Summary: There is a time to be still and know He is God and there is a time when we are seeking the prize of contentment that we need to flee, follow and fight.
Have you ever played the game called "Would You Rather..."? We played it as kids and I played it just the other day with one of the youth. You make up your own questions but it goes something like this. Would you rather be fat and have a nice face or have a nice body and be ugly? Would you rather fight Superman or Batman? Would you rather have hiccups the rest of your life or feel like you need to sneeze and not be able to the rest of your life? You get the point. It's always something horrible and every time somebody asks me that question, I think, "I don't want to do either one. I would rather you quit asking me those questions."
What is it about kids that like to come up with those horrible scenarios and make you choose which one you would rather do? Well, I have one for you. I want to ask you a question and I want you to think about which one you would rather do. But I will just go ahead and tell you that only one of these is a horrible scenario and yet it is usually picked. The question is, would you rather serve God or serve yourself?
Now, that sounds like a pretty easy question to answer sitting here in church this morning, doesn't it? Nobody would dare answer anything except serve God. And the rewards of serving God are so great and the consequences of serving yourself are so bad that I'm sure we would all say that we would rather serve God. And yet, if you think about it, both are going to be difficult sometimes. Both are going to involve a struggle. Serving God sometimes means doing without something or giving something up.
Whereas, serving yourself can be pretty fun sometimes. Even the Bible admits that sin can be fun...for a season. So, you really have to look at the long-term benefits to make an intelligent choice. And unlike the kids' game, this is real life and you have to make a choice. And choosing not to make a choice is still choosing and the default setting is always serving yourself. So if you say you are not going to make a choice then you have chosen to serve yourself and not God.
The problem with serving yourself or going after only what you want in life is that it's sort of like trying to fill up a bucket that has a hole in the bottom. You can get everything you want and as you get it you are putting it in that bucket but the bucket never ever fills up. In fact, the more you put in, the bigger the hole gets and then you need more and more and more but you are never content. You never will be.
But Luke 6:38says that when we serve God, "A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap." Some of you understand that more stuff, more possessions, goodies, toys, clothes and things do not have anything to do with your contentment. And some of you have learned that the hard way by having stuff and then losing it. And some of you have learned it...also the hard way by not having it and then getting it. And either way you have learned that it is not stuff or lack of that defines your happiness and contentment. It is your relationship with Jesus that brings contentment.
Because I love you, I am going to preach a brief, traditional Christmas sermon this Tuesday night, Christmas Eve. It will be great to bring a friend or neighbor to. But also because I love you, I am not preaching a typical Christmas sermon today. Because I love you and I am desperate for all of US to learn the secret of contentment, especially at this Christmas giving season, I want us to continue in 1 Timothy chapter 6 at Paul's writings about money, stuff and contentment.
You can spend a lot of money and time preparing for Christmas and have a miserable time if you are expecting the gifts under the tree to bring lasting happiness and contentment. Christmas day won't even be over yet and you will be wondering, "Is this all there is to it?" You'll say, "All that work and all that money and this is all I have to show for it? That wasn't worth it." But next year you will get sucked into the advertising and the guilt of not giving your loved ones the latest and greatest and Satan will just sit back and let you go, laughing all the way.
So, let's turn to 1 Timothy and read chapter 6, verse 11 and 12.