I am going to speak on this subject for the next two Wednesday nights, because I think it’s that important to give two weeks to the issue and I am not going to rush teaching it or our discussion in small groups. We need to process this fully. So with that, let's go to...
1 Timothy 1:6-8 – “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. “
A fulfilled life is not necessarily one that is filled with the excesses that we may desire for ourselves and maybe even for those we love. It is, however a life that is filled with all we need.
If we are honestly taking an accurate assessment we will see how much we have been blessed. I have heard it said that our garbage disposals in America have a better diet than 75% of the rest of the world.
This is a huge issue that everyone must grapple with…if we can just learn the secret to being content, there is no limit to what God can do in our lives!
Now, before I on let me give a huge disclaimer here... to be content does not mean we are lazy, or not expectant about what God will do. It doesn't mean that we are not desiring more of Him in our lives, nor does it mean that we don't strive to achieve anything else in life. We must set our expectations high when it comes to believing in God and what He can do. But the next two weeks we’re going to unpack what contentment really means and why a lack of it is hurting us all.
Being content starts with an AWARENESS OF JUST HOW BLESSED you truly are!
The flesh is never satisfied.
ILLUSTRATION: This Christmas season someone from the church gave me a little bag of Lindor dark mint chocolate truffles. I am so crazy about them. Now, despite the fact that dark chocolate does have redeeming value and indeed does have more antioxidant power than most vegetables combined, the fact that there are also other ingredients in that truffle that are not so good and the fact that I need a balanced diet and can’t over-do it on the truffles means that no more than one are really good for me at a time. However, my flesh craves more. This is why I have split each truffle into three little parts and I savor each part. I know just one little bite will drive me crazy, so I now split them down into three bites, while still eating the same amount. I know, I know…it’s psychological but it works for me.
What is my point here? The flesh is never satisfied…if you live by the flesh, you WILL NEVER BE CONTENT.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, shows us this when he says, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. 1 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
Solomon found no contentment in the things of the world. He just kept coming up feeling empty.
Realize that Solomon had everything…riches, food, women, sex, houses, lands, you name it. He had every excess you could possibly think of. He went through wives like some of us go through Starbucks coffees. And nothing ever satisfied him. He even had a ton of wisdom but that wasn't enough. His flesh was obviously hungry on a constant basis and he had everything you can imagine to satisfy him but nothing did it.
So many Christians today are not motivated by their intimate time with God, not by their love for Him or a hunger for His presence, but they are simply motivated by thinking that something is missing from their lives. They are driven by a fear of, “what more should I have that I’m not getting?”
Illustration: I am not sure if you have ever gone through this as a child or a parent, maybe it’s just me, but when I was a kid my Mom would buy potato stick snacks. I absolutely loved them as did my sister. My mom would get little can and split it between us and we would get so upset, checking out our little pile of potato sticks and I can still hear us now saying, “Mom…you gave her more than me…” and getting all upset about it. Instead of just being grateful we had a snack, we were consumed with how much our portion was.
As adults sometimes we are not so different…instead of being grateful for what we have we are just so consumed with what our portion in life is rather than saying, “GOD, YOU ARE MY PORTION…”
One of my favorite songs is by Darrell Evans and it’s called you are my portion…
Father I will not worry about tomorrow or all of its questions
Father I will just trust you And I will be waiting for treasures in heaven
My heart is with you for there my treasure lies
My eyes are on you for you are my delight
Though I may not wear the garments of princes
You are my portion you are my portion
For you clothe me in your righteousness
You are my portion you are my portion
Though I may not sit at the table of kings
For you feed me from the abundance of your hand
You are my portion you are my portion Lord
My everything you meet my every need
You cover me and make me be at peace
Many Christians are driven by the thought, “God is holding out on me…there’s something I’m supposed to get that’s coming to me that I’m not getting…”
Honestly, I told you a long time ago I’m not going to apologize for talking about Africa anymore. No, I’m not called to be there full time, however I have a great heart for the place and the people. Yesterday I received an e-mail from one of my spiritual sons and he said, “we miss you here in your second home…” Man, I sure do miss them too. Africa has a way of getting into your heart, I'm just sayin'...
How is it that I can go to areas of Africa with no running water….no electricity…no air conditioning…no refrigerators…no stoves…no malls...and be greeted by throngs of singing and worshipping people? I mean literally when they see you coming some of them start singing, telling you of the goodness of God. If you don't believe me, I have it on video!
THEY HAVE FOUND THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT!
Time and again I marvel as I see Christians in these situations, kneel down on the dirt floor of a tent or their church and say, “thank you God, for all we have”…
It is not just found in Africa but other nations of the world where the same kind of believers have found this contentment…
GOD IS TRULY EVERYTHING TO THEM….
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV) says, “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 3 I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”
This starts in the hearts of our children and youth. I have noticed a phenomenon so prevalent and I’m surprised I’m not hearing anybody else talk about this widespread dis-contentment disease that tells our kids that they have to move away to be satisfied. Kids think they are missing something no matter where they are from. As they grow up, they think they need to move away to achieve or to be something in life. If they live in Reno, they say, “There’s nothing in this town for me…I’ve got to move on to see what’s out there…” If they live in Tampa they will say, “once I get out of Tampa and into the real world I’ll be able to experience life…” If they live in a small town they want to "get out of their small town world and go experience the big city". If they live in a big city they want to leave it to see what country life is like. The bottom line is whatever people have they don't seem to want it. People talk about growing up and staying in the town they are from like it’s a negative thing….like they have missed something in life, and there’s so much more for them “out there” if they would only leave and get beyond it. Some people even view their home church that way when in truth it was their home church that gave them their foundation. But they never perceived the blessing.
The truth is it has NOTHING to do with a lack and everything to do with their inner contentment factor. There are kids in New York or Boston or LA that think, “if I can get out of this town and move to Orlando, something will happen for me…”
No, it’s not about that. The issue isn't their location, it's their discontentment.
Whatever people have, they want something else. Why do you think I straighten my hair all the time? (ha ha!) Well you may have noticed since I came back from Africa I straighten it less and less. Seriously...
So many people are searching for “God knows what” to make them fulfilled and the truth of it is, it’s only found in Godly contentment.
It is a sad reality that the lie so many people have accepted is that they are missing out on what God has for them.
Listen, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say some hard things the next week or two that might be hard for some people to hear but I have to ask, am I a pastor called by God who answers for people’s souls, or am I simply a motivational speaker? The answer is, I am one called by God who must speak the truth.
There are a lot of people in full time church ministry who shouldn’t be. There, I said it.
Now, there's nothing wrong with vocational ministry – I am in it myself so I obviously believe it’s something good. But here is the thing…many believers don’t think they are doing a real work for God or are achieving the level God has for them unless they are pastoring or working in some type of full time vocational ministry. The truth is, this is not the highest height for you if God hasn’t willed that you do it. If God has called you to work in the business world or as a construction worker, you'd better not stoop to work as a vocational minister. But some see it as the pinnacle of ministry so they are not content without it when the truth is, God has gifted them for the marketplace and placed them there to do a powerful work for Him that others may not possess the giftings to do. There is an important place for them -- their destiny, in fact is there, however they are not content to stay where God has asked them to stay. I see people discontented like this all the time and in my mind I'm thinking, "what's going to happen to them when they jump to something they really aren't called to and then wonder what in the world hit them?" These people who have acted upon their discontent and not a calling get into full time vocational ministry and say, “what in the heck is happening to me?” and they discover that ministry is not wine and roses (well we knew it wasn’t wine if we’re Pentecostal… ha ha) but they realize, “wow this is hard” and suddenly they realize this is not going to make them content either. I am serious as a heart attack when I tell you I know women who practically killed themselves to become pastor's wives and then wanted to kill themselves once they became one.
Others say, “well, I know that I am blessed, but I still believe there’s something else out there and I know when I get it, I’ll finally be happy.” Please, please realize the lie of this before it’s too late.
ILLUSTRATION: How many people do you know who say, "someday when I can get married…someday when I can have a baby…someday when the kids start school…someday when the kids go to college…someday when they kids leave home…someday when I get another job…someday when I retire…I WILL FINALLY BE FULFILLED...OR COMPLETE... OR BE AT PEACE...?"
Most Christians are chasing all these things but at the end of the day, what they really long for is contentment and it has continued to elude them. Why? Because they are searching for contentment in the wrong places.
Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God our Father, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
The bottom line is, all that I could ever need is found in my personal relationship with Him. It’s easy to say, harder to live. I often say, you don’t know that He is all you need until He is all you have.
The sin of discontent goes way back beyond Solomon. This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had EVERYTHING. They had the run of the garden. They could have anything – do anything. God just said, “don’t eat from this one tree.” It would be like God putting me in a room and saying, “take anything you want from here…the Ben & Jerry’s fudge brownie ice cream, the ruffles potato chips with dip, the Tyler Perry movies, the millions of books, the sitting in front of the fireplace, the Jacuzzi, all the time off in the world you want…but Deanna, DON’T EAT FROM THIS ONE ORANGE TREE" and me being an idiot and eating an orange."
Can you imagine? All that but I was not happy that in my mind, one thing was missing…
What would have saved Adam and Eve? CONTENTMENT.
The devil will tell you - “God is holding out on you…you really don’t have everything you need….”
King Solomon went on to say this -
Ecclesiastes 4:8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless — a miserable business!
Paul reminds us of this. He tells us that contentment will never be found in material things, it can only be found when we realize who we are in Christ and what we have been given.
Listen to what he goes on to tell Timothy:
I Timothy 6:9,10: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs/sorrows.
Godliness with contentment brings great gain. Jesus said, “freely you have received, now freely give.”
So many of us have gotten this upside down…Jesus did not say, “freely you have given…now freely receive…” That might be the TBN version, but it isn’t the Bible.
Receiving from the Lord comes first. He has already given us incredible blessings. I don’t give in order to get, I give because I have already gotten!
Perhaps this will give you a different understanding of these verses:
Hebrews 13:5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
I am content in knowing that HE WILL NEVER LEAVE ME NOR FORSAKE ME…WHAT GREATER BLESSING COULD WE HAVE? I HAVE EVERYTHING I NEED!
Is lack of contentment ruining your life?
This is something to get under control at the beginning of 2009 so you can go into it and truly receive all that God has for you and not continue to chase the wind if you have been doing so.
Don’t ruin your future by being discontent with your present.
(I will be teaching Part II next Wednesday night, and post it on the blog next Thursday.)