The believer is called to enjoy peace with God as well as to know the peace of God in Christian experience (Col 1:20; Phil 4:7). And yet, paradoxically, the Christian life is one marked by constant tension, a holy tug of war, which each of us experiences. Just a few of the areas in which this tension operates are:
Content or Discontent
We live in an age of consumerism and materialism. Its success is predicated on the need to make everyone discontent with their material possessions. This discontentment, in turn, fuels the buying urges and makes the wheel of materialism and consumerism spin. Paul was a man who was marked by discontentment; but his discontentment was for spiritual goals. He was quite content with his circumstances in life (Phil 3:12; 4:11). His contentment was with his circumstances; his discontentment was with his spiritual progress. Sadly, most of our lack of contentment is related to the material and not the spiritual.
Love and Hatred
The believer also lives with the tension of love and hatred: love for righteousness and for what pleases God, but hatred for all that is grieving to the heart of God. One of the aspects of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal 5:22). This is not a sentimental emotion but takes character from God Himself. It is loving what God loves and thus, essentially, contains a hatred for all that defies that love.
In a society which preaches tolerance and condemns hatred of anything as bigotry and evil, we continue to hate what God hates and love what God loves.
Feelings and Fulfillment
The life-long battle between the flesh and Spirit is very real to every believer. At times, young believers think that the passing of years will extinguish the tendency to thoughts of pride, lust, and evil. Yet we are given no hint of this in Scripture. What is assured is that if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:16; Rom 8:4). We are not promised that we will be able to avoid sinful thoughts, but rather, we will be enabled by the power of the indwelling Spirit to not fulfill them. The tension between our feelings and the fulfillment of those feelings will be with us until we are Home.
Here and There
Perhaps, sadly, this is the one tension we feel the least. Most of us are very comfortable being “here” rather than longing to be “there” as Paul did (Phil 1:23). Yet, if we were looking at the unseen things which are eternal (2Cor 4:18), as Paul was, we would recognize that the “real” world is the unseen one. Paul’s decision to remain was due to his desire for the spiritual blessing of the Philippians and not for his own enjoyment of life’s pleasures.
The more discontented I am with my spiritual progress, the more I love holiness, and the more I long for an end to the flesh versus Spirit battle, the more I will be anxious to be “there” rather than “here.”