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March 6, 2011
Only The Lonely – Part 3
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ecclesiastes 4: 1-6
Scripture: 
Topics: 

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Transcript

We’re in an extended series of messages on the Book of Ecclesiastes, and so if you’ve got your Bible, I hope you have, turn to Ecclesiastes 4:1. Listen to the words of Solomon as we read through to verse six.
“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 praised 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 neighbors, this also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The 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 the Holy and then errant word of God. Over 100 years ago, J.C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool in England, wrote, “Two things are said to be very rare sights in this world. One is a young man humble, and the other is an old man content.” 300 years before Ryle, Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan pastor wrote of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.”
Now, if that’s true, and I think it is, that contentment is rare, how much more true in our day is true in their day? Although we have more than any generation before us, it seems that we enjoy it less, and certainly less than those before us, who had less. Though we’re a society rich in things, I think you’d have to agree we’re dirt poor in terms of a sense of satisfaction, a sense of contentment. Sadly, but it’s true.
Ours is a culture lost somewhere between not wanting what they have and wanting what they don’t have. And as Solomon would say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Like the story told by Carl Sandburg, the noted biographer of Abraham Lincoln, he tells that a neighbor saw the 16th President of the United States lugging his two boys down the street. Both boys were yapping, bawling loudly. Willie and Todd. The neighbor asked Mr. Lincoln why their boys were crying, “What’s the matter?” Lincoln answered, “Just what’s the matter with the whole world? I’ve got three walnuts and each of the boys want two.”
You see, discontentment is a past, present and perennial problem. But I would add to that statement, it’s not just a past, not just a present, not just a persistent problem. It is a pernicious problem. Have you ever thought about the deadly, destructive nature of discontentment? Discontentment can suffocate freedom, leaving us in bondage to our desires. Discontentment can poison relationships with jealousy and competition. Discontentment can wilt our worship of God as we grumble. Discontentment can weaken our faith as we seek to find our peace in things and vacillating circumstances. Discontentment can trigger temptation because it has us seeking a satisfaction outside of joy in God. Discontentment can cripple happiness because it has us feeling to count our blessings as we want something else.
Now, discontentment is a deadly, devilish thing. Thomas Watson, in his book The Art of Contentment said, “A drop or two of vinegar will soar a whole glass of wine. Let a man have the affluence and confluence of worldly comforts, yet a drop or two of discontentment will poison it all.” That being the kiss. Discontent is deadly, destructive, devilish by nature. You and I need to kill it.
Discontentment needs to be killed by us before it kills the work of God and the worship of God in us. So, let’s return to Ecclesiastes 4. We’ve been working our way through this passage and we have seen that the motif in this passage is that of loneliness. And in verses 1-6, Solomon talks about loneliness created by cruelty in verses 1-3. And then he talks about a loneliness created by covetousness.
And while we were reading verses 4-6, we were struck especially in verse six, by Solomon’s call for balanced living. “Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and a grasping for the wind.” The wise person realizes that some things matter more than other things, and the wise person realizes that the most important things are not things.
So, Solomon warns us here, rather than grasping for so much that we have to become a workaholic to achieve it, let’s be content with less. Less is better than more, sometimes. You see, our problem, as a gentleman told me after the second service last week, he says, “Pastor, my dad said to me many years ago, our problem isn’t the high cost of living, it’s the cost of high living.”
And we need to get back to this verse here, “Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil.” We want far too much. I don’t know if you ever get tired of running in the rat race where only the rats win, a sign by a roadside carried this message, “I’m getting sick of the rat race. The rats just keep getting bigger and faster.” So Solomon says, if I might kind of paraphrase it here, “Rather than putting two hands in for 80 hours work a week, why don’t you put in 40 hours with one hand and with the other hand eat some bubble gum ice cream?” That’s a good challenge.
And we went off on this verse, and I want to come back to that this morning. We’ve kind of parked our car here in verse six and we’re going to stay here for a while and kind of milk this thought, “Better a handful with quietness.” And so we launched last week, and we’re going to do it this morning and next week again, into this whole idea of how do we cultivate contentment? How do we kill discontentment before discontentment kills the work of God and the worship of God in us? So, we made a start last week, and we’re coming back for a few minutes this morning.
If you were with us, then you remember that we defined the worship what it is and what it’s not. 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. We reminded ourselves contentment means that you have everything you need right now. We also reminded ourselves that contentment is not a denial of life’s reality, which is often ugly and raw, but it is a freedom that finds its faith in God and liberates us from being controlled by our emotions or having our joy defined by our circumstances.
And we realized it’s not a passive resignation, but it is a looking to God. It is a contentment in the moment, until God changes our circumstances. And it’s certainly not to be thought of as joining the ranks of the American middle class. If you missed that, we’d encourage you to get the CD after the service. It’s there for free because of generous people in our church.
So, we started to mark out the path to contentment. We began to identify some mild markers on the road to contentment. Let me just quickly go over the two we covered last week. We have two more to cover this morning. Number one, anticipate a struggle. Okay? Anticipate a struggle. The journey to contentment’s not an easy one, it’s not a natural one. Because we have inherited the DNA of Adam and Eve, we realize that we have an itch we’re always seeking to scratch outside the will of God.
Discontentment comes naturally. Contentment does not come naturally. We must work for it. We must be ambitious for it. We must strive to indeed become content. In fact, I always come back over 1 Timothy 6 where Paul says, “Having food and clothing, be content. Contentment with godliness is great gain.” Just in the span of a short verse or two, what does he say? “Flee these things and fight the good fight.” Contentment must be fought for. You and I are going to have to anticipate a struggle.
Paul learned through the different circumstances God put him in to indeed become more content. I was thinking about this. If you go over to James 1, you get a similar thought. James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience…” Or we might translate that endurance, “Let patience or endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” And James is getting close to talking about what Paul talks about in Philippians 4, “I’ve learned contentment, sufficiency in God. My life is not defined by what I have or what I don’t have. My joy is not drained away because I’m in a set of circumstances I don’t like.”
No. James would say, as would Paul, “Count it all joy. Let God do His work in you and He’ll bring you to see that He’s enough, and you’ll become a complete and content Christian.” When James talks about perfect here, he’s not talking about sinless perfection, he’s talking about spiritual maturity. When he talks about complete, he uses a Greek word that speaks about being well-rounded, all the portions together.
I’m sure you’ve met people like that. And when you have, I can assure you, they’re the people that haven’t dodged the bullets of life. They have taken the train the whole way to the end of the track and allowed God to prove His sufficiency and to prove His sovereignty. And you and I must work through the testing of our faith.
James says what? “Let endurance do its work, so that you might be brought to a place, like Paul, where you learn that there is a sufficiency in Jesus Christ. You can do all things through Christ to strengthen you.” The word let there means hold. Get ahold of endurance. Don’t let it go until endurance has done its work. Stay on the tree until the end of the track. But you see, when you and I are in trouble, we want doubt. When life takes a nose dive, we want to know where the parachutes are, but we’ve got to anticipate a struggle and we’ve got to embrace a struggle because that’s where we truly learn contentment.
I like the story I heard Tony Evans tell, a number of years ago, of a couple on the boat on the first date. And the girl stood up the mover position and the boat began to rock, and it looked like she was going to fall overboard. So, her new boyfriend grabbed for her arm to steady her, but he realized it was a prosthetic limb as it’d come off. Shocked, but not deterred, he does the only thing he could do at this point and reaches out for her hair. But her wig comes off. And he says to his new girlfriend, “Hey, if you want me to save you, you’re going to have to cooperate.”
Let patience have its perfect work. Submit to God-appointed tests and God-appointed trials. Learn contentment in the midst of all your circumstances, when you’re up, when you’re down, when you’re full, when you’re hungry. Listen to Paul. Listen to James. Anticipate a struggle.
Number two, want what you have. It’s a simple point we made. Contentment is a matter of accepting, wanting and being thankful for such things as you have, right? Hebrews 13:5. We looked at two things. We need to lower our expectations and we need to distinguish between need and greed. You see, the secret to contentment is to be finding and accepting God’s provision and providence for the moment we’re in. You may want to write that down. The secret to contentment is find and accepting God’s providence and provision for the moment we’re in.
We need to want what we have right now. That doesn’t mean that there’s something more coming down the pike, but it does mean that God has you in this season, this time. For what? A purpose. Does that ring with anybody? Yeah. Ecclesiastes 3:1. We need to make our desires equal to our circumstances. We need to track and train our desires and appetites. I like the statement of John Stuart Mill, “I have learned to seek my happiness, not by trying to fulfill my desires, but by limiting them.” Now, that sounded like a call to a asceticism or a call to monasticism? No. I think it’s a practical reality. It’s a simple recognition of a number of things.
We cannot have it all and we cannot do it all. So, don’t seek it all and don’t seek to do it all. We’re surrounded by so much stuff, so many opportunities, and most of them are healthy, most of them are wholesome. But you know what? We can’t humanly afford it and we can’t fit it all into our schedules. So, he’s right. Learn to seek happiness, not by trying to fulfill your desires, but by limiting them. You can’t have it all. You can’t do it all and you don’t need it all.
According to Paul in his words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6, what does he say? “Having food and clothing, be content.” Paul is saying that if a Christian’s got meat, drink and clothes, he’s rich. We need to remember that the stomach is sooner filled than the eye, and that it doesn’t take as much as we might think to make it satisfied. That’s why Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. Those things necessary for life.
One other little thing here would be, again, it’s not a call… I don’t want to be misunderstood. It’s not a call to asceticism. It’s not a call to monasticism. But we cannot have it all. We cannot do it all. We don’t need it all. And you know what? We maybe need to think through that sometimes less is just better and safer.
1 Timothy 6, “Those that would be rich fall into all kinds of traps and temptations.” And Paul said, “Some have gone astray from the faith and been pierced through with sorrow.” Paul warns us of the perils of seeking more than we need and more than God has appointed for us. Again, to quote Thomas Watson, I just got the book this week. Go and get it. It’s phenomenal. The Art of Contentment. He says this, “Oh, the abundance of danger in abundance.” And I think Solomon is saying that. In fact, Watson says this, “The little ceiling ship rides safe by the shore when the gallon ship advancing with its mask and top seal is cast away. Adam in paradise was overcome, while Job on the Dunghill was a conqueror.”
Sometimes less is just safer. But here’s the third thing I want to get across. Anticipate a struggle, want what you have. Thirdly, don’t crave things you cannot keep. I think this is good. This is another mild marker on the road to contentment. Let’s go over to 1 Timothy 6. 1 Timothy 6:6. We have a couple of things we want to get from this passage.
“Now, godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” Okay? We’ve heard it said. I’ll say it again. You’ve never seen a U-Haul on the back of a horse. All right? That’s just a fact. Therefore, “Having food and clothing, with these we should be content.” What’s Paul saying here? He’s saying that, “Here’s what promotes contentment. Don’t crave things that you cannot keep. We brought nothing into this world and we can carry nothing out of this world.”
So, that tells you that stuff is not that important. Certainly not in the face of death, certainly not at the mouth of eternity. Job picks up the same thought, doesn’t he? Back in Job 1, he says this, and maybe Paul had this very passage in mind, “Then job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, he fell to the ground and worshiped and said, ‘Naked, I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.'” Guys, life is a pilgrimage from a point of nakedness to another point of nakedness. And I think sometimes we forget that.
In fact, Steve Jobs, head CEO of Apple, is learning that lesson. One year after receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs stood before Stanford University’s graduating class to reflect on his deathbed, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to loss. You are already naked.”
Interesting little statement there at the end, picking up Paul. We come into this world with nothing and we will leave with nothing. And if you keep that in your mind, it will define your choices a little bit more clearly. You see, biblically speaking, true wealth is what you have when you add everything up that money cannot buy and death cannot steal. So, if you’re finding your contentment, if you’re defining your satisfaction, if you’re marking your success on things, you’re way off peace. Because the most important things, money cannot buy and death cannot steal.
That means, by the way, okay, by implication that an increase in wealth doesn’t increase your contentment and the decrease in wealth doesn’t decrease your contentment. So, back to the point we’re making. The practical takeaway from this is that anything we can’t keep forever should not occupy our thoughts, should not define our contentment, should not be at the center of our affections, and it should not be a motivating force in our lives.
We’ve quoted it, but boy, we could do with hearing it almost every week. Jim Elliot, martyred missionary, Ecuador, survived by his wife, Elizabeth Elliot. Maybe many of you have read her books with Great Prophet. Before he died, he had made this statement, which drove him to the jungles of Ecuador, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Because Paul wants to remind us, “Don’t crave for things you can’t keep. We brought nothing into this world and it’s certain we can carry nothing out.”
It is the fool who craves for things he cannot keep. Jesus defines that man, doesn’t he, in Luke 12, as a fool. This guy who’s got everything, his barns are full, his business is expanding. He’s well thought of in the Rotary Club. He’s got a driveway a mile long up to his house with a white fence and big gates. But then one particular night, as he unfolds the plans for his next business adventure, he just flops onto the table, dead is a dodo, dead as stone. And God pronounces over his life, “Fool. This night, his soul will be required of him. And then whose will these things be?”
The stuff he lived for, he left behind. Come on, let’s be honest. I know my own heart. We find far too much of our joy and our satisfaction in things we cannot keep. And that doesn’t mean they’re not to be enjoyed. They’re just not to be inflated in terms of their importance. In fact, this has a corollary thought here.
We would do well to remember what we are. Go with me to 1 Peter 2:11, and I’ll remind you what you are. Peter says this, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
What are we? Pilgrims and strangers. This ties in with the thought that we are resident aliens. It’s exactly what I am actually, that’s my status in the country right now. We’ve applied for naturalization, but at the moment I’m a resident alien. My loyalty at this moment lies to another country. My heart is in another place, to some degree. I’m a British citizen. I carry a British passport. Although I live here, and there is a metamorphosis going on in me and I’m becoming less British and more American, God help me.
But there’s a naturalization process going on. It’s a naturalization process is going on. And someday, hopefully by the summer, I’ll be no longer a pilgrim and a stranger in the United States. I look forward, God willing, with my family, in the summer to vow that I want to be loyal to the United States, its constitution, that I give up all other allegiance. It’s going to be a wonderful day, but a bit of a tug at the heart, giving up a British passport, turning my back on things that I have loved.
You’ve been born here. That’s never been a struggle for you, but this is the kind of thought Peter’s getting into. In fact, I was working through my little book on the naturalization, and that’s exactly question 53 in the book. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen? “Give up loyalty to other countries and be loyal to the United States.” And that’s dead right. That’s right. But I once wore the uniform of the British police force. I once stood at RUC depot in Belfast and said that I would die for the queen of England. My loyalty was to the crown.
But that loyalty will change. It is changing and it will change, gladly. We know our two countries are brothers and sisters, almost, but Peter says, “Hey,” to the Christian, “don’t become naturalized. You stay a pilgrim and you stay a stranger. This world is not your home.” Paul will say in Philippines 3:20, “Our citizenship is in Heaven.” Philippi was a colony, hundreds of miles from Rome. Had it been conquered, Macedonia had been conquered by the Romans, and so they allowed some of their soldiers to stay in Philippi. Then they shipped a bunch of their people from Rome to Philippi. Philippi was a strategic trade route.
Roman justice was administered, Roman morals were observed, the Roman citizen who resided in Philippi, although outside of Italy, enjoyed the full rights of Roman citizenship and was exempt from taxes. So, what’s Paul saying? He’s saying this, “Just as the Roman colonists never forget they belong to Rome, you must never forget you’re a citizen of Heaven.” What’s the practical point? You’re smart. You’re getting it. The Christian must remain a resident alien. He must not become naturalized. He must maintain a pilgrim mindset.
By implication, that means that will bring us into conflict with the world’s values and the world’s priorities, and what they think is important is not as important to us. That next car, that next home, that next set of clothes, it’s as not important to us as it is to them, because this is their place. They’re going to go down with this planet on Judgment Day, sadly. But our citizenship is elsewhere. We’re working off a different music score. We’re working off a different set of plans, and our contentment therefore is fueled by this long hope of glory.
We’ve got Heaven on the horizon. Our contentment is fueled by the hope of glory and our losses are ameliorated by the thought that this is but a light affliction compared to the weight of glory that will be ours soon. Remember what Paul argues in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18? He says, “This light affliction is nothing compared to the weight of glory that is ours.” He’s thinking about having his citizenship there. The best is yet to come, so he can put up with what he’s living with or living without, because it’s only going to get better. So, just hang in there. Don’t become conformed to this world. Stay a citizen of Heaven. Have a pilgrim mindset.
I’ve been on the mission field a number of times across my ministry. And in some contexts, the accommodation’s been pretty sparse and the food pretty much stinks. But you know what? When you’re on the road for a couple of weeks, it’s funny how you adjust. The bed’s not as comfortable as my bed at home. The food’s not as good as Jen cooks it. This isn’t anywhere near what I enjoy back home, but you know what? I’ll suck it up for a couple of weeks because I’m going home. I’ve got a pilgrim mind. I’m just a stranger in this land for three weeks. And that’s the attitude we ought to have. We may content ourselves because this short life will soon be over and our suffering, once in Heaven, will be long forgotten.
Got an interesting call this week from a lady in Oklahoma called Pat Jones. Long story cut short, she had heard of me when I preached at Mark Hitchcock’s church in December, and she’s a lady interested in the De Courcy name. And so she tracked me down through some of the people at Faith Bible Church in Edmond, and she called me up to talk about her Irish ancestry and a De Courcy connection. And I told her, I said, “Pat, the next best thing to be in Irish is having been Irish.”
So, we talked. And she took me deep into our family roots. And when our grandfather came over and we talked about the De Courcy name, which is a famous name in Irish history, and so on and so forth, this lady just waxed eloquent for about 25 minutes. She had done her research. We talked so much about the past. Somewhere in the conversation I thought to myself, “You know what? I need to share something of the gospel to this lady.” I didn’t know if she was a believer or not. And I felt the Lord encouraged me to share that. And so I said, “Pat,” as we kind of wrapped up, I said, “You know the most important thing about us is not where we’ve been but where we’re going?”
And I said, “Pat, you’re going to Heaven. You’re telling me all about where your family’s come from, but where’s your family going? Do you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ?” And that’s our mindset, isn’t it? The Christian almost must have Heaven. It’s not really about our past and it’s not really about our present. It’s about our future. And that’s why we mustn’t crave things we cannot keep.
And fourthly, we’ve got to live in the present, not the future. This is where we stopped this morning. We’ve got to live in the present, not the future. Contentment must be found in the circumstances you are in. What did Paul say in Philippians 4:11-13? “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself, whether they’re full or whether they’re empty.” What’s Paul saying? He’s saying this, “My contentment is a present possession in the immediate context in the circumstances, whether good or bad.”
You see, what did we say a week ago? Contentment means that you believe that you have everything you need right now. That’s the key to contentment. It’s living in the present, not the future. It’s accepting where God has you for this time. It’s rejoicing in what God has provided for you at this moment. And it’s living in the hope of better days, either in Heaven or on the Earth, but it’s a present thing. It’s a right now experience. But the trouble with people is that they’re always postponing their happiness. Their contentment will come tomorrow because tomorrow’s going to be better than today, isn’t it? Maybe, but maybe not. And then you’ve just wasted today, and you’re no further along the path to contentment.
Come on. Some people live in the past, not a good place to be. And some people live in the future. Not in the way we’ve just talked about, but kind of postponing their joy, postponing their actions. They live on this expectancy kind of plan that they’re always looking for something out there. But in the meantime, they’re completely dropping the ball on the most precious thing that they have, which is what? The present moment.
That’s why the psalm has said, Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord is made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” We need to be glad in the day we’re in, in the moment we’re experiencing because contentment about living in the present, not in the future. This is what Robert Jeffress calls, “The oasis illusion.” You’ve seen the movies, haven’t you? The guy parts with thirst, shuffling through an endless stretch of white desert, the sun relentlessly beating down on him. But he keeps going because he sees an oasis, a clump of trees, the sound of running water.
And he says to himself, “If I can just keep going, if I can arrive there, I’ll be good to go.” And then he gets there and what is it? It’s mirage. And he plows on through the never-ending desert. It’s what Robert Jeffries calls the oasis illusion. And some of us are falling prey to that kind of illusion and deception.
Well, if we can just get to tomorrow, we’ll be good to go. If we can just get the Friday, we’ll be good to go. If we could just get to the summer and the vacation, I’ll be happier, more content. And you know I could go on multiplying those scenarios, and you probably have one right in your head that’s particular to you right now. The oasis illusion, and it is an illusion. This is the day you’re in and this is the day the Lord has made and he made it for you and he’s got grace sufficient for it, and he’s got plans riddled throughout it.
Now, the oasis illusion is the chasing of the wind for a couple of reasons, quickly, and we’ll be done. One, because success and satisfaction in life, as we have said, is a matter of wanting what you have, okay? You can’t enjoy what you don’t have. The only thing you can enjoy is what you have. So, you have a choice. Either enjoy it or make yourself miserable and make everybody around you miserable. Live in the present, come on, not in the future. Hope for better days, yes, but don’t postpone your happiness in God. Don’t postpone your joy.
Contentment is about enjoying your present possessions as from the hand of God. Wanting what you don’t have is no way to live because it has you chasing a fantasy. It has you under appreciating what you have. Poor old Ahab fell into that trap, didn’t he? Back in 1 Kings 21.i mean, here’s a man who’s got buckets and buckets of stuff and he looks out his window, and next to his palace is a little vineyard owned by Naboth. And he says to himself, “I want that.” And Naboth says, “You can’t have it. It’s an inheritance from the Lord.”
And old Ahab drools over his dinner that night, faces the wall and the bed and says nothing, until Jezebel says, “What the heck’s going on?” “Well, Naboth wouldn’t sell me his vineyard.” And she said, “Well, you’re the king. Take it.” And he connives and he gets it. But is he any happier? No. In fact, Elijah’s then sent to say, “Hey, you’re done. The dogs are going to lick your blood.” See, when discontentment speaks, it always begins with two words, “If only.”
Be careful. And just secondly, because we don’t know what a day will bring forth, you’ve got to live in the present. You’ve got to enjoy the moment. Whatever it is, God can enable you to enjoy that because you’ve got to want what you have because that’s all you have. Enjoy it. See what God wants to do with it. And then you don’t know what tomorrow can bring. Here you are, hanging your hope and your happiness on tomorrow.
But what does James say? James 4:13-14, “No one knows what a day brings forth.” Do you? I mean, can you tell me what’s going to happen tomorrow? You can make a guess at it. And then there’s some big things that generally we might be able to predict with some sense of accuracy. But hey, we don’t know what’s really going to happen tomorrow. We have no control over it. That’s in God’s hands. So, listen to this.
The tomorrow you’re waiting for, right? You’re hanging your happiness on this tomorrow, whatever it is, this oasis that you’re going to get to. The tomorrow you’re waiting for and dreaming about may never come. Sorry to tell you that, but it’s often the case. I’ll find it true in my life. Would you not agree with me? It’s often the case that that means that tomorrow you’ll be wishing for yesterday. That’s the today you wasted, waiting for the tomorrow that never arrives. This was a tremendous statement I came across this week. William Lackey, “There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were, but yesterday. Though that yesterday has passed, unappreciated and unenjoyed.” Wow, that’s a real challenge, isn’t it? Enjoy the moment you’re in. Rejoice in the Lord, always. And again, I say, rejoice.
Closing story. Some of the ladies may have read some of Patsy Clairmont books. She was once sitting on an airplane next to a young man. She said this, “I’d already observed something about this young man when I was seated. He called me ma’am. At the time, I thought either he thinks I’m ancient or he’s from the south where they still teach manners, or he’s in the service.” After a little while, Patsy decided he was in the service and she said, “Are you in the service?” To which the young man replied, “Yes, ma’am, I am.”
“What branch?” “Marines,” he said. “Where are you coming from?” “Operation Desert Storm.” “No kidding?” Patsy said, “How long have you been there?” The young Marine replied, “A year and a half. I’m on my way home. My family will be at the airport.” Perhaps with a motherly instinct and a woman’s intuition, Patsy commented, “You know what? I’m sure you’ve thought about this moment many times as you trod the desert floor of the Middle East.” “Oh no, ma’am,” he replied, “We are taught never to think of what might never be, but to be fully available right where we are.”
The good lesson. Let me say it again, “We were taught never to think of what might never be, but be fully available right where we are.” Now, there’s a future we know is going to happen, right? Our citizenship is there. So, think about that. Think about that future. But this kind of future that you have planned or saved for or dreamed about, well, you can submit that to God, but my goodness, don’t hang your happiness on it. Because God says, “You enjoy what you have right now and you don’t know what tomorrow can bring.”
So, what are the markers in the road to contentment? Anticipate a struggle. Want what you have. Don’t crave for that what you cannot keep. Don’t do any of that. And live in the present, not the future. Let’s pray.
Lord, we feel the edge of your word this morning, cutting, wounding, convicting, challenging our thinking. Perhaps, Lord, we would have to admit we’re too worldly. We have forgotten that we’re pilgrims and strangers. We’re not holding onto our stuff lightly. But God, challenge us. Challenge us to fight against this world, to fight for contentment, to want what we have, to be where we are, fully engaged in what you want for us and what you want to do through us. And all the meantime, Lord, help us to realize the best is yet to come.
Oh, Lord, we have felt the cut of your word, but it has healed us. It’s surgery for our health, and we thank you for the kind hand that moves the scalpel. Lord, as we turn our thoughts towards our Lord Jesus, and his love for us, may, Lord, we thank you above all and find our joy amidst all in our so greater salvation for these things we ask and pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.