“Unbelief & Discontent”   1 Timothy 6:61-2   Philippians 4:12-13

November 18, 2007


SCRIPTURE INTRO:  Started sermon series last week.

The thesis of this series is that all the sins we commit

   are rooted in unbelief in the promises of God.

   Whenever sins crop up in our lives—whether attitudinal or behavioral—

   it’s a sign of lurking, growing, unbelief in God.

The flip side of the coin, the positive side is that all righteousness,

   all good deeds in our lives come from faith in the promises of God.


So the way to fight sin in our lives is to battle unbelief,

   and the way to pursue righteousness and holiness and love,

   is to fight the good fight of faith.

Each week, we’re looking at passages in which believers

   are struggling with certain sins, mostly attitudinal sins,

   trace those sins back to unbelief,

   and then show how faith helps us overcome.


Last week we looked at despondency, today it is discontent.

   Will also consider lust, bitterness, impatience, regret, and anxiety. 

This is not an exhaustive list,

   some of these will hit home with you more than others,

   but over the course of this study, will see different ways to fight

   the sins of unbelief by faith. 


I want to give credit where credit is due:

John Piper has a sermon series on this subject that I’ve relied on—

   and he also covers this in his book “Future Grace.”

INTRO:  I was in a waiting room recently, and after looking around to make sure I

didn’t see anybody I knew, I picked up an old People magazine and started reading.

I read an article about a man who wanted to look like Michael Jackson.

   This man did not like his life, he did not like his looks—

   and so through plastic surgery, dozens of operations,

   his face had been molded into a likeness of Michael Jackson.

Whatever horrible image you have in your mind, you’re right!

   It was frightening.

   And he wasn’t finished. 

   He wanted to have more plastic surgery.


A weirdo, right?  A freak?  

   And yet he was driven by a sin common to all people—discontent. 

Our world is driven by discontent

   Everybody wants more than he has,

   or wants something else than what he already has.

Everybody wants to be happier, wealthier, prettier, more fulfilled, whatever.


And what is true in the world, is too often true in the church.

There may be more contentment found among Christians—

   but not nearly so much as their ought to be.

In 1648 the English Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book titled,

   “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.”

   The rare jewel, he called it.  It was rare then and it is rare now. 


But let me make this more personal by simply asking you:

   Are you content with your life or are you discontent? 

Can you say of yourself what Paul said of himself:

   that he had learned the secret of contentment in any and every situation?


I think we all know what contentment is—but let me give you a great definition

   from the book I just mentioned, the Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.

“Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to

and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal of every condition.”


An inward work of God’s grace so that your whole frame of reference changes,

   you look at every circumstance of life and say, God’s hand is in this for my good.

What I have or don’t have makes no difference because God’s hand is in this.

   Gives you a great calm—especially about things that you can’t change.

Discontent is the opposite, and it’s brought on by unbelief in God.

   Instead of bringing inward calmness and delight—

   it disrupts and destroys.  It’s a temptation we have to fight by faith.


So let’s look at this subject.  Going to comment on all passages we’ve read—

   I Timothy 6, Philippians 4, and Psalm 131.

For you note-takers, I’ll have two main points.


1.  You must fight discontentment by faith.

2.  You must learn contentment by faith.


Both are accomplished by faith—unbelief will cause you to fail in both.

MP#1  You must fight discontentment by faith.

The temptation to be discontented comes at you every day.

It might just be a catalog that comes in the mail—you look at all this neat stuff,

   clothes or computers—and it’s always better than what you have—

   and suddenly there is the temptation to be discontent with what you do have.


Or maybe you see an old friend, and he is so much more successful than you

   that you become discontent with your own success. 

Remember several years ago, on family vacation—

   stopped to visit an old seminary friend, let’s go over to church, show something.

   And I knew his church was bigger and more and more prestigious than mine—

   but when I saw it, suddenly, there was discontentment.

I’m sorry to tell you that—but that’s how discontentment can suddenly strike.


Discontentment and covetousness are closely related—two sides of same coin.

   Covetousness is just discontentment focused on something.

Look at the 10th commandment.

   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,

   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house,

   Nor his man servant, nor his maid servant,

   Nor his ox, nor his ass (that’s how I learned it when I was little)

   Nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.


The reason you covet those things is because you are discontent

   with your own wife, house, manservant, maidservant, ox, as, or whatever.

God wants you to fight discontentment. 

   One of the ways he motivates you to fight is by warnings.

   The Lord says:  Listen to me.  Discontentment is dangerous. 

   Believe me and fight it.  Push it out of your mind.  Resist it.


Now, let’s look at these warnings.  In 1 Timothy 6 there are four of them.

1.  Discontentment causes troubles, spiritual and material. 

“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish

   and harmful desires . . .The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

Is it wrong to make money?  Is it wrong to get rich?  Of course not.

   In fact, if you are content, and frugal, and if you work and save and give

   like the Bible tells you to, then your financial condition will almost always rise.

It won’t be dramatic—but you will be better off than you would be otherwise.


Paul’s focus is not money, per se, he’s addressing discontentment. 

   His point is this:  If you allow discontentment to take over your thinking,

   then discontentment will be the motivation of all your decisions,

   and that will get into all sorts of trouble—both spiritual and material.

When Christians look at themselves and say:  How did I get into this mess?

   How did I get into this trouble—financial, relational, marital, sexual—often,

   not always, but often, it’s rooted in discontentment with what God has given.

And a series of choices driven by discontentment.


2.  Discontentment spoils the ordinary gifts of God.

Paul says to Timothy:  “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  .

Food and clothing are a way of talking about the ordinary things

   that God gives us in this life.  The things a Father gives his children for good.

Paul is saying that a content person is satisfied with these things

   because he sees them for what they are, and uses them as God intended.

   But discontentment spoils these ordinary gifts.


It’s not just not liking what you have and wanting better, it goes deeper.

A discontented person demands more from these ordinary gifts of God,

   than they are intended to give.  He wants them to fill holes not intended to fill.

   And that ruins them for his use and enjoyment.


Money—an ordinary gift of God, to enable us to buy things we need and want,

   and to help other people and advance the kingdom of God.

Discontentment spoils money—not just by making you want more, but by

   demanding it to give you security or a sense of self worth.

   Money can’t do that—not intended to.  So discontent spoils money.


Marriage—an ordinary gift of God, to provide companionship, intimacy, help,

   for two sinful people in the ordinary struggles of life.

Discontentment spoils marriage—not just by making you want a different spouse,

   but by demanding that it give you meaning and fulfillment.

   Marriage can’t do that—not intended to.  So discontent spoils marriage. 


3.  Discontentment weakens you for crises.

“We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out.”

Paul is talking about the greatest crisis of your life—your death.

   When you face death, you will need contentment and hope and security

   more than any other time.

If you have lived a discontent life, if the gifts of God have never been enough

   for you, and if you have tried to get things out of them they can’t give you,

   then you will have absolutely no resources to draw on in this crisis.

John Piper:  “If you dropped dead right now, would you take with you a payload of pleasure in God or would you stand before him with a spiritual cavity where discontentment used to be?”


This is also true of all the big crises of your life. 

In my study this week, came across a story about a man named James Wodrow,

   a 17th century Scottish Christian, father of several sons, one historian, theologian.

   Had another son, Sandie, short for Alexander—died as a young man.

Grieved deeply.  All would say, greatest crisis a parent could face.

   One day, friends found him alone at son’s grave.  Asked what he was doing.

   “I was thanking God for 31 years’ loan of Sandie, my dear son.”

A discontent heart would not have the strength to respond that way.

   It would collapse in despair or bitterness.


4.  Discontentment will send you to hell.

What’s the end of discontentment:  “plunges men into ruin and destruction.”

   The ruin and destruction Paul is talking about is not just in this life.

   Not just saying that discontent can ruin your finances or your marriage.

He’s talking about eternal destruction.

   That’s plain when you read on to verse 12. 

   “Fight the good fight of faith, take hold of eternal life.”

And when he says that through this some have “Wandered from the faith.”

   If discontentment is the theme and pattern of your life,

   ultimately discontented in God and in Christ, and will send you to hell. 


God warns us because he loves us.

   Believing his warnings and acting on them is a step of faith.


But it’s not enough just to fight discontentment.

   The Christian life is never just negative—it always has to be positive.

   You also have to learn contentment by faith.


MP#2  You must learn contentment by faith.

And I want us to move away from Paul and back to David and Psalm 131.

   This lovely little Psalm is about learning contentment by faith.  David says:

   “But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

   like a weaned child with its mother,

   like a weaned child is my soul within me.”


A still and quiet soul—that’s contentment.

   Remember how Jeremiah Burroughs put it:

“Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to

and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal of every condition.”

   That’s exactly what David was describing.


And his illustration is so vivid—my soul is like a weaned child with its mother.

First, think of a nursing infant.

   If a nursing infant is hungry, it can’t sit still and quiet if its mother is holding it.

   She smells like food.

It weeps, screams, gets worked up into a frenzy.

   Sometimes even when the mother puts her breast in its mouth

   it keeps thrashing and crying because it’s not getting filled up fast enough.


Now picture a weaned child.

Child says, Mamma, I’m hungry.

   She says:  Supper’s in the oven, we’ll be eating when dad gets home.

   Come over here and sit on the couch with me.

And the child comes over, and sits with mamma.

   And even though he is still hungry, he trusts her.

   Even though he doesn’t get what he wants from her right away,

   he knows that she’s good, and he’s glad to sit with her.


David says, that’s where I am spiritually. 

   I’ve moved from that screaming, thrashing infant who just wants God

   to give me what I want when I want it, to a little child who can sit quietly

   with God and trust him to give me what I need when I need it.

In other words, he moved from discontentment to contentment.

   How?  How does this happen in our lives.


Two parts to it: 

   God does the weaning, and you have to cooperate.

1.  God does the weaning.

Over the course of your life, Lord, in various ways tests your contentment.

   He takes away things, or he doesn’t give you things you really want.

And sometimes he arranges things so that you can see that you are never

   going to get these things that you want so badly.

   Not going to achieve the things you want so badly.


Lord does this, not because He is cruel, wants to spoil your fun,

   but because He loves you.  Knows that as long as you cling to these things,

   will never experience true contentment—quiet and still soul.

Lord’s exact method is different for every person,

   but he essentially does it through hardships, losses, and discipline

   that He brings into your life.


Weaning is hard.  There are lots of tears and temper tantrums.

   What you have to see, as you experience hardships and disappointments,

   they are not signs of God’s hatred or His indifference, his love.

When a mother weans a child, she refuses to give him her breast,

   but she never refuses to give him herself.

She is always there to hug him, care for his every need.

   And it probably hurts her to see him in such distress, but she knows

   that it is time for him to grow up.


That’s a picture of the Lord.  How he treats you.  Not being mean, but good.

   Wants you to grow to a more mature relationship with Him,

   and to experience the contentment that comes from it.

There was a time in Paul’s life—thorn in the flesh.

   Three times asked Lord to remove—“My grace is sufficient.”

   He is there.  Denied Paul what wanted, gave Him himself.

He does the weaning.


2.  He expects you to cooperate. 

Look how David puts it in the Psalm”

   O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.

What this means is that there must be, on your part a conscious

   shift from discontented craving to contented hope in Jesus. 

In other words, you have to identify the objects of your discontent.

   What are the things you are discontented about?

   Is it your money or status, it is your marriage or your job?

Identify the object of your discontent—this thing that God has not given you—

   recognize that this is his weaning process—and then say,

   these things aren’t my source of contentment, Jesus is.

Don’t fight God when he weans you—cooperate with him.

   He wants you to be able to sit quietly on the couch with him,

   content just to be with him, trusting him to give you what you need,

   at just the right time. 


Paul, in Philippians talking about contentment:

   “I have learned to be content in any and every situation.”

Contentment in times of plenty and want

Doesn’t just happen.  It is a great truth about Christian life that is learned.

   God is teaching you, and he wants you to learn it.


How do you learn? 

   You learn it by preaching to self, arguing with self until convinced.

If you are ever with a Christian who know contentment,

   and you ask him or her how he can be calm and quiet during a trial or loss,

   you will always get the same answer.


They quote some Scripture or speak some Gospel truth.

   Because I know that my God will supply all my needs.

   Because I know God is good.

And you realize they’ve been working this out in mind, putting hope in Lord.

   Cooperating with his weaning.


One New Year’s Eve several years ago, with some friends—

   reflecting on the past year.  Friends had a number of financial setbacks.

But as this couple began to tell how this had brought them closer to God,

   and how they had seen his hand, and learned to trust him more,

   the wife said with utter seriousness: 

“I am a rich woman.”


They could have fought God’s weaning.

   It could have been a bitter, discontent New Year’s Eve party.

   But is wasn’t.  There was a delightful contentment in God’s fatherly hand.

CONC:  Martin Rinkart was born in the town of Eilenberg, Germany in 1586.

His father was a poor craftsman, but Martin worked his way through

   the University of Leipzig, and was ordained as a Lutheran minister.


And then he was called to be a pastor in his home town of Eilenberg.

   But just as he arrived, terrible times began for the people of Eilenberg.

This was the beginning of what came to be known as the Thirty Years’ War.

   And this city was right in the middle of the conflict.

   It was a walled city, became overrun with refugees.

   Things were so scarce that Martin often had trouble feeding, clothing family.


Three times it was occupied by foreign armies that oppressed the citizens.

   And several times the plague swept through the city.

   During the worst outbreak, Martin only remaining minister—50 funerals a day.

And this hardship did not go on for one year or two years—but for 30 years.

   What would that do to a man’s spirit?


I want you to read something Martin Rinkart wrote 20 years into these 30 years of

   trouble.  It’s printed in you bulletin, it’s the hymn we’re going to sing next:


Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices;

Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blest us on our way

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.


O may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace, And guide us when perplexed,

And free us from all ills In this world and the next.


All praise and thanks to God The Father now be given,

The Son, and Him who reigns With them in highest heaven,

The one eternal God, Whom earth and heav’n adore;

For thus it was, is now, And shall be evermore.


The grace of contentment is learned through the weaning work of our heavenly

   Father, trust him, cooperate with him, and resist unbelief,

   that leads to discontent.