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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain
Text:1 Timothy 6:1-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Enjoying Life
 
Preached:2017
Added:2021-04-13
Updated:2021-04-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Blue Psalter unless otherwise noted):

321- O Day of Rest and Gladness

Responsive Reading: Psalm 73

340 (Red) - Like A River Glorious

413 - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

353 - Beneath the Cross of Jesus

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain”
1 Timothy 6:1-10
 
In the year 1648 a minister by the name of Jeremiah Burroughs published a book with a unique title, a book that is still widely read today. Part of the appeal of the book is that it focuses on contentment. Our text in verse 6 tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain.” But we all know that contentment can be elusive even when we are richly blessed. And the title of Jeremiah Burroughs’ book alludes to that: It is entitled: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.
 
The truth that Christian contentment is indeed a rare jewel was driven home to me back in the 1990’s. I had sold my old blue hippie van, which took everyone who knew me by surprise. Since I was able to sell it for a good price I began to look for a replacement vehicle. It was back in the day when we were rich with spiritual blessings but did not have many material blessings. I read the want ads and looked at a number of cars in my price range which maxed out at $1000. Most of them were junk. But then I found a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird for sale for $925. The ad said that it only had 67,000 miles and was in good shape. I called the number and Karen and the children and I went to look at the car.
 
The car was in really nice shape and it did only have 67,000 miles. It had a small four cylinder engine with a three speed automatic transmission. I ended up buying the car, even though I said to Karen, “This would be the perfect car if it had a five speed.”
                 
I knew that a lot of those small General Motors vehicles of that era had a five speed manual transmission. Fifth gear was overdrive, so they got better mileage than the three speed automatic.  Besides that, the three speed automatic made the little engine sound like a giant mosquito once it reached about 60 miles per hour. But I still really liked my car. It was the best $900 car that could be bought, and it turned out to be the best cost per mile car that I ever owned. I put over 100,000 miles on the car and still sold it for $200.
 
But after I had owned the car for only a few months our neighbor’s daughter, who had just recently turned sixteen, got her first car. It was exactly like my Pontiac except that it was an Oldsmobile. The sheet-metal was a little different, as was the grill and the taillights. But otherwise, it was the same car as mine with the same engine. But she had what I wished I had. She had the five speed transmission! She could go through those gears and that car would pick up and go! And she told me how on the highway she could barely hear the engine because fifth gear was overdrive and gave her superb gas mileage. She really knew how to rub it in!
 
As soon as I saw the five speed in her car, my car lost so much of its attractiveness. She had what I wanted! And I knew it wasn't feasible to replace my automatic transmission with a five speed.  When I began to covet a sixteen year-old’s first car, it reminded me that Jeremiah Burroughs’ had an incredibly wise title to his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Contentment truly is a jewel. Contentment is a blessed state of mind to have. But it is, indeed, rare.
 
Here in 1 Timothy 6 the apostle Paul describes three conditions related to contentment. In many ways each condition is different: he describes slaves and masters; he describes false teachers and true; and he warns about the love of money. But even though all three of those are separate areas, and each could certainly be a separate sermon, all three of those areas are covered by the words of our text in verse 6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
 
Diversity of Discontentment
 
In verse 1 and 2 Paul describes a slave's relationship to their master. In the first century almost one out of three people was a slave. Some of them were treated well by their masters. Some of them were able to buy their freedom, and others were set free when their masters included their freedom in their wills. But many slaves were mistreated, many never had an opportunity to buy their freedom; many of the slaves knew that they would be slaves for life.
 
Yet for the sake of God's name, verse 1 declares, they were to consider their masters worthy of respect. And verse 2 describes how those who had believing masters were not to show less respect for them because they were brothers in the Lord. Instead, they were to work even harder for masters who were believers.
 
The apostle was teaching the slaves of his day to make the most out of the calling God had given them. He was teaching them to be content in their lives, knowing that the sovereign rule of God had allowed them to be in the circumstance they were in. Knowing that they were purchased by Christ, free in him and guaranteed a place in heaven where they would no longer be in servitude, they were to have contentment and work hard for the glory of God, whether they had believing or unbelieving masters.
 
Those principles from the first century apply to us in our work situations today. We are not slaves to our employers, yet we often find that we have to do unpleasant work for a season of time. A man might have an excellent job, yet when the economy changes, that job is lost. Often the job that he receives as a replacement job pays less money and entails more work. But even in that situation we are called to be content, trusting that God will provide what is needed through the hard circumstances, and trusting that if he is so willing, something better will open up in the future.
 
Rather than looking at someone else’s job, and coveting that job for ourselves, we can be content where God has placed us, and thankful that we have employment.
 
A second area that Paul addresses is the importance of having doctrinal understanding which doesn’t pursue controversy. He is describing ministers who aren’t content to preach the gospel of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. In verse 3 to 5 he warns Timothy about false teachers who “do not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching” but instead have “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
 
In the early church there were some who would cause division by majoring in minor points. They would get into a battle of words. And they would do so over the most minor of issues. For example, the Talmud, which is used by rabbis to explain the meaning and application of Jewish religious laws, describes what was a great controversy. The controversy involved the proper way to dispose of the pit of a date on the Sabbath day. You could bite into the date and eat the date itself, but what do you do with the pit? If you throw the pit away, doesn't that constitute work? Foolish as it may sound, that was one of many debates that false teachers could easily get carried away with; they would quarrel about words, while the truths of the gospel were neglected.
 
Unfortunately, still today there are often doctrinal discussions on minor things that become a war of words – “quarrels about words” (v. 4) –  that prevent the true gospel from being proclaimed. I knew a minister who had some unbelieving relatives who lived in a distant state. He and his wife prayed for their salvation, and were thankful that these relatives were coming to visit; they would be in town on Sunday. The pastor described how his Sunday morning sermon focused on the gospel and that he prayed that these relatives would hear the clear call to repent and trust with saving faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. He and his wife prayed that by the Holy’s Spirit’s power the relatives would yet believe in Christ and have everlasting life.
 
But on that Sunday morning his relatives slept in; they didn’t come to church; they missed the clear gospel message that was presented in the morning sermon. That evening a missionary was scheduled to preach. The pastor encouraged his relatives to come and listen to the message. He figured a missionary, of all people, would give a clear gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
 
The sermon text was from 1 Timothy 6:13-14, which gives this clear gospel message: “In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Although the clear gospel message could flow easily from that text, the visiting missionary pastor used “quarrels about words” to identify what was meant by keeping “this command without spot or blame.”
 
Apparently there were some other missionary pastors who had a different view of what the command entailed. Their view differed from the view that this missionary had. So he spent well over 45 minutes on the meaning of the command to be kept without spot or blame and how those who took a different view than he took had the wrong view of what was meant by that command.
 
The minister of the church described how he saw his relatives getting restless in the pew as the sermon went on and on focusing on just those few words. The purpose for Jesus being before Pontius Pilate was never brought up. The visiting minister never pointed out that Jesus was judged guilty so that he who is innocent would bear the guilt of every sinner who believes upon him. The purpose of the trial before Pontius Pilate which led Jesus to the cross of Calvary to shed his precious blood for sinners was never brought up. The heart of the gospel was totally missed. The minister who had prayed for his relatives salvation – and still does –  described how those relatives said they had no interest in going to church after hearing that sermon. To this day, that minister said, he is still so sad that “quarrels about words” formed the basis of the sermon that his unbelieving relatives heard.
 
Although today we aren’t likely to hear a sermon on how to properly dispose of the pit from the date that was eaten on the Sabbath, there is still a great danger that the truth of the gospel will be missed by those who aren’t content to preach “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), who aren’t content to  exclaim with the apostle, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16). There are still many who do “not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching” but instead have “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
 
It is that last statement in verse 5 - about those "who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” - that leads into the discussion of the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil. Here again this passage is so relevant for us today. Many television ministries view godliness as a means to financial gain. It has been pointed out that the initials “PTL” for “Praise the Lord” are code words in many churches for “Pass the loot”!  Unfortunately, there is a truth to that statement. There are many ministers who will outwardly praise the Lord so that their flock will pass the loot. Those who think that godliness is a means to financial gain certainly have been robbed of the truth, and are of a corrupt mind, just as verse 5 states.
 
Principles for Contentment
 
And it is with that background that the apostle brings up our text in verse 6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” ­ In the verses that follow the apostle speaks about material possessions and money. It is in financial matters and material possessions where contentment is so crucial, and yet it is in financial matters where many people have trouble finding contentment.
 
But verse 7 and 8 give us two principles that are helpful in finding contentment in financial matters. The first principle is in verse 7 which teaches “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
 
Job certainly understood that principle. He was the wealthiest man of his era, the wealthiest man in all the East as Scripture puts it. But you know the tragic account of his life. You know how one messenger after another brought him the most terrible news imaginable. He lost everything of value, not just his finances, his crops and cattle, but he lost his children as well. Yet his statement after suffering those traumatic losses is one of the best-known statements in the entire Bible. Job 1:20-21 describes how “he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’”
 
Perhaps the experience of Job was in Paul's memory when he wrote in verse 7, “We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.­”  That verse puts Job’s life – and ours – in a nutshell. None of us brought any material possessions into this world, and none of us will leave with any of our material possessions. When we remember that truth it helps us to be content no matter what our circumstances. That was the case for Job, and it is the case for everyone else who considers that “we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.”
 
A second principle to help us to be content in financial matters is to remember that God has promised to provide all that we truly need in life. He promises to provide our daily bread; and by that expression  “daily bread” we understand that he has promised to provide all that we need. That is also why in verse 8, Paul writes: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
 
We can be content with food and clothing  – we can be content with the basic necessities of life – because we know that our provision comes from the Lord. He who feeds the birds of the air, and even knows when a common sparrow falls to the ground, has also promised to feed and care for us. He who clothes the lilies of the field with a splendor far greater than Solomon's has also promised to clothe us (Matt. 6:30). Admittedly, he uses means to an end. The Thessalonians were told that they must be willing to work or they could not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). We must always use the means that God has given to us. But then we can trust his promise to provide all that we truly need in life.
 
With that trust in the Lord's provision we find contentment, whether living in plenty or living in want. Writing to the Philippians the apostle, in Philippians 4:12-13, expressed the contentment that comes from knowing that God will provide, just as he has promised. He wrote,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. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
 
A Root of All Kinds of Evil
 
Verse 9 and 10 contain a serious warning which serves as a fitting application to the apostle’s observation that godliness with contentment is great gain. He writes: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people 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.”
 
Did you notice, in verse 9, the progression of trouble that those who want to get rich encounter? First there is a desire in the back of their mind – they “want to get rich.” And the verse goes on to point out that when they have that desire they fall. Their fall is a two-stage fall. First they “fall into temptation” and, as that temptation to become ever richer grows, they are trapped with many “foolish and harmful desires.” The trap that they are in with their foolish and harmful desires causes them to “plunge into ruin and destruction.”
 
Maybe that sounds a little extreme. What's wrong with wanting to get rich? After all, it is absolutely crucial to have money just in order to live, and we all know how expensive life is.
 
But if you think that verse 9 is extreme in its description of the progression of trouble that those who want to get rich encounter, then consider the lives of lottery winners. Studies show that seventy percent of lottery winners in the United States go broke within three to four years. Many have seen their marriages dissolve, friendships fade, and as their lives unravel, some lottery winners have committed suicide.
 
In virtually every circumstance they turn out not to be lottery winners but lottery losers. In virtually every circumstance the truth of verse 9 is proven: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
      
Verse 10 continues the warning given in verse 9 as it concludes, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” After all, the rich young ruler left the Lord with sadness because he had great wealth (Matt. 19:22). And Jesus described, to the astonishment of his disciples, how “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24).
 
Entrance into his kingdom, whether rich or poor, is all by his grace through saving faith in Christ alone, “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10).
 
The warning of verse 10, in 1 Timothy 6, teaches a truth that is often misquoted. The verse begins by saying, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” That verse is misquoted by those who forget to put the “love of” before “money.”  Money is not evil in and of itself.  Money is the means that God uses to supply our earthly needs, as such money is a blessing from God. It is when we get an undue love for money that it becomes a root of all kinds of evil.
 
The King James Version of the Bible translated the first part of verse 10 as “the love of money is the root of all evil.” The New King James Version properly translates the verse as “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Money is certainly not the source of everything evil in the world, but its misuse does lead to all kinds of evil.
 
Contentment Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone
 
Because money can lead people astray, and because the lack of money leaves people in extreme poverty, there is great wisdom in the prayer of Agur in Proverbs 30:8-9: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
 
However, although Agur showed great wisdom in his statement, the ultimate way to find contentment is not just by being “middle-class” – neither rich nor poor. The only way to be truly content is to have saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Jeremiah Burroughs’ book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, was based on that phrase from Philippians 4:11 where the apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” In the next two verses he explained:  “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. I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11-13).
 
We only find contentment through faith in Christ as we trust in God alone for our salvation, and for everything else in life. That is brought out beautifully in the 73rd Psalm (which we read responsively). The 73rd Psalm was written by Asaph. Asaph knew what it was to be discontent. In the beginning of the Psalm, he describes how he almost lost his faith because he looked around and saw how prosperous the wicked are. He wrote, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
 
It seemed to him that those who were wicked received all the blessings of life, while those who were godly had nothing by comparison. Asaph knew no contentment. That is, until he went into the house of the Lord. As he considered the ways of the Lord and the truths of his word he found true contentment. Even though the wicked seemed more prosperous than the righteous, Asaph found contentment. He wrote:
 
     Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
 
That is, in a real sense, an Old Testament counterpart to the apostle Paul's statement in Philippians 4:13, “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. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
 
When you and I find our contentment in Christ and not in material things, then and only then, do we find true contentment. Only then do we find that rare jewel of Christian contentment. Then we can echo the words of contentment spoken by the people of God throughout the centuries, whether Asaph, Job, the apostle Paul, Jeremiah Burroughs, or the hymn writer, Elizabeth Clephane who wrote the familiar hymn, Beneath the Cross of Jesus:
 
I take, O cross, Your shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine
than the sunshine of His face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all, the cross.
 
That is true contentment – when we rest in Christ, and in Christ alone, with true saving faith! Amen!
 
 
bulletin outline:
 
        But godliness with contentment is great gain.- 1 Timothy 6:6
 
                   “Godliness with Contentment Is Great Gain”
                                           1 Timothy 6:1-10
 
I.  Godliness with contentment leads to great gain in all situations:
     1) A slave with their master, or an employee and employer (1-2)
 
 
 
 
     2) Doctrinal understanding which doesn’t pursue controversy (3-5), but is content
         to preach the gospel, focusing on Christ (1 Cor. 1:23, 9:16)
 
 
 
 
     3) Financial matters and material possessions (6-8)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Because we brought nothing into the world, and can take nothing
          out (7) we are to be content with what the Lord provides (8)    
 
 
 
     2) There is a progression of sorrow for those who covet riches (9);
          they are pierced with many griefs (10)
 
 
 
 
      3) True contentment is only found through faith in Christ (Psalm
           73:25-28; Philippians 4:11-13)
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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