• The Power of Contentment

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In the last book of the Bible, we find that Jesus went on a journey visiting seven churches on that particular Sunday, recorded in chapters 2-3. Jesus went to church, reminding us He comes to watch us as we gather today.

 

When Jesus chose to use the number seven (always used in the Bible for completion, or a complete set of something) He was demonstrating to us what He saw in all churches at that time, in every place, and also I believe, what Christ's church would be characterized by throughout all the ages.

 

The Day Jesus

Came to Church

 

The final church in the list is Laodicea in Revelation 3. As we turn to Christ's letter to that final church we see not only what Jesus saw at that geographic place and in the people there, but also what He said the final era of His church, at the end of the age, would look like. We each are living in what I earnestly believe is the final or Laodicean age of Christ's church described in Revelation 3:14-22.

 

As we listen to His letter, we should hear what most of the church in America looks like to God, and what many of us here today may actually look like as Jesus walks around here today, unseen by us, but seeing us clearly. Please listen, and as I read these words, instead of following along, you may want to look around and see Christ walking up and down these aisles saying these very words to each of us!

 

Revelation 3:14-22 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”

 

Did you know that as we sit here today, and go through life each day, that Jesus is watching us?

 

Jesus is

Watching Us

 

Jesus is watching us, and warning that choices we make can blind us to spiritual realities around us. In this final church, Jesus warned them that  their longing for riches caused them to be blinded to their real spiritual condition and needs.

 

Riches piled up often reflect discontent; and a lack of contentment always has dangerous effects upon our spiritual life. Jesus says we need to ask Him to help us see what love of money can do to us. One area of blindness that discontentment with wealth can produce is an insensitivity to the needs of the less fortunate around us. We often need to check how we are doing in having Christlike compassion for the poor.

 

To help us all wake up to the needs of the world, and to stir up Christlike compassion, join me in a look at the world as God sees it. One of the great tools to check our heart for those who are in great need is to pause and reflect on the World Population Clock[1].

 

It is a very moving sight to watch each second as the numbers changed. The math of this US Census Bureau site is simple:

 

The number goes up by 4.3 births and down by 1.8 deaths for a net gain of 2.5 new immortal souls on Eartheach second!

 

The United Nations estimates that we have about 6.945 billion souls alive at this moment. Of course, only our True and Living God knows exactly how many there really are, as well as the number of hairs on each of their heads!

 

But to get a bit of perspective as we sit here alive and relatively safe in Michigan, here in the struggling but prosperous American heartland—we need to reflect on the people who share life with us here on Earth.

 

According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Bureau of the Census, the total population of the World, displayed on Thursday 9/24/09 at 11:41:59 AM EST is 6,945,634,492.

 

That number is just about 100 million more living souls from last year this on this date! And for all of us alive in Michigan, despite our current economic woes, we are better off financially, economically, and comfortably than the vast majority of all the others alive today. Which is just another way of saying:

 

 

How Rich We Are

 

For a moment, imagine with me that the whole world was represented in just this auditorium. That means, if we were to reduce that unimaginable number of our global population, which is just 6 months shy of 7 billion people (a 7 with nine zeros after it).  So if we made all 7 billion souls distilled down to a representative group of people sitting in chairs, here is how it would look today.

 

Our world shrunk down to a community of 100 persons we would have a town which all of us would live in the balcony:

 

  • 1/7th or about 15% of us live high on a hill called the developed world – that would be the balcony;
  • 6/7ths or about 85% of them live on the rocky bottomland called the rest of the world.

 

Those of us in the balcony are the world’s richest. We have houses, which provide us with an average of more than 2 rooms per person; while those in the rest of the world have housing that averages 5+ people per room.

 

The people in the rest of the world outside the 1 billion in the developed nations (code for wealthy countries) live on much less than we do.

 

One Billion people, or 1/7th are in complete poverty existing on less than US $1 per day. 

 

Three Billion people are a lot better off, than the first billion, they live on about US $2 each day.

 

For the masses of humans who live down in the economic lowlands (which is most of the world), 3/4ths of these poor people will not ever live to celebrate their 50th Birthday!

 

Wealth

GDP

Population

Pop totals

Region

26%

$ 15.6 Trillion

5%

307,553,450

USA

23%

$ 13.6 Trillion

7%

492,000,000

Europe

12%

$  7.5 Trillion

3%

221,000,000

SE Asia (Jap, Taiwan, Korea, Aust)

39%

$ 23.4 Trillion

85%

5,890,000,000

Rest of World

 

The Rich and

The Not Rich

 

We, the fortunate 15 on the hill hold over 60% of the wealth of the whole town, which means that us fortunate 15 people who live up in our “balcony” of wealth own over half of all the homes in town and each of us have an average of two rooms per person in our homes.

 

  • We also own 85 percent of all the automobiles,
  • We own about 80 percent of all the TV sets,
  • We own almost 80 percent of all the telephones,
  • And we make an average income of over $ 35,000 per person per year.

 

The not-so-fortunate 85 people on the bottom, in the less developed world (when the super-rich who have business dealings with the developed nations are factored out of their region) have learned to survive on 1/50th of our incomes, or roughly $700 per person per year.

 

But even the poor are more poor and less poor, and the vast majority of the poor of this world live on less than $300 per year, living with 5 other people in their room, all of whom will never live to see 50 candles on their birthday cake (if they had ever seen a birthday cake)!

 

How do we the fortunate group of hill-dwellers use our incredible wealth?  Well, as a group we spend less than one half of 1% of our income to aid the lower land. In the United States, for example, of every $1 we earned  (averages of 2008[2]):

 

27%

is spent on our homes

25%   

is spent on taxes and fees

14%

we spend on transportation

11% 

goes for food

9%

miscellaneous

4%

is for health care

4%

is spent on recreation and amusement

3%

buys clothes

2%

is given for religious and charitable uses (and only a small part of that goes outside the U.S).

 

Veteran Missionary to India and noted author Dr. Paul Brandt once asked, “I wonder how the villagers on the crowded plain (a third of whose people are suffering from malnutrition) feel about us folks up there on the hill?”[3] This takes us right back to Christ's words to His church and brings up:

 

The Question of

Compassion

What was Christ's most frequent emotion? Compassion[4], right?  He was moved with compassion. When we aren’t there is usually one cause, we are rich and increased with goods, feeling we need nothing, and are not sacrificing for others.

 

Now turn back to the almost last book of God's Word I John, as we listen to Christ's words from the Bible in I John 3.10-18

 

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  

 

Jesus wants us to view money as a tool to use for Him, not as a commodity to endlessly stack up for ourselves and our own pleasures. So, contentment is a key tool to stimulate us to:

 

Learn How to Lay

Hold Upon Eternal Life

 

Turn with me to Matthew 4, and listen as Jesus reminds us is the real reason we live each day.

 

Jesus talks to us about temporal Life, which is everyday life.  Life that has aches and pains, deadlines and pressures, hopes and fears, ups and downs.  It is life getting up, going to school or work, and waiting for special things like dinners, dates, vacations, and events.  It is a life that is framed by our body, our car, our job and our world we have experienced.  In other words it is LIFE, as we all know it.

 

Now, when we were saved, and the Lord regenerated us by the new birth, we were born a second time.  Our first birth put us in the Temporal Life; our second birth puts us in the Eternal Life.  Both run parallel for 30, 40, 50, 60 or even 80 plus years.  In fact most of us barely experience the Eternal part of Life.  We know it is there, we hope in it for the future but we don’t exactly know what to do with Eternal Life today as we are so completely overwhelmed by our Temporal or physical world.

 

Jesus warns us that when we lack contentment we begin to live for the temporal and the earthly; and then materialism gets us in its grip. Jesus in the Gospels explains signs of a life dominated by the temporal.  He spends many hours pointing out the symptoms. Follow along at the back of the crowd and hear what He so often says:

 

  • Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

 

  • Matthew 6:19-28 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;

 

  • Luke 12:13-21 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

 

Living for

Eternity

 

Contentment frees us to stop wanting more and to learn how to be rich in eternal terms instead of mere physical terms.

 

Contentment frees us to invests in Heaven instead of laying up our treasures on earth.

 

Contentment helps us see that our life span and our resources were all given us by Another who owns us and wants a return on His investment.

 

The power of contentment comes as we surrender all we have and are to Jesus.

 

Hymn # 366 “I Surrender All”

 

 



[1] http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html ; 9/24/09; plus materials from 021117AM GDGW-36

[2] http://www.mymoneyblog.com/images/0908/moneygo900.jpg  If all of the USA was averaged we would be a household of: 2.5 people, with 1.9 cars, with 1.3 earners, making an annual income of $63,000, with 67% of us owning a house, and we would have an average age of being 48.8 years old.

[3]  Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980), pp. 61-62.

[4]  Eleven times noted in the Gospels by Matthew 9.36; 14.14; 15.32; 18.27; 18.33; 20.34; and Mark 1.41; 5.19; 6.34; 8.2; (9.22); and Luke 7.13; (10.33; 15.20).

[5] CONTENTMENT is a habit of life that helps us avoid things that deeply offend and grieve our Heavenly Father. Some of these are: The desire for things more than God; The desire for pleasure more than godliness; The desire for satisfaction through things more than to be satisfied by God; The desire for better things and other things that others have more than thanking God for what we have; The desire for the rewards of the physical world more than a desire for eternal rewards.

[6] Two different Greek words are used. Let's look at them and learn a lesson on being content. Luke 3:14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content [#714 satisfied] with your wages. (KJV); Philippians 4:11  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content [#842 independent of external circumstances]. (KJV) (Being willing to accept where God has placed me in life and willing to devote my energies to the advancement of His kingdom and not my own.); 1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment [#714 satisfaction] is great gain. (KJV) (Contentment is not about what is mine, but that all that I have belongs to Him); 1 Timothy 6:8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content [#842 independent of external circumstances] . (KJV) (Not wanting too be like, have or do what others are doing!); Hebrews 13:5  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (NIV) (“It means to be free from inner turmoil, satisfied with one’s material and financial state, and in possession of a sense of peace regardless of one’s circumstances or feelings.”)


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