Missional Contentment

Steve Viars February 23, 2008 1 Timothy 6:1-21

 

- If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you’ve probably seen the movie Finding Nemo...

- it’s the story of a clownfish named Marlin who son Nemo disobeys him and is caught by a group of fisherman...

- Marlin does all he can to find his son and in the meantime, meets some pretty interesting characters...

- one of them is a fish named Dory...

- Dory has a good heart for sure...the problem is...she can’t remember anything, so she can’t stay focused...

- Marlin meets her right after Nemo has been taken, and he’s desperately trying to find someone who can tell him anything about the boat the fishermen were in...

- MARLIN - Has anybody seen a boat!? Please! A white boat! They took my son! My son! Help me, please!

- DORY - There, there. It's all right.

- MARLIN - No, no. They took him away. I have to find the boat.

- DORY- Hey, I've seen a boat.

- MARLIN - You have?

- DORY - It passed by not too long ago.

- MARLIN – A white one? Where!? Which way!?

- DORY - Oh, oh, oh! It-it went, um, this way! And it went this way! Follow me!

- so they take off to search for the boat...then all of a sudden Dory slows down as if she’s nervous to have Marlin following her...

- DORY - Stop following me, okay!?

- MARLIN - What? You're showing me which way the boat went!

- DORY - A boat?  Hey, I've seen a boat. It passed by not too long ago. It went this way, it went this way. Follow me!

- MARLIN - Wait a minute, wait a minute! What is going on? You already told me which way the boat was going!

- DORY - I did? Oh dear...

- MARLIN - If this is some kind of practical joke, it's not funny! And I know funny...I'm a clownfish!

- In not being able or willing to stay focused isn’t even funny in a children’s movie, to a clownfish...

- guess where else is not funny?...

- in the Christian life...in the family of God...

‑ that has been the emphasis that the book we have been studying this year has made in a number of different ways...

- it is very easy for God’s people to be distracted...to be focused on things that are not really central to the mission...and there’s a lot more at stake than locating a lost fish...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to the book of I Timothy chapter 6 [page 164 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- our theme this year is Seeking God’s Plan...

- one of our tasks is to work together as a church family to determine our next 5 year strategic ministry plan...which is a very important undertaking...we want to be sure it’s God’s plan...

- However, we’re also trying to apply this concept to many other areas of life as well...

- the people who are best skilled to determine God’s will for the big decisions of life are those who have been faithfully following God’s will each and every day in the garden-variety choices that have to be made...

- in these first 2 months of the year, we’ve focused in on Seeking God’s Plan for His Family...

- this has been a verse by verse study of the book of I Timothy...which was written to a young man whom Paul had left in Ephesus to pastor the church where Paul had ministered for a total of three years...

- that is what the NT is all about – God mediating His plan and program through the establishment and ministry of local churches...

- if you take the church out of the NT, there is very little left...so we’re trying to study how God wants us to function in what Paul described as...

- 1 Timothy 3:15 - in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

- now, here are the emphases we’ve seen thus far...

1. First of all, God wants us to be characterized by Purposeful Instruction...

- not legalism...not a bunch of rules added to the Scripture in a self-righteous fashion...

- 1 Timothy 1:5 - But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

2. The second answer came in the 1st half of chapter 2 – where we learned that God wants us to have a Prayerful Focus...

- God’s plan is that His people would make entreaties, and prayers, and petitions, and thanksgivings for all men, especially leaders in government and others in authority...

3. Then from the end of chapter 2 and all of chapter 3 – the matter of Qualified Leadership…- in a culture we’re its all about style and externals…God wants the men of the church, and the women of the church to be people of character…

4. Chapter 4 admonishes God’s people to be men and women of Disciplined Godliness...exercise yourself to godliness...

5. Then chapter 5 is about Generational Piety...where people of different ages know how to, and actually enjoy interacting with one another...

 - it’s wrong if people who are older don’t value those who are younger...

- and it’s equally wrong when people who are younger don’t want to hang out with people who are older...

- I think churches make a big mistake when they just try to attract one particular age group...that is not particularly healthy and it is certainly not consistent with the metaphor of a family...

- this morning we’re going to land the plane on this series by looking at chapter 6 which emphasizes what we’re going to call today – Missional Contentment [which in the most technical sense is not actually a word...but it does capture in shorthand fashion what Paul is conveying to his young son in the faith...]

- read I Timothy 6:1-21

- in these verses, we can find Three areas in which contentment must be developed if you are going to live a mission centered life.

I. Focused Contentment in Your Work.

- now I understand that before we look for applications for the way we live today, we need to deal with the issue of...

A. Slavery in Bible times.

- when most of us hear the word slavery, we automatically think about the experiences in our country which is one of the biggest blights in our entire nation’s history...

- but remember, when we interpret God’s word...we don’t read it first through our contemporary grid...we seek to understand it in its historical context...

- slavery in Bible times was different than what we often think of in our experience...

- for example, a significant percentage of the population in the Roman empire was comprised of slaves...

- there were also many different levels of slavery and for many, it was actually a positive thing in the sense that you had a job, and there were even many cases where there were many freedoms that went with the position...

- that is not to say that God approved of all aspects of it...but if God immediately judged every aspect of secular social or vocational life that did not meet His approval, there wouldn’t be much left...

- the point is – slavery in Bible times for many people was dramatically different than slavery in our country...in fact it was closer to what many would consider their working conditions today [please don’t mutter under your breathe that your boss is an awful lot like a slave-driver because that will get you in trouble in a minute...]

- also, it is important to understand this...it was never the NT’s purpose to change the conditions of secular culture as an immediate goal...

- in other words, the Bible is not written to unbelievers to coerce them into conforming their behavior to God’s standards without a fundamental change of the heart...

- thankfully, when enough people in a culture embraced Christ...cultural changes inevitably occur...and in the process God is glorified...but it is that...

- a process that begins not with coercion...not with imposition of biblical principles from the outside in...

- but with a fundamental change in the direction of a person’s heart and life that begins by admitting ones sin and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord...

- that was Paul’s point in...Philippians 2:15 - so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,

- so the story of how Christianity was often a driving force behind the abolition of slavery is a marvelous one...but that was never the first focus of the NT...changing culture...

- the first focus was always on changing people...God’s people who were followers of His Son...even when their circumstances were very difficult...

- now, when we bring this back into our culture...there are clear applications to the way people in the church function in their jobs throughout the week...

B. The primary issue is honor.

- it couldn’t be any clearer in the text...

- v. 1 – slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor

- that comes up again in verse 2...

- v. 2 – those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them...

- now, I wonder why that is in the passage...because every one of us has a stream of rebellion running in our hearts...

- we do not like being told what to do...we don’t like authority...

- and let’s face it...if you have an employee with a disrespectful heart...you can put any boss into that equation you want, and there still will be problems...

- and please remember this as well....it’s not just that we struggle with hearts that are rebellious, but they can also be incredibly deceptive...

- in other words, a Christian can convince himself that he is right...that his stubbornness and his gossip is justified in his particular vocational situation...

- and God’s Word comes along and says...you have to work at being contented even when your boss is imperfect...

- and you might say, why would I do that?...

C. Your primary focus should be on how your attitude toward your boss impacts the reputation of your God.

- v. 1 – so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.

- see, “you being treated fairly” is not the highest value here...

- “you choosing to honor God” even when you think you’re being treated unfairly is the highest value here...

- and what you have to decide is – is the possibility of glorifying God worth you putting up with a little guff?...

- Paul said it this way to the Colossians...

- Colossians 3:22-23 - Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

- and the point is – that can have a powerful impact at work...

- now you might ask what does it mean to glorify God [develop – giving others the right opinion of God...]

- Matthew 5:16 - Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

- this is one of the things I love about the Bible – human beings would not have come with this kind of work ethic...but its true --- ask any person who manages people here – what they appreciate about good employees – and one thing they’ll say is....people who show proper respect [develop – not mindless adherence...but where don’t have to have an argument on your hands every time you give an instruction]

- all of this requires a focus on the mission [tie back to the Introduction about Dory...]

- cf. I Peter 2:18-25 [page 181]...[God can use the imperfections of your boss to conform you to Christ...]

- now, I think that might lead to some questions, what do you think?...

1. Are you seeking to develop contentment in your work?...do you find things to be thankful for?...

2. Are you known as a person who shows proper respect?...[I’m not talking about that happening in some sort of inappropriate way...]

3. Young people --- are you showing honor to your bosses at home [that would be mom and dad...]

4. Young people --- if you have a part time job, are you learning to develop a biblical work ethic and a contented heart?...

- now, that theme of contentment that flows out of a mission centered heart takes a different turn in verse 3...

II. Focused Contentment in Your Discussions.

- throughout this book we’ve seen evidence that one of the problems in this church at Ephesus was people who loved to argue about things...

- they majored on the minors...

- we saw that right in the beginning of the book in chapter 1 verse 6...

- 1 Timothy 1:6-7 - For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

- and when that happens in the church [turning aside to fruitless discussions...] an incredible amount of energy can be taken away from accomplishing the mission...

- now, we probably need to balance this...

A. God always invites appropriate discussions.

- we’re not saying that is wrong to have questions, or concerns, or even disagreements...that can be a very healthy thing...which is why we would read verses like this in...

- Isaiah 1:18 – “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

- Matthew 21:28 - “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’

- Psalm 73:13-14 - Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.

- Habakkuk 1:2 - How long, O Lord, will I call for help, And You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save.

- Revelation 6:10 - and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

B. This passage is dealing with those who generate arguments instead of accomplishing God’s plan.

- we mentioned this at the beginning of this series, but the city of Ephesus was known even in secular history as being extremely immoral and wicked...

- and the only thing that was going to transform people and redeem them from that culture was what Paul referred to in chapter 1 of this book as...

- v. 1:11 - ...the glorious gospel of the blessed God...

- in other words, this church getting the job done in this city was an emergency...

- and you don’t yak about non-essential things during the time of an emergency...

- it would be like this...Lord forbid you have some sort of medical emergency and are in need of an ambulance...

- so they load you up, but then they don’t seem to be in much of a hurry to get you to hospital...

- you’re only on the road a minute and you feel the ambulance stop...and you ask the attendant what’s going on...and he says, oh we stopped at the drive through at McDonalds---haven’t you heard about that new 1/3 pound hamburger they have?...

- and then you go a little further and they stop again...now what?...break time...it’s in our contract...

- and then they stop again because they’re having a disagreement about the best way to get to the hospital...

- you don’t yak about non-essential things during the time of an emergency...

- here’s the point – the mission that God has given us...it’s an emergency...

- so we develop contentment at our work because we’re focused on the mission...

- and we avoid petty disagreements because we’re focused on the mission...

- and some of God’s people don’t ask appropriate things at appropriate times---they are just constantly wound up about something and therefore easily distracted [like Dory...can’t keep their eyes on the ball...]

- now, what does the text say about....

C. The nature and effect of doctrinal distractions.

- v. 3 – does not agree with sound words

- v. 3 – (does not agree) with the doctrine conforming to godliness

- v. 4 – conceited and understands nothing

- v. 4 – has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words...

- v. 4-5 - out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth...

- this is why many of God’s people and many of God’s churches are not getting much done for Him...

- there’s not a contentment to major on the majors and let some of the minor things go...

- that requires a kind of disciplined focus...

- [cf. call this week – often folks call with questions, which is fine---but sometimes those questions would appear to be to “get us on their side” so they can take that ammunition back and use it on their pastor...in this case, a number of people in the church talking about some concern about the pastor’s ministry --- nothing biblical, just opinion ---- go win someone to Christ --- get your hands on the plow --- and the kind of godliness that produces  -- cf. v 6 – with contentment will be a means of great gain...]

- some people cannot be contented unless everybody in their life agrees with them on every last little issue and they just can’t let it go...

III. Focused Contentment in Your Finances.

A. Learn to be content when your basic needs have been met.

1 Timothy 6:8 - If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

B. The desire to get rich can lead to many paths that will do anything but help you accomplish God’s mission.

1 Timothy 6:9 - But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.

C. Don’t fall in love with money.

1 Timothy 6:10 - For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

D. Fix your hope on God and be rich in good works.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 - Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

- now, how do we summarize all of this?...mission minded people have learned to be contented in their jobs, and learned to be contented in their discussion, and learned to be contented with their finances...and as a result...they can hone in on accomplishing the mission and the get a lot done for God...

- now, let’s think of some applications of all of this...

1. How are we doing as a church at being mission driven?...

- let me give you a recent example that was good, and a recent example that wasn’t...

2. Review our printed church initiatives

3. Challenged you 6 weeks ago to write out your personal ministry initiatives...have you done that?....are you allowing them to guide you?

4. Have you taken the time to complete a futures survey?...

5. FCI [especially the Intro class]

6. Passion Play

7. Outreach series

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video