The grass is always greener on the other side, means that we all struggle with wanting more. No matter how much we have, there is someone who has more, and if we could have what they have, then we would be happy. The problem we have discovered with this way of thinking is that having more does not satisfy. Having a lot of stuff, always getting new stuff, and more stuff, doesn’t satisfy, it often just leads to wanting more. Stuff can’t buy happiness and more stuff can’t buy happiness. I’m not sure we really believe this, however, because this is often how we live. We literally buy into the idea that something more, or new, will improve our lives.
Studies show that we see over 5,000 ads every day. and those ads tell us one thing – our lives will be better if we have more. Our lives will be better if we have what is new. Seeing all that advertising shapes our minds, it makes us want more, and we begin to believe we need more in order to be happy, or complete, and the truth is that we all love new things. Apple puts out a new iPhone every year or so because they know we always want something new. People trade in cars every couple years because they want that new car smell. Social media adds to our desire for more and new because it shows us how great other people’s lives are since they got new clothes, started that new diet, or tried that new recipe, and suddenly we have to have what’s new. And now that items can be shipped free, and in two days, we can experience the thrill of getting something new all the time. Who doesn’t love to see the Amazon box at their door!
We say money can’t buy us happiness, and that more stuff, and new stuff, won’t satisfy, but do we really believe it? 10% of all households now rent a storage unit to hold the stuff that doesn’t fit in their attics, basements, and garages, and 25% of people who have a two car garage can only get one car in because they have too much stuff stored on the other side. We say it is not the stuff that makes us happy. We say it is not having more that brings contentment, and satisfaction, but do we believe it? Do we live as if this is true?
Have you had to downsize your life recently? Downsizing can be hard because we don’t want to throw anything away. Everything has meaning, and we think that everything has value, and if you watch Antique Roadshow very often, then you begin to think every item you have is going to make you a millionaire, and then you really will be happy. So we hang on to all we have, and we accumulate more, all in a vain effort to feel happy, content and secure. But it never works, as long as we are looking at the things of this world to be satisfied, there will never be enough.
HAVE is never satisfied. Having more, having what is new, having what others have, will never be enough. Have will never satisfy, so what does. What does satisfy us? What brings contentment in life when all around us we see greener grass?
The Apostle Paul was sitting in prison when he said, I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)
So Paul learned the secret of being content, and it had nothing to do with what he had. There were times in Paul’s life when he had it all. He had status, respect, and power, and with all of that came wealth, but then he accepted Christ as his savior, and lost all the status, respect, and power he previously had. He lost his position, and wealth, and went back to working as a tent maker. When Paul travelled to share the good news of Jesus, he often took with him very little, living off the kindness of those who were willing to take him in. So Paul knows what it is like to have little, and he knows what it’s like to have plenty, but the secret he says isn’t in what we have. Did you notice that? The secret, Paul says, of being content is this, I can DO all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Contentment isn’t found in what we have but in what we do.
HAVE just won’t do – we have to DO.
But please hear this, we aren’t talking about doing things to earn God’s favor and blessing. Many people grew up in a church hearing that God would only love them if they would do all the right things, and stop doing the wrong things. This kind of doing is not what we are talking about. The do we are talking about is living the way God calls us to live, knowing that when we follow God’s call, and live God’s life for us, we will be content. We may not have it all, but we won’t need it because we will have all we need, and all we want in Christ. It is when we start living this kind of life that truly, the Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.
So what is it that we should be doing? The specifics in our lives are different, but the basics are the same. There are three things we need to do in order to be content, and the first thing we heard from Paul. I can do all things through Christ. We have to be connected to God through Christ. What ultimately brings peace and contentment is our connection to God. It is knowing we are God’s children, created in love for a purpose, and responding to God’s love that brings us peace.
Finding ways to connect to God is the first thing we need to do to live a life of contentment. We can connect with God through worship, God’s word, God’s world, personal prayer, and devotion, but we need to find ways to do it. God is reaching out to us all the time, what will we do to make that connection? How will we connect with God?
Connecting with God is important, but then we need to find healthy ways to connect with others. God created us for relationship. God did not make us independent, but interdependent, and we need to find healthy, faithful, satisfying ways to be connected to one another. Relationships are what brings satisfaction to our lives, it’s what brings meaning. Most people, on their death bed, don’t want to be surrounded by their stuff, but by their family, and friends, because it is relationships that bring us happiness, and peace.
The second thing we need to do in order to find contentment is to serve. We tend to think that being served is where we find happiness, and peace, but Jesus shows us that true peace is found not by being served but by serving. Serving God and others brings more joy and peace than any item you can buy from Amazon. Serving fills us with a sense of meaning and purpose that nothing else can. Serving fills us with joy. Serving fills us to overflowing, so service is more important than stuff when it comes to being happy and content.
The third thing we need to do in order to be truly happy and at peace is to grow, particularly we need to grow in faith. The legendary football coach Lou Hotlz once said, In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow. This is true. If we aren’t growing, if we aren’t pushing ourselves to learn more, experience more, serve more, and love more, then we are not just standing still, we are slowly declining. We need to grow.
One of the most exciting times in my life was my sophomore year of college, and one of the reasons I loved that season of my life so much was because I was growing in my faith exponentially. I was in a Bible Study for the first time, God’s word was literally coming alive to me. Jesus was no longer a person in history, he was a person speaking to me. The direction I craved for my life was found in the words I was reading, and studying, and trying to live out in my life, and I simply couldn’t get enough.
The summer after my sophomore year of college is when I went to serve God in Yellowstone, and once again it was a season of growth. I grew as a person as I experienced so many new things, and I grew as a Christian as I learned to trust God, and share God through our Sunday morning ministry. That entire year of my life, I experienced a deep sense of peace, and contentment because I was growing. Growing in our faith brings peace, it brings incredible joy, and it brings satisfaction to our lives.
Over the next few weeks there are many new opportunities for you to grow in your faith. While we always have Sunday School classes and Bible studies you are welcome to join, we have some new groups and classes starting over the next few weeks so this is a great time to think about taking a step and growing in faith.
Connect, Serve, Grow. These three words might look familiar to you, at least I hope they do. These are the core values we hold here at Faith Church. These are not just cute words we chose to define ourselves, these are the things God calls us to do. We are to connect, serve, and grow – not to be loved by God, God already loves us completely, unconditionally, and eternally. These are things we do through Christ so that we can be content no matter what we have.
This is confirmed for us in Hebrews 10:22-25. The author here has also learned the secret to contentment. It is to draw near to God and to meet together. It is to connect to God and one another. It is to do good deeds – not in order to be loved by God but because we are loved by God. So we serve Christ and the community. And we spur one another on, we encourage one another. We grow in our faith. This is the life God calls us to.
Paul shares with us the secret of being content and it has nothing to do with how much stuff we have, it has everything to do with what we do. And what we do is this:
Connect to God and one another.
Serve Christ and the Community.
Grow deeper in faith.
Stuff is not the answer. More stuff is not the answer. New stuff is not the answer. The answer is found in how we live, and what we do.
More stuff isn’t the answer!
1. In what ways do you struggle with always wanting something more, or something new?
2. What stuff is the most tempting for you? What stuff is the most longed for among your friends and family?
• Looks, opportunity, car, home, education, faith, fun, relationships, talent…
• How does getting this stuff make you feel?
• How long does that feeling last?
HAVE is never satisfied. We need to DO.
Three things we can do to find contentment and peace.
1. Connect with God and one another.
• Where and how do you experience God?
• In what ways does worship help you feel connected to God and the people of God?
2. Serve Christ and the Community.
• What past service has made you feel whole and alive?
• Where is God calling you to serve in the life of the church?
• Where is God calling you to serve in our community?
• Step out and do one act of service this week.
3. Grow deeper in faith.
• When did you experience the most personal growth in your faith?
• What made that time so special and vital?
• If you are not already part of a class, study or small group, join one of the new classes starting this month. Go to www.bellefontefaith.com/adults/small-groups/ for more information.