WE GAIN GOD’S GIFT OF CONTENTMENT WHEN WE ATTAIN GOD’S GOAL OF GODLINESS
Football players know that: the object of the game is to win by outscoring the opponent within a specified time frame . . . to score is to gain yardage one segment at a time until the Big Goal is attained . . . playing the game by the rules demands discipline, hard work, effort.
Not that we should try to squeeze too much out of this sports analogy . . . but it helps to understand that the object of the Christian life, although NOT a game, is to win the victory over Satan, sin death. Until our Big Goal of an eternal Home in Heaven comes to fruition, we shall go on moving in that direction - one goal at a time.
One of those goals (first downs) . . .“gains” we must make on our way toward the Big Goal is godliness with contentment – I Timothy 6:3-21 . . .
Notice that immediately prior to the point he made about godliness with contentment, the apostle Paul called out false prophets who had infiltrated the church to pursue a selfish goal of personal financial gain – making it necessary for him to speak out about the fallacy of putting one’s hope for contentment in materialism.
Paul warns Christians that “mammon” (a materialistic objective) is a “false god” that, if allowed to become addictive, hinders worship of the true God - not that wealth in and of itself is bad, but that “the love of” it - carried to the extreme of making monetary gain the passion of one’s life, with no concern about spiritual matters - is simply foolish.
Perhaps Paul had in mind the lesson taught by Jesus when He asked that question: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul?” The lesson:
Make the BIG goal of your life that which is eternal not temporal. Later on, Jesus taught that any person with a materialistic mindset - for example, the rich young ruler who figured that his abundance of material possessions would serve in the future as his insurance against anxiety-producing insecurities - is in for a rude awakening.
Paul picked up on our Lord’s warning about placing one’s hope in material things with his own version of a rude awakening: “We brought nothing into this world, and we will carry nothing out of it”. Now hear this:
The love of money may provide temporary satisfaction BUT the love of God lasts forever! Genuine contentment, therefore, does not depend on possessions but on Him who possesses us!
The old warrior was not denouncing wealth or the wealthy . . . ambition or achievement . . . productivity or hard work for making a living.
Paul was concerned that Christians understand that life’s greatest gain is in the spiritual realm of being --- in a right relationship with God through Christ . . . driven by the hope that is ours in Christ . . . about our Father’s business of turning negatives into positives, laying up true treasures in heaven!
Christian service true treasure affords – not as a means of earning eternal life, but as evidence of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ our Savior and Lord whose love for us combined with our love for Him compels us to live for Him and to share our blessings with others.
There is no greater gain than to have God as Father, Christ as Lord, and the Holy Spirit as companion! There is no greater love than to love as Christ loved . . . minister as Christ ministered . . . serve as Christ served . . . give of oneself as Christ gave of Himself!
There is no greater good than to do good to others as stated by the Golden Rule . . . do good works such as provide food, clothing - and shelter . . . do a good job of communicating the gospel in and through all that we do!
To gain a right relationship with the Triune God . . . to love the sisters and brothers in Christ . . . to help supply material, social and spiritual needs for those identified as being in need - is to get rich not quick but slowly, as we go, one day at a time, one ministry at a time, one encouraging word at a time and so on until we become like Christ and therefore ready to meet Him face to face.
In case anyone is wondering why so much of what Jesus did, and that Paul dealt with, had to do with riches, wealth, money, the poor, the social system, let me make a point or two about the context in which these arguments occurred.
The counter-cultural movement by the early Christian Church was not that they condemned all material wealth. Rather, it was the attitude and gratitude of the person who possessed wealth, and the sharing of it with people in need, that they believed was of utmost importance.
First century Christians resented oppression by the Roman government – the fact that wealth could only be acquired by those few who kowtowed to the rulers of darkness in a system that suppressed freedom and individualism, and made the lives of most people miserable for the benefit of the ruling class.
Jesus comes along and takes on the powers-that-be head on – minces no words in calling them hypocrites for their much-speaking, yet doing nothing for the benefit of commoners, while doing all they could to enrich themselves.
Paul follows in the steps of Christ whom the rulers thought they had gotten rid of and he challenges the very ruling class that years ago paid his salary and held him up as a hero for persecuting the people on whose behalf he is now suffering.
“What a wonderful change in one’s life is wrought since Jesus comes into one’s heart!”
Paul the persecutor of Christians turned Paul the prosecutor on behalf of Christianity became the prime example of the kind of life that will be rewarded with true and lasting riches!
Folks: To seek to be independent, to be able to pay debts, to provide all the necessities of life, to provide shelter, to provide a home, to enjoy abundant living, to help others along the way, to provide for one’s future --- is a Christian duty. However, a Christian who does all of this since duty demands it, yet demands that others do with less so that he or she can have more - as was the case, for example, with Matthew the tax collector – has a big problem: pride!
Pride goes before a fall into temptation . . . into a trap . . . into foolish and wishful thinking . . . into ruin and destruction!
Jesus rescued Matthew from Satan’s trap of thinking that he could use the worldly system to enrich himself. Jesus called Matthew to flee corruption and to be converted to the Way that leads to true and lasting riches!
Paul got hold of Timothy before he could be duped by deceivers and ruined by false prophets whose promises were intended to trap people into their worldly schemes of self-enrichment.
“Flee all worldliness and take hold of God’s gift of eternal life to which you were called. Pursue God’s goal of godliness, and you will gain God’s gift of genuine contentment!”
As Christians, whose goal is to be God’s and to do God’s Will, we were advised by Jesus our Lord and now by a converted Paul to flee (let go of, have nothing to do with) worldly systems run by materialistic-minded control freaks who would grab more and more while giving less and less.
If we want to “flee from all of this” materialistic-minded garbage, we are invited to join Timothy in heeding Paul’s advice to “fight the good fight of the faith” (6:12) by pursuing and cultivating godliness – attitude of devotion to God which translates into (is reflected by) actions (words and deeds) that are right in God’s sight.
Godliness (attitude of devotion to God and His Son Jesus Christ) with contentment (no longer bothered by external circumstances that cause undue anxiety) readies me for any eventuality and replaces anxious fears with “faith, love, endurance, gentleness” – traits which were not true of Paul before he met Christ . . . but now! “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!” (Galatians 2:20)
Because He lives in me: I can face tomorrow . . . all fear is gone . . . my future is in His hands . . . the rest of my journey is worth living with genuine contentment . . . eternity in His Presence is not just a hope but a reality! Amen!