This message was presented on June 22, 2014 as part of the series on 1 Timothy.
“Contentment makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” Benjamin Franklin.
If I were to write a check to you, how much would make you content? A million? A billion? A trillion? Of course, it wouldn’t do any good to cash my check!
Philip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman. “Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked. “What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?” “You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist. “What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.
One person said, “I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet.” Interestingly, people are discontented in both situations. What will make you content?
1) Contentment is found in Jesus not the world 6:6-8
We should note the context begins in 1 Timothy 6:1-5 where Christian slaves were directed to honor their masters because the masters were in the position of honor, regardless of how they were treated. But there were many who argued about this and emphasized their rights and what they called fair treatment, especially if the master was a believer. Some supposed that godliness was a means of gain, just as Paul addressed to Titus,
10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. (Tit. 1:10-11 NKJ)
This is the health and wealth gospel. These are what some televangelists do, who ask elderly women to mortgage their homes and give to their show. Paul wrote,
6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (1 Tim. 6:6-7 NKJ)
At birth, we brought nothing in and when we die, we’ll not carry one thing out. Everything we have has been given by God. He created the world and He is the One who continually provides. We have dug things out of the ground, but He put them there. We have formulated new drugs and systems for life, but God gave us the brains to think and be creative. God is the One who gets the credit.
We cannot even take the clothes on our back. The Egyptian burial practices were very interesting. Many times the pharaoh was placed in a sarcophagus and put into a boat for his adventures in the next life. They also would kill several of his servants. That way when he got the place where pharaohs went, he would have everything he needed, plus the servants to serve him. Many people want to be buried with their jewelry and favorite articles. Why? There is nothing wrong with that, but you will be face to face with the Lord, and you won’t care about whatever you have buried with you. Let it do some good for God’s kingdom on earth rather than rotting in the ground. We should use everything we can to advance the gospel in our generation. Then Paul wrote,
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Tim. 6:8 NKJ)
Notice Paul says we “will be” content. In other words, it is a choice. How many of us are content this morning? Are you content with where God has you right now? Is Jesus in your life? And is He your life? If Jesus is your Lord, you will be content. If you are not content, Jesus is not your Lord.
2) Seeking contentment in the world leads to sorrow 6:9-10
9 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. (1 Tim. 6:9 NKJ)
The “desire” is the source of the problem or the fear of losing what you do have, not the riches themselves. This was a required characteristic of a potential elder as we saw in 1 Timothy 3:3, which said they could not be greedy or covetous. I love the word Paul uses regarding falling, because it describes a snowball rolling down a moist snow packed hill that gains momentum and size as it rolls down hill over and over. Once it starts, it keeps on going. For some people one is not enough.
There are three things Paul recorded that seeking in the world achieves. First, he falls into temptation, which is the drawing away or the lure that pulls the believer away from Jesus. Secondly, the snare, which is Satan’s trap away from God’s presence. Thirdly, he falls into desires, which are foolish and harmful. That which is foolish is the opposite of God’s wisdom and harmful that draw away from spiritual pursuits. So what happens to this person?
Paul declares that the three forms of destruction “drown” him. Luke (Luke 5:7) uses the same word for when Jesus was with the disciples in a boat and they caught such a huge catch. As they pulled in the catch, the waves began to wash over into the boats, which began to sink.
The person is so filled with activities and cares of the world that he slowly sinks spiritually. He no longer is effective spiritually. He can’t save himself. He is destined to destruction and perdition, which is eternal damnation. This is hyperbole designed to get a person’s attention, just like when Jesus said, “If you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” was hyperbole. It refers to the destruction and punishment of the soul while living. They see and yet are blinded. They are dead while living.
10 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. (1 Tim. 6:10 NKJ)
This is a famous verse, but often misquoted. Money is not the root of evil, but the love of money. And the love of money is one root of many categories of evil. There are many other sources that lead people into evil. And therefore they wander away from the faith, that is, what is believed or the body of Truth. They are not hungry for doctrine. They skip church meetings, then they begin to skip services, until over months they don’t come all together.
Paul said they “pierce” or impale themselves spiritually. They are ineffective spiritually. They are saved, but useless before God. They are not hungry for Truth. They have pangs which they can’t explain. Their sorrows are spiritual and are difficult to identify. Why? They are invisible.
Seeking the things of the world produces sorrow, so the solution is to pursue Jesus.
3) Pursue Jesus in whom all contentment belongs 6:11-16
11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. (1 Tim. 6:11 NKJ)
So, now you!!! Oh man of God! The word man is generic referring to the human race and “of God” is possessive or one owned by Jesus. He first gives the put off, then the put on. The put off is “flee,” which means to keep on getting away, remove yourself, do whatever is necessary to get out of there. If you were in a burning building, you would flee from it to safety. If there was a tornado approaching, you would flee to the basement, away from windows, to protect yourself. Why do we not run from what will harm our souls? There are many reasons. We don’t recognize it. We are too young spiritually to know the difference. Or, we are caught up in it. He is not saying get away from wealth, but to get away from the thinking that wealth will provide happiness.
Paul connects this put off with a put on, which is a command to “press on, hunt, seek, or track” something. In this case, pursue Jesus by pursuing six things. These are true riches in life. These will make you the wealthiest person in God’s sight. These six are given in sets of two. The first is the standard and the second is the manifestation.
The first standard is “righteousness.” This is the character of God as Jesus directed us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33) and the result is godliness, which is god-like living. This is the only sound investment pursuit as Peter wrote,
11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness. (2 Pet. 3:11 NKJ)
The second standard is faith, which is the passive use of the word referring to that which is believed. We must have faith in the faith, the body of Truth. The writer to Hebrews wrote,
6But without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6 NKJ)
This will result in love, which is agape love, or unconditional love. This love is based on what is inside of me, rather than why I love the object of love. It is why Paul wrote, in 1 Cor. 13:7, that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. This kind of love, which results from the pursuit of God’s truth bears the idiosyncrasies of others, put up with their frailties and personality and comes alongside to help, rather than blasting them. Love also believes the best about the person, rather than holding suspicions toward another person. Love hopes all things, that is, hopes for God’s continued working in his life, so he continues to love that person and finally love endures all things, that is, will remain available to love if the person changes and recognizes his sins. Love continues.
The third standard is patience, which means to abide under the pressure of the situation. It refers to perseverance in the midst of adversity. For example, you find out you have cancer, but you maintain a calmness and stability. It results in gentleness, because of remaining under the pressure, you depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to get you through and you can be gentle. It means power under control of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had infinite power at His disposal to protect and save others, which is why He was so gentle. It is the tenacious spirit of waiting. Paul adds,
12 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. (1 Tim. 6:12 NKJ)
The word fight comes from a word we have seen many times, “agonizomai” from which we get agonize.” Life is a battle. It is an athletic term used in the arena of life.
The agony comes from the Olympic games at the time, which to qualify for the games in the ancient world, the athlete trained for 10 months in the gymnasium. He was under strict rules of no wine, women or rich foods. He trained for seven hours each day in the heat and cold. He rubbed his body down in oil prior to training. If he won, he wore a crown of ivy leaves, his home town made a hole in the wall through which he walked and then a plaque was put on the wall. He rode a gold chariot around the city with a purple cloak, given exemption from taxes, free entrance to the games for life and food and money for his family to live on. That does not compare to what God reserves in heaven for faithful believers.
Paul mentioned previously in 1 Timothy 4:1 that some fall away to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Life is a battle to remain focus and fight for what the faith, what we believe.
13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate. (1 Tim. 6:13 NKJ)1
Paul urged Timothy, that is charged him to his advantage before Father and Son, because they were his judge, not the people of his church. The Spirit is not mentioned, because He sustains. The Father gives life. The Son is the King of the Jews, the Messiah, which cost Him His human life.
14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing. (1 Tim. 6:14 NKJ)
So Paul directs Timothy to keep, which means “to guard” or “protect” with your life without grieving the Spirit and without giving disgrace or embarrassment until the Lord’s appearance, which is the Second Advent.
Then Paul describes the greatness and awesomeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He describes six characteristics of the Lord,
15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Tim. 6:15-16 NKJ)
When will His appearance come? In His timing. God may wait, but He is never late. One of the passages under the Teaching on Contentment on the backside of your insert is Psalm 37:7, which uses a Hebrew word wait, which means “while you are writhing in pain, continue to wait.” We may writhe in pain enduring temptation, but God timing is always perfect.
Paul records that Jesus is “The Blessed One.” Secondly, He is the Potentate, which is the perfect word, because while many versions use the title Sovereign, it misses the idea of the word. The word emphasizes power and Potentate is the Powerful Ruler. Thirdly, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, which is highlighted on His return at the Second Advent in Revelation 19:11-16. Fourthly, He is immortal as One without beginning or end. Fifthly, He is unapproachable light as in blinding. When the disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus appeared in glory the disciples fell on their faces. On the road to Damascus, Paul fell on his face, because of the blinding light. No one has seen or can see, because His holiness is too awesome to look at. Sixthly, He has all honor. He is one in all glory, before whom every knee will bow. Seventhly, He has all power. He can do all that He wills and He wills to strengthen us to accomplish His will.
Paul warned Timothy to flee foolish things and pursue after Jesus. Fight the good fight and keep the commandment. That takes humility to pursue Him, rather than dependence on self. We think we get one area and another falls apart.
12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor. 10:12 NKJ)
Jesus is your contentment! Pursue Him and you’ll never want for anything else.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13 NKJ)
Paul knew both wealth and poverty, and still was content. He learned it in each situation, because Jesus was His focus. Contentment is learned through trusting Jesus to strengthen in all situations!