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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:True contentment comes with a growth in godliness
Text:1 Timothy (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2015-10-11
Added:2016-06-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Psalm 136:1,2,13

Psalm 147:3

Psalm 49:1,3,4,5

Psalm 4:3

Hymn 78:1,3,5

Read:  Luke 12:13-34; 1 Timothy 6

Text:  1 Timothy 6:6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men who have ever lived.  Born in 1839 and living to the age of 98, Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil company at the time that the automobile was established as the new form of transport.  As both kerosene and gasoline grew in importance, Rockefeller controlled 90% of America’s oil supply, his wealth soared, he became the world’s richest man and the first American worth more than a billion dollars.  But it is alleged that one day a reporter came and asked him, “How much money is enough?” To which Rockefeller responded, “Just a little bit more.”

“Just a little bit more.”  Isn’t that the way of it?  If our contentment is to be found in making money, in being financially successful, how much is enough?  If one who was as rich as Rockefeller had not yet learned how much money is enough, what about you?  What will you be content with?

In Luke 12 our Lord Jesus gave a parable about a rich man whose business venture was quite successful.  So successful, in fact, that he had nowhere to store his crops.  Thinking what to do about this he said,

“I will do this:  I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”  (Luke 12:18,19.)

This man was rich and he was successful.  But God called him a fool.

But what about you, and what about me?  What is your attitude towards money: to wanting it, earning it, holding on to it and giving it away?  How much money is enough?  Are you content with what you have?  And do you know what to do with the money that you do have?

John D. Rockefeller also said something else once, to a Bible class in his church, in 1905.  He said,

“It is wrong to assume that men of immense wealth are always happy.”

We all know that.  It does not always stop us from trying, but we all know that money does not buy you happiness because wealth and the accumulation of wealth does not make you content.  Rather contentment, true contentment that is, lies somewhere else.  And that is for our joy and our hope and our treasure to be in belonging to God through Jesus Christ. 

You see, the Lord Jesus was right when He said in Luke 12:15 that “Life does not consist in the abundance of possession.”  Because life, true life, consists in seeking not the things of this world but the kingdom of God.  It is when we seek first the kingdom of God – belonging to Him, serving Him, living for Him, rather than loving and living for money or the pleasures of this world that we are really happy and that we find true contentment.  And such godliness with contentment is great gain.  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

True contentment comes with a growth in godliness.

  1. A lesson in contentment.
  2. A call to generosity.

1. A lesson in contentment.

In 1 Timothy 3:15 the apostle Paul explained that he was writing this letter to Timothy

“so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

One important matter for all of us when it comes to conducting ourselves in godly way as members of God’s house is the matter of money and so it is not surprising that this is addressed in this letter.  1 Timothy 6 is not the first time, however, that the matter of money is raised.  In 1 Timothy 3:3 says that an elder must not be greedy for money nor covetous.  And Paul wrote that the same applies to deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8.  In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul wrote that church members were to provide for widows, especially those of their own household – and that if they did not do so they denied the faith and were worse than an unbeliever.  Then 1 Timothy 5:18 says that the elders who labour in the word and doctrine are to be well supported since “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”  So we have already learned that greed is not good, that covetousness does not accord with godliness, that the money we receive from God’s hand is not to be hoarded but to be used for the ministry of the gospel and to care for those in need.

  But now in 1 Timothy 6 Paul goes into the thorny issue of money and the love of it in more detail, teaching us what must be our attitude towards money as well as what we are to do with the abundance of wealth the Lord has given us.  And it is a good thing that the Bible does so because for most of us the love of money and the things that money can buy is something that we struggle with.  It happens again and again that we take our eyes off the kingdom of heaven and allow them to linger on the things of this world.  It happens again and again that while we say with our lips that God owns everything and all that we have is His, we act as though my pay-packet, my bank balance, my investments and my desire to build bigger barns and houses to hoard all the stuff I am accumulating is my business and nobody else’s.  And from there it is a very small step for me to start building my own little empire where I am king or I am queen and where I begin to seek first my kingdom and my eyes and my mind become filled with the things of this world – the things that I have and the things that I want.

And we are all in danger of this, including preachers and teachers.  In 2 Timothy 2:3,4 Paul wrote to Timothy,

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.  No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life.”

But how easy it is for preachers and teachers, men of God, to get caught up with stuff, letting the things of this world fill his heart and life, looking over his shoulder and wondering what he might be missing out on.  Ministers are not expected to be paupers – Paul had already reminded Timothy that Christ Himself had said that “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18) – but ministers are expected to practice what they preach. And since they preach the kingdom of God, their eyes and their hearts and their lives should be fixed on that kingdom and not on the things of this world.  But when the minister gets entangled with the affairs of this life, his focus shifts to the things of this world.  That’s what happened in a big way to Demas, one of the companions of the apostle Paul.  In 2 Timothy 4:9 Paul wrote to Timothy,

“Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.”

He loved “this present world” and his love for this world overshadowed his love for the world that is to come.

But there is a second danger for ministers and teachers of the Word:  not only does money talk but talking about money sells!  And some preachers have bought in to the idea that by pushing their brand of theology they can be rich and that they can make a name for themselves.  Turn on your television and listen carefully to the preachers who are on the airwaves and you will find that many of them are not really preaching the kingdom of heaven but about a kingdom to be made here on earth!  The blatant teachers of the health and wealth and prosperity gospel will tell you outright that you are a child of the King and that the King wants his children to be rich, to have good things, to be able to enjoy all the pleasures this world has to offer.  Godliness, they preach, is a means to gain.  First for themselves, of course – and the most successful among them have their mansions and their fleet of fancy cars and their leer jet at the airport – first for themselves, but also for everyone else who follows them and gives them their money.  But even those who are not so crass as to say that if you give them a hundred dollars God would give them a thousand, the focus of too many so-called preachers is on this life and how to have a healthy and wealthy and happy and fulfilling time here on earth. 

And something similar was happening in the church of Ephesus when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy.  In 1 Timothy 6:3-5 Paul wrote about false teachers who did not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, but were proud, knowing nothing, obsessed with disputes and arguments over words.  These men, Paul wrote in verse 5, supposed “that godliness is a means of gain.”  It is likely that these false teachers tried to make money by charging for their services.  It was a common practice in those times for a religious speaker to do the rounds, drawing crowds to his brand of teaching and charging money from those who came.  But that is not what the gospel is all about!  The gospel is not about financial gain, it is not about making money, it is not about the things of this world.  Preachers peddling for profit are out there trying to promise you heaven on earth, trying to convince you that you will get what you want – and that this will make you content.  But true contentment comes with godliness.  And godliness means that our focus is on God and not on ourselves nor on the things that we want.  And to keep our hearts and minds focused on God and the kingdom of God, Paul reminds us of a basic fact in 1 Timothy 6:7.

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out.”

The things of this world are simply that: the things of this world.  When we have a little bit of money we think so much of ourselves.  We give Kmart the flick and buy our clothes from David Jones or, better still some chick boutique store in the middle of the city.  We buy a car with class, we move to a bigger house in a better neighborhood, we upgrade the furniture, the curtains and our kitchen appliances.  And if we’ve still got a bit of money left we fly to Europe to take a cruise in the Mediterranean.  And not only that but we catch ourselves walking with an extra bounce in our step and a little toss of the head.  That’s nothing new of course.  In Isaiah 3 the prophet was commanded to speak to the upper class of Zion, where the daughters of Zion were haughty, walking with their heads up in the air, the anklets on their feet jingling and dressed up to the nines with all their scarves and pendants and bracelets and perfumes and purses and fancy hair.  But do you know where all those people in the days of Isaiah are today?  They are all dead and buried and forgotten.  You see, it doesn’t make any difference as to how rich you are in this life: we will all be buried in a hole of the same dimensions.  Psalm 49:16,17 says,

“Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.”

And as the LORD said to Adam and Eve,

“From dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

This might all sound rather morbid but the point of Scripture is that you need to keep the right perspective.  For, as the LORD said to the rich man in spoke in Luke 12,

“Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”  Luke 12:20.

The Bible does not forbid you from being rich – we’ll get to that later.  But if your heart is set on getting the things of this world, then not only will you never be truly content, but you are, the Bible says, a fool!  You are a fool because you are chasing after and holding on to the things that will crumble and fail instead of the things that will last. Do not lay hold of the things of this world but rather, 1 Timothy 6:12 says, “lay hold on eternal life”!  Jesus said in Luke 12:31,32

“But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

And that’s why it is so foolish to be enchanted by the stuff this world when if only we would look we would see Jesus offering eternal life in His kingdom.  And what is a Roll’s Royce compared to the kingdom?  What is that better house, that nicer set of clothes, that fancier vacation compared to the kingdom of heaven?

Beware, 1 Timothy 6 warns us, lest our yearning for the things of this world prevent us from entering that kingdom.  1 Timothy 6:9,10

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

It is not money that is the problem but the love of it.  And these words of Scripture are not directed just at the rich but also the poor.  There are many people who have nothing but are consumed with greed and covetousness, wanting that which they don’t have and bitter at those who do have those things.  And those who live for the love of money fall into temptation and are snared by many foolish lusts.  They stray from the faith and life becomes a misery.  Think of the many families that have broken up and ended up in divorce because the husband or the wife were so consumed with the things of this world.  Think of the shonky business practices, of the embezzlement of funds and of corporate greed that has destroyed relationships and hurt a lot of people.  Think of the gambling that goes on – from sports bets to the TAB to the lotto, internet gambling and the slot machines that are not only sinful in themselves but that have led to gambling addictions and the loss of everything many a person owned.  Beware of the desire to become rich! Rather,

“Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

We will be satisfied with the basic necessities of life because that is all we need.  It may well be that the Lord gives us more than the basic necessities of life but how much more or less does not make us more or less content.  Because our contentment does not lie in either the abundance or the lack of what we have.  Rather it is to be found in belonging to Jesus Christ.

And that means that true contentment is not simply doing without.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a nice house or a car or a good set of clothes.  To the contrary, 1 Timothy 6:17 says that God gives us richly all things to enjoy.  But true contentment is accompanied with godliness, with our heart and our mind and our entire lives set on loving God and serving Him.  1 Timothy 6:11,12

“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience,  gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

That is how we are called to live.  True contentment comes with a growth in godliness.

 

2. A call to generosity.

If we are living for God and not for money, what then should we do with all the money we have?  Do we need to literally give away all that we have in order to follow the Lord Jesus?  Perhaps you should.  Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  So if your money is keeping you away from God, get rid of it.  Give it away. 

  But giving your money away won’t necessarily make things any better.  Because the problem is not really with your money but with your heart.  Jesus said,

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Luke 12:34.

But if your heart truly is seeking the things that are above, if you really do want to lay hold of eternal life, then that will change the way you see the money that God has given you.  Yes, you may enjoy it, but enjoy it modestly.  Just because you can afford something does not mean that you should have it.  In fact Paul said of the self-indulgent widow who lived for pleasure in 1 Timothy 5:6 that she was as good as dead.  Even though you can find the money, to choose to deny yourself of the cravings of your heart is not such a bad thing: in fact, if this is accompanied with a heart that is seeks God and His kingdom it can save your soul.  Brothers and sisters, how do you see your money?  How are you using it in the context of godliness and keeping your eyes fixed on the kingdom of heaven?

1 Timothy 6:17-19 says,

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

If you are rich, don’t be haughty.  Remember that your riches are only for “this present age” – you won’t be taking it with you.  And therefore think about that and invest for eternity,  seeking that treasure in the heavens that does not fail, as our Lord Jesus said in Luke 12:33. Do good and be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. 

Are you doing that?  Are you willing to give up not only yourself but also your bank account, your house, your car and all the possessions you own for the sake of Christ and the gospel?  Do you confess with both your mouth and your life that whatever you have is both from God and for God?  And if you do, how has that changed you?  How has that changed the way that you live and the way that you give?

Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God” and we seek that kingdom, also in our giving.  No we do not give in order to receive.  We do not give in the hope of a bigger house here on earth or a mansion in heaven.  But we give because God first gave to us.  When it comes to money the Lord both gives and takes away.  It is true: we live in a world where moth and rust consume.  But there is one gift, His greatest gift, that He does not take away, and that is the gift of His only Son. And He is the greatest gift of all.  And since we have the Lord Jesus, we will live for Him, we will love Him and we will serve Him. 

And when we do that, there is the promise of 1 Timothy 6:19 that we store up for ourselves a good foundation for the time to come, that we may lay hold on to eternal life.  No, we do not earn eternal life.  Rather we can only say the words of Luke 17:10,

“We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.”

But God will bless us and He will give us the eternal life that He has promised us.  Not because we gave our money as such, but because our giving and our attitude to money and the things of this world are the result of belonging to Jesus Christ.  It is the gospel that frees us from the love of money and it is the gospel that makes generous with all that God has given us. 

When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much is enough he may well have said “Just a little bit more.”  But it is reported that he was also fair and he was also generous.  He was a Christian who attended church every Sunday and he is well known for his generosity to the church and to charity.  And when he was 86 John Rockefeller wrote this poem:

I was early taught to work as well as play

My life has been one long, happy holiday;

Full of work and full of play –

I dropped the worry on the way –

And God was good to me everyday.

Perhaps John D. Rockefeller did learn what true contentment is after all.  He knew that men of immense wealth were not always happy.  But perhaps he learned the truth of 1 Timothy 6:6, that godliness with contentment is great gain.  I hope so because when he died and met his Maker he took nothing of his vast empire with him.

But what about you?  Where is your treasure and where does your heart lie?  Because one day – perhaps this very night – you will be standing before your God.  And none of your money, none of your stuff will be coming with you.  And then what?  Brothers and sisters:  what do you seek and who do you serve?

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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