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Contentment – How do I live in a material world?

Bang!  The window shattered.  My wife was driving our minivan when, for no apparent reason, a back window exploded.  It had no visible flaws, but the harsh desert sun had obviously taken its toll and fatigued the glass.  In an instant, the window, which had seemed to be durable and lasting, revealed its true state – its perishing nature.

This window is typical of the material things in this world.  Everything this world “owns” is temporary.  Even when we don’t realize it, our possessions are growing old and wearing out (like my van’s window).  When we understand the true nature of our earthly goods we look at them in a different way.  Jesus once said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).  Your car, your house, your body, and everything else will age and fall apart.  Treasure in heaven is treasure that lasts forever.  That is what we really should be concerned about.

Owning the biggest house or the fastest boat won’t get you into heaven.  That’s because heaven is not about material wealth.  It’s about goodness.  Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Mark 8:36-37)  Our soul is our most important possession.  Because of our sins of greed, envy and theft, we are not worthy to experience the blessings of heaven.  And no matter how hard we work to try to earn heaven, God says that we fall short.  By our own efforts, we can never be good enough to get into heaven.  But Jesus is!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Jesus wants you to be rich in heaven.  He came down to earth so that we could live with him forever.  He lived and died for you to make you righteous in God’s eyes.  Jesus has credited his perfection to your account.  Because of Jesus, God loves you and takes care of all of your needs.

How do we in live with contentment in a material world?  First, we understand the true value of our earthly possessions: they do not last and they cannot buy us heaven.  Second, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and the home that he has prepared for us in heaven.  Then we will live every day assured of God’s love and caring.  That is true contentment.  Paul confirms this when he says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

Something’s Missing

“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:21

Something was missing.  That’s what Bill thought.  It wasn’t like there was anything wrong; there was just something missing.

Bill was able to take an early retirement.  He had worked hard.  He advanced rapidly.  In addition to all of this, Bill was a good investor.  Even when people said it was foolish to take stock options, he did it just the same.  Consequently, when he received the offer to retire early, he was able to take advantage of it.

He was 55 years old, retired and financially secure.  He had good health.  He was able to enjoy himself and travel.  He even started a consulting business that kept him as busy as he wanted to be.  However, late at night he always felt something was missing.

Bill’s problem is one many people have.  They look at their lives and conclude something is missing.

As I look at my life, most of the time it seems to be in order.  I am not a multi-millionaire, but things could be worse.  The bills are paid.  My family is not lacking anything important.  There is even a little left over for savings.  Still, the nagging thought remains – something is missing.

The problem I need to address is the very issue to which Jesus directs my attention.  It is easy to focus on preparations for this life.  It is just as easy to see wealth and a steady flow of income as my highest priority.  This may lead me to scrimp and save, and even sacrifice.  But, after the bills are paid and the investments pay dividends, what’s next?

Jesus teaches me the wealth of this world is secondary.  He also wants me to understand it will never prepare me for the life to come, nor can it ever prepare me to stand before the Judge of all.  This is why I need to have a clear understanding of what it means to be rich toward God.

Being rich toward God is not measured in financial terms.  It requires spiritual ones.  Being rich toward God means I can live my life with the true direction his Word provides.  Being rich toward God means my debt of sin has been paid by my Savior’s sacrifice.  Being rich toward God means I am able to stand before God as he desires – without fault or blame.  Often, it is this wealth that is missing in my life, and until I return to the one who gives it, there will always be that nagging feeling – something’s missing.

Jesus reveals what’s missing in my life.  Then he offers to fill it with his rich blessing.  As I store up his lasting wealth in my life, I can be confident nothing important will ever be missing.

Can God help me with some relief?

Stress puts the squeeze on all of us at one time or another.  It’s natural to look for relief. As we seek to discover just how practical our relationship with God really is, we might be led to ask, “Can God help me with some relief?”

It seems like some people in Palestine had that question nearly 2,000 years ago as they went out to hear a new preacher named Jesus.  The all-knowing Jesus gave a wonderful answer in that teachable moment that we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew, one of the disciples with Jesus on that day, records some of Jesus’ comments about stress.  He said, “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?” (Matthew 6:25).  To those stressed about grocery money, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the birds go hungry.  To others who were stressed over an inadequate wardrobe, Jesus pointed out that God doesn’t let the flowers down when it comes to how they look.  His point was made in a question that he still asks us today, “Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Of course we are!  The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world!” (John 3:16).  You and I are included in that statement of good news.  God showed his love by removing the greatest stress – our sin that separated us from our God – and placing it on Jesus who took it away by his death on the cross.

God has the perfect antidote to relieve stress.  He wraps his loving arms around us and says, “I love you!  I forgive you.”  That relieves the stresses over finances or health or time crunches or job pressure . . . or anything.  Relief is as close as God’s promises, which are written for us in the Bible.  Each week we take a close look at some of those wonderful promises.  Come and share with us some genuine stress relief.

But I Need It!

Appetite is a good thing. Without it, you die. But appetite can also be a bad thing because with it sometimes we eat too much and get heavy and slow and have heart attacks.

An appetite for things is also not wrong. There is nothing wrong with a stroll through a Walmart store looking for things we need for our lives. But appetite can get out of control, even in a Walmart store.

This danger is exemplified by the statement, “But I need it!” With this appetite in view God warns, “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:16,17).

There are things that we absolutely need. We need food and clothes and shelter and air to breathe. There are many other things like that we need, which our Father in heaven wants us to have to sustain our lives and our happiness. But these things are not the most important things that we need. Jesus talked one day to two friends of his in their home. Martha thought getting supper and getting the house cleaned were things that she “needed” to do. Mary on the other hand thought she needed to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to him. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).

Our Father in heaven says to us, “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” (Matthew 6:31-33).

That makes it simple. To the statement “But I need it!” there is a Godly response. Only one thing is needed. Please don’t think that is too simple. When the world passes into oblivion and we stand at God’s judgment throne Jesus will be all that we need. To know Jesus as the only one who provides good for us in this world and the next is the only thing we need.

There are things we need. We truly do. Body and soul need things. Our challenge when faced with the statement “But I need it!” is to know what God says we need.

He will always be right, and, insofar as we listen to him, so will we.