St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

How To Be Content

Sermon on Hebrews 13:1-6

Text: Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 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.”
6 So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”

Back in 1097, Carnation evaporated milk started an advertising campaign that lasted into the late 9150’s. The tagline was “Carnation Condensed Milk, the milk from contented cows.” This idea came from a lady from a marketing firm. The owners of the Carnation Dairy came to the marketing firm and told them their method of treating the cows so that they had no stress, which in turn would produce more milk. After this woman heard how the cows were being treated, she commented, “They must be very contented cows.” Thus, the slogan was born. The idea was promoted that, since these cows had no stress and were well-taken care of, you could be sure that you would get the best product. They were contented cows. How about you? Are you content? Are you content with what you have? Would you like to be? This morning we are going to look at HOW TO BE CONTENT. It Happens when we 1. Stop Chasing After Nothing and 2. Realize That We Have Everything.

We read in verse 5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money.” It’s rather interesting that God spends so much time in his Word teaching us about the proper use of finances. For example, King Solomon, who was one of the wealthiest people in the world noted, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Jesus gives us this warning in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:9, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

Why does God spend so much time on this subject? It is because we are, by nature, greedy. Think about the times when your greed has shown through. It might have been when there were two pieces of cake and, rather than letting the other person have it, you chose the bigger for yourself. In greed, we may have rejoiced when the cashier made a mistake and charged us less than the item was ticketed. However, if they should make a mistake and overcharge, we let them know what we think about that. Our greed may have led us to take something that was not ours. The fact that we are greedy is the reason we are discontent. Where the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Keep your lives free from the love of money,” he could just as well have listed the many things that our discontented hearts run after.

The problem with being discontent is that you never find satisfaction in anything you get. The story is told of a dog, named Sport. One day, as he was out and about, he saw a fox and gave chase. As he was chasing the fox, a rabbit ran out of the bushes, and he began to give chase. By this time, Sport was panting hard. But just as he was about to catch the rabbit, a mouse ran into his path. And so, he forgot about the rabbit and began to chase the mouse. He chased it up and down the field for nearly half a mile – when suddenly it disappeared into a hole. Completely exhausted, poor Sport stood at the opening of the hole and barked – until he collapsed from exhaustion. While this is a made-up story, it does illustrate what so often happens to us. We think that this or that will make us happy, so we pursue it with all our might. As we run after the one thing, another thing crossed our minds and we run after that. We run after this, and we run after that until we become completely exhausted and never get the happiness that we were hoping for. This is what a discontented heart looks like.

This type of love of money or other things leads to disaster. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:10, “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.” What are you willing to do to satisfy your love of these things? Will you lie to someone to cheat them out of what is rightfully theirs? Will you fudge the numbers so that you aren’t accurately reporting what you made? If someone isn’t looking, will you take what you want? Will you give up time that you could be spending in in God’s Word, so that you pursue that which you think will make you truly happy? We might try to dismiss these as not really all that bad. Yet, as Paul reminds us, this is the path that has us wander from the faith. This is soul-damaging. It will lead to spiritual death. Being discontent is a sin, because you are telling God that he has been holding out on you and not giving you everything that you think you deserve.

After telling us to keep our lives free from the love of money, the writer concludes the verse with the words, “Be content with what you have.” (Verse 5) But how can we do that? How can we be content with what we have? We continue in verse 5 for the answer: “Because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” The writer to the Hebrews paraphrases a promise that God made to Joshua, as he began his tenure as the leader of the Israelites after Moses passed away. It might be scary for Joshua as he began this mammoth task. Yet, God assured Joshua that he would always be with him, whatever the circumstances.

God comes to us with this same promise. No matter what might come our way, God promises that he will always be with us. He tells us that he will never leave or fail to uphold us. He will not forsake or abandon us. He will always go with us. God will be our eternal resource. What more could we ever want? Being constantly mindful of God’s fatherly presence and his never-failing promises is the key to being content.

Yet, how can we be sure of God’s unfailing presence in our lives? How do we know that he will not leave us on our own? First, the promise comes from God, and he does not lie. If he makes a promise to us, we can count on it as already having happened. Second, we need only look to the cross and see how much God loved us. There he was willing to sacrifice his own Son to pay for all the sins that we have committed, including our sins of being greedy and discontent. They were all washed away by the blood of Jesus. We have the assurance that all was completed on Easter morning. God also loved you so much that he sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to make you one of his own children. He promises that there is a place in heaven waiting for you. Since he loved you so much that he took care of your greatest need and has prepared a place for you in his heaven, doesn’t it just make sense that he will also provide you with everything that you need in this life? God’s promise “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” is the reason that we can be content.

That is why the writer to the Hebrews continues, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” When God speaks, the believer responds. With confident courage, he quotes Psalm 118:6. Content with God’s perfect promises, covered with God’s perfect protection, the believer walks towards heaven’s shores unafraid. We know that with God on our side, we have a majority of one, regardless of what we might face or fear. We know that God will take care of us during our lifetimes, until we reach eternal life. This is why we can be content. We know that we have everything we need, especially our God’s loving presence in our lives. What more could we need?

Does this mean that it is wrong to want something new or different? Not necessarily. It is not wrong, if you do not base your whole happiness on getting it. Otherwise, it will quickly turn into the story of Sport, the dog. There will always be that one more thing that promises you that, if you get it, you will be happy. Also, it is not wrong, if you realize that you might not get it and be fine with that. You don’t let your lack of this or that crush you. Otherwise, it is not wrong to enjoy what you are seeking. You realize that it is another one of the ways that God has blessed you. As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Probably the most familiar verse in the Scriptures about being content was written by the apostle Paul to the Philippian congregation. Recall that, as Paul was writing this letter, he was in chains in Rome. You might think that he would be loudly complaining about the injustice of it all. Yet, we read, “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 all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12&13) Paul knew that the secret to being content was his relationship with his Savior. By God’s grace, we also know Jesus to be our Savior. We know that he will never leave us or forsake us. In him, we have everything we need. Because of that, we can be content. Amen.