Robert Jeffress - Control Yourself
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway To Victory". Social Media provides a fun way to connect with our friends, but these platforms have stirred up problems as well. One of the biggest problems is jealousy. People in their glamorous lifestyles look so much better than our own, don't they? Well, today we're going to talk about the brilliance of God's tenth commandment. My message is titled, "Control Yourself And Be Content" on today's edition of "Pathway To Victory".
"Who is it that is truly rich"? Benjamin Franklin one asked. He answered his own question by saying, "Who is rich? He that is content. And who is that? No one," Franklin said. I think he's right. But discontent, a desire for something more or different than what we have isn't always bad. I mean, dissatisfaction has been the impetus for some great discoveries like America. It's been the impetus for great inventions like the microchip. It's been the motivation for great social movements like the abolition of slavery. All of that happened because people were dissatisfied with the status quo. But dissatisfaction can also be the foundation for sin. In fact, it's the foundation of just about every sin we've looked at in this series on The Ten Commandments.
And I think that's why God saved this commandment for last in Exodus 20 verse 17, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything else that belongs to your neighbor". It's interesting, this commandment was given to people who possessed little to none of the things mentioned in that commandment. They were nomads wandering in the wilderness headed to he Promised Land, but they didn't have houses, they didn't have servants, but God was preparing them for the future land. And he said, "When you get into this land of prosperity, understand that the greatest enemy to your happiness is going to be a discontent with your circumstances".
What does it mean to covet? What are we talking about when we say, "We are not to covet"? As I just mentioned, it's not the same as desire. Desire can lead us to godly pursuits. Our desire for food motivates us to work, our desire for protection leads us to seek shelter, our desire for companionship leads us to the relationships we need in life. But covetousness is desire that has gone awry. It is an obsessive or compulsive focus on what doesn't belong to you. It's a form of envy, of greed that can lead to taking from another person what doesn't belong to you.
My friend, the Jewish "Talk Show" host Dennis Prager wrote a book a few years ago on the Ten Commandments from the Jewish point of view. And he writes that "To covet is much more than to want". The Hebrew verb "chamad" means to want something to the point of seeking to take away and own something that belongs to another person. And I think this is why God saved this commandment for last. Well, where did covetousness come from? I think again, this is one reason God hates it so much. Let's look at the origin of covetousness. We find it in Isaiah chapter 14, a record of the very first sin committed. Do you know where the first sin was committed? Wasn't in the garden of Eden. No, it happened long before that. And it wasn't in Eden, it was in a galaxy far, far away. It took place in heaven.
And remember the story Lucifer, who was Satan's original name, Lucifer was the chief angel. God had given him charge over all the other angels but he wasn't content with that great position. He wanted a different position. He wanted God's job. He wanted to be like God. In John Milton's "Paradise Lost," he imagined Satan saying, "It's better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven". And we find in Isaiah 14, God pronounces a fivefold indictment against Lucifer. Let's look at the original indictment. It was against Lucifer and he said, "This is why I'm casting you out of heaven," verse 13, "For you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, I will sit on the mount of the assembly and the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High'".
And because of that Lucifer was cast from heaven. Now we have all inherited that proclivity to covetousness, desire gone awry, a burning greed for what doesn't belong to us and belongs to other people. Now we all have that simmering in our heart, but there are three catalysts that fuel that covetousness until it turns into a raging fire. And fire needs fuel to keep on and to grow brighter so does covetousness. What is it that fuels covetousness? First of all, our culture. The culture in which we live breeds covetousness. Peter Kreeft, the Catholic theologian said, "The world's oldest profession is advertising". It all began in the Eden when Satan said, "Eat this piece of fruit and you will be like God". And that's the basis of all advertising. This is what you really need to be happy. Buy this and your life will be fulfilled.
You know, I noticed something, Friday night I was ordering something from Amazon Prime and I've never noticed this before. If you notice in the logo for Amazon, there's a curve underneath the name Amazon. It's a smile and the left hand part of that smile is under the letter A of Amazon and it goes all the way over to Z, the other end of the smile. And the message in that subtle, it's saying, "We have everything from A to Z you need to make you smile, to make you happy. One click away from true happiness in life". That's just part of the culture of our age. And that culture leads to dissatisfaction. Here is what you need and since you don't have it, this is why you're miserable. Dissatisfaction.
By the way my wife Amy was pointing out how much social media fuels that dissatisfaction. People clicking about their luxurious vacation or their clothes and their house and all of this and other people look at it and they say, "Boy, if only I had that house, if only I drove that car, if only I wore those clothes, if only I had that person as my life partner, I could truly be happy. Why hasn't God given me those things? God has shortchanged me". You know, somebody once said, "All sin is contempt for God". And at the root of covetousness is a hatred, a contempt for God. God hasn't given me what I really need. How does that make God feel when we accuse him explicitly or implicitly with short-changing us?
Just imagine for a moment, your kids are off at school one day, your young kids and there's a knock at your door and you open the door and a stranger standing there and he introduces himself as a worker from Child Protective Services. He said, "We're here to investigate a complaint". "You say a complaint"? "Yes, a complaint from your children. They say they don't have anything to eat". So you take them in, you're just surprised and you show them a pantry filled with food. "Well, your kids say they don't have anything to wear, no clothes," and so you go and show them their closet filled with clothes. "They say they're freezing to death in the house, there's no warmth in the house".
You show the worker the thermostat that's at 72 degrees. How do you feel towards your child? The same way God feels toward us. When we accuse him of not giving us what we really need in life. In 1 Timothy 6:8, Paul says, "If we have food and covering, with these things, we should be content". Do you remember the old Aesop fable about the couple that had the goose that laid a golden egg every day and they were thrilled with that for a while, but then they thought, "You know, this is going too slow. We wanna accumulate wealth faster so we'll just kill the goose, open it up and take the gold from its inside". So they killed their goose, they opened it up and there was nothing there. They had killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.
And Aesop gave this moral of the story. He said, "Much wants more and loses all". That's the danger of covetousness and that's why Solomon in Proverbs chapter 30 verses 7 to 9 said, what should be the prayer of every Christian. "Give me neither poverty nor riches". Proverbs 30 verse 8, "Give me poverty nor riches: just feed me with the food that is my portion". In other words, just give me enough Lord, don't make me rich, don't make me poor, give me what I need every day. Why? "If I have too much, I might get full and deny You saying, 'Who is the Lord'? But if I have too little, I may be in want and steal and profane the name of my God'".
Culture leads to dissatisfaction the opposite of contentment. And dissatisfaction can lead to the third catalyst for covetousness and that is, idolatry. You may think, "I'm never guilty of idolatry". Idolatry is something is simply loving something or someone more than we love God. Is there anything in your life you are pursuing more than you're pursuing your relationship with God? By the way, an idol isn't only something that you may have already. Many times an idol can be something you don't yet have. You think in your mind, "If only I had that position, if only I had that position, if only I had a relationship with that person, I could be truly fulfilled".
And so we make an idol in our mind of what is it other than God that could bring us real satisfaction. What is the cure for covetousness? We all have a spark of it inside of us. What quenches covetousness? One word, contentment. Contentment is the cure for covetousness. What is contentment? That word contentment literally means containment. It's a person who is self-contained. That is, he doesn't look to external things for his satisfaction in life. He doesn't tie his joy to the square footage of his house, the model of automobile he drives, the outcome of Friday's game, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, no, it's internally that he finds happiness and joy and for a Christian that is his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Listen to Philippians 4 verses 11 to 13, "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned," underline that, "To be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means and how to live in prosperity; in each and every circumstance I have learned," underline that, "The secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Why did Paul say, "I learned to be content"? Because contentment isn't natural, it's not a part of our DNA. It's something we have to learn, Paul had to learn it. How did he learn it? I want you to jot down Paul's three secrets for contentment. They're all found in this little letter we call Philippians. First of all, contentment is based on a life that is ministry-focused. It's ministry-focused.
Look at verse 12 of Philippians 1, "Now, I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel". What were Paul's circumstances? As my old teacher, Howard Hendricks used to say, "When Paul wrote this letter, he wasn't sitting on the French Riviera sipping a Pina colada, he was in prison. He was facing what could've been his execution. He was waiting to hear the final verdict". And yet he said, "I want you to know I'm happy about my circumstances, for they have turned out for the progress of the gospel". He says, the imprisonment, "My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout all the Praetorian guard," even Caesar's guards are hearing the gospel. "And not only that, most of my brethren, now have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear".
In other words, all of my circumstances are turning out to help me meet my life goal, to share Christ with as many people as possible. Paul said, "The key to contentment is first of all, a life that is ministry-focused". Second, a gratitude that is regularly expressed. A gratitude that is regularly expressed. Philippians 4:4 Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice"! In fact, did you know in Philippians, Paul talks about rejoicing or joy 19 different times in the four chapters of this letter? Why does he talk about rejoicing, rejoicing, rejoicing so many times? Because Paul understood a simple truth, it is impossible to be grateful and discontent at the same time.
You know, when I think about that truth, I think about my grandfather, he's in heaven now. But later in his life, my grandfather went through a tragedy. In a three month period of time, he lost both his wife of 58 years, my grandmother, then three months later, his only daughter died, my mom. You know that would be enough to crush most people to lose your mate and your child in a three month period. He was grieving, no doubt about it, but every time we went to see him after that, my brother and sister and I, he would take us to the cemetery and we would get out of the car and we would stand around those graves and he would just thank God for the time he had with his wife and daughter, and then he would lead us in a prayer and we would pray together holding hands around the grave, and then he would always close by leading us in this song, "When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done".
Regularly express gratitude to God for what he has done, not for what he hasn't done yet. Finally, Paul had contentment because his life was built upon a faith that was based on the sovereignty of God. He had a faith that was based on the sovereignty of God. Remember when Paul is writing this letter, he's awaiting the verdict of his trial whether he would live or die. But notice what he said in verse 19 of chapter 1, "Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ".
What did he mean, he knew this would result in his deliverance? He said, look, one of two things is gonna happen: either because of your prayers, I'm gonna be delivered from prison, if I'm not delivered from prison and I'm executed, I'm gonna be delivered from this world into the presence of Jesus Christ. Either way, I win. I'm gonna leave the outcome to God. Believing that God's plan, whatever it is, is a good plan.
Let me ask you this morning, do you have that assurance? Do you have the assurance of Psalm 84:11 that "God will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly"? Do you have the assurance that every aspect of your life, your job, your mate, your children, your grandchildren, are all a part of God's sovereign plan? A plan as Jeremiah 29:11 says, "Was planned not for calamity, but for your welfare, a plan that will give you a future and a hope". It's that rock solid belief in the sovereignty of God in your life that it's the foundation for contentment, which in turn is the only real cure for covetousness.