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The Center of the Bridge

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I know it would be appropriate for me to write something about love or romance from a biblical perspective. I’m not much in a mawkish mood, however, so the closest I can bring myself to some connection is the importance of humor in the Christian faith. We might not think of humor as highly critical to our faith. In fact, we might be tempted to think that humor works against the weighty, grave, and serious matters of theology and biblical truth.

For many people, biblical studies, theology, and apologetics conjure up images of boring lectures and theoretical discussions that have little to do with the “real world.” One of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century proved otherwise. His name was Gilbert Keith (G. K.) Chesterton, which sounds serious enough, but G. K. was a living testimony that a brilliant mind is not antithetical to a joyful mind.

G. K. Chesterton was a self-professed pagan at the age of twelve and considered himself an agnostic by sixteen. But then Chesterton’s intellect could not escape the flaws of his logic, and he backed his way into Christianity as the only plausible explanation to reality and human existence. Chesterton became an author, apologist, journalist, lecturer and radio personality who deeply influenced C. S. Lewis and other critical thinkers with his timeless argument for the simple plausibility of the Christian faith.

One of the sharpest tools of Chesterton’s craft was his disarming use of humor. Philip Yancey, a Christian author of more recent years, tells a story illustrating Chesterton’s unique ability. At the start of World War I, Chesterton was denied military service due to his weight, which hovered around 300 pounds, and his general poor health. This led to a rather brusque encounter with an elderly woman who was quite the English patriot. “Why aren’t you out at the front?” she demanded. Chesterton coolly replied, “My dear madam, if you will step round this way a little, you will see that I am.”

When culture and churches become as polarized as they are today, people with opposing views stand on opposite sides of a great chasm shouting at each other. When we face uncertainty we move to anxiety, and anxiety breeds suspicion. We take our stand in opposition to others, and, believe me, there is no humor involved. Chesterton took a different approach: he would move to the center of a bridge and demonstrate a remarkable ability to plumb the depths of profundity and bring truth to the surface of clarity. And he did so with much wit, good humor and generosity.

For those who are a part of our church family, over the past few weeks we have been faced with news of yet another change. I, for one, am ready to be done with change and enter a season of stability, health and growth. Change is hard. Change is serious. But change is also central to the Christian faith (2 Corinthians 3:18) and, I might add, our human experience. My prayer for us is that we can follow Chesterton’s approach and move to the center of the bridge as we plumb the depths of profundity and bring truth to the surface of clarity. And may we do so, as Chesterton did, with much wit, good humor and generosity. As the proverb says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed” (Proverbs 15:13).

This may not be much of a Valentine’s Day message, but hopefully we will all face this day of romantic celebration and all days thereafter with a glad heart, a joyful spirit, and a cheerful face.

Finding Contentment in a Discontent World

The Apostle Paul wrote the church in Philippi that he learned to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13). Whether he faced poverty or plenty, persecution or peace, Paul knew the “secret” of living a fulfilled life. Simply put, Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

When I think about finding contentment, I quickly move to the realm of what I lack rather than what I possess. Quite often I fail to recognize that the reason I struggle with contentment is because I focus on what I don’t have rather than on what I do have. Am I content with food, clothing, and shelter, or do I think I need to have an over-abundance of resources in order to discover contentment? It never works that way, though, does it? Do we ever think we have more than enough? We tend to compare ourselves not with people who have less, but with people who have more.

The exhortation from the Apostle Paul is that our contentment comes in Christ who strengthens us whether we have little or much. Spurgeon was right when he wrote, “Christians disgrace their Lord far more in prosperity than in adversity. It is dangerous to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is not as severe a trial as the gold pot of prosperity.”

It’s difficult to find contentment when we have too little. But it’s equally demanding to find contentment when we have too much. Are we satisfied with what we have? How much is too much, really? The words of Agur son of Jakeh challenge us with this simple prayer: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, `Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8b-9). To quote Spurgeon once again: “When we are full and forget God, we become satisfied with earth and forget heaven.”

Our Lord never promised that following Him would be easy. We will face trials and hardship, and we might even find ourselves tempted to trust in things, possessions, programs, and even people more than Jesus. Does our contentment come from anything other than Jesus? No. The power for us to discover contentment, peace and joy originates from no other source than Jesus. Everything else pales in comparison to His light that floods our soul and buoys our spirit. When all else fades away, He alone is left standing before and behind, hemming us in on all sides, guiding us through life’s challenges into heaven’s glory. And that, my friends, is all we need to be content.

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