Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:6-11
18th Sunday after Pentecost
1. By fleeing worldly things
2. By pursuing heavenly things
Text: 1 Timothy 6:6-11
I’m just not happy. I can’t even begin to tell you how many bills I have to pay. I wish my house payments were less and my house value was more. I would really be happy if I could finally afford to put in the new tile work and can lights in my house. I really need to get new appliances too because I’m just sick of looking at those old ones. They’re ugly. My car is becoming a junker. It needs a lot of work. I would really prefer to get one of those slick new cars with all of the technology inside of it. But I can’t afford any of that.
That’s only the beginning though. I’m not really happy with myself right now either. I’m not getting any younger. I’m not getting any lighter. I’m definitely getting more pains. I keep getting sick. Things would be a lot better if I were a lot better.
I find that I’m doing nothing but working lately. Work, work, work. I have hardly any free time to do anything else these days. But I have to pay the bills somehow. And I have to be able to afford those nicer things I want somehow. I wouldn’t mind a little time to relax here and there though.
If only I had a nicer house with some of those features I’ve always dreamed of. If only I had a better car that wasn’t so old and beat up. If only I had more free time to have fun. If only I could afford to have more fun. If only I had more money. If only I was a bit younger. If only things were going better in our country. Then I would be happy.
Sound familiar? They are laments and complaints that I hear from people almost every day. They are complaints and wishes that I have thought or said. If only I had this . . . If only this happened . . . If only I could do this. It seems like we are always seeking out the one thing that is so elusive—happiness. People will try anything to get happiness—drugs, alcohol, family, friends, more possessions, more money, more work, more vacations. We’ll make lifestyle choices. We’ll join seven-step programs and read New York Times bestsellers. It’s all in the pursuit of just one thing. Happiness. But we never seem to find it.
Well today I’m going to tell you how to be happy. Not fake a smile and pretend to be happy happiness. Not, “Well I’ll try this for a while and see what happens,” happiness. Not, “This should get me through the week,” happiness either. True happiness. Today. For you and for me. The secret is found in 1 Timothy 6 in the words of the apostle Paul.
One thing that is no secret is how most people in this world think they will be happy—with money. Salespeople want to make more sales. Employees want raises. Employers want more productivity. Some try the lottery. Some try investments. But everyone’s after the same thing. Money. Why? Because when you have lots of money, you can do anything you want and life is easy. Or so we think.
Perhaps you have seen one of the specials on TV about those who win the lottery and end up being very unhappy, losing it all, and even committing suicide (sometimes all of the above). How many celebrities haven’t we seen or heard about that have squandered all their wealth on luxurious living and then filed for bankruptcy? Or who of us doesn’t get a raise or a bonus and then spend it right away only to want another raise or bonus? We never seem to have enough.
Yet shamefully, if we compared the way we live to 90% of the rest of the world, it would be quite embarrassing. Imagine this—there are people in the world who don’t own cars, or motorcycles, or bikes, or boats, or any transportation. There are places where HD TV or WIFI can’t be received. Some people in this world think they are rich if they have 800 sf. of living space. And how about this—gasp—many in this world live without air conditioning!
But you know what, all of these people are still alive. They haven’t died because they can’t buy Doritos at a Super Target. Their lives aren’t terrible because they don’t have iPods. They have simply learned to live with less. They have learned to be content with less. Others in this world learn what Americans don’t understand—you don’t need money to be happy.
The apostle Paul says the same. Look at what he says starting at verse seven, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” When we came into this world we had absolutely nothing. Every single thing that we have—every possession, every cent, every friend, every family member—those are worldly blessings that God has given to us that we didn’t have to start with. We weren’t entitled to any of those things. We don’t deserve any of those things. We don’t need any of those things because, as Paul says, we can’t take any of them with us when we die. So if we simply have food and clothing, basic necessities of living, we can be content that we have what we need to survive. Yet all of us have so much more than that. What blessings from God!
You see there is a problem though when we want more than the necessities. Listen to Paul, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 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.” One of Satan’s greatest temptations and traps is to get us to focus on things of this world—to focus on our jobs, on money, on possessions. If we doubt that strategy of Satan, all we need to do is count the number of shoes in our closets, or add up our cell phone and internet and cable and electric bills. I would venture a guest, I don’t know as a fact, but I would venture a guess that 90% of Christians spend more money on their cell phone and/or internet and cable per month than they give back to the Lord who gave them everything in the first place.
The love of money is in fact a root of many evils. And it is also certainly true that many, eager for money, have wandered from the faith. I personally know several people that would rather make money than go to church or Bible study. I’m not talking about those who have absolutely no choice and must work a Sunday shift now and then to provide for the family. But I know plenty of people, some here some in other places, that have the option and choose work. They could rearrange their schedules but don’t. I also know plenty of people, some here in Palm Coast and some elsewhere, that become upset and frustrated with God because of the economy, because of life struggles, because money is tight. These frustrations lead some to care less about God and his Word since he isn’t doing anything for them. It’s a temptation and a trap. And every single one of us has fallen into the trap of worldly thinking and the love of money. I know of no person in this room that doesn’t own something that he or she doesn’t need, including myself.
So here is the first secret to being happy and being content. It’s in verse 11: “But you, man of God, flee from all of this.” Run from all of this worldliness. Run like your life depends on it. Because your eternal life does depend on it. The more we focus on worldly things, the less we focus on God. The less we focus on God, the more Satan gets his fingers wrapped around us. We didn’t come into this world with anything, and we can’t take anything out. So if we have just food and clothing, just the necessities, we can be content with that. Everything else is a wonderful blessing from God. Be Content by fleeing from all the desires of this world.
Once we repent of our sins and leave behind the worldly thinking of this life, there is only one more step to finding true happiness and contentment in this world. This next step is found in the last sentence. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is only one place that we can find all of these things. If we are to seek after and pursue all of those things listed, the only place we can get them is Jesus.
Most surely, we have no righteousness or godliness of our own. We are far, far from that. Our worldly, American, money-centered thinking is only one example of the countless sins that we commit. The filthy dirt of all the wrongs we’ve done cakes us in guiltiness.
Thanks be to Jesus that he is so different than we. Think of the things that Jesus could have done while he was here in this world. He could have had anything he wanted. If he could feed 4,000 or 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish he could have multiplied anything for himself. If he could change water into wine, he could have had the real Midas touch and turned anything to gold. He could have flexed one little divine muscle in his pinky finger and forced everyone to bow before and give him great honor and respect. He could have lived a life of royalty and fame and glory, like a celebrity or athlete today, yet even greater.
But instead we see the maker of all lying in a manger. We see the king of the universe riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. We see the God who owns all stripped of all. We see the creator being executed by the created.
Jesus came to this world without one iota of a care for earthly possessions. He sure could have. As God he possesses all. Yet rather than showing love for earthly possessions, Jesus showed love for those who live on the earth. He came not to be served by us, but to serve us, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Through his perfect, sinless life Jesus was able to achieve something that we are far from—righteousness. Thus, having taken our place, that righteousness was won for us, is given to us, and covers over us.
So when Paul tells us to flee from all things of this world and to pursue righteousness, that is something we can do. Not that we have any righteousness of our own. Rather, we get righteousness from Jesus. So here is the other half to true happiness. After you flee worldly things, pursue heavenly things.
Your life can and will be totally different. In fact, your life already is totally different. Jesus has forgiven all your sins and given you the gift of heaven. That is already beyond what we deserve. But as we consider what Christ has done, we can continue to pursue these heavenly things like “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
I’ll give you one guess at who it is that gives us all these things. That’s right, Jesus. So when Paul says to pursue these heavenly things, he’s really telling us to pursue Jesus. Learn more about Jesus. Hear more about Jesus. Study more about Jesus. Talk more about Jesus. Sing more about Jesus. When you do, you will be not only pursuing but also increasing in righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Living in this world that we are in—living in this country that we are in—it is so challenging for us to understand what real, true happiness is. Satan wants us to believe that true happiness is having lots of toys, or really big houses, or lots of luxuries that we can relax with, or lots of friends, or lots of zeroes in our bank account. But we didn’t have any of those things when we came into this world, and we can’t take anything out.
If you want true happiness, listen to Paul in the first verse which summarizes this whole section, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” You will be so very happy in this life if you are just content—content with who you are, content with what you have, content with your situation in life. How can we possibly be content? Flee things of this world and pursue heavenly things. How can we do that? Pursue Jesus! Make your Savior the center and focus of your life in every way, and then you will find true happiness . . . and soon you will be receiving his gift of eternal happiness. God give us such a strength and desire to pursue Jesus.