prison 
  • Jessie Livermore—the “bear of Wall Street,” Leon Frazer—president of the Bank of International Settlements, and Ivar Kreuger—head of the world’s largest monopoly (a match company)—all committed suicide 

Their friendship with silver—their love of Money—led to their disastrous downfalls. 

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Matthew 6:24). 

The word Jesus used for “Money” is Mammon: wealth personified and deified. When we make Money our god—Money (with a capital “M”)—we naturally begin to covet what isn’t ours. Nothing satisfies and so we covet to possess more and more and more. 

Remember Jesus we cannot serve two masters. If we replace God with Mammon, it is inevitable that we will break all of the Ten Commandments. Has anyone ever made an idol to their Money, or murdered for money, or committed adultery, or stolen, or told lies? They sure have! 

Paul described those who worship Mammon this way—

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

But those who worship God, Paul described like this—

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. (1 Timothy 6:6-8) 

Simply put: Contentment with God kills Mammon’s covetousness! 

Want to know how to check your attitude toward money? When you think about giving God His tithe, or when the Holy Spirit prompts you to give to a missionary, what thought comes to your mind? Do you think, “Ugg, I have to give this” or do you rejoice to say, “Yes, I get to give this”? The answer to that question will give you a really good indication of how much pull Mammon has over your heart. 

We all have a choice to make: yield to God or yield to Mammon. But remember only God can give us contentment today and pleasures that last for eternity. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Contented To Intercede

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

There is a sportswear company called ActiveFaith. I have a warmup shirt I wear sometimes in preparing for my workout. The front of the shirt says, “I can do all things,” and on the back it says, “through Christ.” I think that phrase is supposed to help me muscle through when I want to back off in my workouts. Perhaps reminding myself, “I can do all things through Christ” will help me persevere. 

As we continue our series asking, “Is that in the Bible?” we have come to statement #8—I can do everything through Christ. Is that in the Bible? Yes, but.…  

Yes, this verse is in the Bible in Philippians 4:13, but we need to as what exactly is the “everything” Paul is referencing. 

Remember that context is king, so we need to look at this whole letter to the church at Philippi, and especially the verses surrounding this statement. Let’s consider verses 10-19. 

In verse 10, Paul says he is glad that the Philippian Christians have had an opportunity to meet his material and financial needs again. This church was famous for its generosity (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4), and when they heard Paul was in prison, they wanted to help. 

Prison was actually house arrest for Paul. He wasn’t allowed to leave the house, but he was responsible for all of his living expenses. Quite simply put: no money, no food. Epaphroditus brought the necessary funds from Philippi to Rome. He so invested himself in this mission to help Paul that he nearly died in the process (Philippians 2:25-30). 

Paul expresses his gratitude for the way these friends supplied for his needs, and he tells them twice that he has learned contentment during this ordeal. He says that he knows what it is to have plenty, and he knows what it is to have nothing. 

Did you catch that: Paul says that contentment is a learned attitude. It is learned through appetites satisfied and appetites thwarted, it is learned by looking back to recall God’s past mercies and then reassuring an anxious mind—that may become a discontented mind—that God is still God and that His future grace has not diminished one iota (see Philippians 4:4-7).  

Bottom line: Contentment is learned by being assured (or reassured) that I can get through this season of life by my unwavering faith in Christ’s ability to supply my needs. So Paul concludes, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” 

I like the way the Amplified Bible translates this verse: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me—I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency. 

Contentment is keeping my eyes on Jesus regardless of the circumstances. Contentment brings an assurance to my heart to keep trusting God regardless of my circumstances. And contentment then helps me pray for others. 

How does contentment help us pray—or intercede—for others? 

Before I answer that, let me have you consider another “Is that in the Bible” statement. Statement #9—My God will meet all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Is that in the Bible? No! 

Paul is not praying for himself, but for his friends. Listen carefully to the pronouns in this verse: And my God will meet all YOUR needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). 

So back to my earlier question: How does contentment help us intercede for others?

It’s hard for me to pray for others to be blessed and have their needs supplied when my heart is discontented, isn’t it? When I have learned contentment—especially when I learned it by having all my needs supplied in a time of want—then I know how to both empathize with my friends who are in need and how to intercede for them. 

To the church at Corinth Paul said, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). 

The Holy Spirit teaches me contentment through these difficult circumstances SO THAT I am strong, and SO THAT I can pray for that strength for others in their difficult circumstances. My contentment helps me empathize and intercede for my brothers and sisters. 

To check out other “Is that in the Bible” phrases we have explored, please click here to check out the full list. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Poetry Saturday—Selections From “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. —John Bunyan’s Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

He that is down needs fear no fall;
   He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his Guide.
I am content with what I have,
   Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
   Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
   That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
   Is best from age to age. —John Bunyan’s Mr. Great-heart, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

Learning Perseverance

I have shared three lessons I learned going through dark times in my life (you can check them out here, here, and here), but we aren’t even close to exhausting all of the lessons that can be learned in the night. I want to teach you one principle that will allow for lifelong learning and application of these nighttime lessons. 

The apostle Paul shared how he had matured during his times of struggle. He told the Corinthians he realized that God had delivered him in the past, was delivering him now, and would continue to deliver him in the future (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). The key is to hang in long enough to actually see how God brings about the deliverance and teaches the lessons. 

Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can ENDURE it (1 Corinthians 10:13). And the writer of Hebrews said, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to PERSEVERE so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). 

The Greek word translated “persevere” means keeping focused on the goal despite the struggles that it takes to get there. Jesus used this same Greek word at the conclusion of His parable of the sower: “The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by PERSEVERING produce a crop”; a crop that Jesus said was a hundred times more than what was sown (see Luke 8:5-15). 

I love riding my bike on the White Pine Trail by my house. My long rides have a really fun stretch where I am flying downhill! But as fun as that part is, I’m not really building anything of lasting value. However, when I am coming back uphill and I want to quit because my legs are burning and I can hardly breathe, that becomes a valuable struggle. I cannot build endurance by any other way than to push myself just a little bit farther each time. When I want to quit, I pedal just a few more feet. Gradually, the uphill becomes less daunting. 

A friend gave me a t-shirt I like to wear on my rides. When I put it on the blue-lettered message on the shirt says, “Do It!” but as I struggle uphill and the sweat begins to pour off my body, a new message emerges: “Don’t Quit! 

I have learned that easy roads teach very few valuable lessons. 

So here are three thoughts to help you persevere in your struggling times: 

  1. Keep your eyes on Jesus and on His eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:1-3; James 1:2-4, 12) 
  2. Keep persevering friends close by—notice the “let us” phrases the writer of Hebrews uses 
  3. On your worst day, don’t quit but commit to going one day longer (Romans 5:3-4) 

[check out all of the verses by clicking here]

Remember that as you struggle and persevere, you are not only building your own endurance, but you are strengthening yourself to be able to help others. So we can be thankful IN the night because God is building our endurance for the next night, and our endurance for our friend’s next night. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Thankful In The Night

The psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). 

Notice that the psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. 

Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. 

Join us this Sunday as we discover a lesson that will help us be thankful in the night. You can join us in person or on Facebook. 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series, you can watch the video or read the post here:

Year-End Review (2019 edition)

Ten years ago God called me to pastor at Calvary Assembly of God, and we have so thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cedar Springs! One of the really cool things I get to do is teach an amazing group of people every Sunday. Here’s a recap of the series and messages from 2019.

Boldly Praying—As a general rule, God would like us to pray much more boldly than we typically do. Jesus told us that we could pray mountain-moving prayers, but C.S. Lewis rightly observed, “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.” 

Christ’s Passionate Journey—In action movies, the crucial moment usually is filmed in slow motion. The Gospels do the same as Jesus approaches the Cross. For example, Mark doesn’t mention anything about the birth of Jesus and only gives us one verse to tell about satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But he uses nearly 40% of his writing to describe the last week of Christ’s life. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1000 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Is That In The Bible?—Sometimes things that sound “biblical” aren’t actually in the Bible at all, and sometimes they are there but are misquoted. 

Selah—When you see this word in the Bible it can mean either a pause from the noise to reflect on something, a preparation for an exciting accent, or a reflective time of consideration. We are working our way through the Selahs in the Psalms.

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—The five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of these prophets writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power!  

Fading Gratitude—Looking back at the history of God’s people in the Bible, there is a distinct up-and-down cycle. I believe their slipping away from God can be directly linked to their forgetfulness. If there is a peril in our forgetfulness, there is also a power in our thankfulness!

The Carols Of Christmas—How many “old familiar carols” have you heard Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning? If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2020, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

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