February 27, 2011
Only The Lonely – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ecclesiastes 4: 1-6
Scripture: 
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Transcript

Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ecclesiastes chapter four. I want to pick up where I left off last week. We started to look at this passage onto the title Only The Lonely, the theme of loneliness pervades this fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon is looking at life. He recognizes sometimes that life stinks. There’s a vanity to life under the sun, apart from God. There’s a toil, there’s trouble. And one of the troubling things is how lonely and friendless this world can be.
And so Solomon takes up that theme. And if you’re with his last week, you saw in verses one through six that there can be a loneliness caused by cruelty, verses one through three, and a loneliness caused by covetousness, verses four through six. Let’s read these verses together.
“Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun. And look, the tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter. On the side of their oppressors, there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore, I praise the dead who were already dead more than the living who are still alive, yet better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun. Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work, a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full together with toil and grasping for the wind. So reads God’s Word.”
Ann Landers, the advice columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for many years once said, “The poor wish to be rich. The rich wish to be happy. The single wishes to be married, and the married wish to be dead.” I’m not sure about the married wishing to be dead, but these comments certainly ring true, don’t they? That many people are discontent with their lives. They wish for something different. They want something else. They wish they were somewhere other than they are. They wish they were someone other than they are. They wish they had something more than they already possess. These people are always scratching some itch.
That’s true to life, isn’t it? We understand that. We see it in others, and if we’re honest, we see it in ourselves. And when we were last with Solomon, he was advocating a remedy for the itch. He was arguing for a greater sense of satisfaction that comes through moderating your desires, that comes through settling for the golden mean. Look at verse six of Ecclesiastes 4. “Better a handful with quietness.” That’s what Solomon is advocating. It’s better than both hands full, but with that, there comes toil and a grasping for the wind.
This is a proverb. It’s a form of a proverb that uses contrast and comparison. You’ll note the word better. “Better a handful with quietness than two hands full with toil.” This is a proverb that uses contrast and comparison, and the whole intent is to push us to a choice. There’s some things that are better than other things. Don’t settle for something less. Settle for that which is better. What is that which is better? A handful with quietness.
Solomon is encouraging us to promote moderation in our lives, to seek contentment in our lives, to get a proper balance between rest and labor, ambition and contentment. To realize that there’s a difference between making a living and enjoying a life. Solomon is making that point.
He argues that more is often less okay, and less is often more. That’s what he’s saying here. “Better a handful with quietness than two hands full.” Well that’s more. Is that not better? Not necessarily. Not if you have to give up peace of mind, health of your body, unity of your home. No. Some things are better. More sometimes is less and less sometimes is more. A handful with rest is better than two handfuls with added worry and added work.
We need to hear that, don’t we? In Southern California. We need to hear that throughout the United States. Benjamin Franklin, one of our founders said this, “Discontentment makes a rich man poor and contentment makes a poor man, rich.” Very point that Solomon is making. And so rather than continue on through the rest of chapter four, we’ll pick that up in a couple of weeks. I’ve felt drawn for my own good and for your own benefit, to really drill down into this thought of contentment.
I think this is a great verse. A number of you have shared with me this week how you’ve been meditating on it. “A handful with quietness is better than two hands full with toil.”
Someone has said that contentment is a cause without a constituency, a virtue without a voice. And it’s probably true. In our culture where we’re constantly being bombarded by this thought, more is better, more is better, not necessarily. Are we better off as a culture for all the advances and advantages that we enjoy? Not necessarily, because we haven’t sought that golden mean. We haven’t yet struck that proper balance between rest and labor, and ambition, and contentment in the material over and against the spiritual.
Now we need to rediscover what an old Puritan by the name of Jeremiah Burroughs called The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. In fact, I recommend that little book to you. It’s a paperback. You’ll have to get past the language. It’s archaic, but there’s so much good stuff in it. Indeed, we do need to rediscover the rare jewel of Christian contentment. I’m going to help us to that end.
So what I’m going to do this morning is I’m going to define what contentment is and what it is not. And then we’re going to begin to look at mile markers on the road to contentment. There’s about seven, eight, or nine of them. I haven’t yet decided how many, but we’re only going to cover two this morning.
I think this is going to be good, just to kind of go on a little excursion from within the text but beyond the text, because there’s a lot of whining going on. Not you, okay? But there’s a lot of whining going on in the culture. These are difficult days. I don’t minimize that. Our futures maybe not as bright materially at the moment as a culture, but the people of God should rise like cream to the surface of the culture showing that in God, it’s better to have a handful and rest. Rest through trusting in God’s providence. We should of all people be most contented, yet we’re bellyaching, we’re grumbling, we’re moaning, we’re whining about how bad things are. Come on. Having food and clothing? The Bible says be content, for he has said he’ll never leave you or forsake you. The Lord’s your helper. What’s going on? Let’s get back to this better handful and rest than two handfuls.
So let’s begin. Let’s define contentment in terms of what it is, what it’s not. I like this quote from J.I. Packer. “Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God’s hand what he sends, because we know that he is good, and therefore it is good.” It’s a good definition. Here’s another definition. I like this by Sinclair Ferguson, “True contentment means embracing the Lord’s will in every aspect of his providence, simply because it is his providence.” Philip Graham Ryken, who was once the minister at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, now the president of Wheaton College in Chicago, “Contentment is wanting what God wants for us rather than what we want for us.” That’s a good one.
And maybe the best of all is this one. Anonymous, “Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization that you have what you need already.”
Let me give you a couple of verses that play into the thought that we’re thinking about here. Go over to Hebrews 13. I’ve already quoted an aspect of it. Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness.” Ring a bell? What’s the issue at Ecclesiastes 4? Jealousy, rivalry, envy. That’s what drives competition. That’s what drives people to compare. That’s what drives people to become discontent. We wish what somebody else has. We don’t like what we have. “God, you got to give us something else.”
And so we don’t believe God is good and what he gives us is good. We don’t settle for his providence. No, we want for us what we want for us, not what God has designed for us. But here’s what the Bible says. Now, hold on a minute. “Let your conduct be without covetousness. Be content with such things as you have.” So whatever you have this morning, be content with it. It’s from the hand of God. That’s what he’s designed for you right now. It is part of his will, part of his providence. You need to be content, because he has said he’ll never leave you. He’ll never forsake you.
So we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear what man can do to me.” Go over to 1 Timothy 6:6. “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” You’ve never seen a U-Haul on the back of a hearse, have you? No, because we brought nothing in. We take nothing out. Having food [inaudible 00:10:34] and clothing. Anybody without those this morning? Okay, then shut up and stop your belly aching. But you’ve got your food, you’ve got your clothing, therewith be content.
See, that’s what contentment is. It’s one thing what God has for us, not what we want for ourselves. It’s recognizing that you have everything you need right now within God’s will. That’s what it is.
But we need to go beyond that. What’s it not? Well, let me say this. Contentment is not a pollyannish approach to life, where we deny the reality of our circumstances. Okay? Our circumstances may not be to our liking. We recognize that. It could be better, it has been better. Maybe it will be better. But where you are right now may not be all that you wish, but it is that which God has ordained.
And if in the midst of it, you’ve got food and clothing, therewith be contempt. He’s not going to leave you. He’s not going to forsake you. The Lord’s your helper, his providence will work with you.
So it’s not a denial that the circumstances may not be to our liking. It’s not pretending that things are right when they’re wrong. But I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a faith in God. It’s a trust in his providence that frees us and liberates us from being controlled by our momentary emotions, by our feelings. It’s an inner peace that reaches beyond the circumstances we’re in. It was said of Jonathan Edwards that he had a peace beyond the reach of his enemies. That’s contentment.
Jonathan Edwards was a theologian of a number of years ago who was kicked out of his church. That’s tough to handle, isn’t it? But it said he had a peace beyond the reach of his enemies, because that’s what contentment is.
That’s what confidence in God is. It’s not a pollyannish approach to life, but it’s a trusting in God that moves you beyond feelings, emotions and circumstances.
I’ll tell you another thing. Contentment isn’t passivity. It isn’t just blank resignation. It’s certainly not Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be. It’s more dynamic than that. It’s more alive than that. It’s not religious fatalism. Jeremiah Burroughs, the Puritan said that, “Contentment involves accepting what God has given with a thankful spirit, and at the same time refusing to leave things as they are if it is within our ability to influence the situation.”
So when we talk about contentment, we’re talking about accepting where we are at and what we have at any given moment. Right now, we have enough. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t try and better yourself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t leverage the situation, as long as what you’re doing is certainly biblical and within God’s will. It’s not an act of desperation. It’s not an act of discontent.
Remember Joseph in the prison, back in Genesis 37, 38, 39? He’s content it seems. Joseph doesn’t fight God’s providence. In fact, he knuckles down and he gets on with where he’s at. And in fact, he begins to even prosper in the prison. We don’t find him whining. We don’t find him giving up.
But at the same time, when the butler and the baker come in from Pharaoh’s court, what do we find? We find Joseph saying, “Hey, if one of you guys gets out of here, I want you to put a good word in for me. I want you to let it be known that I’m here because of injustice, a failure of the judicial system. I’m innocent.” So here you have Joseph content, but contentment doesn’t mean that you refuse to act if it’s within your part to do that.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition necessarily. I like the story of the Irish visitor who sat listening to an English politician rant and rave during a long speech, and the English politicians stood up and said, “You know what? I was born an Englishman. I intend to live as an Englishman. I hope to die as an Englishman.” The Irishman turned to his friend and said, “Has the man no ambition?” Nothing wrong with having ambition, wanting something beyond where you’re particularly at, but that’s got to all be made subject to the will of God.
So contentment is not a pollyannish approach to life. Contentment isn’t passivity or blank resignation. And finally here, contentment isn’t joining the ranks of the American middle class. See, I can guarantee you we’ve been conditioned this way by our culture. When you think of contentment, when you think of that place where you get to where you enjoy things in moderation, you are thinking of a four bedroom house, a two car garage, a medium income. You’re thinking about suburban 2.5 kids. That’s it. You’re thinking middle class. Listen to the politicians. What do we hear about the middle class? We all want to be in the middle class. That’s where we want to pour our resources. We want to get people below the middle class up into the middle class. They drive the engine of the economy, and there’s some truth to all of that. We want to expand the middle class, because when you get into the middle class, you’ve kind of reached a nice place in life. And no one’s denying that. I don’t deny that, but that’s not contentment biblically defined.
I like what Richard Swenson in his book, the Margin says, “Contentment isn’t that pseudo virtue of the American dream where we claim solidarity with Paul from the easy chair of the middle class. We profess to having learned the secret of contentment in all circumstances, yet we’ve never experienced 40 lashes, stoning, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, homelessness, imprisonment. Perhaps none of us should presume maturity until the truer tests have been endured.”
See, that’s what Paul went through. And when he says in Philippians 4, we’ll get to it in a minute. “I have learned and whatsoever standing on to be content.” Don’t be thinking middle class. Think shipwreck, think flogging, think nakedness, think hunger. And yet, contentment in the middle of all of that, contentment has nothing to do with easy street.
And so that’s a challenge, because you see we’re saying, “You know what? I’ll be contented when I get there. I’ll be more contented.” The Lord understands why I’m a little myth at the moment, does he? Because whatever circumstance you’re in, you can learn contentment. So that’s what it is and what it’s not.
Now I want to throw your way some mile markers on the road to contentment. As I said, we may end up with seven to nine of them, but we’re only going to try and cover two. If you’re taking some notes, and you should be, here’s the first thought. Anticipate a struggle. Okay? Just put that down. The road to contentment is a bumpy one. It’s not an easy one. Contentment doesn’t come naturally. In fact, discontent comes naturally. Discontent is part of our DNA. We inherited it from Adam and Eve. It’s part of our sin nature. It’s part of our fallenness, it’s part of our wickedness, it’s part of our rebellion as people against the holy, loving, providing God. We got it from our great, great, great, great, great-grandparents, Adam and Eve. They struggled with it. There they are. Go back to Genesis 2 and 3. You’ll see them in the middle of the garden. It’s plush, it’s pleasurable, it’s beautiful. It’s bountiful, all those trees to enjoy. But there’s one tree in the middle of the garden. What? You can’t touch that. And what happens? They become fixated on the one thing they can’t have, and they become blind to everything they do have.
My friend, that is sin in all its ugliness. When you find yourself wanting what you don’t have, not appreciating what you do have, hey, you’re back in the garden of Eden. You’re rebelling. You’re showing likeness to that fallen family.
In fact, I’d say this is worth writing down. Sin at its core is a desire to find satisfaction outside of God’s provision. Sin is a desire to have more than God has willed. Do you want more than what God has willed for you right now? That may be sin. Remember we said it’s not passivity, so there may be something else that you legitimately can reach for. But often it’s illegitimate, it’s dissatisfaction, it’s discontent. That comes to us naturally. We don’t take the contentment like a duck takes the water. Go over to Philippians 4, Philippians 4:11-13. “Not that I speak in respect to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased. I know how to abound. Everywhere and all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Did you notice Paul mentions twice there that he learned contentment, like he didn’t go to bed one night and pray for it and wake up in the morning all content. “I’m feeling good. I prayed about it last night.” No, I wish it was as easy as that, but I’m sorry. It’s not going to be as easy as that.
Jewels and precious stones are forged in the darkness under pressure over time, and contentment is a rare jewel. And like a rare jewel, it will be forged in our lives in the darkness, under pressure, over time. That’s why Paul says, “God put me through a whole bunch of circumstances, some good, some bad. There’s times I was full, other times totally destitute and empty, but all of those were part of the learning process where I learned to throw myself on God, where I learned to do without certain things, where I learned that his grace is sufficient. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Learned. Contentment must be learned over a lifetime and relearned over a lifetime.
Some of you need to relearn it. You are at a better place, but now you’re not so content. You’re not so satisfied in God alone. You’ve got off the ranch publicly speaking. There’s no shortcut to satisfaction.
In fact, let me go back to Psalm 131. Please go there and mark it at least. You want to maybe meditate on this. This is quite a thought. Ladies, you can maybe identify with this if you’ve breastfed your child. David says this, “Lord, my heart is not haughty nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor were things too profound for me.” Look at Psalm 131:2. “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
That’s a powerful picture, okay? It’s the picture of a mother breastfeeding the child, and then at some point she has to wean the child off her milk and on the solid food. Now in Israel, that often happened at age four and five, well into the process. Can you imagine the struggle, the competition of the two wills? The child that wants to remain on the mother’s milk, the attachment that’s there, the bond that’s there, but the mother knows it’s got to get that child on the solid food, and so there’s this battle of the will.
But eventually the mother wins. It’s not an easy process, it’s a struggle, it’s a fight. And then the child is weaned, and content and calm as it feeds on solid food. What a picture of contentment. God often has to wean us off the world and the things that we have grown attached to. That’s a struggle, to get us to a place where he is everything we need and more.
I like the story of the Quaker who was watching his neighbor move in next door. He watched all the gadgets, all the plush furniture, and then he called his neighbor over and said, “Welcome to our neighborhood. If you find you’re lacking anything, my friend, just give me a call and I’ll show you how to live without it.” We’ve got to learn to live on less. And often, that’s part of the process of learning contentment. Here’s the second thought. Want what you have? Number one, anticipate a struggle. Number two, want what you have.
Let’s go back to that passage we read in Hebrews 13. Just hear it again, because there’s something in here you need to get. “Let your conduct be without covetousness. Be content with such things as you have.” Wow. And if you go over to 1 Timothy 6:8, we’re told, “Having food and clothing, therewith be content.” Contentment is a matter of accepting, wanting, and being thankful for what you have. If you’ve got food, if you’ve got clothing, the Bible says you’re a candidate for contentment. And then beyond that, you’ve got the Lord’s promise never to leave you or foresee you. The Lord’s your helper.
The secret to contentment is not having more, but believing what you have is enough. Write that down. That’ll save you a lot of money. It really will. Contentment is not having more things, but believing what you have is enough.
Remember the old song happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have? The Bible would agree with that. The truly rich are those with the fewest wants. When you lower your expectations, you immediately become rich, because you’ve got more than you had, and you’ll appreciate more what you have. There’s a great freedom in that, isn’t there? There’s a great freedom in accepting the simple pleasures and provisions of life. Let that replace this desire for bigger and better. You’ll instantly become rich without having it all.
Now, there’s two things that play into this, wanting what you have. Number one, lower your expectations, and number two, distinguish between need and greed. We’re just going to play this out for the last minutes of the service. This means lowering your expectations and distinguishing need from greed.
When you get down to contentment, contentment has little to do with how much you have, and it has everything to do with expectations. Be content with such things as you have, food and clothing. Contentment is found in recognizing that’s enough.
What we need to do is define our expectations biblically. We mustn’t let the culture define them. We mustn’t let our long wish list be the measure of our contentment. We need to define our lives biblically. We need to remember according to Jesus in Matthew 6:31-32, when he’s dealing with the whole issue of anxiety and material things. He says, “Your father knows the things you have need of.” There’s our word again, need. The basics. What were the disciples worried about? What they would eat, what they would wear. But our Father knows the things we have need of. We need to define our needs. We need to lower our expectations. We don’t need that many things, but we desperately need God. That’s why we need to seek first his kingdom. Then the other things will come in God’s good time. We don’t need another thing, but we do need a new experience of God. When we desire God more and desire things less, we become instantly wealthy and we’re on the path to contentment. We need to lower our expectations.
You know there’s two ways to get more, don’t you? Just two ways to get more. Number one, you can keep accumulating more and more, or you can desire less. I’d recommend you desire less. We don’t need that many things to live on. Look at the biblical definition of the basics of life, food and clothing, the things that keep us alive.
This isn’t a call by the way to a vow of poverty. It’s a simple recognition that we can live on a lot less than we think. We need to recognize we’re being brainwashed by Madison Avenue. If you want to add to your life, subtract from your list. There’s a good statement. You want to add to your life, subtract from your list.
In fact, this is what Jeremiah Burroughs deals with in his little book. Listen to his words. They’re archaic, but I think you’ll get the gist of them. “A Christian comes to contentment not so much by way of addition as by way of subtraction. That is his way of contentment, and it is a way that the world has no skill in. I open it thus, not so much by adding to what he would have or to what he has, not by adding more to his condition, but rather by subtracting from his desires, so as to make his desires and his circumstances even and equal.”
See, what I really need is God. And what really counts is his kingdom. And you know what? When you’ve got that in its place, then all you need is the fuel to fire your body, clothes to cover your nakedness, somewhere to live so you can serve the kingdom. Listen to those words again. A Christian comes to contentment not so much by way of addition as by way of subtraction.
Now that naturally follows on to this idea of distinguishing between need and greed. Lower your expectations, redefine your life, biblically speaking. Proportion your life as God’s Word states it. Not as the culture states it, but as the Word of God states it. Remember to distinguish between what you have promised yourself and what God has promised you in his Word. Two different things, but we get lost in the middle of feeling to make that distinction.
Now we need to distinguish between need and greed. Your father knows the things you have need of. Paul said in that passage on contentment to the Philippians, “My God shall supply all your needs, or your need according to his riches and glory.” And we know that the need is basically defined as food and clothing, shelter, the bare essentials of life. You and I need to realize the contentment then is a matter of distinguishing between need and greed, and trusting God to meet the need. There’s a definition of contentment itself.
But that’s not easy. For the few minutes that remain, I want to remind you that that’s not easy. That’s why it’s going to be a struggle. If you’re going to get to where Solomon says, “A handful with quietness is better than two handfuls with toil,” that’s not going to be easy. Not in this culture, not living where we live. The food and clothing thing, you get there pretty quick in Asia, you get there pretty quick in Africa. But that’s not the case in Western culture, and certainly not in America, and of all places, Southern Cal, where the bling determines value and our estimation of things. No, it’s not going to be easy. There’s more things to enjoy here. We’re going to be constantly drawn after more and more and more.
Now, let me say this. I don’t want to be misunderstood. We’re not going to a sadism here. We’re not arguing that a nice car, a comfortable home, and a nice cut of clothes are wrong. We’re not saying that things haven’t changed for the better. They have. Okay? I’m glad that there’s more things. I’m glad that life has brought to us more advances and more advantages. I’m glad that there’s indoor plumbing. Are you not?
I mean, I’m old enough to remember my grandmother’s outhouse in Belfast. Used to go out into the backyard of a little whatever it was, so I’m glad for indoor plumbing. I’m glad for all the advantages that you and I enjoy, and so are you, and we thank the Lord for that.
But listen, with this profusion of things, with this escalation of benefits, there’s a danger. It messes with our desires, and it messes with the definition of what’s necessary and what’s optional. That’s the trouble.
Just because you can have more, doesn’t mean you should desire more, or that that’s God’s will for you. It’s not necessarily God’s will that you get a bigger home or a better car, or that your kid goes to a fancier school. Now, there’s those possibilities, but they’re not for everyone and they’re not within the reach of everyone, and they’re not necessary for your contentment. They don’t affect your relationship with God. Do they? They don’t define your worth as a human being, do they? They don’t stall the grace of God being poured out on your home, do they? No. Solomon reminds us that more is not necessarily better. Less is sometimes more. Sometimes, you’re better staying in that smaller home, which you’ve got margins. You’re not paying for some big mortgage and running crazy to pay it.
We need to be reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 12, beware of covetousness, for a man’s life is not defined by the things that he possesses. Listen, we’re possessing more, and more, and more, and that stuff’s beginning to possess us, and we’re losing our contentment. We’re getting our eyes off heaven. We’re not where we could be with God.
Listen, one sociologist revealed that in 1900, the average American wanted 72 different things and considered 18 of them essential. What do you think today? Here’s what the average American wants, 500 things, and 100 of them are essential. Is it 18 or 100? It’s probably more like 18 to be honest, isn’t it?
But you see there’s been an escalation of stuff, and I think we need to remind ourselves that they’re all just like the optional extras with your car. It’s nice to have a sunroof. It’s nice to have a six CD player that changes in the back of your car, the push of a button. It’s nice to have alloy wheels.
But you know what? The car’s not a mobile office. It’s not a floating hotel. It’s a vehicle to get you from A to B. And in its essence, none of that stuff changes the function of the car. It’s not necessary for your car. It’s nice. I love those heated seats that you get in. I love that, but it’s not necessary. I just have to put a sweatshirt on or whatever.
But you see, what happens is this. You have what Richard Swenson calls the escalation of the norm and then the normalization of the escalation. You get his point?
Life’s always moving forward. We want it to be that way. We’re not going back to outhouses and all of that. But as there’s the escalation of the norm, the goalposts keep moving, and then we keep redefining necessary normal, and we get away from the biblical definition. And then you’ve got the escalation of the normal and then the normalization of the escalation. And before you know it, we’re wanting what God hasn’t promised us.
Year 1950, the average American had a home that was 1,000 square feet, and you’re going to die, that cost $11,000. Today, the average American 2,500 square feet, the average price, $3,000. But here’s what’s interesting. The number of occupants have decreased where families are shrinking. So we’ve got bigger homes, smaller families. So the average American now has three times more floor space. Can you imagine the trouble they get in with all that floor space, buying this, buying that, wanting this, wanting that?
Americans have a love affair with bathrooms. I grew up in a home with one bathroom, so did June. Little home in Belfast. Bathrooms. We need three, four bathrooms. Come on, get out of here. That’s not necessary. Years ago in Ireland, all you needed was a [inaudible 00:37:02]. That’s all, a [inaudible 00:37:04].
But you know what? If you and I are going to combat, the escalation of the norm, we need to remind ourselves that we need few things to make us happy. Those are the things we keep going back to. The things that are reliable, the things that are most comfortable. Our favorite restaurant, our favorite walking shoes, our favorite easy chair, our favorite television program.
I’ll finish with this as the team comes up. Rick Moranis, does that name ring a bell? He’s a comedic actor. You’ve seen him in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Ghostbusters, dozen other movies. He wrote an op-ed piece entitled My Days Are Numbered. Listen to these words.
“I have five television sets. I have two DVR boxes, three DVD players, two VHS machines, and four stereos. I have 19 remote controls. I have three computers, four printers, two non-working faxes. I have three phone lines, three cell phones, two answering machines, but I have no messages. I have 46 cookbooks. I have 68 takeaway menus from four restaurants. I have 382 dishes, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs, and glasses. And yet, I mostly eat over the sink. I have 39 pairs of golf, tennis, squash, running, walking, hiking, casual, formal shoes, ice skates, roller blades. But most of the time, you’ll find me wearing my slippers. I read three dailies, four weeklies, five monthlies. I have 506 CD cassette vinyl 8-track recordings, and yet I listen to the same radio station all day long.”
What’s his point? It’s the simple things that satisfy us the most, and we don’t need as much as we think to make us happy. And we allow the culture to rewrite God’s agenda for us as Christians. And so we think more is better. When Solomon said, “It’s better to have a handful and quietness than to have two hands full and toil and trouble.”
Here’s a parting thought, little qualification. Although we are supposed to be content with what we have, okay, what’s our two points so far? Accept the struggle or anticipate the struggle. Number two, want what you have. Although we are to want what we have, we’re to be content with what we have. We’re never to be content with who we are.
In Philippians 4, Paul’s content, in Philippians 3 he’s not content. He’s got this holy dissatisfaction. He says, “You know what? I haven’t laid hold of all that God has laid hold of me for. Therefore, I forget those things which are behind. And like a breathless runner, I press towards the mark. I’m going after Jesus Christ. I’m going after heaven. I’m going after all that God has for me in his wonderful so great salvation. I’m content with where I am and what I have, but I’m not content with where I am with Christ and who I am before God.” Therefore, each day Paul sought to be holier than he was the day before.
That’s where our focus needs to be. We need to get off things. We need to get our focus on God, and the Word, and the church, and eternity, and heaven and hell. That will put all the rest of the stuff and its proper perspective.
David Brainerd said, “Oh God, help me not to loiter on my way to heaven.” Don’t loiter on your way to heaven. Be happy with what you have, but each day, seek to be more than you are. Let’s pray.
Lord, thank you for this study this morning. Thank you for these great truths. We are a restless culture. Lord, we thank you for our country. Thank you for all the doors of opportunity that are ours, all the blessings that can be known. Lord, help us to lower our expectations.
Lord, you haven’t promised us everything. Listening to the TV, it seems that we’re worth it all, we deserve it all, it’s ours to have, so long as we’re willing to get into debt. Lord, help us as Christians to step back. Let the Word wash us from the filth of the culture. Make us more content and make us more happy in God. Help us to struggle to fight the culture. Help us to fight our own desires. Help us to know the difference between what you have promised for us and what we have promised to ourselves. Help us to seek first the kingdom of God, his righteousness, his rule.
And then Lord, we know that you’ll get us that food, you’ll get us that clothing, so we might serve you until you call us home. And that in itself is true happiness, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.