How can we fight against discontentment?

Trusting in God’s promises and providence in 2020

December 24, 2020

I have found that many pastoral counseling issues can be diagnosed with one, all too common malady: many people wish they were someone else. They want someone else’s job, money, home, car, spouse, family, or circumstances. They long for easier lives. They believe if they just had (fill in the blank) they would have purpose and meaning in life (Luke 12:15). Their ultimate desire is endemic to all human beings—a story without interruptions and a life without pain. They want to live in this fallen world without the frustrations and restraints that are inevitable because of sin’s presence and power. 

But life isn’t like the movies—even Christian movies. Fantasies of the never-ending romance, relative comfort, money without work, happiness without effort, fellowship without vulnerability, and peace without Christ are ultimately impossible in this world. 

The Bible enters our minds in disruptive boldness. It states that our desires are at war within us (James 4:1) because we want things and never receive them because we ask wrongly to spend them on sinful pleasures (James 4:3). Discontentment drives us insane—so insane that we act irrationally (Gen. 3). This is largely why people look at pornography, leave their spouses, and rage against their parents until families are destroyed and jobs are lost. 

Discontentment drives us insane, and 2020 has taught us that discontentment drives division—racial tension, epidemiological confusion, economic downturn, political chaos. From public affairs to public platforms, the desires “at war within” are bubbling over into quarrels and fights—on social media, in the church, within homes, among friends, and at work. What are we to do?

Seeing as God sees

Satiating the perverted desires of discontentment never comes by indulging them (Matt. 5:27-30). Learning to look at life biblically requires trusting God’s promises and his providences in making us more like Jesus. Lose either of these lenses (promise or providence), and life quickly grows dark—especially during a pandemic. Balancing God’s promises with the providences he has chosen and the life he has given can become an experience of gratitude with greater dependence on the Lord Jesus. 

Balancing God’s promises with the providences he has chosen and the life he has given can become an experience of gratitude with greater dependence on the Lord Jesus. 

Contentment is far more about seeing as God sees than our attempts to escape from hard circumstances. Exposing our misplaced affections and desires when life seems to be crumbling and redirecting our hearts toward satisfaction in the care God has promised to provide for all his children is the path forward for believers derailed by discontent. 

The beginning of the end for Satan and sin has already come through the baby born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7; cf. Gen 3:15). The humility of Jesus to condescend from heaven’s throne to a cattle stall thundered in the heavens and made the reconciliation of God and man possible (Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:21-22). Jesus alone has provided the only way of hope for sinners trapped by their own desires to rule in the place of God by his death, resurrection, and ascension. With such a Savior, who ever lives now to intercede for sinners and see them home to himself, life is focused on the theme of heaven itself—Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

The ground of these theological truths must be worked into our minds precisely at the moment we find ourselves drifting into sinful desires. To be sure, all desires are not sinful, but when we find the thoughts of our hearts wandering toward discontentment, that is a warning we are thinking the exact opposite of what the Bible prescribes as the proper attitude for walking in a manner that is worthy of the calling we have received as sons and daughters of God. 

Rejecting the false promises of discontentment

Remembering the Bible’s proper paths for our affections can quickly give us a course correction before we find ourselves in the ditch of discontentment. When our circumstances and trials seem larger than our God to the point we start wishing we were someone else with a life somewhere else, we cannot obtain spiritual equilibrium until we reject the false promise(s) discontent provides. 

Discontentment never solves anything. Instead, it is a gateway sin leading to all sorts of accusations about God’s character and care (or lack thereof) for his children. Proper focus on God’s providence in our moment of trial will stabilize us and cause us to remember that no matter what happens, we are not at the mercy of a tyrant who arbitrarily acts without concern for us. We have a Savior who has poured out his life unto death for us. No matter the trial—no matter how long this pandemic persists—that fact is the sure foundation for our life in this fallen world. 

Brothers and sisters, no matter what pain is present in your heart at this very moment, you can be sure life will not always be as it is today. God is moving you forward in ways that will cause you to grow in your trust that he is working all things after the counsel of his will for your good and his glory. Resting in his promises is the ground for a life stabilized by the gospel. And rejecting the mirage of discontentment while embracing the gospel is the path of peace.

Raymond Johnson

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Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24