Contentment  - Sunday 2nd October 2022

Morning everyone – tell me, when you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a pilot – I watched Top Gun the other day and it reminded me of all those dreams. First time I was in a plane put paid to those dreams, though – I hate flying – Sarah wanted to be an actress. My kids just want to be youtubers and influencers, I’m sure much like your kids.

When I got older, in my teens, I realised I wanted to be an engineer, but really, above my career, I just wanted to be successful – I had this idea that success meant owning a house, having a job, having a wife and a couple of kids, you know being involved in church, being a family man -  – and guess what all of that came true. #blessed.

So how come as I hit my forties, am I often left feeling – like, is that it – am I successful? Did I make it? Is it now? Have I arrived? What’s next?

Your whole life until the age of say thirty, you know exactly what’s supposed to be next, right? You’re told, you see it around you, your parents tell you, your long term girlfriend, drops hint…

Go to school, go to high school, study, get a job, find a spouse, have kids, keep them out of trouble buy a house  - no, not a flat – flat – somehow you haven’t made it – house – you’ve made it.…. And then you will feel great fulfilment. And make no mistakes, our kids, our careers are sources of pride – but they’re also sources of stress. Am I right? I know I’m right.

Oh, maybe I’m calling it too early. Maybe if the kids just make it to 18 – ah,,,, then I’ll be happy then I’ll chill out a bit – tell – me raise your hand if you have a child older than the age of 18? And now tell me, a father to young children, did you stop worrying about that child when they turned 18? No – of course not, so that’s no good.

Listen to this smug idiot complain hey? What an ungrateful oaf – he has everything he could possibly want, and he has the cheek to have a little existential crisis… my goodness man he just needs a fat klap around the ear hey…

Probably right.

I was offered the chance to speak this morning and I knew instantly what I wanted to get into. The topic for this morning is contentment. Something pretty elusive these days, even though it’s found all over scripture. Something we might claim as Christians but really, do we really embrace it, feel it? Identify with it? Years back Ali and Zena lead a bible study through a course on biblical contentment, which I really enjoyed, so I thought selfishly, I’d love to revisit it.

Oh, and just by the way, when you get just the one morning to get in and out of a topic you think, is that gonna be enough – this should maybe be spread over a couple of weeks, so imagine, my surprise when last week Dr Wharton managed to pull a sermon out of nowhere, as he typically does, and his topic – the meaning of life – his starting point – exactly where I wanted to start – Ecclesiastes.

And maybe a disclaimer before we get stuck in. I know this church is full of perfect Christians, who are 100 % content – who live lives free of stress, who are h a p p y happy all the time, who never worry about the kids, or their jobs, or whether they have enough for retirement or what the future holds – this message is perhaps not for you  - but for the rest of us….. um ,actual real people, this is for us, and I place myself square in the middle of that group. Yes, even though I’m one of the guys with the guitars trying to get us all to sing happy songs every Sunday.

So to kick off in the Old Testament  - Ecclesiastes – and you don’t have to turn there because we won’t spend long thanks to last week – you had 12 chapters of beautiful prose – exploring the deep meaning of life and one by one the writer, or the teacher as is identified goes through different topics. And consistently, passes judgement – there was that word coming up last week meaningless meaningless meaningess. Everything is meaningless

Your labor under the sun? Meaningless

All that wisdom you acquire? Meaningless

Those pleasures you pursue? Meaningless?

That advancement and progression you set your life towards – meaningless

Those riches you gain? Mea   ning    lesssssss

Dr Wharton noted that for most of the book, it’s a bit of a downer, but that’s one of the reasons he likes the books so much – its real – he said – there’s always a place in scripture for you to find yourself – no matter where you are. Desponded? Disillusioned  - questioning it all? Read Ecclesiastes and listen to the write pour forth the lessons he has learned.

Like Chris I also like to think the writer is Solomon himself, and if that is true, consider the weight of the thoughts being put forward. This is the King had had first-hand experience of all these things – the wise King saying wisdom is meaningless – the rich king saying riches are not it…He has tasted and seen that everything the world had to offer – was empty

And as was brought forward last week, the key to unlocking the whole of Ecclesiastes is the concluding verses

The conclusion of the matter

Ecclesiastes 12

13 Now all has been heard;
   here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
   for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
   including every hidden thing,
   whether it is good or evil.

Rich poor successful unsuccessful, we all await the same judgement, where our titles and our earthly achievement will not matter – the duty of all mankind is simple – Fear God and keep his commandments

Fear God – to fear God is to know God – as in, God fearing Christian. Nothing else, according to the wise teacher, matters.

Of course it’s not the only place in the old testament you will hear that the Lord is all you need…

Psalm 23. Another King writing.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2    He makes me lie down in green pastures,

His refreshment comes from God –

he leads me beside quiet waters,
3    he refreshes my soul.

his guidance –

He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.

his security –

4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,

his comfort and safety and HOPE – all comes from God alone.

HE is not in need of anything

for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

Now these are well known verses  - did you see Coolio passed away last week – and children of the nineties will remember his greatest hit – as  I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…..

Those are words lifted straight from the Bible – but let’s ask ourselves, are us bible believing Christian’s known for the way we walk – for our lack of fear, for our calm assurance in the face of danger. For our worldview that says we lack nothing, He is all we need?

So, thanks for last week Dr Wharton, we move quickly then from the wealth and treasures and the wisdom of King Solomon to the shores of Galilee where a ragtag bunch of misfits are listening to King Jesus talk on the mountain top.

And just like the wise Teacher we heard from earlier, he is flipping things on their heads – blessed are the meek, blessed are the lowly, somebody strikes you on the cheek – turn the other cheek – this is how you must pray – quietly, and not shouting out loud like the religious people of the day…

Don’t store up treasures on earth, store up treasures in heaven

You cannot serve God and money…

And we come to a passage that we know, but parts of it we seem to hear better than others - listen to Matthew 6:25-34

25 “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 than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Do not worry – do not worry do not worry, do not worry.. hammers home the idea, but Jesus tells us not only to not do something, He tells us to actively do something else.

We love to be told not to worry, and it’s good advice, and hearing the words of the almighty counselling us to trust in Him and his provision, and not to worry give us great comfort.

But what about the seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness part? That’s a command! We so easily let that part slide.

You want to be content, you need to put your self and your worries and desires second. These things are not bad, the money and the food and the housing and the clothing are not evil things – goodness they are gifts from God to be enjoyed – but they are not the first things.

See the flowers / consider the lilies – I dragged my family last week up the west coast to see the flowers – tired of the kids being glued to the screen, let’s go make some memories, and we drove for quite some time, and arrived at the gate of the West Coast National park – September is spring, the flowers are supposedly out, it’s a nice sunny day – right place, right time, tight? And even at the entrance a man sells us a nice brochure with these beautiful glossy pictures – and now we’re excited.

And you drive in, and you start seeing the beautiful scenery – lagoon is looking good, rolling hills and greenery, and the flowers are there in the smattering, beautiful , but not as much as you thought. I want to be surrounded, I want my hayfever to go off the chart – and what to Instagram the pants out of this experience and make my friends jealous, but where are the rest of the flowers

And you see signs along the way, just a little bit further now – Postberg flowers– follow the arrows, and as you round every bend – you see slightly more flowers, but still not nearly what you have on the brochure… still more signs – kids are cranky – can’t we just stop here – no , says Dad, we are nearly there, the flowers are just around this next corner. And before we knew it, we were at the end of the road, facing the ocean. And we had spent an hour driving past flowers, I mean, not a lot, don’t waste your time, but not stopping and enjoying what we had before us, because we were convinced we were in for something even better around the corner?

Human beings, we’re never satisfied are we – never content. What we have in our hands is never enough.

But Jesus says don’t worry about the future  - consider what you have right now – think about today. – live in the moment and let what will come take care of itself.

So we’ve heard from the Testament, the Gospels, let’s hear from the New Testament before we put it all together.

1 Timothy 6:6-12 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Godliness with contentment is great gain – is good – is the place to be. Again the link to righteousness. So true, we brought nothing in, we’re taking nothing out – everything else – the money, the riches are a trap and they can lead you away from God. Don’t chase after those things chase after these instead – Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Endurance, Gentleness.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” …Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

What is enough? My grace is enough =- that is all you need. You will be able to handle weaknesses, distress, hardships , being weak  - because you have ME.

And lastly, we dip our toes in Philippians 4 – Paul again

Thanks for Their Gifts

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul knows what it is like to have, and to have not – consider his history, and his conversions, he wasn’t always rich like Solomon he didn’t live a lowly carpenters life like the Galilean disciples – he has seen both sides of the American dream, and it’s got nothing to do with what you have or with what you don’t have.

I like the way he says he has learned the secret – it is something that has been taught to him  - and again, no time for a detailed account of Paul's life, but he’s been through some stuff! Zealous Anti-Christian Persecutor -Radically converted , missionary journeys, plots to kill him, stoned, Shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, set free, arrested and imprisoned again

His strength, his ability to endure all that and continue, comes from the Lord.

So then. What is contentment?

Well firstly it’s directly connected to righteousness, or at least the pursuit of righteousness – that was pretty common in all he passages we looked at – obey his commandments, seek the Kingdom of God  - Godliness with contentment is gain. Solomon said keep you duty, Jesus said seek, Paul said pursue. Active instruction towards righteousness.

Contentment doesn’t consume itself in worry about tomorrow – tomorrow has its own troubles – you have all you need right now. Let tomorrow come, and we can face tomorrow – then. Contentment also doesn’t look back – on all your achievements and past successes. Store up treasures – for an eternal future, not an earthly one. No one takes out anything when their final day comes.

Contentment is learnt – Paul says through all the ups and downs he has been through, the Lord has been with him – the same Lord who promised to be with me as a walked through that dark valley back in Psalms 23.

He is with me – that is enough. Even though I am weak – He is strong. That is sufficient, That is enough. That is contentment. Fearing God and knowing his presence.

What is contentment NOT.

Well it’s got nothing to day with having your desires filled. Is got precious little to do with stuff.

Because what you think is enough , is never enough. Once that particularly desire is quote unquote satisfied, the desire that you are so comfortable with will morph into something else.

Oh if I just had a nice windfall, I will be secure, and have enough, and be happy? Did you know that 70% of lottery winners will lose their winnings in the first 5 years? You know what else they will lose – they will lose their friends (how can you trust anyone, they’re all after your cash?) , they will lose respect -  your money wasn’t earned the proper way. They will lose what little contentment they had before the winnings.

Enough is never enough – in the past few weeks you might have heard of the singer named Adam Levine – sings for Maroon 5 – great voice, public persona, charmer, cool tattoos, all the success in the world.  Was busted cheating on his wife – nee man, ok, a common story, and you know what you often hear – oh, well, you know, maybe the missues wasn’t fulfilling his needs, maybe she’s let herself go maybe she is a 6 and he is a 10, they’re just mismatched. So no wonder his eyes went wandering.

Adam Levine is married to a literal supermodel. Now don’t tell me, she wasn’t enough.

The heart is corrupt, and worldly desires, will never be satisfied.

You know what else Contentment isn’t  - it isn’t apathy? It isn’t indifference. It isn’t the inability to feel anything? It isn’t burying your head in the sand and being numbed to the needs and problems and of the outside world. It isn’t giving up and becoming this placid amoeba of a person. It is simply replacing seeking the desires of your own heart with seeking God’s kingdom first. You are still seekings. Keep your duty, seek, pursue.

There is still a lot in this world to be righteously discontent about. Make no mistake. And that Kingdom mindset is worth desiring, worth chasing, worth pursuing.

So to close, coming back to my own midlife crisis.  – my wife actually likes to tease me, she once discovered I had made an excel list planning – because ENGINEER – planning for my eventual midlife crisis.

And my excel list had the usual, a nice guitar maybe - , maybe some new toys  - maybe a new motorbike - what a cliché

New hobbies perhaps – she found the idea of me taking up birdwatching particularly amusing – apologies to any twitchers here this morning.

And the purpose of the list was trying to see with thing might bring me the most joy – contentment -

But what are we saying is this – contentment isn’t anywhere on that list on that list – heck, even if I did or got EVERYTHING on that list, would it be enough – no.

If anything while we read Godliness with contentment is great GAIN, contentment isn’t about gaining anything  - it’s about losing things – about putting away – subtracting those desires and wishes and dreams, that don’t serve God. Or at least putting them second. Paul would say counting them all as loss. And he put forward a much better list for me:






and gentleness.

Lets pray

Help us heavenly father to know that you are with us, and that you are all we need. Lord we get so caught up and what we think we ought to be pursing in our lives, and that we miss out on things that you would have up place as being most important. That we should be seeking and pursuing FIRST.

We are so grateful for the many blessings you give us daily, for all we have, all that we don’t deserve. But Lord help us to view these things in their proper place. And Lord help us to see that the greatest gift you could ever give mankind, with grace enough for all mankind – was your Son as we remembered him this morning. In his name and seeking his Kingdom always – AMEN.