Stephen Altrogge. The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 144 PP. $12.99.
The apostle Paul told the Philippian church that he had discovered how to be content in all circumstances (Phil 4:11-12). How many of God’s children today lack Paul’s testimony? For so many of us, we want, we grumble, we wine, we complain, we become embittered as we show our lack of being content. Yet, if we were asked, we would all rather be happy than miserable and we would all generally admit that God is good. So, what can we do to battle for the kind of contentment that Paul claimed?
In The Greener Grass Conspiracy, ‘Stephen Altrogge looks with his readers at multiple aspects of living the contented Christian life. Altrogge writes with a winsome yet penetrating style. Paragraphs of this book will bring a laugh to the reader. Other places in the book will bring the sweet encouragement of God’s grace to light. Still other spots will cast a dagger of conviction directly into the soft spots of our idolatrous desires.
As Altrogge opens his look at biblical contentment, he starts with our God. God has created this world for himself, for his glory. All people exist for the person of God, not the other way round. Altrogge rightly shows us that our discontent stems from our failure to see that God, not man, is at the center and high point of the universe.
The author takes his readers through several scenarios to demonstrate the horror of being discontented as Christians. For example, in chapter 6, Altrogge reminds his readers that a proper focus on the gospel of Christ will bring joy. True joy will destroy our complaining. HE writes, “The only way to cut the nerve of complaining is to regularly and actively remember and savor and apply the gospel. Complaining doesn’t fare well in the soil of thankfulness, and the gospel should always propel us to deep gratitude” (Chapter 6 [sorry, I have no page numbers in my electronic file]). Similarly, in chapter 5, Altrogge shows us that a lack of contentment not only denies the joy of the gospel. But also the goodness of God in the gospel. There he writes, “God gave up what was most precious to him so that he could save sinners who hated him. If God was willing to do that, won’t he also give us every good thing that we need?”
Altrogge rightly presents to his readers that the source of our contentment as believers is an attitude of the heart. IF we trust God, grasp the gospel, look forward to heaven, remember the gifts we have been given, and remember the hell we deserve, we will grow more and more content. The truth is, a lack of contentment in our lives is quite often based on idolatry of the heart, a replacing of God with the gifts given by God.
Perhaps my favorite piece in this book was the author’s reminder that heaven is the place where we will find our contentment. Until we are with Christ in a world free from sin, we should not expect our lives to be smooth and easy. Yes, we have far more good than we could ever imagine. Yet, we must recognize that God created us for himself. God created us for eternity. God created us for the joy of worshipping him. We cannot possibly feel our souls totally satisfied until we experience what God created us for. In chapter 12, Altrogge makes this point by saying, “When we see Christ, we’ll realize that all our earthly longings were really longings to see and be with Christ. When we look upon Jesus, the battle for contentment will come to an end, and we’ll finally have all that we ever desired.” The author adds in the same chapter, “Throw away your ideas of a boring heaven with nothing to do. We’re going to be with our Creator, the one who invented gladness and created fun.”
I could go on for page after page pointing out the solid, powerful, joyful, and biblical counsel that Altrogge offers in The Greener Grass Conspiracy, but it would really be better for you if you picked up a copy of the book and read it for yourself. Even better would be for you to pick up a copy of the book, get some others to join you, and work through it together. This twelve chapter piece is so easy-to-read that almost any church member or Bible study friend will be able to read it with you. Each chapter has a useful set of questions at the end that will spur application and discussion. The book is not too long, and it’s never dull.
Maybe it is because I needed a good solid reminder of God’s grace and my need to be content, maybe it is because I needed to hear again how ugly toward God is the complaining spirit, or maybe it is simply because this book is just a good book, but I very much enjoyed reading The Greener Grass Conspiracy. I would recommend it to believers with struggles and believers with plenty. I would recommend it to hurting pastors and happy mothers. Give this book a read, and see if perhaps God will convict you of complaining or help you to find joy in contentment.
Disclaimer: Crossway has offered a free copy of this book to me in exchange for reviewing the work. The publisher has exercised no influence over this review, simply asking that the review be honest and substantive.