Screwtape Letters #15

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March 17, 2016 by Joseph Krohn

Satan and Discontentmentdiscontent

  • “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” To which someone replied one time: “Remember if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence it is probably because it is over a septic tank.”

C.S. Lewis focuses on the three aspects of time – PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE.

READ: SCREWTAPE #15, page 75 paragraph 1

The BATTLE: God has made us to live in the present and to live with eternity in mind.  The devil knows this and so his aim is to get us to live in the past or a fairy tale view of the future (not eternity).

“As his (C. S. Lewis’s) good friend Owen Barfield once remarked, Lewis radiated a sense that the spiritual world is home, that we are always coming back to a place we have never yet reached.” (David Downing)

Why is it dangerous to live in the past?

    • NLT Isaiah 43:18But forget all that– it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!
    • NLT Philippians 3:13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
  • Is it dangerous to live in the future? [It is not wrong to plan; to dream; but the devil wants to rob us of today’s joys by burdening us with fears/anxieties/ambitions of the future – that probably won’t happen anyways].

NLT Matthew 6:34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Any amount of responsible planning takes the future into account, but there is a point when a forward gaze becomes harmful.

An unhealthy perspective of the future says, “______ will make me happy.” Or, “Once I achieve ______, my life will have more purpose.”

Discontentment in the Screwtape Letters

In his 15th letter instructing his nephew, Wormwood, in the art of misguiding the human race, Uncle Screwtape, gives this account of “the Enemy’s” (God’s) design for his creatures:

  • “The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and that point of time which they call the Present…. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it.” (p. 75)
  • Why does God want us to live for eternity? How does living for eternity change our perspectives?
  • God has made us to LOOK forward to eternity. NLT Ecclesiastes 3:11 God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity [that which comes after this] in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
  • God has made us to want to LEARN about/from Jesus. John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
  • God has made us to LONG for Him. NLT Philippians 1:23 I’m torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, 24 but it is better for you that I live.
  • Why would God want us to live in the present? [Paul to the Philippians – To HELP others]

Screwtape also offers his advice on how to best misguide a person’s point of focus:

  • “Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present…. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity…. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future… Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, greed, lust, and ambition look ahead. “(p. 76)
  • What is the difference between the future and eternity? [Future, months or years from now; eternity – timeless]
  • How can looking to the future produce these feelings of fear, greed, lust and ambition?
  1. FEARNLT 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
  2. GREEDNLT Proverbs 27:20 Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
    • Illustration: A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Okay; Ryan, you be Jesus!”
  3. LUST/AMBITION – coveting; craving; enough is never enough
  • Screwtape claims that God’s ideal is, “a man who, having worked all day…washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him.” (p. 77)
  • Conversely, the demons prefer, “a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now…” (p.78)
  • How do we avoid such subtle and crafty schemes, i.e. the grass is greener, future? [By looking to the present and to eternity].

Breaking the Habit of Discontentment

  1. Habits are difficult to break.
  2. Fighting discontentment begins with practicing its opposites, contentment and gratitude (points us to Jesus)
  3. Deuteronomy 8 Moses exhorts the Israelites to be mindful of the LORD’s great provision through gratitude (“you shall bless the LORD…” v. 10ff).
  4. Our focus is never to be on ourselves but on God’s ability to take care of His people.

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

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