We continue the series to encourage us to look ahead to our glorious future, yet to not overlook what we already have … what we have, in Christ, right now. Yes, we should always keep our “eye on the prize” of eternal life, but also remember that it is what we do during our journey to “get there” that establishes what reward we may receive once we arrive. To a certain degree, we are all “waiting” to go to Heaven, to spend eternity with Jesus, in the very presence of God forever. Yet, God has given us all certain tasks to accomplish along the way, while we are “waiting.” And … just as in Paul’s day … some of those tasks may not be “pleasant,” the road may not be as smooth as we’d like, others will disappoint and hurt us (and we’ll disappoint others, too!), and we may not be what the world considers as “successful.” God has promised that He will meet all of our needs, and there will be times of “great need” along the way.
If God gave us everything we want … when we wanted it … where would the need for faith be? By the way, there is a big difference between what we want … and, what we need. Remember that in Philippians 4:19, God “shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” That does not promise that He will give you everything you want. God, as a loving Father, knows more about what we need than we do!
We should look more at what we have … than look at what other people have … that we wish we had … Hebrews 13:5 sums up this matter of jealousy this way: “Let your conversation (conduct) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have …” As you know, the word “covetousness” is a form of “covetous,” which means “feeling or showing a very strong desire for something that you do not have and especially for something that belongs to someone else; marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another’s possessions.” That’s a pretty good description of what our life’s goals shouldn’t be.
I think a pretty good description of a “happy, successful life” would be one that is characterized by an attitude of contentment. Plainly put, to be content with what we have. This means to be content with what we already have … not driving ourselves crazy trying to obtain what we don’t have. And (God knows better than us), chasing after things we shouldn’t have. I have heard many testimonies to the effect that “if God had given me what I was asking for, what I was begging for, what I was pleading for … it would have ruined me.”
So, let’s begin by just being content with what we already have. What God has allowed us to have, thus far. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:11: “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” This is one of my favorite Bible verses to write in a card, or inside the front of a Bible, to give to someone who is moving away. I have signed this verse with “state” endings, following up the “state I am” with something like, “… even Florida.” I just recently signed a copy of my book with this verse as part of the inscription, using “even the state of retirement.” Please, very carefully note that Paul wrote that “I have learned.” This means that he didn’t learn this lesson from school, or a book … but, this lesson had been learned over time, through many, many circumstances of life.
I’m thinking, “What advice would Paul give us, or give his children, if he were here right now?” Then, I stop and think how ridiculous a question that is … because Paul left us letter after letter after letter to instruct us. In fact, Biblical instruction was the whole idea and reason for the letters to begin with! And, not just to “run the church,” but to run our daily lives, every aspect of our thoughts and actions. Many scholars believe that Paul may have had a son, perhaps even a wife, at some point before his conversion to Christ. When I think of Paul’s “children,” the first person who comes to mind is Paul’s “son in the faith,” Timothy. I’ll pull just two passages from one of two letters addressed to Timothy: “And having food and raiment (clothing) let us be therewith content. But they that will be (desire to be) rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful (harmful) lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (ruin and destruction). For the love of money is the root of all (all kinds of) evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called …” (1 Timothy 6:8-12).
Wow! That sums up exactly the points which I believe God wanted me to share to begin this installment. I had no idea I would include the whole passage, but it fits so well into what we are trying to convey. Note that it is not “money” as the focus of “evil” here … it is the ambition to be rich … to covet riches above all else in life. We are to “flee” from this mind-set, and we must … if we want to be truly, deeply content. And, if we want to escape the “evils” of such covetous ambition. It really doesn’t seem to be “about the money,” but what we will expose ourselves to, in the pursuit of it.
What a rich, rich chapter this 1 Timothy, chapter 6 is! (Did you notice we used the word “rich” in a good way?) The remarkable thing is that these verses only scratch the surface of the instruction Paul gives to his young charge … and, to us. In fact, this passage really begins in verse 5, with Paul warning of the dangers of exposing one’s sound mind to men with “corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness.” In other words, Paul is warning Timothy, and us, to beware of those who equate “riches or wealth” with Godliness. That we shouldn’t take the fact that someone has been blessed with wealth or riches as proof of a Godly lifestyle. Paul’s instruction on how we should deal with these types of men? That we shouldn’t deal with them at all! “From such withdraw thyself” (verse 5). Wow! Remember how we began this whole series with the fact that God has stored up our wealth, to give us at a later time? Well … who do you think has this wealth in their possession now??? We’ll touch more on this later …
I can’t add anything to these words to Timothy, and to us. So, I’ll close with this verse, in the middle of this passage: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).