March 13, 2011
Only The Lonely – Part 4
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ecclesiastes 4: 1-6

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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ecclesiastes 4. We’re in a series of studies in Ecclesiastes 4 and a week or two ago we camped at Verse 6. We’ve been working our way through this Book verse-by-verse, Chapter 4, we’re taking up the thought of Only the Lonely because the is all about loneliness and estrangement. You’ve got the loneliness of the oppressed in Verses 1-3, and no one is there to comfort them, no one to take up their cause, no one to take up their case. Then you’ve got the loneliness of the person who’s the workaholic, who out of envy for his neighbor tries to grasp all that he can. But in grasping all that he can, he really ends up grasping the wind and finds himself empty and tired and certainly not at peace with himself or with God. We have here loneliness due to cruelty, loneliness due to covetousness. That’s where we were when all of a sudden, I get onto a sidetrack, Verse 6, “Better a handful with quietness, than both hands full together with toil and grasping for the wind.”
I find this verse getting its hooks into my heart and drawing me in my thinking to this whole issue of contentment, and we have for some weeks sought to understand what contentment is, what contentment’s not. We’ve sought to put some mile markers on the road to contentment. So if you’re joining with this this morning, we’re in a study in Ecclesiastes. We’re working our way through Chapter 4, but we’re really on a little bit of a sidetrack here for this Sunday morning and then next Sunday morning, again looking at the subject of How Do We Cultivate Contentment? Look at this verse, “Better a handful with quietness, than both hands full together with toil and a grasping for the wind.” A man became jealous of his friends because they had a larger and more luxurious home, and so he decided to list his home, and so he called a real estate agent, he planned to sell. As soon as he sold his home, he was going to purchase a more impressive dwelling.
Shortly after that, he was reading in the classified section of the newspaper, and he saw a nod for a house that just seemed right for him, tailor-made for his tastes and his desires. So he probably called his realtor and told him that there was a house described in today’s paper exactly what he was after, what he wanted. He told him to move on at ASAP. The agent listened for a moment, asked several questions, and then replied, “I don’t know if you know this, but that’s your house you’re describing.” How embarrassing, but how true to life? As with this man, most of us don’t need more, we simply need to appreciate more what we already have. The fact is that, “Discontentment,” as Benjamin Franklin said, “makes a rich man poor.” The fact is that contentment does not come when we acquire more, it is a product of the way we think. This man didn’t need to change his house, he needed to change his mind and the way he looked at his house. See, contentment and attitude adjustment more than it’s a change, more than it’s an acquisition.
So for some weeks now we have been seeking to renew our minds on the subject of contentment. Paul says, “We’re not to be conformed to this world. We’re not to allow the world to squeeze us into its mold regarding material, things, regarding peace and quiet.” We’re to be renewed in our mind. We’re to allow the Word of God to speak into our lives. In Ecclesiastes 4:6 tells us, “Better a handful with quietness than both hands full.” The Bible wants us to know that less is more when it’s accompanied by rest in God and peace through Jesus Christ. I like the way The Message puts it, “One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work.” Contentment is better than covetousness because covetousness produces toil and contentment produces tranquility. What did Paul say in I Timothy 6:6? That “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” We need to add contentment to our Godliness and both will add something to our lives. We need to put contentment in our shopping cart this morning. It has so many benefits to us.
In fact, as I’ve been reading different commentaries and books on the subject, as I’ve wrestled with the text of God’s sacred Word, I come up with a number of benefits to contentment. Listen to these things quickly. Contentment decreases our dependence upon things and circumstances and increases our restful dependence upon Christ. If we truly understand contentment, it’s not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our Savior. We’ll see this next week as we go back to look at Philippines 4, but anything that leaves us looking at Christ is a good thing. Contentment is a good thing. Secondly, contentment provides a bulwark against the great sin of murmuring. What did Paul say to the Philippians? “Do all things without murmuring and disputing.” Do you ever get into a controversy with God? Do you ever take God to task, put Him in the dark and question His goodness? That’s a sin. That’s wrong, and for that, many Israelites perished on the desert floor in the wilderness. Read about it in Numbers 11, “Murmuring is a great sin, but contentment will guard us against that great sin.”
Thirdly, contentment makes a poor man rich. That’s a good thing because that man becomes rich in the things that money cannot buy and the things that death cannot steal. That’s how you know how rich you are. The person that’s content, the person that’s found quietness through the cross of Jesus Christ and peace with God through faith in Him, that person is rich in the peace of God that comes through peace with God, and that’s a peace that passes all understanding. That person is rich according to Peter and a joy unspeakable. You see, when we are focused on Jesus Christ, that’s where contentment and sufficiency is found. We will find in Him a peace unimaginable and a joy unspeakable. You feel wealthy when you’ve got those two things. Contentment, fourthly, acts as a anchor to the soul in the storms of life. See, contented soul is a calm soul, undisturbed, at ease with where God has them in life.
I love what Thomas Watson, the Puritan said in his book, the Art of Contentment, “The contented heart is never without heart.” It’s a good quote. See, the soul that is at rest in God is up to the challenges of life. Contentment’s a great thing, add it to your shopping cart. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” great profit. Fifthly, it’s profitable because contentment prevents many sins and temptations. Where there is a lack of contentment, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be no lack of sin. “The devil loves to fish in troubled waters,” to quote Thomas Watson again, but if we’re content, if we’re shipwrecked on God, if we live at the feet of Jesus Christ and we find in Him no lack, then we will find ourselves protected against temptation. We will not so easily fall to the temptation to drink the salt water of worldly pleasure, a pleasure that promises so much and delivers so little unlike God who is never a disappointment. Sixthly and finally, contentment fits a man for every situation and sweetens every condition.
Paul said, “I’ve learned to be content in whatsoever state I’m in.” When you and I really understand what contentment is and we find it, then we’re up to all that life throws our way. We will be men and women for all seasons. Jesus turned water into wine, and contentment turned sorrow into joy and trouble into peace. Okay, now we come back to where we left off. If you’ve been with us for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been setting out some mile markers on the road to contentment. We want to get to that place where we understand with Solomon that a handful with quietness is better than two handfuls with worried work. We covered some ground. Let me refresh you as to what we’ve already said regarding this issue of cultivating contentment. Number one, anticipate a struggle. Number two, want what you have. Number three, don’t crave the things you cannot keep, and number four, live in the present, not the future. I won’t rehearse that. If you weren’t here for the messages, get the CDs outside, they’re free. They’re yours for the taking.
But let’s look at a fifth mile marker on the road to contentment. Stop making comparisons. Stop making comparisons. You see, discontent is the child of covetousness. Discontent is the child of covetousness. In fact, in this very chapter here in Ecclesiastes 4:4, Solomon identifies the fact that most people go about trying to fill both hands because they do it out of envy of their neighbor, on rivalry towards their competition, and it’s futile, it’s vehement, it’s empty. Don’t go down that road, “Better a handful with quietness,” says Solomon, but covetousness is among us. In fact, it’s one of the big 10, isn’t it? When in The Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, Moses tells us, or more rightly God tells us through Moses that we’re not to covet our neighbor’s wife, our neighbor’s stuff, our neighbor’s home. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:15, “Beware of covetousness for man’s life does not consist and the things that he possesses.” Covetousness is among us and it’s a malignant desire to have what doesn’t belong to you. In fact, it’s not simply one thing, something you don’t have.
It’s one thing what someone else has, and it’s a cancer and it’s a canker and we need to be on our guard against that. Covetousness produces discontentment, but here’s where I’m going. Comparison produces covetousness. When you and I spend time comparing what others have to what we have, it often produces covetousness and covetousness, if it’s not stemmed will produce discontent. So if discontent is the child of covetousness, comparison is a kissing cousin to covetousness. We spend a lot of time comparing what others have to what we don’t have. In fact, as I was pouring over the text, my mind drifted back to those early days in our home when my mom would make her two-layered cream cake with icing and sprinkles on top. When it came for dessert, I remember those days as a boy, time would stand still. As we watched her lift the carving knife and set about slicing the kick into slices and my beady eyes would watch to see if my brother Ian got a bigger slice than I did, and he was watching me watch him.
If he got a bigger slice, I just looked in his direction and said within myself, “You’re dead! Tonight you’re dead!” Then I looked at my mom and I decided to spare her because if the end was gone I would get the bigger slice the next time. You know I jest to some degree, but it’s a game we’ve played since we were kids. We compare, we compete and it’s a deadly destructive game, and it robs us of Godly contentment. Envy in comparison resulted in Cain murdering his brother Abel. It caused Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. It caused Israel to reject God as their king during Samuel’s time as prophet. It triggered Saul’s murderous intent against David. He was set off when he heard the women of Israel sing. You know what? Saul has slain his thousands, but David, his tens of thousands and the green-eyed monster of envy raised its head on the basis of comparing one against another.
Worst of all, Jesus’ countryman put Him on trial according to Matthew 27:18 out of envy. This is a deadly and destructive game. It’s not child’s play. It actually leads people, all jest aside, to murder. We think to be somebody we need what somebody else has, in terms of looks, gifts, popularity, connections, achievements are just their stuff. So we say to ourselves, “How can we be content when they have so much more than I have and they have done so much more than I have? How can I be content?” That’s the game we play. We fall into the trap of measuring our worth against the success of others, which is a mistake for a Christian to do. The Christian’s identity is sewn up in their union with Jesus Christ. When I think about who I am, I must think about who He is to me. He’s been made unto us what? According to Corinthians, righteousness and peace and wisdom. We have so much in Him. When we are going to seek to define our identity, we define our identity and identification with Jesus Christ.
We need to rediscover the doctrine of union with Christ, but at times as Christians, we forget it. We fall into the trap of measuring our worth against the success of others, and that makes us feel bad. Then there’s a vicious cycle takes place having made ourselves feel bad by looking at the success of others, we make ourselves feel better having made ourselves feel bad by looking at the failures of others. “Okay, I’m not as good as he is. I don’t have as much as she has, but you know what? I’m better than they are. I have more than she has,” and that’s the game we play. We play this game of comparison. You may have heard the story of the two brothers who had terrorized a small village for years. They were womanizers, abusive to their children. They were charlatans when it came to business. One of the brothers died and the other brother who survived him went to the local pastor and asked the pastor if he would be willing to bury his brother. Pastor thought about it.
He was aware of the notorious reputation of this other guy, but he said, “You know what? If you do it, pastor, I’m going to ask one thing from you.” He says, “I want you to tell the people my brother was a saint.” The pastor rolled his eyes and thought to himself, “That’s impossible. You guys aren’t saints, you’re the devil in disguise.” The man said, “But if you’re willing to do that, pastor, I’d love to donate $50,000 to the building fund.” Now that got the pastor’s attention. He thought for a moment and he agreed to do it. So the funeral came around in a day or two and as the pastor got up, the casket was there in front of him, people had gathered. He stood up and said, “You know what? The man that lies before us was a womanizer. He was abusive to his children. He was a charlatan in business, but I’m here today to tell you compared to his brother, he’s a saint.” It’s a good way of making $50,000, isn’t it? And keeping your integrity.
But we’re comparing all the time up and down, and it leads to such discontent and covetousness, and we’ve got to stop it. How might we do that? Well, hang in here for a few minutes. I’m going to give you five ways to stop comparing and stopping it now. Number one, rejoicing the success of others. Cultivate a generous spirit towards others when they are blessed. Loving your neighbor involves rejoicing in God’s love towards them. We’re told, aren’t we, to love God and love our neighbor? Well, then if you want to do that, then love your neighbor when God loves upon them. Enjoy what they enjoy for their sake and for God’s glory. Don’t be mean-spirited. Ask God to cramp this envious spirit that may have taken hold of you and because of the gospel, because of the example of Jesus Christ, because of the call to selfless love towards others let us indeed enjoy what our neighbors get to enjoy. Be happy for their good fortune. Fight the cruel tendency not to want others to enjoy what you cannot enjoy.
A New Yorker cartoon put it humorously. A man is speaking to his boss. He says this, “Okay, I hear you. If you can’t see your way clear to giving me a raise, how about giving Anderson a pay cut?” That’s how wicked we are, twisted, deceitful in our hearts. That’s why when the gospel comes and changes us, Paul can say, okay, then Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those that rejoice.” Can you do that? You’re called to do it, and if you’ll do it, it’ll help you stop making comparisons. Number two, remember, sometimes it’s God’s will for us to decrease and others to increase. Bear that in mind when you’re tempted to make a comparison and you see God lifting someone up, you see God blessing them in the way he’s not blessing you. Well, good. That’s God’s business. It’s God’s business. John got that, didn’t he? In John 3: 30, he sees his crowds beginning to get skinny. He sees Jesus’ crowds beginning to get fat. He begins to see that his work is almost done. He’s being pushed into the background. He’s prepared the way the Messiah has come.
He has said, “Behold lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. There’s one now among us. I’m not worthy to tie his shoelaces.” He says, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” There’s gospel truth. There’s stuff to live by. When you’re tempted to compare and when you’re tempted because of the comparison to covet, rejoice in the success of others and remember, sometimes it’s God’s will for us to decrease. Here’s a statement you want to write down and pray over. We must learn by grace to want for others what God may not want for us. Are you up for that? It’s God’s prerogative to dispose as He wills. Can you by grace want for others what God may not have for you? Can you rejoice when your children excel your achievements? Can you rejoice when a young man you’ve trained exceeds your expectations and your achievements? I hope so. If not, you’re going to have real trouble with life. The Gospel of Christ crucified is about advancing others, not ourselves.
That’s why we’re told in Philippians 2, “Have this mind that was in Christ who lowered himself, who made himself of no reputation, that the Father may be exalted, and that people may deceive others.” Others, that’s the point. In fact, that whole section’s prefaced by Paul telling us that we’re esteem others needs more important than our own. That’ll help you deal with comparison. I love old Vance Havner. He’s now with the Lord, Southern Baptist pastor of many years ago, he said this, “Most of us like the driver’s seat.” That’s me. I love the driver’s seat, and if life somehow shoves us into the back seat, we like to be back seat drivers. That’s me. He is a rare soul who can behave himself graciously in life’s back seat. Then he goes on to say this, “Blessed is the man who can take a back seat like Samuel to a lesser soul or like John the Baptist to a greater Jesus.” That’s powerful. Can you find grace to take a back seat to someone lesser than you or someone greater than you when it’s God’s will that be the case?
Number three, making comparisons is relative, selective and therefore, deceptive. What do I mean by relative? Well, I mean this. No matter how much we have or add to what we have, there’s always someone else who has more, it’s all relative. If you’re going to get into the comparing game, you’re going to be miserable. You’re never going to land because there’s always someone ahead of you. You’re going to be breathless, you’re going to be tired, you’re going to be wearied. I say selective in that we fool ourselves by comparing ourselves only to the desirable portions of a person’s life that we’re looking at. All right? When we get into this comparison game, we tend to look at the area of their life that we desire, their looks, their achievements, their stuff, I don’t know what it is. But we tend to be very myopic, very limited in our perspective, and we forget that life’s a package deal. If you want what they have, you’ve got to have all that they have. You can’t put your foot into one of their shoes, you got to put your feet into both of their shoes.
If you want that part of their life, then you got to take the other part of their life that’s not so cool, that’s not so great. Why don’t you try their whole life on for size? A woman was at a party trying to look her best. Someone noticed this gargantuan sparkling rock on her finger and exclaimed, “Wow! That is a beautiful diamond!” She said, “It’s the Cullinan diamond.” Woman said, “Wow, I wish I had one of those.” “No, you don’t.” Came the reply. “Why not?” “Because the Cullinan diamond comes with the Cullinan curse.” “The Cullinan curse? What’s that?” The woman looked her friend in the eye and said, “That’s Mr. Cullinan.” I like that story and here’s the point. If you want Mrs. Cullinan’s ring, you got to take Mr. Cullinan with it. But you see, we don’t do that. We want Mrs. Cullinan’s ring without her husband, without her life, selective. It’s relative. It’s actually deceptive. Stop comparing. Fourthly, be mindful of the radical and indiscriminate nature of grace.
If I had time, I’d turn you to Matthew 20:1 following we can’t take that time, but let me fill you in and draw upon your own knowledge of scripture. It’s a parable about a man who owned a vineyard, and on either side of this story we have those famous words at the beginning of it and then the end of it. The first will be last, the last will be first. The story’s about a man who owns a vineyard. He goes out early in the morning. He hires some laborers to work in his field. Around noontime, he brings in a second shift and about 5:00 in the afternoon just towards the end of the working day, he brings in some more stragglers and puts them the work. Within a short hour or so, the work is done, everybody gets paid, but the amazing thing is, according to this story, they all get paid the same. Now there’s a novel idea. Someone that owns the company can do with the company what they want.
We need to think about that in America today, equal pay. No equal pay here, it’s the owner’s prerogative to give as he wishes. The rub of the story is you see, the first will be lost in God’s kingdom and the last will be first. There’s no pecking order, it’s grace. If you’re in the kingdom, if you’re in the vineyard, it doesn’t matter if you came early in the morning or late in the afternoon, it’s all grace. That’s why John MacArthur in his study Bible gets the gist of this when he says, quote, “The thief on the cross will enjoy the full blessing of heaven alongside those who have labored their whole lives.” That’s the truth, isn’t it? You maybe tend to go, “That seems unfair,” but you see, grace is indiscriminate. Grace is radical. Grace is undeserved. It defies conventions. It defies measurements. So therefore, there are no winners and losers in grace, only those who have more than they deserve. What are they bellyaching for? The vineyard owner gave them a job early in the morning that’s more than they desire. He was good to them.
Same with the guys at 5:00 in the afternoon. He was good to them. It’s all good. There are no winners and losers. Only those who’ve got more than they deserve in the kingdom. We forget that. Grace is a radical thing. It leaves us without measurements, scales by which to weigh things. John Newton said, “If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there. You know John Newton, that slave traitor, became a church of England minister, wrote that amazing hymn, Amazing Grace? He says here, “Is the first wonder to meet someone I had not thought to see there. Second to miss someone I had thought to see there, and third, the greatest of all is to find myself there, that is the most amazing thing.” Grace is wonderful and surprising, and if it grabs you and you get a grip of it, you will not get into the comparing game, because whether little or much, it’s all grace. It’s all mercy. Here’s the last thought here. Live the life God has planned for you. Live the life God has planned for you.
This comparing of one against the other is a deadly destructive game and it’s wrong for all the reasons I’ve said. Finally, here, it’s wrong because you’re meant to live the life that God has planned for you. This is an amazing thing. There are no two snowflakes the same. Have you ever seen a snowflake under a microscope? It’s just beautiful, a work of marvel and intricacy, not two of them to same you know what? There’s not two people to see him. Although we’re all made after the image of God, we’re all different. According to Psalm 139:13, we’re all uniquely and wonderfully made. When it comes to our salvation and the gifting of the Holy Spirit for service, again, we are all uniquely gifted. I Corinthians 12:11, Paul says this, “But one and the same spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually as he will.” So when you don’t like who you are, now we’re talking apart from sin, you got to change that all the time.
You shouldn’t like who you are if you’re disobeying God, but I’m talking about who you are as an individual, your worth, your significance. You are the person God made you in terms of your looks, your makeup in that sense. In terms of your ability to serve and do things for Christ, again, you are what the Spirit of God has equipped you to be. When you don’t like who you are and you’re tempted to want what somebody else has, do you understand how great a wickedness that is? You’re saying to God, “Hey, You got it wrong. You need to go back to the drawing board. I was meant to be something else.” Then we say to the Holy Spirit, “Hey, why didn’t you give me what you give him? You’re holding out on me?” I’ll say no more ’cause it’s disturbing language just to even say it.
We get into God’s fears and God says, “Hey, you live the life I planned for you.” Ephesians 2:10 is a beautiful verse. We often stop at Verse 9, having outlined, “We’re saved by grace, not by works in Him.” Here’s what it says, “We are his workmanship.” I think there’s a version, puts it, this is beautiful, “We are his masterpiece created in Christ Jesus and we are appointed on to good works which He has planned before time began.” When I was growing up as a boy in Northern Ireland, I grew up in a little Baptist church. We stood there every Sunday morning as a family almost in descending order, dad, mom, me, my brother and my sister. We got those old hymn books that have continued to surface in my mind in terms of the hymns we sang some of the lines.
In fact, as I was studying this one line from one of those hymns came to my mind, “There’s a work for Jesus only you can do.” Remember that striking me as a boy? I wonder what God’s got for me to do, just me. God planned my life and set His love on me, and for a time, He called me to be an engineer. For a time, He called me to be a police officer, but it became clear, irresistibly clear, that God had called me to the office of a bishop, the office of a pastor, the privilege of preaching God’s word. There is a work for Jesus only you can do. What’s His plan for you? Are you living it? Remember that scene in John 21 after the resurrection, Jesus tells Peter about how he’s going to die?
After he hears that news, he looks across and he sees John reposing by the side of Jesus and immediately, human instinct. “Well, what’s he going to be doing If that’s what you’ve called me to do and it comes at the price of death, tell me what John’s getting. Is it as bad as I’m getting, or is he getting off lighter? Is he getting it more easy than I’m getting it?” What does Jesus say to Peter? “What’s that to you? Follow me.” It’s like the blinkers on the race horses, just you stay to your track. Don’t worry what the other horse is doing. You and I are often tempted to live someone else’s life, and that’s a great wickedness. It’s a great waste because instead of using the energy that we could be using to better ourselves, make our lives more meaningful, we waste that energy staring at other people. God’s business is that you should mind your own business-
… and do His business. I read some time ago of a man who was to succeed a very successful man in ministry. He was consumed by the thought of it and the burden of it trying to fill a rather big pair of shoes. He shared that terrifying thought with a friend. Do you know what the friend said to him? I love this. “Hey friend, God has not called you to fill His shoes. God has called you to fill your shoes.” It’s good advice. Here’s a last thought, number six, and we’ll leave I think three for next Sunday morning. Remember, it could be worse, okay? Remember, it could be worse. That’ll help you become more contented. But I want to say something, I’m going to talk about what you’re not thinking about. See, when you hear that, you immediately think, “Yep, I’ve done that. When I don’t feel so good, I think about others who are much worse off than me. I think of the starving in Africa.
I think of those dying on cancer wards, and so on and so forth, and when I think about that, I feel a bit better. My life seems more like a rose garden. What I moan about fuss about fret about, it’s just a storm and a teacup compared to what others are dealing with.” There’s a truth to that, but I don’t think that’s a good path to contentment. I’ll tell you why for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s very man-centered. Okay? You’re trying to find your contentment by looking to men, their plight, their troubles. It’s not God-centered. It’s not about finding your sufficiency and your stability and the one who fills all things and can fill you. I’ll tell you another thing, by the way, let me say this. We cannot and ought not to find our joy based on the misery of others. There’s something wrong about that, right? “I feel good because he’s miserable, and it could be worse.” There’s something wrong with that. That’s not love. Two, if we think about it, the “It could be better,” model is at best situational.
It can’t be the path to contentment because Paul has told us that his contentment had nothing to do with his circumstances. “I’ve learned in whatsoever still I am to be content.” But you see, if we play the, “It could be worse,” game, that’s all to do with circumstances, so it can’t be true contentment, can’t be found at the end of that path. Now, true contentment is not found in comparing ourselves with others. Listen to this now. True contentment comes by comparing what we have to what our sins really deserve. That’s where we really should be comparing. That’s what I mean by remember it could be worse, not in relationship to the plight of others, but in relationship to your lost wicked condition before God, apart from Jesus Christ. That’s where the Christian finds contentment. Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are Psalm 103:8-10. “I’ve ran to them for refuge more than I care to admit. He has not dealt with us after our sin, and He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities.
You know what that verse is saying? That Philip De Courcy every day he lives is getting more than he deserves. I don’t care where he is, what he’s facing, what he’s up against, it’s still better than he deserves. God has not dealt with me after my sin. According to Jeremiah in Lamentations 3: 22,23, “Why are we not consumed?” Let’s be honest about it. “Why are we not consumed?” Why has the ax of God’s holy, just righteous wrath not fallen? It could fall, it should fall because we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. We have been estranged from our mother’s womb. We have gone astray from a moment our heart began to beat and our lungs began to breathe. Why has the ax not fallen? What does it say? “We are not consumed because of His mercies. Great is His faithfulness, which is new every morning.” My friends, you are where you are in life.
What you know in a relationship to Jesus Christ, you’re all of that simply and solely, nothing else involved, but because of God’s mercy. Remember that it could be an awful lot worse. That’s why Thomas Watson, the Puritan said, “If we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve.” It’s a great statement, probably one of the best in his book, “If we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve.” You see, here’s a challenge to you. The next time you find yourself saying, “I don’t have what I deserve,” let the gospels answer back, “You’re dead right,” and thank God that that’s the case, because if you and I got what we deserve, it’s hell for all of us, my friends, hell for all of us, my friends. You and I need to remember that when we become discontent, we can bet our bottom dollar we have forgotten our plight. We are not serious about our sin. We either have no comprehension or a limited comprehension of God’s holiness, His burning white-hot righteousness that’s like a heat-seeking missile after any signature of sin.
The gospel turns our complaints inside out and causes us to face the fact if we really got what was coming to us, it wouldn’t be a pretty picture. That means, and listen to me, I really mean this, whatever you’re facing today, wherever you’re at today, you have no reason to be discontent; none whatsoever, because it’s all mercy in the big picture. Read the Book of Ephesians. Here’s what we are apart from Christ, children of wrath, sons of disobedience, alienated from the life of God, in this world without hope, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise, deserving of God’s justice. That’s what we are, but love that, don’t you? Ephesians 2:4, “But God was rich in mercy, were with He loved us and by grace are we saved.” God takes those kind of people, the sons of disobedience, the children of wrath, and He adopts them into his family.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved the rats like me.” You’ve heard it before, but we need to hear it again and really think about it. In grace we get what we don’t deserve and in mercy we don’t get what we do deserve. As the team comes forward, I want to make an application here. This is something I think will rock your boat a little this morning. I want you to think about this. We are worthy of nothing more than hell. We don’t think about hell as much as the church used to. We don’t preach on it as much as preachers did, but hell’s a reality, my friend, just as real as heaven. You and I were headed there until Jesus stopped us, and then repentance turned us around, and now we’re going to heaven on that great awakening morning. Fair thee well, fair thee well. That’s a truth that puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?
Whatever our trials, whatever our losses, listen to these words by Thomas Watson. “Whatever our trials and whatever our losses, it is all the hell we shall ever have.” Wow, you don’t like what you’re in. I’m not saying it’s necessarily good, could be awful, but as a saint of God, as a pilgrim and stranger in this world, it’s all the hell you’ll ever know. It’s temporary, and it’s short, and it’s easy compared to the real one that you have escaped because of the love of God in Christ. Listen to the words of Thomas Watson, “Whatever change or troubles a child of God meets with it is all the hell he shall have. Whatever eclipse may be upon his name or a state, I may say of it as Athanasius said of his banishment, that it is a little cloud which will soon blow over and then his gulf is crossed, his hell is passed.
Death begins a wicked man’s hell, but it puts an end to a Godly man’s hell. Think to yourself, what if I endure this? It is, but a temporary hell. Indeed. If all our hell is here, it is but an easy hell.” Remember that verse Jesus said in Luke 16:25, “The rich man who died and went to hell lifted his eyes up in torment, looked towards Abraham’s bosom, there was Lazarus,” the man who used to sit outside as gate and he drove by him in his Bentley? What does Jesus say? He says this, “Hey, you received in your lifetime good things, Lazarus, evil things, but now he’s comforted and you are tormented.” My friend, whatever the evil things you face, whatever the life situations, God sets you in harrowing and hard as they may be, please, please, please remember again and again and again, it is all the hell you will ever know, and it’s but a temporary hell. It’s an easy hell compared to that which you have escaped.
When you grasp that, that contents the soul and calms the soul of the saint of God. How many times have we watched, and I’m sure is the days unfold here after this tragedy in Japan we’ll hear people who have lost everything, who escaped fire or flood, we’ll hear them say this, what? “I’m just glad to be alive. I know I’ve lost my home, and I’ve lost my business, but you know what? Comparatively speaking, that really doesn’t matter compared to the fact I’m breathing. I’m living. I’m just glad to be alive.” You listen to me. That’s the Christian worldview. That’s the way we need to live every day because the fires of hell are behind us. The wrath of God is no longer chasing us down like a heat-seeking missile. Every day we live, we get up and we say, “I’m just glad to be saved and redeemed and forgiven and on my way to glory-
Amen. Amen.
… he’s delivered me from the wrath to come,” I Thessalonians 1:10, “I’m a brand plucked from the burning,” Jude Verse 22. The reason you’re discontent this morning is because you haven’t thought much about your so great salvation. You’ve minimized God’s holiness and you’ve forgotten the reality of hell or you wouldn’t be so discontent because you should get up every morning and thank God every morning that you’re saved, and whatever you’re facing, it’s all the hell you’ll ever have. Let’s pray. Lord, we’ve been smacked in the face this morning by these great truths that do not allow us to escape into self-pity.
Forgive us for our lack of contentment, for how we have undervalued our relationship with You, how we have minimized the treasure that is ours already in our relationship with the Son of God. Hell’s behind us, heavens before us. The best is yet to come. This is all the hell we will ever know. To be quite frank about it, Lord, this morning, from where we sit, it’s not much that You’re putting us through. The lines have fallen under us in pleasant places and how wicked our hearts are that we’re so discontent, dissatisfied, disturbed, forgive us. Help us to find a blessed assurance in all that we have found when we find Jesus Christ, for these things we ask and pray in His name, amen.