Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"IF ONLY" (1 Timothy Chapter 6)

1 Timothy 6:6-7, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Contentment is easy enough to define, but not so easy to lay hold of.  The term translated “contentment” here means “satisfaction with what one has.”  Here’s the rub.  We tend to an “IF ONLY” way of thinking about things.  We are prone to it in the flesh.  The world caters to and encourages this approach to life (Cf. 1 John 2:15-16).  It is the nature of sin to be seldom satisfied and always wanting more (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10).  The IF ONLY way of thinking supposes that happiness (and contentment) lies in the IF ONLY provision of something or some different set of circumstances.  IF ONLY I had a new car, a bigger house, a better job, a better boss, no job, no boss, a better church, a better pastor, a new location, more freedom, less of a belly, a McDonald’s hamburger, etc.  IF ONLY I won the lottery, then I would be content.  IF ONLY I didn’t have to go through this trial.  IF ONLY people would treat me with respect.  There are far too many IF ONLYs to list.  They nag at us suggesting that we are on the verge of finding true happiness, IF ONLY.  It is not necessarily wrong to pursue or possess some of the things in this list, the problem lies in the thinking that true contentment can be found in them.  True contentment is something God wants us to experience, but it is not sourced in things or circumstances.  He refuses to allow us to experience true contentment in anything else but Him, because He created us for the purpose of knowing Him and finding joy and contentment in Him.

We Americans are a “spoiled” lot.  Our prosperous estate is the envy of most of the rest of the world.  Those of past centuries could have never imagined that such a prosperity were even possible.  If true contentment could be had in possessions and experiences then we should be the most content people on earth, but contentment can hardly serve as an apt description of our society.  By way of contrast those without much (i.e. our Ugandan brethren I’ve had opportunity to visit who possess little more than “food and clothing”), appear to possess a greater degree of contentment though they lack much of what we possess and have little IF ONLY hope of possessing anything more. 

Paul wrote to Timothy about false teachers who erroneously imagined that “godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5).  They supposed that there was money to be made in peddling God.  They undoubtedly taught others to believe likewise.  Theirs was a prosperity message, mistakenly supposing contentment to lie is possessing things.  You don’t have to look too far to find people promulgating that same tired message.  “The desire to be rich” and the “love of money” lies at the root of such things (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10).  Such desires lead not to contentment, but to “ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).  “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).  “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).  Godliness has to do with maintaining a “God-ward” attitude about things.  It is to have one’s life compass orientated in a God-ward direction such that knowing and pleasing Him matters most.  It is to be more concerned with pleasing God than possessing things.  Godliness compliments contentment because it works to focus one’s vision on the things that lie at the heart of possessing true contentment.

The fact is that we brought nothing into the world and we will exit the world in the same manner (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7).  I was there at the birth of our children and can testify to the truth of this.  They carried no suitcases or any material possessions with them when they were born.  That holds true at the other end of life.  I recently read of an 82 year old man who was buried seated upon his 1967 Electra Glide cruiser.  His body is now decaying away and the motorcycle is doing the same.  “We cannot take anything out of this world” (1 Timothy 6:6).  Corrie Ten Boom once said, “I have held many things in my hands and I’ve lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.” 

Are you even now truly content in Him?  And not for what He does for you but who He is to you?  What will it take to make you happy?  The believer in Christ possesses in Him “unsearchable riches” (Ephesians 3:8).  Do you have any certainty of not losing that which you possess?   Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  Is He your “all in all”?  The Apostle Paul, who spoke of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus,” “learned in whatever situation (he was in) to be content” (Cf. Philippians 3:8).  He “learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Cf. Philippians 4:12-13).  God has a classroom in which He teaches His children such things.  The course of study is demanding, but the objective is well worth the effort.  The hymnwriter put it this way, “Jesus I am resting, resting in the joy of what Thou art.”  No one who says “IF ONLY,” with respect to finding contentment in Him, will suffer regret in laying hold of that which they yearned for.

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