Be Content

Title: Be Content

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Text: Hebrews 13:5

Date: November 23rd, 2008

Once again we arrive at the holiday season, beginning in November in just a few days with Thanksgiving, then Christmas in December, and finally, New Year’s in January. I love the holiday season because it’s a reminder of how good God is and how blessed we are again being under his love and care for another year. Today, I’d like to talk about thanksgiving and being content, about thanking God for what we have instead of complaining about what we don’t have. The passage I came across to remind us of this is 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?’” What a great reminder on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day – we need to stop and remember what we have and thank God for his many blessings in our lives. We also need to stop complaining and worrying so much about what we don’t have, or what we could have if we only had more money or a better job, etc. We need to learn contentment in life. Finally, it’s a good time of the year to remember that as we look to God he will provide for all of our needs. The news reports today all say that the U.S. economy is in recession with the possibility of economic depression if one or more of the automakers collapse, if the banks don’t start recovering from all the bad debt that’s still in the banking system, if the housing market doesn’t pick up. Many people today feel that the economy is in shambles or at least that’s the perception. But it’s relative. This Thanksgiving, we need to keep things in perspective. The country we live in is still the greatest economy in the world. When we say we are suffering an economic downturn, we need to remember that our negatives are still a lot better than most of the world’s positive times. I wonder what the rest of the world thinks of Americans complaining about how bad things are when from the rest of the world’s viewpoint things still look pretty rosy for citizens of the U.S. We need to get a perspective on things and thank God for the blessings of our lives instead of focusing on the problems or negative things. That’s what Thanksgiving is for – thanking God for our blessings. What blessings are you experiencing today? Don’t say, “I haven’t any blessings at all, just problems.” No. You’ve got blessings, even if you are suffering disappointments and set backs today. It may take a little review to remember the blessings that you are experiencing, but that’s what Thanksgiving is for, reviewing, remembering, and then rejoicing in our blessings. That’s what the Pilgrims did in the New World. If you remember history, the Pilgrims had very little of the luxuries of life we experience today. Life was very basic for them – survival in the wilderness. Basic housing such as log cabins, simple food cooked over an open fire, warm clothing and shoes, wood heat for the fireplace in the winter, etc. The first Thanksgiving was thanking God for the necessities of life. Can we learn to thank God for the necessities of life instead of worrying about what we don’t have that we want? Let’s hear God’s Word and what it says on the subject of being thankful.

First, let’s stop coveting what we don’t have this Thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money. . . .” Why are we tempted to want more and more money? Why do we always need more and more money? Isn’t it because there are more and more things we want to own and more and more things we want to do that we can’t afford with our present income so we think the answer is to get more and more money? Think of all the advertisements that we are bombarded with, assaulted with on a daily basis. We turn on our radios in the car while driving – commercials. We watch television in the evenings and what do we get – more advertisements. Even on the computer, on the Internet, we are hit with more and more sales pitches and appeals for products. I started thinking the other day, I have high-speed Internet, but it’s almost as slow as my old dial-up because of all the animated advertisements that must load before a web page appears. It’s crazy. Is it any wonder that we covet and desire more and more consumer products? No we know that’s wrong. After all, one of the Ten Commandments is “Thou shall not covet,” yet it’s so much a part of the commercialization of the modern world in which we live. I once took a college class, Economics 101, and I remember something that I never forgot. One of the basic truths of economics is that human beings have an endless appetite for more and more goods and services in an economy. And the funny thing is, it doesn’t matter how prosperous or poor the economy. If we have more, we want more. Our natural appetite for more and more is never diminished. That’s why we have to fight against the urge to desire more and more money. We have to resist the temptation to love money because of what it can give to us in terms of the goods of this world. Since our appetite for material goods is endless, then if we aren’t careful so too will be our love for money in order to satisfy our material appetites. God warns us in his Word that we must keep our lives free from the love of money. Of course, there’s also the famous passage that should bother every American living in our wealthy economy, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Why is the love of money so evil? Because money becomes an idol we begin to serve in place of God. It robs us of peace because we are always chasing after more and more money to buy more and more things under the false assumption that this all leads to happiness. It doesn’t. This Thanksgiving, let’s decide to stop looking to money and material resources for happiness. Let’s stop coveting after the things we don’t have, envying others for having the car we wish we had, or living in the house we wish we lived in, or having the job we would give anything for, etc. Let’s stop looking to the economy for our happiness and security. Let’s stop thinking of life so much in terms of dollars and sense, because that is only a symptom of a deeper problem of materialism. I think one of the reasons why so many people are hurting today in these days of economic uncertainty is that we’ve grown to love money too much. Our lives are too wrapped up in money and materialism. Let’s use the economic troubles this Thanksgiving as a wake up call – to get our priorities right in life, to get our eyes off money and onto God!

Second, let’s start being content with what we have this Thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. . . .” The cure for covetousness is contentment. What is contentment? Isn’t it being satisfied with what you already have and not always looking over and beyond your present situation? Instead of contentment, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” describes so many Americans’ attitude. Instead of being content with our present housing situation, we longingly look at everyone living in bigger, better homes and say, “I’ll be happy when I can live in that kind of place.” Do you really want to know why our economy is going through such troubles today? It first started showing signs of weakness in the housing market. Home prices are cyclical, sometimes they go up and sometimes they go down. But this time, so many people had taken out huge home loans but were unable to make their monthly payments that they begin to go into foreclosure. Then, more and more homes were in foreclosure until finally, the banks themselves couldn’t pay their debts because the debts owed to them weren’t being paid. But at the root of the problem were people not being content, not willing to wait for a gradual increase in their standard of living, going deep into debt to afford a higher standard of living now, and then the going broke as a result. “Be content with what you have,” says the Lord. Are you content with what you have, or are you always thinking and talking about something bigger and better? It’s easy to fall into that trap because, again, advertisements and commercials feed discontentment. “Don’t drive an old car, lease or buy a new model,” says the commercial. “Don’t rent or live in a small house, buy a new larger home with a huge home loan,” says the advertisement. They fail to explain the fine print that the interest rate goes up sharply after three years! Being content means appreciating what you have, giving thanks to God for what you have presently, not always and in every case wanting more and more. “How much is enough,” is a good question to ask from time to time. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “But 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. 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,” 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Now God doesn’t mean for you never to strive for better things in life. There is nothing wrong with desiring improvement in life. But it must be done in a godly way. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you as well.” Seek God first, seek his will first, put God ahead of material things including money, and God will provide for all your needs in the process. Let’s be content with what God has given us this Thanksgiving.

Third, let’s thank God for all we have and for all we’ll ever need this Thanksgiving. 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?’” This passage mentions what I believe is the main motivation for the love of money and materialism today – fear. When things go wrong in life aren’t we really afraid that without money and possessions we’ll be left with nothing, destitute, out on the streets, homeless, penny-less, pushing a shopping cart along a lonely side street? We’ve all seen destitute people and it’s not a pretty sight. We fear that don’t we? I’ll never forget the sight I saw once in Colorado. A woman had been put out of her apartment – thankfully it was in the summer – with all her earthly possessions right out there on the side of the street, right out in front of the apartment building. There she was, sitting in the midst of all her possessions all piled up around her. She was destitute. She had clothes piled up around her, furniture, chairs, a table, tv, boxes of things – all her belongings, right out there, in public for all to see. How humiliating, how embarrassing. I drove by and then turned around and drove up to her, rolled my window down and asked her if she needed help moving her things some place. She said that someone was coming to help her move and thanked me. I guess she got her things moved and someone helped her. But isn’t that a fear of ours, that we’ll suffer some huge economic loss and be without and be humiliated and embarrassed and destitute? So we turn to money and make it an idol in our life and we make sure by our own strength and power that we’ll never be without means. We are driven by our fears of economic failure. But God has a different plan, a better plan, but it requires that we trust in the Lord and not in ourselves. We are to keep free from the love of money and be content. “But what if something happens and we are really hurting financially? What if we run out of money and we are left in poverty and with nothing? Shouldn’t we over-compensate and make as much money as we can and organize our lives around money just to make sure we never lack what we need?” According to God, no. According to God we are to trust God, pray to God, believe in God for his resources. How? “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?’” Our confidence is in God, not ourselves, not in the economy, not in the government for aid, not in our job, not in our bank account, not in our stock investments, not in our retirement plan, not in our earthly wealth or possessions. Our confidence is in God and we walk by faith. We are going to have to learn some very valuable lessons as our economy goes through troubles today. We should have already learned these lessons, but we haven’t. We have to learn that apart from God there is no security. The government can’t bail us out of trouble; the economy can’t be counted on to give us security. Our savings and investments can’t be our stability. Only God is our rock. Let us turn to God this Thanksgiving and thank him for all his blessings. Let us be content with his provisions in life. And let us put greater and greater trust in God and lesser and lesser trust in our money and material possessions. Let us remember to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be given unto us as well.” Let’s pray.

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