I just finished the latest book by Stephen Altrogge, The Greener Grass Conspiracy. In addition to author, Stephen can add soul surgeon to his list of accomplishments! What I found inside the pages of this work by Altrogge was truly convicting at times and found my sin being exposed a number of times. The Greener Grass Conspiracy (TGGC for short!) is all about contentment, not only in the blessings that God bestows on us but also in the midst of the various trials that we find ourselves in (James 1:2). Stephen gives great examples from the past, many great quotes from The Puritans like this one from Thomas Watson; "Whatever our condition is, God, the great Umpire of the world, has decreed that condition for us, and by His providence has ordered all the things that go along with it. Let a Christian often think to himself, "Who has placed me here, whether I am in a higher sphere or in a lower? Not chance or fortune, as the totally blind heathens imagined; no it is the wise God who has, by His providence, fixed me in this orb."
Stephen goes on to say, "Our current condition, season, and circumstances have all been ordained by God, "the great Umpire of the world." We don't experience a breeze or a backache that hasn't first been ordained by God for our good and His glory. In light of this, we must learn to be content in God's will, whatever that will may be. We must learn to sing with the classic hymn: Whate'er my God ordains is right;
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father's care is around me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall,
And so to Him I leave it all. - Samuel Rodigast 1676
What a worship inspiring thought! Every circumstance that we find ourselves in is totally by God's sovereign hand! No matter what that circumstance may be, unemployment, loss of a spouse or loss of your health, children who are not following the Lord..no matter where we find ourselves we can rest assured, if we are Christians, God has us exactly where He wants us!
Once we learn to be content in our circumstances, we can also be sure that nothing can touch that contentment, Stephen says; "Rather contentment is inward, untouchable by circumstances, out of reach of trouble. It can't be stolen away by sickness or poverty, can't be ruined by the loss of a job or house or spouse. Biblical contentment is not rooted in circumstances but in the infinitely stronger foundation of God Himself."
I really needed that sentence! Having found myself in many a difficult situation, these words were like a refreshing breeze in an arid space.
One of the verses that shows up quite frequently and appropriately throughout this book is Romans 8:28, often a misquoted and seemingly cliche response to trials, Altrogge sheds great light on this; "Often we treat God like some sort of divine dentist. We know, at least in theory, that He is good and that all He does is good. We know from Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. But when life starts to get rough, we adopt a "grin and bear it" attitude. We know that somehow God will work everything for good, but in the meantime we're going to climb into our bunker and prepare for whatever bombs God is going to drop. This is not biblical, God honoring contentment."
So many times I have found myself kicking and screaming against the will of God, thinking that I know best for my life instead of the One who holds the universe in His hands and by His grace has placed me where He has placed me. This theme runs throughout TGGC, that we are better off than we deserve, "God owes us nothing except justice. The fires of hell would be the right destination for ungrateful, arrogant rebels like us. We've been disobedient, rebellious, hard hearted people. We don't deserve relaxation or a nice house or hot showers or a monthly paycheck. What we deserve is hell." Stephen goes on to say, "But the beauty of the gospel is that we get what we don't deserve. Instead of justice, we receive mercy; instead of wrath, grace. God has forgiven us, adopted us, clothed us in righteousness, given us the Holy Spirit, and promised to hunt us down with mercy. (Psalm 23:6)
What a vivid picture of the Gospel! and that is what I absolutely love about this book, throughout the entire book the glorious thread of the Good News is sewn. I don't think that there was a time that I wasn't thinking about the fact that I am indeed much better than I deserve and that Jesus has taken care of my greatest problem, that being my sin and has given me His righteousness!
I really needed this book and it was definitely God's providential hand that provided this work to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was a relatively quick read but I imagine I will be revisiting the pages of this book often, especially when I need a reminder of all of the blessings that God has bestowed on me.
If you find yourself struggling with discontentment or complaining, you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The Greener Grass Conspiracy, it will feed your soul greatly!