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  • Keith Carpenter

Warning: Undertow risk high

It is easy to end up swept out to sea, snarled in an undertow of discontentment

Paul advised the young Timothy, his young pastor mentee that "Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim 6:6). In Paul's epistle to the Philippians Paul declared "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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:11-13). Contentment is something deemed critical to both the spiritual life of the churches Paul wrote to and loved so dearly as well as in his mentoring efforts with the young pastor, Timothy.


We took our kids to Florida back in 2012, celebrating my Dad's birthday milestone of 70. I decided to get a little swim in and do some good old-fashioned wave-diving. There was the standard sign I've seen many times, "Beware of undertow" but I was a seasoned Ocean-goer.

I used to have a blast doing that as a kid up in Beach Haven, New Jersey and on vacations using Boogie Boards and the like. A series of waves began percolating a few hundred feet out. They came in a close series of 6 waves so I prepared to dive under them, avoiding the crashing curl and sand eating and getting tos.sed around head over heels in the crashing waves, as I had done frequently as a kid as I was learning this clever (at least I thought it was at the time) technique. The one swelled, grew, and did that weird almost boastful waver its crest before crashing down. The strength of it surprised me, combined with the fact that strangely, the water all drew into the wave as it grew closer to me so by the time it neared me the water was inches deep and the wave towering so I could not get under it well with the water so shallow. As it tumbled me I only partly avoided its fury so I stumbled to get up once it passed only to see another towering wave almost cresting, with a fierce water drawing me into it rapidly....an UNDERTOW had me in its grasp, pulling me towards England it seemed. My wife cried out a call for help from the Lord as I turned back to see the shoreline getting smaller. After half dozen waves or so, somehow I was able to break out of the undertow, with water up to my neck, and swim back to shore.


I remember feeling not only scared, but just helpless and very mortal versus a vast and seemingly all powerful ocean. It's a feeling I never quite shook as it crossed my mind in that undertow, that I just may run out of gas in this unsuccessful wave-diving venture and maybe this is how I go out. As a child or young man I of course thought myself almost immortal, never doubting that in a battle with the ocean that I would win.


Paul believed so strongly in this that he called out covetousness in Romans 7:7 stating that he would not have known sin had not God's Law declared "thou shalt not covet". This makes sense, since all sin is rooted in being covetous of something, someone, beyond what God has provided. Eve was not content not knowing knowledge of evil and Adam followed even though he was not deceived because presumably he loved Eve more than God. He was discontented being without a mate before and wasn't going for that again. All through Scripture discontentment, not being satisfied with what God has provided, or not. Paul said he had to learn how to be content in both cases of being lauded or despised, to being broke or rich, hungry or full but like Paul, we must learn this and typically it is the hard way. On our own, in our flesh we cannot pull this off (or any other part of the Christian life) but through Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit we can do "all things". We can be content, even when we lack. What a contrarian lesson in a culture rife with greed, envy, and discontentment.


Beware brothers and sisters in swimming in the Sea of Discontentment. I have been there many times and often, the skies are sunny and time are good and never suspected my own discontentment, my own covetousness. Discontentment begins inwards, not satisfied with what the sovereign God has put into our lives, for good, even if we don't see the good. Once discontentment is rooted in our heart, often quietly, we are vulnerable to an attack from the enemy. Next step is then to covet, to want something that God has not provided. Maybe you are discontented with your car, now you see your neighbor's shiny new car and deep down you want that.....or their house, or spouse, or whatever. Once covetousness grows, we are in a sea of sin and we very well may get carried out to sea, taking us somewhere we do not want to go. The wages of sin is death. If you are a Christian, born again, you are secure in the Lord's hand but you will reap death one way or another, maybe your health, maybe finances, maybe your relationship. God is not mocked, but what we sow we shall in time, reap.


I write this as a fellow swimmer, one who has been caught in such an undertow both in the literal and spiritual senses so issuing a warning in this perilous age to steer clear of the Sea of Discontentment.


  • If you have discontentment brewing, squash it by appealing to Christ in repentance.


  • If you are caught in the undertow of covetousness, repent, and in faith pray to the Lord Jesus to break you free and bring you back to shore.


WARNING: UNDERTOW RISK HIGH

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