During the student devotion time over the past week we seemed to follow a theme of contentment. Considering the economic times the world is facing right now I consider it an appropriate message. Considering the way our society has developed over the decades it is a message that is lost on most. Of course contentment is being satisfied with what we have. It is that thing that we all think we will have when we achieve just one more thing, whether it is the raise we long for, the home we hope to buy, the marriage we plan to have, or that child for whom we have prayed.
Yet this "one more" thing is the great trap that we have been raised in. We all know that when we achieve that next thing there will be another desire to replace it; or is it only me who has experienced this? Considering the average household debt and how hard everyone is working to get ahead I would hazard to guess that I am not alone.
In all of this there is something precious we are losing out on; our dependence on God. Perhaps the world is about to be humbled to its knees again. Perhaps we are all about to be refreshed in this area of dependence on God. We shall see. But I want you to consider it just a little bit today.
In chapter 6 of Matthew's Gospel Jesus simply states, "Don't worry". He starts that thought off with a "therefore" which forces us to consider what came before it. So before this statement of "don't worry" we find Jesus' instruction not to seek the treasures of this world but to invest in our spiritual condition. I think we would all agree that most of us have lost our practice of this teaching. Have you? Well consider this: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Now there is no one around right now except for God and you. You can afford to be honest. Where's your heart? You see, you have to be willing to answer that question honestly before you can understand how it is possible to live without worry. You need to understand where you are in this relationship with God and what it is that he honestly holds out for us. We also need to be able to define our society.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"
These are the words of Jesus and in order to be able to make them practical in our lives we need to know where our heart is. This isn't just a money issue. This is an attitude issue that encompasses even relationships. Remember that Jesus told us that our love for him must be so great that any love we have for anyone else would seem like hate when compared. When we ask where our heart is, what gives us the most pleasure, what brings us the most joy, the most satisfaction we need to consider our bank account, our possessions, our hobbies, our relationships and our work?
Worry and fear exists when we have given the wrong things the priority. Often we give our wants the priority but Jesus made it clear that it is our needs that will be supplied. My fear is that we take the resources God gave us for our needs and we spend them on our wants.
I will give you the example I gave my students. Your mom or dad gave you $50 to get a new pair of jeans and a couple of shirts. You really need those jeans. On the way to the store you pass by the video store and notice that they finally have a copy of the video game you have been waiting for, and it is on sale. You weigh the two things in your mind and rationalize your way into buying what you want. Come Monday morning you have no pants to wear to school and stay home which is okay because you can now play on your video game. Unfortunately the video game is not going to do for your future what education will. You invested in your wants instead of your needs. How does this illustration translate into an adult life?
"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
If people want to live according to their wants instead of their needs that is up to them, just don't blame God or claim he has renaged on his promises. Our God remains faithful. He continues to invest in our lives every day. He is awesome in this way, but he is targetting our needs not our desires. There is another scripture that speaks to this point as well:
"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. " (James 4)
Look at the language James uses in the nest sentence:
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?"
What did Jesus say?
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
None of this was said or is being said to judge, although James' language is severe in this matter. Jesus taught us this to save us from a life time of heart ache and misery and to set us on a path of kingdom thinking. Contentment is not found after the next desire is fulfilled and it is not even found in what we have now. Contentment is found when you become satisfied in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else is finite; it will end, it will be lost, it will decrease, it will change. Yet the love of our God is unending and Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from it.
The world is changing again. Does it leave you with fear or anxiety about your future? Are you plagued by worry? Then ask the Spirit to teach you what it is to live without fear and without worry. Ask him to teach you the same lesson he taught the apostle Paul:
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4)