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When you think of contentment what comes to mind? Who comes to mind? As we continue our series, This is the Life, David Leventhal teaches us about biblical contentment…what it is, where it comes from, and why so many of us don’t experience it in a deep, meaningful, consistent way.
Righteousness: Part 2
Righteousness: Part 1
When you think of contentment what comes to mind? Who comes to mind? As we continue our series, This is the Life, David Leventhal teaches us about biblical contentment…what it is, where it comes from, and why so many of us don’t experience it in a deep, meaningful, consistent way.
Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing? It is great to be with you. For those checking us out online, welcome. For our Frisco and Plano and Fort Worth Campuses, we're glad you're with us as well. My name is David Leventhal, if I've not gotten the opportunity to meet you. I get to serve on the elder team here with Beau and Brian and Todd.
It's a gift to be with you this morning to continue our series that we've called This Is the Life in which we are exploring different characteristics and qualities from the book of Proverbs, primarily, that we think, "Hey, if we follow these, if we can get our arms around these 12 things, it will help lead us to life indeed."
Todd started off this series. He spent two weeks helping us understand what it means to live a righteous life, and then last week, he encouraged and challenged us to evaluate whether we're living a life of courage, and I was challenged and blessed by last week as well as the first two weeks. We're going to keep the train moving this morning.
Before we do, I want to share a little bit about my story with you. I want to start by saying this is a safe place, a circle of trust, so we'll just keep this between us. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time in some form of athletics. Soccer. When I was a little kid, I tried a season of baseball. I was really bad at baseball. I played football quite a bit and really found my sweet spot on the wrestling team, and that's what I did through junior high school, high school, and through college.
But there was always this other thing that I knew if I could just get the chance to do this, it would redirect the entirety of my life. I was confident that if I could be able to pursue this passion, this thing, it would be the thing that propelled me to fame and fortune. The ladies would love me. It was going to be amazing.
You see, what I really wanted to do wasn't so much on the athletic field; I wanted to be a drummer. And not just any drummer. I wanted to be the drummer for Iron Maiden or Metallica or White Lion or Queensryche. I'm giving you a sense of what it looked like to be me as a high school kid. My parents were like, "Nah. We're not signing up for that," so I never got the chance to be a drummer.
I actually would sit in this auditorium, and sometimes I would dream about being up on the stage…not doing this, mind you, but doing that, thinking that Jon was going to call me and say, "Hey, we want you to be on the worship team to be the drummer." Well, about seven or eight years ago, when I turned 38, my sweet bride got me my first drum kit for my birthday. That's right. She's a patient woman.
So I thought, "This is it. This is going to be the second chapter of my life. Everything is going to change." I was going to become the drummer I knew God had created me to be. Fast-forward a little bit, and a couple of things have happened. First, that drum set is currently sitting in my attic, because I realized two things. First, I wasn't a very good drummer, and secondly, that drum kit did not have the payoff I was convinced for decades it would have.
In fact, when I got that drum kit… It's really funny. My dad sent me a note, and I'm quoting. Here's what my dad said: "So sorry we blew it with you, son. When you were just a little tyke, you wanted a drum set, but the thought scared us. Maybe it was the noise." Yeah, maybe it was the noise. "Who knows? But whatever, son. I'm glad you finally got your new toy. Take lessons. Enjoy."
My dad wasn't taking a shot, but when he says, "I'm glad you got your new toy," it turns out that's exactly what that was. If you have kids, you know a toy doesn't last very long before that toy is put aside for the next toy or the next thing or the box. It just doesn't last long. It doesn't matter what Buzz Lightyear and Woody are trying to convince us. They just don't last.
The reality is I could have shared with you stories about my dog that I bought for my kids. I didn't want to get emails from dog lovers. I could have shared stories about car purchases I've made. I could have shared stories from the black hole, the vortex that's known as Costco. Every time I go there, I'm leaving with stuff I don't need, stuff I didn't even know I wanted. "Oh, that's amazing! Chocolate-covered almonds? Who can live without those?" Right?
I have a ton of stories I could have shared. As I circled my family, we picked this one because it seemed so absurd to view Dad as a drummer of a heavy metal band…or a worship band, for that matter. It just wasn't going to happen. I share that with you today because the topic we're going to dive into, our third characteristic we're going to be looking at, is a topic that in 2019, according to the global analytics from Statista…
They estimate that companies in America are going to spend $240.6 billion this year trying to convince us that we don't have this thing, and if we will simply buy their product, go on their experience, if we'll download their app, if we'll post this picture, if we'll do [whatever], we will achieve this elusive quality. What's the quality? The quality is contentment. Why are we spending one of our weeks focusing on contentment? Because I believe God's Word is clear.
If we don't get our arms around what it means to live a life of contentment, we will never be able to say, "I have the life God intends for us." This is a topic we all struggle with, and it's not something we struggle with. This goes all the way back to the garden. You'll remember in Genesis, chapter 3… Remember the stage? They're in Eden. It's perfection.
Adam and Eve are naked and unashamed. They are walking with God in the cool of the evening. Yet even in that environment, the Serpent comes and convinces them their present circumstances are not enough, that they're missing something, and if they would just do this one thing, they would have a much fuller, richer, more satisfying life. The fruit gets eaten, sin enters the world, and we have been swimming in it ever since.
Proverbs 27:20 says, "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man." Proverbs 30:15-16 says, "The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, Enough Sheol [the grave], the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, Enough.'"
We live in a world all around us that just wants more. That's the water we swim in. My hope today, my prayer for our time today is that as we move through this topic, as we look at God's Word in the Proverbs and in other places in Scripture, we're going to be able to answer three questions: What is contentment? Where does it come from? And…Why do most of us fail to experience deep, meaningful, consistent contentment in our lives?
If you're here this morning and you're a guest, you're visiting and you're exploring the faith, maybe you don't know that you believe all the stuff we've just sang about or you know you don't believe it. I want you to hear me say up front the goal for you today, God's heart for you today is not that you would leave here feeling bad about your discontent.
God's heart for you is that your discontent would serve as a flare in your heart to remind you that you are chasing something the world will never be able to deliver on, and that that discontentment would drive you to the one who is the source of all of life indeed. That's God's heart for you this morning.
1._ What is biblical contentment?_ Let's go to Proverbs, because it gives us a good head start, good definitions. Proverbs 19:23: "The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm." Resting satisfied. That's a great way to think about contentment. Contentment is being able to rest satisfied.
Proverbs 15:16: "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it." He's writing and saying, "Look. There's a world in which having less with God is better than whatever else you're pursuing." It's better to have very, very little with the fear of God than to have whatever your drum kit is.
Proverbs 15:17: "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it." I'm a carnivore. I love me a steak. If you give me a dinner of herbs, I'm going to be discouraged, but the writer of Proverbs says it's better to have a plate full of broccoli where there's love than to have the greatest rib eye from the greatest cow that has ever walked the earth and have it be mixed with hatred. Less with God is better.
So, that was my starting point for "How do I think about contentment?" Then, as I continued to dive into God's Word, one of the things I did… This is your free Bible study method tip of the day just for showing up. One of the things that helps me know for sure if I'm getting the idea of what the author of the biblical book I'm looking at is writing is for me to write my own definition or me to create my own paraphrase of whatever passage I'm looking at.
That helps me know, "Yeah, I think I've got it" if I can define it on my own. So what I did was, starting in the Proverbs and looking in other places in Scripture, I came up with a definition of contentment on my own. Then I realized, "That is a really thick definition," so I created a sleeker version of my definition, a more trimmed-down version. I want to share with you first the unabridged version.
Contentment is an enduring satisfaction and pleasure present in the life of one who has been born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and thus sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which allows him or her, because of the goodness and sufficiency of God, to live a life, regardless of temporal, earthly circumstances, that is unshackled from the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things. That's my definition of contentment. There's a lot to it.
Then I thought, "That's not going to be uber helpful for my friends here this morning, because there's a lot there, so let me see if I can't trim it down." So I came up with what I'm calling my ultra-efficient definition. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord alone. Notice what I did not include in my definition of contentment.
I didn't include anything about your relationship status. Are you married? Are you single? Are you divorced, widowed? I did not include anything about your height or your weight or your 40-yard dash or your bench press. I didn't include anything about the number of kids you have or if you even have kids. I didn't include anything about your job title or your income or even if you're earning income today. I didn't include anything about your zip code, your square footage.
If you're a student in this room this morning, I didn't include anything about your GPA, what college you want to go to, what club you're in, your sports team, whether you play on the sports team you're on, what table you sit at at lunch. I didn't include any of that, because the biblical definition of contentment has nothing to do with our temporal, earthly circumstances. It is completely unhinged from those things.
So here's your homework. I want you to get into God's Word, and I want you to spend some time searching the Word of God, and I want you to come up with your own definition of contentment. What do you think contentment is from God's Word? Contentment, again, is being satisfied in the Lord alone. That's the definition I'm operating off of for the rest of our time together.
2 . Where does contentment come from? I think part of our problem with contentment is that many of us make contentment an input and not an output. What do I mean by that? I mean we think about contentment as something to be achieved ("If I just do this, if I marry this guy or this gal, if I get this number of followers, if I get into this college, if I get this bonus, this job increase, if I move into this neighborhood, I will have contentment") instead of viewing contentment as an output of a relationship with God.
When we start with anything other than a relationship with God, as defined in the Bible…Father, Son, Spirit…we are setting ourselves up for great discontent. Proverbs 1:7: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."
We start with the fear of the Lord. What does that bring us? Proverbs 19:23, which I've already quoted: "The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm." Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Not you…he will.
Notice that the author did not say he'll make your paths flat. He said he'll make your paths straight. Sometimes life has you going up and to the right, and sometimes you are walking down into a valley, but God gives you what you need to walk straight. Jesus picks this idea up in the gospel of John. He's having a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, and she's confused, because, "Hey, why are you talking to me? You're a Jew. I'm a Samaritan woman. We're not supposed to talk. You want water. I'll get you water from the well."
Jesus says to this woman, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Let me say it again. When we start from anything other than the fear of the Lord, trust in the Lord, living water, we are setting ourselves up for discontent.
Why do I say that? Because the beginning of life starts at that place. It starts with an acknowledgment that God is sovereign, that he is in charge of all things. There's not a square inch of this earth that is not under his dominion. He is personal. He has not just created this thing and spun it off into motion. He's involved in day-to-day affairs. He loves you. He wants you to have life indeed, so he sent his Son to the earth to deal with our greatest problem, which has nothing to do with the lack of a drum kit and everything to do with our sinful hearts.
Having been born again by faith in that, we have gotten a new passport. Our citizenship has changed. We have become strangers in a strange land. We're not at home. Contentment is born out of a relationship with God. It's not something we can manufacture. It's not an input; it's an output that comes from starting with the fear of the Lord.
Now, what I'd like you to do (your second homework assignment) is get with your wife, your husband, or your Community Group, and do an honest assessment of your life. I want you to think about where you are being tempted today, in this season, to look for life elsewhere. In other words, what inputs are you searching for that you think are going to scratch the itch? What is your drum kit? What is your chocolate-covered almonds at Costco, or whatever, that you think, "If I can get this, if I can get this number of followers, that'll bring me happiness"? What is it? Do an honest assessment.
Let me pause for a second here. Is anybody surprised by what I've said so far, that a guy in a church would say you should start with trusting in the Lord? You expect that. We're in a church, for crying out loud. That's what I'm supposed to say. I'm supposed to say that starting with God is where you get contentment. Nobody should be surprised by that. If you are, that's okay. I'm glad you're here. Welcome to Watermark.
The cold, hard reality is there are so many of us who know that, who would agree with everything I've just said, who are living lives of quiet discontent. We pine for what we don't have. We complain about what we do have. We dream about another set of circumstances…a different house, a different wife, a different husband, a different car. We even complain and wish we had somebody else's sin struggle. "Man, I wish that was my sin struggle, not this. I'm discouraged by my sin struggle. I'd rather have yours." That's crazy, but that's what we do.
Sometimes we like to dress up our discontentment. We try to put lipstick on the pig. We'll say things like, "Man, I'm on this perpetual quest for excellence. I just keep driving. I'm a grinder, never satisfied. I just keep going and going and going." All the while, underneath all that nonsense, is just "I can't sit still. I can't be content, so I just keep running on the treadmill to the next best thing." It's sinful. It's ugly. It is soul-dehydrating discontent.
Sometimes we don't even try to make it look pretty, and our discontentment bleeds out of us as we complain about how stressed out we are at work, how worried we are about the unknowns, how angry we are with where God has us. We say things like, "I can't believe that he got to go here. Can you believe that?" or "She got invited… Are you kidding me? I'm so fed up with God. Why would God put me in this season? I deserve something better than this."
Those things display not just to yourself but to the watching world Jesus is not enough. When we do that, either try to make it pretty or not pretty, we are making a mockery of the cross. Why do I say that? Because God sent his Son to the cross to die for our sins. Our discontentment communicates to God, "Look. I know there was this whole cross thing. I know God became man, the fullness of deity dwelt in bodily form and lived a perfect life.
I know he was tortured and suffered and died on a cross for my sins, but gosh! If you'd just give me a drum set, my life would be better. If I just had a spouse, if my kids weren't so disrespectful, if I could just get into this college, that would be the thing that really gets me." God is like, "I gave you the greatest thing I could give you. It's not Jesus plus a drum kit that brings satisfaction. It's just Jesus!"
I remember when we started here at Watermark, my wife and I got to be a part of the first membership class. We were here at the beginning. It was 1999, 2000, and we got put into a Community Group. I don't think we called it Community Groups back then, but that's what it was. Our task for that group was we were going to create a Bible study methods curriculum that we would use in the church for other small groups.
We met at the home of an amazing older couple, a godly man and woman, Louis and Rosemary Howard. We were newlyweds, basically. No kids. We'd been married a couple of years. I wasn't making very much money. My wife was just finishing up school. So we would go to the Howards' home (they lived in this lovely little neighborhood), and we would lead a small group.
My wife and I would drive up and down the streets of their neighborhood, and we would dream. "Could you imagine if one day we got to live in a neighborhood like this?" It seemed so out of reach for a couple in their early 20s with no money just grinding at work, but those were our dreams. Fast-forward about five years after that. I had begun to experience some favor at work and more responsibility, and with more responsibility came more income.
We actually ended up being able to buy a home in that neighborhood on one of the streets we drove by. We bought a house that was one of the homes we said, "Man, wouldn't it be great if God would let us live in this neighborhood?" We couldn't believe it. We were so over the moon that God would provide us the resources and the opportunity to be in this great neighborhood. It had hills. It had mature trees. It was amazing.
Fast-forward a few more years. I continued to take on additional responsibilities at my job, and my income was continuing to grow. I was looking around at other guys and gals who were also experiencing financial increases. I was looking at their choices, and there was just something in my heart that started growing, a seed. This thing that had been such a blessing, this home, began to be something less than. I began to just internally… I wasn't saying it to Missy. I just began to be discontent.
Over the months, I became more and more discontent to where I started becoming frustrated. I don't remember what the specific circumstances were, but I remember there was one point where the conviction of God came crashing down on me, and I realized how ugly, how ungrateful, how vile… The mold in my heart had begun to spread, and I was just discontent. It broke my heart when God convicted me and I realized what I was doing. I shared it with Missy, and I confessed and repented.
I realized I'd been walking with Jesus for long enough to know that this house was never meant to scratch the itch, and yet somehow, I had put it in my mind that it was going to. Proverbs 27:20 that I already quoted: "Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied…" I realized that never satisfied are the eyes of David. It was sinful, ugly, soul-dehydrating discontent, and I needed to repent. But I don't think I'm alone. I don't think it's unique to me. So now I want to try to answer this question:
3._ Why is it that so many of us live lives where we fail to experience deep, _meaningful contentment in a consistent way? Why is that true? As I prayed and processed and tried to unpack God's Word, four things popped into my brain. I want to share them with you this morning in hopes that maybe it would encourage you as it has encouraged me.
A. Because we have a hard time believing God. I think we want to. I think a lot of us really, really want to believe God, but we have a hard time believing that he really is enough. So we construct our lives in such a way that requires little to no faith. We're not really dependent upon God, because, "Look at all of the things I've stacked up for myself here. If I ever get in a season of want, I can just grab from this. I don't really need God, because I have my here and now covered." So we fail to experience what so many of our brothers around the world are experiencing, which is day-by-day dependence on God.
In our Community Groups, if I could just be honest, we don't ask the right questions. Folks come to us with a decision, and we just kind of rubber-stamp their decision. We don't ask about their motives. We don't ask about what's driving these thought processes. Is there a season to move houses? Of course. But the reason why makes a big difference. We have to love one another enough to ask the hard questions about, "Why are you wanting this? Why is this such a passion for you? What are you hoping you're going to get out of it?"
For those of us who are in seasons of want… We have people in our body who are food insecure, and they're not really sure if this next check is going to make ends meet. It is tempting to want to disconnect and to figure out and to stress and be overwhelmed by that very heavy burden, so we unplug from the body of Christ, and we fail to let God's people come alongside of us so God can demonstrate through his body what it looks like to have provision.
Agur, the son of Jakeh, in Proverbs 30:7-9, has this great prayer. He prays, "Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: remove far from me falsehood and lying…" Help me be a man of integrity. "…give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" "Meh, I don't need him.""…or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God."
How many of us have asked God to make that the posture of our lives day in and day out? "God, give me just what I need so that I'm constantly depending upon you and my ability to see you act grows and my faith is going to be deepened." Why in the world would we want to embrace that attitude? The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 13.
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" God has told us why we don't need to be discontent. He said, "Look. I've told you I am never going to leave you. I'm never going to forsake you. I will not end up in the attic like your stupid drum kit. I'm always going to be with you."
If that's true, that tells me how I need to live. I don't have to worry about man. What can man do to me? I don't need that. That's not going to bring satisfaction. I have God on my side. Paul serves as a great model for us, because Paul, we see in Scripture, sits on both sides of the contentment fence. Paul lived a life as a Pharisee in the "haves," where he was a part of the "have" crew, and then when he became a believer and became an apostle, he was persecuted relentlessly and became all of a sudden one of the "have nots."
In Philippians 4, Paul says to the church in Philippi, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity." He's talking about the Philippian church. They wanted to help participate financially in Paul's ministry, but they didn't have an opportunity. So Paul is like, "Man, I'm so glad you've revived your concern."
But he says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." Paul, what is the secret? "I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me."
This verse has nothing to do with how fast you're going to run your 40-yard dash. It has nothing to do with your job interview. It has nothing to do with whatever money you have on the game. This verse has nothing to do with it.
Paul was saying in these passages, "When I'm in a season of prosperity, what's going to keep me from being a jerk in my prosperity, keep me from wanting to hoard and to hang on to my blessings and not live my life with open hands to see how I can bless other people? What's going to keep me from telling the Lord, 'Meh, I've got this. Thanks, but no thanks'? What's going to keep me from that sinful, wicked lifestyle? I'll tell you. Jesus is going to provide for you the ability to not be a jerk in your prosperity."
Paul says, "What am I going to do when my circumstances are awful, when I don't know where my next meal is coming from, when I'm tempted to want to scheme and to fight my way out and to want to strength my way through this circumstance and deny the Lord? What's going to keep me from that in my awful circumstances?" Paul says, "Jesus is going to keep you from that. Christ is enough, because he has saved you and called you into the body of Christ, and the body of Christ exists as members to help one another, to bear one another's burdens, to love one another."
We have said here countless times, "If you are a member at this church, you will never go without food, shelter, and clothing." You don't need to stress and scheme in your seasons of want. God has got it. So, I want you to ask yourself this week what season you are currently in. Are you in a season of prosperity where the sun is bright, up and to the right, or are you in a season of just hard where you're not sure what tomorrow is going to look like, there has been great disappointment? Do an assessment of where you are.
If you're in the prosperity, if things are going great, ask yourself, "God, what would you have me release right now that I might be able to bless my brothers and sisters who are not in the same season as I'm in?" If you're in a season of want, are you leaning into God's Word? Are you leaning into God's people? Or are you panicked? Are you availing yourself to the body of Christ? Our circumstances do not bring contentment. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord alone.
B. Because our minds are set on the wrong things. Comparison, envy, greed. We count somebody else's blessings. We look at somebody else's family. We look at somebody else's stupid social media account instead of taking seriously what Paul says we should take care of in Colossians 3.
Paul says to the Colossian church, "If then you have been raised with Christ, [if you know Jesus] seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Why? He says for. Circle that for. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
Proverbs 14:30 says, "A tranquil heart [a contented heart] gives life to the flesh, but envy [when we look left and we look right] makes the bones rot." God has not been unkind. He has given us a high-definition picture of what this looks like in Psalm 73, which I commend highly to you. It's a psalm of Asaph. I'm not going to read the whole thing. I want to highlight some things in Psalm 73.
Asaph writes, "Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped." Why, Asaph? Why? "For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." He goes on to say, "For [those people] have no pangs until death…"
"They don't have trouble like the rest of us. They're not stricken like the rest of mankind. Their eyes swell out through fatness, because they have so much food. They scoff, and they speak with malice. They set their mouths against the heavens. They give God the middle finger. 'I don't need God. Look what I have. Look what I've accomplished.'"
It leads him to this place in verse 13 where he says, "All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence." He says, "Look. I've tried to follow God, and it has been just in vain, because look at the rest of the world, these people who don't know God. They're living better than I am." Then everything changes. The whole psalm pivots in verses 16 and 17.
"But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end." Asaph got back into God's house where he was reminded of what was true, what was factual, which is, as he's going to tell us, "This life is not the whole story. Those guys are coming to a slippery end. They're going to fall to their ruin."
He says in verse 21, "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you." That sounds exactly like how I felt (and how I've felt many times since then) when God convicted me about my discontent about our home that he'd so graciously given me. Then he closes the psalm out with this great prayer.
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." He says, "There's nothing else on this earth that I want but you. God, you are my strength and my portion forever. I'm not home. What I see with my eyes is not the full story."
Paul reminded the Philippian church, "Look, guys. Remember, your citizenship is in heaven," in Philippians 3:20. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we're awaiting our Savior who's going to come back and transform our lowly, discontent bodies into a glorious self through his body. We are not home, friends. We need to stop asking this world to scratch an itch that God never intended this world to scratch.
How many drum kits do we need before we realize, "God, your Word is true. I don't need that. All I need is Jesus"? How many times are we going to stub our toe on the coffee table? Where is your mind these days? Where is my mind? Is there a steady intake of God's Word? Are you in the sanctuary of God? I don't mean in this building. I mean, are you in God's Word?
Are you with his people being reminded, "Guys, there's more to the story. What we see here is not the full thing. God is going to roll the thing back one day"? We don't experience contentment because our minds are set on the wrong things. When we focus on anything other than God, we're not going to find contentment. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord alone.
C. Because we're convinced we're the exception. What do I mean by that? Well, we read these passages, and we largely would agree, but when it comes down to our orthopraxy, what we live out, we live lives that say, "I know that's true for y'all, but… I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it's not true for me." That's how we live, as if somehow we're exempt from everything in God's Word.
Proverbs warns against this in Proverbs 23. The writer says, "Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven." Proverbs 11:28: "Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf."
Paul writes to Timothy, his young pastor friend, and says, "Look, Timothy. You have some false teachers with you right now, and these false teachers are convincing people, 'You need to pay me so I can teach you my godliness.'" That's what's going on in this letter. These guys were showing up, and they were taking money to teach godliness. Paul says, "Timothy, be aware."
"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving…" What craving? The love of all money. "…that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."
God is not anti-money. He's not saying that. He's saying, "Your attitude toward money matters." And may I add? Your attitude toward your spouse, what you think that spouse is going to do, your attitude toward what you think your kids are going to be, your attitude toward what your classmates are going to be, what your college is going to accomplish for you…that matters. God doesn't really care if you go to Baylor or A&M. He's more concerned with why you want to go to either place.
God is not anti-money; he's concerned about why you're pursuing it, and you and I are not the exception to the rule. If we make (in this context) money the endgame, if we make getting married the endgame, if we make getting into some school the endgame, we will fall. It's a fact. Jesus touches on this as well. Jesus is in the middle of an extended teaching session in Luke 11-12, and right in the middle of the teaching session, some dude interrupts him.
"Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But [Jesus] said to him, 'Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?' And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'"
Jesus doesn't very often give you the purpose of the parable before the parable, but this is one instance where he does. This is the point of the parable: one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
"And [Jesus] told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store [all my stuff] ?" And he said, "I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'" But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'"
We read that, and we're like, "Yeah. Yes! My life does not consist in the abundance of my possessions. Don't worry about the fact that I just bought my third Apple Watch in the last 18 months. Don't worry about my second, third, or fourth wife. Don't worry that I've been in three Community Groups in 18 months. Don't worry that I never take my résumé off LinkedIn. Don't worry that I never miss out on a single event, because God forbid I shouldn't be some place and experience something my friends are going to experience."
You and I are not exceptions to God's Word, friends. We're just not. Here's a quick Bible nerd trivia fact for you for your next game of Trivial Pursuit. How many times in the Bible do we see God personally call somebody a fool? There's a whole mess of passages that describe the behavior of a fool. Psalm 53 talks about, "Fools say to themselves, 'There is no God.' They sin and commit evil deeds, and none of them do right."
Proverbs 14:9 says, "Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation." Jesus in Matthew 7 says, "I've just taught you all this stuff in the Sermon on the Mount." See also our Sermon on the Mount series. He says, "If you don't listen to my words, you're going to be like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand, and when the storm comes (which the storms always come), there goes your house."
But how many times does God personally call somebody a fool? The best I can tell, two times. In Matthew 23 and Luke 11 (those are parallel passages; I'm counting that as one), Jesus calls the Pharisees fools, because they were leading the nation of Israel away from God. They were teaching the nation of Israel that somehow your righteousness could be achieved through what you do. We spent all summer unpacking that.
Then in Luke 12:20, which we just read, God said, "You're a fool" to the guy who thought his life consisted in the abundance of his possessions and was not rich toward God. That man, says God, is a fool. We are not exceptions to the rule. We don't experience contentment when we're convinced that we are the exception. We are not the exception. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord alone.
D. Because we simply don't know the Father's love. Why do I say that? How do I know that? Because of passages like Romans 5:6-8. "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
What else can God do to prove to you that he loves you? He sent his Son while we were enemies to die for us. We're like, "That's great, but where's my drum kit, God?" That's crazy that we would do that, and we do that a lot. We say, "Yeah, God loves me, and I'll know he loves me if I can just get this guy to take an interest in me, if I can just get this many followers on my stupid 'Insta-Facebook' page."
Paul lays it out for us in Ephesians 1. I won't read it all, but I want to highlight some things he says. He says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…" He goes on. He says we've been predestined for adoption. Verse 7: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…"
Our greatest need has already been met. Our greatest need is not that we don't have chocolate-covered almonds; it's that we have a sin problem that's going to separate us for all of eternity and cast us into hell. God says, "That's the problem I've taken care of completely. You're here on earth for a short season. Be my man. Be my woman. Don't get caught up in the fray. Be content with what I've given you, because I've taken care of your biggest need."
Jesus in Matthew 11 says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Rest for your souls. That sounds a lot like contentment.
As gently as I can say it, as humbly as I can say it, if your life is wracked by discontent and left-right looking, could I just suggest to you that there's a chance you don't know the Father's love at all? If we can't pray with increasing confidence… Look. Life is a journey. I can pray Psalm 73 today, like, "Whom have I in heaven but you? There's nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart…"
I can pray that with more integrity today than I could 10 years ago, than I could 10 years before that, and I hope in 10 years I can pray that with a deeper appreciation. We are on a journey, and change is measured in terms of months and years, not days and weeks. We don't have to be there today. God says, "I want to move you toward more and more contentment so you can say more and more frequently, 'My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.'"
If you don't know the Father's love, if you're here this morning and you're like, "I've shown up at places like this my whole life, but I'm not for sure that I know for sure who this Jesus is," then no wonder your life is wracked with discontent. You don't know the source of all life indeed, because if you do, if I do, we would know that contentment is being satisfied in the Lord alone.
Father, thank you for our time this morning. God, I pray for my heart. I know that I struggle mightily with wanting to find my satisfaction, my rest in the things of this world, and I know you've saved me from that. I know you've called me out of that. I know that Jesus is enough, and I pray for my heart.
I pray for the hearts of my friends in this room and those listening online, that you would make that more and more of a reality in our hearts, that we would be more discontent with the world and all the nonsense it has tried to sell to us, and we would find more and more, an ever-increasing amount of contentment in knowing that you have saved us. You have given us everything that pertains to life and godliness through your Son.
Would you make that the posture of our hearts? Father, if there are areas in our lives where we need to repent and confess our sins, would you make that abundantly clear? I'm thankful that you are not mad at us, that you love us, that your greatest desire for us is that we would come to find our greatest desire in you. Make that true, Father. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.