Robert Jeffress - Developing a Content Heart
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. How many times do we repeat the same cycle? If only I had this, then I would be happy. And once we achieve that goal, we come up with some other need. It's an exhausting and relentless pattern, so how can we achieve true happiness? Well, as we'll discover in today's message, it has nothing to do with our circumstances, and everything to do with our hearts. My message is titled, "Developing a content heart" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Question: who is happier, a man with $11 million, or a man with 11 children? Answer: the man with 11 children. Why? Because he doesn't want more. More, m-o-r-e, did you know "More" is more than a four letter word? More is a thief that robs us of enjoyment of the present. More is a motivator of disharmony in relationships, more is a provocateur of feelings of inadequacy. More is a cruel taskmaster who will not allow us to rest. By the way, that disease of more is no respecter of persons, anyone can catch the disease. Remember John D. Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard Oil company, multimillionaire, one of the richest men of his day, somebody once asked Rockefeller, how much money do you need to be satisfied? His answer: just a little bit more.
You know, sometimes we use different words to express that desire for more. I wish I lived in a larger home, I wish I drove a newer car, I wish I had a better job, I wish I had a different mate. But whether we're talking about larger, bigger, better, different, it's a dissatisfaction with our present circumstances. Now, let me be clear, a dissatisfaction with your present circumstances isn't always bad. It was dissatisfaction with being limited to travel by land and sea that motivated Orville and Wilbur Wright to develop the airplane. It was a discontent with having to read by candlelight at night that motivated Thomas Edison to invent the light bulb. It was a dissatisfaction with the condition of the walls around Jerusalem that led Nehemiah into that building project.
No, this problem with more is a problem only when it prevents us from enjoying our present and provokes us into worrying about our future. That's why God doesn't want us to suffer from that affliction known as "MORE". Did you know, there is gonna be a time when we don't suffer from the disease of more? One day, when we experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God here on earth, guess what? You won't be worrying about the balance in your 401k retirement plan. You won't be envious of those who have bigger mansions, you will be completely satisfied with everything that God has given you.
But here's the good news, you don't have to wait until you die to experience that satisfaction. How is that possible? Well, the antidote to more is not less, no, the problem of more is solved by a simple word called contentment. And today, we're going to discover that being content with what God has already provided you is one of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Let me talk to you about, first of all, what we're meaning when we talk about contentment. Contentment comes from a word that literally means containment, a person who doesn't look outwardly, but looks inwardly for his satisfaction in life. And of course, that satisfaction, for a Christian, is that relationship with Jesus Christ. You know, there are two great illustrations in the Bible of contentment that teach us two different lessons about contentment. First of all, when you look at Jesus, his life reminds us that contentment really is possible in this life. Think for a moment about Jesus' external circumstances. First of all, he had no financial cushion on which to rest, in fact, he had no cushion literally on which to lay his head. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head".
Not only did he lack financial cushion, but the Bible says he was constantly dogged by his critics. If he lived today, it would probably be he was constantly blogged by his critics. But he had people after him all the time, not only enemies, but his families and his friends forsook him, and yet, in John 17:13, in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he prayed and faced within hours his crucifixion, look at what he prayed to God, his Heavenly Father. He said, "But now I come to thee, and these things I speak in the world that they may have my joy made full in themselves". That's the prayer that Jesus was praying for you and for me, and all of his followers. What he was saying was I want them, my followers, to have the same joy, not that I will have one day, but the joy I have right now. Joy in the midst of the garden, facing his crucifixion. Jesus teaches us that contentment is possible, but secondly, in the life of the apostle Paul, we learn that contentment has to be learned.
Now, remember when Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, remember where he was, remember his circumstances? He wasn't on the Riviera sipping a Pina Colada, he was in prison facing what could've been his death. He was waiting for the verdict to come down, guilty, not guilty, life, death. Now, that was bad enough, but in addition to that, he had received words that the churches he had founded and poured his life into were now being invaded by false teachers. And if that were not enough, his critics were having a heyday with his imprisonment, saying things like, well, if Paul were really a man of God, he wouldn't be going through this. And yet, in spite of all those circumstances, Philippians 4:4, he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, rejoice".
How could he say that? If you know anything about Paul, you know he was not a natural born optimist. He was no Pollyanna, he said, in verse 11, "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am". Paul had to learn how to be content. You know, the fact is, contentment is not a part of our DNA. We don't naturally feel content. In fact, it's discontent that is a part of our DNA, and we got it all the way back, you can trace it to our original parents, Adam and Eve. Remember, they were in the garden? God had given them all of these trees to enjoy, but where was their attention drawn? Not to all that God had given them, but to the one thing he forbade them to indulge in. And they thought, if only we could have this, then we can be truly satisfied and content.
You know, many times this lack of contentment, satisfaction, drives us to overt sins, immoral relationships, addictions, things we know that are outside the will of God. But other times, discontent can just lead to an inner restlessness in our own hearts. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest". We read that and we think, oh, that's a really sweet thought, Jesus. One day when I die and go to heaven, I'll have all the time I need to rest. But I can't afford to rest right now. I've got to run. If you're tired of running, chasing after things that you think will make you happy, only to be disappointed, the secret is contentment.
What is the heart of a contented heart? Well, it's the belief that God has already provided to me everything I need to be satisfied in life. And that conviction leads to three tangible benefits. I want you to jot these down, three practical benefits of developing a content heart. First of all, contentment allows you to enjoy where we are rather than where we want to be. When we are content, we're able to enjoy where we are rather than where we want to be. You know, all of us suffers from what I call "Destination Sickness". You know what destination sickness is? It's that idea of when we get to a certain place, then we can really be happy.
Robert Hastings has pointed out the futility of that kind of belief in his great work called the station. Listen to this carefully, this is worth the price of the sermon this morning. He said, "Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows, we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside. But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing, and flags will be waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering, waiting, waiting, waiting for the station. When we reach the station, that will be it, we cry. When I turn 18, when I buy a new 450 Mercedes Benz, when I put the last kid through college, when I have paid off the mortgage, when I get a promotion, when I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily after that. Sooner or later, we must realize there is not a station, no place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip, the station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us".
Contentment allows us to enjoy where we are rather than where we dream of being one day. Secondly, contentment allows us to appreciate rather than resent other people. It allows us to appreciate rather than resent other people. James said that in James 4:1, he said, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you"? He said look at the conflicts you're having with other people, what is the real source of those conflicts? And then he answers his own question, "Is not the source your pleasures", that is, your desires, "That wage war in the members of your own body? You lust and you don't have, so you commit murder". Sometimes, chasing for that thing we don't have leads to our actually taking somebody else's life, or taking their possessions. Other times, it's more subtle than that. He said, "You are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and you quarrel".
Think for a moment about the person that you love to criticize, you're always talking about them behind their back, you have ill feelings about them. Isn't it true that many times at the root of your conflict with them is you're envious of something they have that you don't have? It's the source of many of our problems, it's the conflicts that we have with other people. The Bible says we will never be able to appreciate other people until we have this feeling of contentment.
Thirdly, a benefit of contentment, it allows us to enhance rather than diminish God's reputation. When we're truly content, we are enhancing rather than diminishing God's reputation. Let me explain what I mean with that. Let's just imagine that a teacher overhears your child at school say to a friend, "Oh my house, it is just terrible, my home situation. There are rats running around everywhere, and not only that, every night we go to bed hungry, and not only that, our parents are out partying all night, it's just a terrible home to live in". And the teacher overhears your child saying that, and so immediately calls Child Protective Services to investigate the matter. One day, you're at home and you hear a knock at the door. You open the door, and there's the CPS person there, and explaining that there's been a complaint and what the complaint has been about your home.
And so you usher that CPS agent in, and she looks around, and your house is immaculate. She checks the pantry and it's full of food, not only that, she reasons that you're a respectable parent. She said, "Well, let me tell you why I said this, your child said this and this and this and this". What do you think your attitude is gonna be towards your child? And what are you gonna do to them after that agent leaves? Probably something that's worthy of CPS coming in and intervening. I mean, your child has trashed you for no reason at all, your child has destroyed your reputation. And what I'm saying to you is we do the same thing with God's reputation when we complain to other people about what we don't have and what God hasn't given to us.
Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 6:31 and 32, he said, "Don't be anxious then, saying, 'what shall we eat?' or 'what shall we drink?' 'with what should we clothe ourselves?' for all of these things the gentiles eagerly seek, but your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things". What Jesus is saying is unbelievers have every right to worry about their food and their clothing and somebody taking care of them, because they don't have a Heavenly Father. But you do - he's going to take care of you, don't be like they are.
You see, you and I are a living advertisement for God the Father. When people hear us say we are a Christian, they'll say, okay, let's see how that's working out for you? And if we're chasing after the same things they're chasing after to find satisfaction in life, we are a poor advertisement for what it means to be a follower of God. If people look at our lives and don't see any difference with their own lives, they'll say thanks but no thanks to what you're offering me today.
You know, to be a disciple of Christ means to have the same life purpose that Jesus had. In John 17:4, he said, "I glorified thee, o God, on earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do". Jesus said, my one purpose was to glorify you, God. Contentment allows us to enhance rather than diminish God's reputation. Well, how do we do that? Remember, Paul said it doesn't come naturally, we have to learn the secret of contentment.
Let me today, in the few moments we have left, just share with you two practical ways to learn that secret of contentment. First of all, make it a habit to regularly express gratitude to God. You know, just as light and darkness cannot exist together, one will expel the other, light will either extinguish darkness, or darkness will extinguish light, but you can't have light and darkness together. The same is true with contentment, it is impossible for discontent and gratitude to exist in the same heart, did you know that? You can't be discontent and grateful at the same time. Discontent will extinguish gratitude, or gratitude will extinguish your discontent. God rewards those who express gratitude to him. But an even greater reason for expressing gratitude to God is not so we can get more, but gratitude has the ability to quench that insatiable desire for more.
Secondly, how do you develop contentment? Adopt a life purpose that is bigger than yourself. Address a life purpose that is bigger than yourself. You know, there was a time in Paul's life when he struggled with contentment. There was a time he was trying to be the Hebrew of the Hebrews, he was trying to rise up the ranks of the pharisaical organizational chart, but all of that desire for more changed the moment he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Remember what he said in Philippians 3:7-8, "But whatever things had been gained to me, those things I now counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I've suffered the loss of all things, and I count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ".
Again remember, Paul was in prison, facing his death, when he said that. So how did he view his life now? Philippians 1, beginning with verse 12, he said, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances", being in prison, facing execution, having my reputation slandered, all of these things, I want you to know "That my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear". I rejoice in the situation.
Now, let me tell you something folks, if Paul's life purpose had been that of most Christians today, then his imprisonment would've been a tremendous tragedy. But Paul had a purpose in life bigger than himself. He knew that God had left him just as he's left me and you here for one reason, and that is to share Christ with as many people as possible, and that purpose gave him a whole new prism through which to view his present circumstances, his hard circumstances. He said, I'm rejoicing, because I'm getting a chance to fulfill my life purpose.
Now, just imagine, you're chained to the apostle Paul for six hours, what do you think Paul is gonna talk to you about? The weather, the Stock Market? The outcome of the latest chariot race in Rome? No, for six hours, he preached the Gospel, and then to another, and then to another, and then to another. You'll never be content with your situation, especially the difficulties of your life, until you have a purpose bigger than yourself. You know, Paul's words here remind me of a pastor who had been arrested for preaching the Gospel in Romania. And this pastor had been sentenced to the harshest punishment available under Romanian law. He would have to spend the rest of his years being an exterminator, but instead of being depressed about it, he rejoiced, you know why? The pastor said, as I go from house to house killing rats, I get the ability to share the Gospel with all of these different houses in the country where people don't know Christ.
That's what the apostle Paul is saying. Adopting a purpose bigger than yourself is the key to contentment in your present situations. You know, somebody has written, "If for me to live is money, then to die is to leave it all behind. If for me to live is fame, then to die is to be quickly forgotten. If for me to live is power and influence, then to die is to lose both. But if for me to live is Christ, then to die is gain". That attitude, those words can only be penned by somebody who has learned the secret of developing a content heart.