Hebrews 13:5-6. Once again, I was humbled as I prepared this sermon. As I said before, there are a bunch of folks in our congregation that could show you this sermon with their lives. I know that this is a message for us but maybe even more important for your family and the folks that don’t know Jesus. Please take this Word from GOD to the people who need it, and you will bless them.
In the recent years we have witnessed a number of devastating natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, ice storms, and wildfires. Natural disasters remind us that EVERYTHINGin this world is temporary.
We’ve also have had terrible terrorist attacks around our world that also remind us that everything in this world is temporary….
Except for GOD’S Love!! And GOD’S Love Lasts Forever!!
That’s why we can say with Jesus, “[My] life does not consist in the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15). Yet our culture is shouting that it’s not true, “Possessions ARE your life,” much of our culture whispers in our ear. Even after the un-natural disaster of 9/11, we were told to go out and buy something.
The teachings of Jesus stand over and against the teachings of the world. The result is a wrestling in our hearts.
Despite the fact that we say we believe Jesus’ words, we still find ourselves devoting a great deal of our time, talents, and resources to getting more stuff. We say that our lives do not consist in the abundance of our possessions, but sometimes we live as if they do.
You might have heard of the restless legs syndrome (RLS),
a condition in which one has twitches and contractions in the legs. Many of us have RHS, Restless Heart Syndrome. It works in a similar way, but the problem is in the heart—or soul. Its primary symptom is discontent. We find that we are never satisfied with anything.
The moment we acquire something, we scarcely take time to enjoy it before we want something else. We are continuously discontent.
Discontentment can be a virtue. GOD intended us to have a certain discontent. GOD actually wired our hearts so that they would be discontent with certain things, causing us to seek the only One who can fully satisfy us.
GOD created us with a GOD-sized hole in our hearts that only GOD can fill. We are meant to yearn to know GOD more, to cultivate a deeper prayer life, to pursue justice, mercy, and holiness, with increasing fervor, to love others more, and to grow in grace and character and wisdom with each passing day.
But discontentment of the wrong kind CAN DESTROY!
The problem is that those things we should be content with are the very things we find ourselves hopelessly discontented with.
For example, we find ourselves discontented with our stuff, our jobs, our churches, our children, and our spouses.
GOD must look down on us and feel the way we feel, when we give a gift to someone we really care for, and he or she asks for the gift receipt. It’s as if we’re saying to GOD, “I don’t like what you have given me, GOD; and I want to trade it in and get something better than what you gave me.”
That is discontent of the body, mind, and the spirit.
Sisters and Brothers, Praise be to our Good GOD, because through his word we can learn to Cultivate our Contentment!
The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of contentment.
In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote of the “secret” to his contentment in Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.
I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty.”
“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Like Paul, we can learn to be content in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves.
Four keys, which include the “secret” Paul referred to in his letter, can help us to do that.
First—four words to repeat: “It could be worse.”
Say those words with me, “It could be worse.” Any time we find ourselves discontented with something or someone, we should say, “It could be worse.” This is different than saying, “Well, there is always someone worse off than me.” We don’t have to compare our problems to other people’s problems, so we can feel better. We can leave it at, “It could be worse.” And then look for GOD’S silver lining in the cloud.
#2, we need to ask the question before we buy something,
“For how long will this make me happy?”
So often we buy something, thinking it will make us happy, only to find that the happiness lasts about as long as it takes to open the box. There is a moment of satisfaction when we make the purchase, but the item does not continue to bring satisfaction over a period of time.
Many of the things we buy are simply not worth the expense. That’s why it is a good idea to TRY before you buy.
To cultivate contentment the 3rd ingredient is a
grateful heart. Gratitude is essential if we are to be content.
The Apostle Paul said that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). A grateful heart recognizes that all of life is a gift. Contentment comes when we spend more time giving thanks for what we have than thinking about what’s missing or wrong in our lives.
#4 is Soul Satisfaction! Where does your SOUL find true satisfaction?
The world answers this question by telling us that we find satisfaction in ease and luxury, and comfort and money. The Bible, however answers the question very differently. From Genesis to Revelation, GOD’S Word tells us that we find our satisfaction in GOD alone.
Hear again, today’s scripture that Linde read from Hebrews 13:5-6, “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?” This is the Word of The Lord. Thanks be to GOD!
In Ecclesiastes 2 we hear a powerful reflection from King Solomon, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…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.”
In Mark 12 Jesus said the two most important things we must do are "…you shall love the Lord your GOD with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' (Mark 12:30-31)
Folks, if we keep our focus on these two things, we will find
satisfaction for our souls and lasting contentment.
In addition to cultivating contentment in our lives, we need to cultivate SIMPLICITY. Contentment and simplicity go hand in hand.
To simplify your life, first set a goal of reducing your consumption, and live below your means. As an educator and as a Christian pastor, I believe that GOD was calling us to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” as good stewards of GOD’S creation. I’ve heard a couple of additional ones in the Ozarks, “make do, use it up, or do without.”
When Hope, our kids, and I went to Blue Gap Church in the Four Corners area of Arizona back in 1994, I got to drive a large 15 passenger van to pick up the kids for our Vacation Bible School for 5 days.
I was shocked to see the Navajos’ living conditions. At the church where we were staying, the outhouse was totally full. There was no running water. There were no TVs or radios. Yet as we began to live in their rhythm of life a little bit, I saw first hand people content with what they had and living a simple life with GOD the source of all good things.
On the 40 or so missions, after getting to spend time with the Navajos, I saw it over and over again, people who were satisfied with what GOD had blessed them with.
The depth of their faith was something that I wanted, since, at the time, mine was so shallow. Their peace and contentment was inspiring. I came to realize that a lot of the stuff that I had worked for so hard was creating a wall between me and GOD. My life was changed by the people that hosted us when we went there to serve.
So, all of this comes down to one last question; WHICH TENT WILL YOU LIVE IN? Will you live in discon-tent or con-tent-ment? You and you alone will determine which “tent” will be yours.
You choose in a large part by deciding what life is about.
If you decide that “life does not consist in the abundance our possessions,” then you are choosing contentment.
Choosing contentment means we look to GOD as our Source, giving thanks for what we have. We ask GOD to give us the right perspective on money and possessions and to change our hearts each day; we decide to live simpler lives, wasting less and conserving more; and we choose to give more generously.
We were created to be generous; and we are tempted to hoard. GOD created us with the willingness to give—to GOD and to others. This design is part of our makeup; we actually have “the need to be generous.” Yet there are two voices that “War” against our GOD-given impulse toward generosity, tempting us to keep or hoard what we have been blessed with.
The 1st voice that whispers in our ear is fear. Fear of what might happen to us, along with a misplaced idea about the true source of our security, keeps us from being generous and leads us to hoard what we have. The truth is that hoarding offers us no real security in this world.
The 2nd voice that the devil whispers in our ears is that of self-gratification. Our culture tells us that our lives consist in the abundance of our possessions and pleasurable experiences.
So, we find ourselves thinking,
“If I give, then there won’t be enough left for me.”
GOD can help us defeat the voices from the deceiver. When we give our lives to Christ, invite him to be Lord, and allow the Holy Spirit to begin changing us from the inside out, we find that our fears begin to dissipate and our aim in life shifts from seeking personal pleasure to pleasing GOD and caring for others. Although we still may wrestle with the voices from time to time, we are able to silence them more readily and effectively the more we grow in Christ. And the more we grow in Christ, realizing that our life belongs to him, the more generous we become. Generosity is a fruit of spiritual growth.
Let us pray. Lord, we pray that you might cure us of Restless Heart Syndrome. GOD forgive us for the times we’ve offended you by our discontent. Forgive us for being content with the things we were not supposed to be content with. Help us have a hunger and a deep longing to pursue righteousness and holiness and justice and love, to long for you and for your will for our lives. Help us in this. Help us to simplify, to get off the treadmill, the hamster wheel, and to find in you, our peace. Help us cultivate contentment and live simply so that we may live generous lives.
Jesus, we ask these mercies in your holy name, Amen.