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Summary: A sermon for New Year’s Day on the most important resolution of all - Trusting Jesus to be the source of our contentment.

Rev. Lin Smalec Salem Church, Waynesboro, PA


New Year’s Day, 2006

Well, here we are, another new year! Let’s see how many of you enjoy New Year’s traditions - how many stayed up till midnight to watch the ball drop at Time’s Square? How many shot a shotgun at midnight? How many drank champagne? How many ate pork and sauerkraut, or black-eyed peas? How many of you made New Year’s resolutions?

Now, New Year’s resolutions are a sore spot with me! I always make a few dedicated to self-improvement, and of course, by the end of January, I’ve blown every one!

So this year, I’ve decided to make only attainable New Year’s resolutions. See if you can identify with any of these:

This year I resolve to gain weight - at least 10 pounds.

This year I resolve to watch more TV. I’ve been missing some good stuff!

This year I resolve to procrastinate more. Starting tomorrow.

This year I resolve to take a vacation to someplace important, like the home of the world’s largest ball of twine.

This year I resolve to get in a whole NEW rut!

And this year I resolve to make it my personal goal to bring back disco. (1)

Okay, those are terrible, aren’t they? But sadly, those are probably much more realistic resolutions than the ones I usually make - okay, except for the one about bringing back disco - that might take more than a few people to make happen!

Why do we bother starting the new year out trying to improve ourselves? Perhaps it is because we have a problem being content. It seems to be a universal human condition that we are never happy with what we have or who we are. As an unknown poet once said:

As a rule, Man’s a fool

When it’s hot, he wants it cool.

And when it’s cool, he wants it hot,

Always wanting what is not. (2)

As I was preparing for this message, the Lord gave me a New Year’s Revelation - it’s all about contentment. Rick Warren might have written about the “Purpose-Driven Life”, but I think our lives are driven more by contentment, or lack of contentment. Our lack of contentment causes us to spend more than we have, accumulate more than we need, and focus on all the wrong things. Our lack of contentment gets in the way of our relationships with God and with each other. Our lack of contentment prevents us from achieving our ultimate purpose as Christians - to share God’s love with the world.

Do you understand what I mean about contentment? Let me give you an example. I read about a man who was envious of a friend who had a larger and more luxurious home than his. So he listed his house with a real estate firm, planning to sell it and to purchase a more impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified section of the newspaper, he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called the realtor and said, "A house described in today’s paper is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go through it as soon as possible!" The agent asked him several questions about it and then replied, "But sir, that’s your house you’re describing." (2) What a great example of our lack of contentment.

When I speak of contentment, I’m not speaking against ambition or goals. There is nothing wrong with realistic and healthy goals. But too often, we are driven by a deep spiritual problem, an uneasiness in our hearts because we simply can’t be happy with what we already have or already are.

Scripture always has words of wisdom for common human problems, and that’s true of the issue of contentment as well. Turn with me to the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 13 (Hebrews is toward the end of the New Testament, after Timothy, Titus and Philemon and before James). Andy read this passage earlier, but I always find that the meaning really sinks in when we look at the passage ourselves, so let’s read 13:1-8 (READ).

There’s a lot of good stuff here, isn’t there? This was good advice for the earliest Christians, and it is good advice for us. But I want to focus especially on verses 5 and 6 (READ).

Just as today, the people of Jesus’ time thought that money was the answer to all of their problems. All they had to do was earn more money so they could spend more money and they would be happy. Now granted, money is important, because it does help us pay the bills! But money in and of itself does not bring happiness or contentment. We are warned in God’s Word to keep our lives free - not from money, but from what? - the love of money. If our life is all about how much we make, then we will never be content.

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