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Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:10-13


This past week I had the opportunity to read for the first time one of the most profound short stories that I have ever read. It was written by the famous author Leo Tolstoy. It's called How Much Land Does a Man Need? The main character in the short story is a peasant Russian named Pahom. Pahom begins the story as a communal farmer who, through a series of circumstances, becomes a property owner. But that simply inflames Pahom's desire for more land. Through chance encounters with another peasant and then eventually a travelling merchant, Pahom learns of a land a long way away, the land of the Bashkirs, where land is incredibly cheap. And so he decides to travel there to purchase some land, the express purpose of increasing his wealth.

When he arrives he discovers that the stories that he'd heard were no exaggeration. In fact, the land was beautiful virgin soil, as black as a poppy seed, with grasses growing in the hollows chest high. So he decides to purchase some. And he asks the chief of the Bashkirs what the price for the land was. This was a nomadic people, and he asked them the price, and the chief responded with this surprising statement. He said, the price of the land is always the same, a thousand rubles a day.

Pahom responded with surprise and he said, that makes no sense. I mean, what do you mean, a day? What kind of measurement is that? How many acres are involved? And the chief responded that really, as a simple nomadic people they really had no way of figuring the size of plots of land so their simple rule of thumb was this, as much land as you could walk on in a day was yours and the price was always the same, a thousand rubles.

So Pahom, of course, was elated. He immediately thought, boy, I can walk on a lot of land in a day. I can claim a lot of land in a single day. And so with great eagerness and anticipation he told the chief that he was eager to do just that. The chief said, well, there's one condition. The condition is this, you must arrive back at the starting point before the sun sets on that single day or you will have no land and you will forfeit your thousand rubles. So he accepted the condition.

That night Pahom couldn't sleep, so filled with excitement that finally he would get to have some more land which had become the great passion of his life. Finally, just before dawn he drifted off to sleep and he had a brief dream. And in his dream Pahom heard laughter outside the tent and he went outside the tent to discover the chief holding his sides and literally rolling with laughter.

He blinked his eyes and looked again and it was no longer the chief but it was that travelling merchant who had told him about this land. And he blinked his eyes yet again and it was even further back, the peasant before the merchant, who had expressed about this land. And finally he blinked a final time and it was neither of them. Instead, it was the devil himself, laughing and laughing and laughing. And he looked more carefully and at the feet of the devil was a man clothed only in trousers and a shirt, dead. And as he looked more carefully in his dream he saw that it was himself.

He woke up in horror and he thought, what things men dream. And he shook himself to realize that it was the morning that he was to go conquer this great piece of land for himself and for his wealth. And so he met the chief at the hill looking out over the expanse of this incredible plain. And the chief put down his hat on the ground, his fur hat, and he said, you put your rubles here and this is the starting point; you must return here before the sun sets. So Pahom, with great eagerness, set out.

At first his pace was neither slow nor fast, but as he went he continually quickened his pace because as he went the land looked better and just better. He had planned out his route to make sure that he could make it back before the sun set. He had thought this through carefully in those many waking hours that night. But just as it was time for him to return so that he could be sure to make it back in time, he saw just one more field that looked more fertile than any that he'd seen so far. And he thought, I have to include that in my holdings. And so he hurried to mark that boundary, to set the mark of where he had wandered that day, and then he turned to go back to where he had begun.

He realized that he had really gone too far, so he had to hurry faster and faster under the hot afternoon sun as he made his way back to the hill where he had begun. He walked with great difficulty. In the heat of the day he realized that there were many things encumbering him, so he began to lay aside his coat and eventually his boots. And now he's simply in his trousers and his shirt with his bare feet and he's realizing still that he's not going to make it, even though his feet are beginning to be cut and bruised. And he's beginning to feel the heat and exhaustion of the day. His legs begin to fail, almost as if they belong to someone else. And yet he realizes he can't falter, he can't wait, if he's going to make it back by sunset. And so he begins to break into a full run, running for the hill.

Tolstoy writes that his chest was heaving like a blacksmith's billows, his heart was beating like a hammer, and his legs were giving way as if they did not belong to him. But as he got closer, he could see the hill clearly. And he could see on the hill the Bashkirs and they were all cheering for him. Tolstoy finishes his story with these words. "Pahom looked at the sun, which had reached the earth. One side of it had already disappeared. With all his remaining strength he rushed on, bending his body forward so that his legs could hardly follow fast enough to keep him from falling. Just as he reached the hill, it suddenly grew dark. He looked up, the sun had already set. He gave a cry, 'All my labor has been in vain.' And he was about to stop, but then he heard the Bashkirs still shouting."

"And he remembered that though to him from below the sun seemed to have set, that there on the hill they could still see it in the distance. So he took a long deep breath and he ran up the hill. It was still light there. He reached the top and saw the cap. Before it sat the chief laughing and holding his sides, and Pahom remembered his dream and he uttered a cry. His legs gave way beneath him. He fell forward and reached the cap with his hands. He had made the return journey. Pahom's servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead. His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in and buried him in it. Six feet, from his head to his heels, was all he needed."

Tolstoy captures in that powerful story the essence of the human heart's desire for more. The tragic thing is, there are millions of people today running Pahom's race. Not in the land of the Bashkirs, but in Dallas, in New York, and through the tree lined suburbs of the United States. Sadly, their race will also end in tragedy. Because their race, like Pahom's race, is the endless race of the discontent heart.

Paul targets this crucial issue of contentment as he draws his letter to the Philippines to a close. Let me remind you of where we are, turn to Philippians 4. You'll remember that we examined the first nine verses, and these are staccato, a series of staccato commands given by the apostle to help us learn how to live stable, spiritually strong and stable lives. When we come to verse 10 Paul is done with his instructions, but he's not done teaching. Although the rest of the letter is personal and in the first person, Paul is a good teacher and he's now teaching us not by commands but by example. He wants the Philippians – and us – to learn from his example. The historical purpose of these last verses of this epistle are to thank the Philippians for the financial gift that they had sent with Epaphroditus, you remember, we saw back in chapter 2. But as Paul expresses that thanksgiving to the Philippians for their gift, he teaches us what are really some of the most profound lessons in all the epistle.

In verses 10 through 13 he addresses this issue of contentment. Let me read it for you. Philippians 4:10,

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

The theme of that brief paragraph is found in verse 11, "I have learned to be content." It's really an amazing claim, isn't it? And it's one that all of us wish we could make, "I have learned to be content." This is a huge Biblical issue, this issue of contentment. And it's important, if we're going to understand what Paul is saying here, that we have the larger picture, the biblical background that Paul had in his mind even as he wrote these words.

So I want to go into detail to look at this issue, today and next Sunday morning, God willing. And I want us, as we look at this issue of contentment, to answer three important questions. Today I want us to answer the question, what causes us to be discontent? What causes us to be discontent with what God has provided for us? Then next week we'll look in detail at these verses in Philippians 4:10-13, and in those verses we will find the answers to two more questions. Question number two is, what does it mean to be content? Exactly what is this state of contentment? And by the way here's a clue, it's not Texas; it's not the State of Texas. The third question that we'll answer is, how do we learn to be content? So those are the questions we need to address: What causes us to be discontent? What does it mean to be content? And finally, how do we learn to be content? How can we arrive at a point where we can say with Paul, "I have learned to be content."

Next week we'll discover that all you and I need to know about how to live contented lives is buried in these four brief verses in this monumental text, verses 10 to 13. But for today I want us to back up and look at the bigger picture, before we come to this text. I want us to answer the first basic question, what causes us to be discontent? You see, often you can understand a great deal about a biblical concept by looking at its opposite. You can more easily grasp a biblical virtue if you scrutinize its corresponding vice. And we can gain great insight into a particular biblical word by looking at its antonym. So I want us to do that today. Before next week we look at the issue of contentment, today I'd like for us to look at the issue of discontent. What is it? What are the sins, or the vices, that are the opposite of contentment, that make being content with our circumstances so challenging and so difficult?

So let's look at the opposite of contentment. There are two biblical word groups that fit together to sort of provide this antithesis of contentment. The two word groups are the word group "to covet," and the nouns and the verbs related to it, and the word group "to lust," and the nouns and the verbs connected to it. I want us to take a brief biblical survey of these two sins that are the enemy of contentment. These are the reasons you and I have such a hard time being content with our circumstances.

Let me show you that these two concepts are intimately related. Turn to Romans 7. They're not distinct really, they're married together. In Romans 7, notice verse 7. Paul here is explaining how the law functioned in his life before he came to Christ. And he makes this interesting comment. He says, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin?" I mean, the fact that the law showed me my sin, does that make it sinful? He said, "May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'" Now notice that Paul is introducing the concept from the tenth commandment, Exodus 20:17; he quotes the tenth commandment, "you shall not covet." There's that first word group. But interestingly enough, to translate the Hebrew word for covet Paul uses the Greek word lust. It's the word that is usually translated lust in our New Testament, epithumia.

So the two are intimately connected, this concept of lust and this concept of coveting. In fact, we could put it this way, lusting and coveting are essentially identical sins. But if we look at each of them individually, each of them gives us a sort of different nuance of understanding what contentment is not, the opposite of contentment. So let's do that, let's take, first of all, the word lust. This is the enemy of contentment. The word lust simply means a strong desire. It's a longing of the soul for what will give it delight. When you see the word lust in the New Testament read the word "strong desire" or longing, or perhaps best, craving. That's what the word lust means. It's unfortunate, because in English when we hear the word lust, we immediately think of sexual temptation. And that's of course included, but that's only a small part of this word lust. It means to crave something that you don't have. It's a strong desire for something. This word in the Greek language is actually a neutral word, it's good or it's bad depending on what it is you crave.

God has implanted in us an abiding principle to desire and to choose that which brings us delight. If we delight in good things, then that craving is good. If we delight in evil, then that craving is evil. For example, in the New Testament this word that's translated lust is often used to refer to desiring good things. For example, in Luke 15:16 it's used of food. In Luke 22:15 it's used of Christ Himself, strongly desiring to eat the Passover with His disciples. In 1 Thessalonians 2:17 it's used of Paul's desire to see the Thessalonians. He had a strong craving to see the Thessalonians.

Interestingly, if you go back to the Septuagint, that is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, this same word for lust is used for craving the Word of God in Psalm 119:20. The Psalmist says he craves God's Word. And in Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah, in chapter 26 verse 9, he uses it for craving God Himself.

But most often in the New Testament, when you see the word lust, or that's translated lust, it refers not to good things, but to sinful desires, a longing for what God has prohibited or currently withheld from you. In Exodus 20:17, the Septuagint uses this word lust to translate the Hebrew for covet, the tenth commandment, "you shall not covet." It uses this word, you shall not crave or you shall not lust. Paul of course, as we saw, does the same thing in Romans 7. These cravings, understand this, these cravings are part of our depravity. Constantly craving or lusting after what we don't have defines what it means to be unregenerate.

Let me show you this. Turn to Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2, Paul is painting a picture of what it means to be lost, of what it means to be without Christ, of what we were before we came to Christ. Ephesians 2:1, "And you were dead in trespasses and sins." We were spiritually dead. We were walking dead men. And "you formerly walked," in your trespasses and sins, "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." In other words, you and I were controlled, we were under the control of Satan. To put it in the words of Christ in John 8:44, we were doing the lusts of our father. We were living in the cravings of our father Satan. Verse 3, "Among them," that is, these sons of disobedience, "we too all formerly lived." Notice what he says now, "we formerly lived in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind." That's what it means to be lost. It means to live a life characterized by incessant craving for what you don't have.

Titus 3, Paul makes this same point. Titus 3:3, again talking about what we used to be before we came to Christ, he says, "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts," or cravings, "and pleasures." We were in slavery to our cravings. But you may not have been aware of it. And I may not have been aware of it either. Unbelievers are often unaware of these powerful controlling cravings and desires that motivate their lives. They think they're just doing what they want to do. And they are; they just don't understand that they are slaves to their own cravings. It's not until the Word of God comes, "the law of God," as Paul said back in Romans 7, and awakens the conscience to understand what's really going on, that we see it for the first time.

For us who are believers, at the moment of salvation God did something remarkable. At the moment of regeneration God implanted within your heart and mind a new set of desires. He gave us a new heart in the words of the Old Testament, a new set of desires. What are those desires? Well, for an example, one of them is a desire for the Word of God. Remember what Peter says, we now have a desire "for the sincere milk of the word." We have a desire for holiness. We have a desire to be like Jesus Christ. We have a desire to know God and to pursue Him even as we saw in Philippians 3. We have a new set of desires.

But don't misunderstand, those sinful desires, those sinful cravings that were in your heart before you came to faith in Christ, don't go away when you're saved. Because we retain in us what the Bible calls our flesh, our unredeemed humanness. There is part of us that remains unredeemed. It has its beachhead in our body. But it's not simply our body, it's more than our body. It's our flesh. It's the unredeemed part of us that will be fully redeemed when Christ returns and takes us to Himself, when we receive our new bodies.

The primary characteristic, listen carefully to this, the primary characteristic of our flesh, that you and I retain, continues to be these corrupt longings, passions, and cravings. Peter calls them, in 1 Peter 2:11, the "fleshly cravings that war against the soul." So when you think of lusts, understand that they are cravings that spring from our unredeemed humanness and seek to express themselves. And they are the opposite and the enemies of contentment, craving something we don't have.

The second biblical sin that is the opposite of contentment, not only this word lust, but secondly covetousness, covetousness. Let's look at this word because this gives us yet another nuance of why we struggle so much being discontent. Not only do we struggle because we have these in our flesh, our unredeemed humanness, these cravings for what we don't have, but we also struggle with covetousness. The word that is translated covet literally means "to want to have more." I just want more.

This sin is the target of the tenth commandment, thou shalt not covet, which is in Exodus 20:17, repeated when Moses gives the law again in Deuteronomy 5:21. It's also shared in Romans 7 as we saw in verse 7 and later in Romans 13 in verse 9, this command of not coveting. It is utterly inconsistent for Christians to covet. First Corinthians 5:11 says this, "I wrote to you," Paul says, "not to associate with any so called brother," that is someone who claims to be a Christian, "if he is covetous – not even to eat with such a one." Ephesians 5:3 says that "greed must not be named among you, as is proper among saints." We're called instead, as Christians, though we may be tempted by this sin and though we may succumb to this sin, though we may struggle with this sin, we're called to put it off. Colossians 3:5, "the members of your earthly body you're to consider as dead to greed."

In fact, let me put it to you as strongly as Paul does. Those whose lives are controlled by, dominated by covetousness are not Christians. Paul couldn't put it any clearer. Look at 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 6:9. He says, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" He says,

Don't be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, will inherit the kingdom of God.

He makes the same point in Ephesians 5:5. He says, "For this you know with certainty, that no covetous man has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.' This is not a sin to be taken lightly. This is a sin that if it is a characteristic dominating feature of your life then you're not a Christian. It is an absolutely distorting horrific sin.

Some of you may have read Aesop's fables. In his fables he tells the story of a covetous man to whom the Greek god Zeus granted any wish that he might want. But there was one major condition, whatever he wished for his neighbor would get twice as much. Now this put the covetous man in a terrible quandary, because he wanted more. That's the nature of covetousness. He wanted more. And so the idea of his neighbor having twice as much of anything as he did, he couldn't fathom it. And so as the ultimate expression of covetousness, in the fable, he asked for his one wish to be that he would only have one eye – so that his neighbor would be blind. That is the expression, the ultimate expression, of the covetous heart.

Covetousness is at its heart, idolatry. Paul puts this very clearly in two texts. In Ephesians 5:5 he says, "the covetous man is an idolater." In Colossians 3:5 he says, "greed is idolatry." Now why would he single out this one sin of covetousness and call it idolatry? Well, Christ makes that clear for us in Matthew 6. Turn there for a moment, Matthew 6. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ delivers these immortal words, verse 19, He says,

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

And then He uses the analogy of the eye, which is a common Old Testament analogy, talk about the evil eye. You've heard that expression? Well, the evil eye in biblical terms is an eye that's always wanting what it sees, it's always craving what it sees. And so, He says in verse 22,

"The eye is the lamp of the body; so that if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, [or evil. In other words, if you're always craving what you want,] your whole body [what you see rather,] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then that light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! [And here's how He finishes it up, here's the punchline.] No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Notice what Christ is saying. He's saying that to live in the mode of always wanting more is to worship wealth. It's to become an idolater. It's to allow wealth to become your master.

You may be sitting there thinking, well, I'm not wealthy so I'm sort of off the hook. Well, this sin of covetousness is not something that only the wealthy are guilty of. In fact, you remember earlier I read Philippians 4:12; Paul said there that he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances, whether he had prosperity or whether he was poor.

Listen, it doesn't matter if you don't have two nickels to rub together or if you are truly wealthy, you are capable of being both covetous, or I should say either, covetous or content. Your circumstances don't matter. You can be absolutely content in either of those circumstances and you can be absolutely consumed with covetousness in either of those circumstances.

So what are the things we covet? What is this a prohibition against? Turn back to Exodus 20. Let's look at where it began in the tenth command, the tenth word as the Hebrews called it. Exodus 20, notice verse 17. Here's what we're prone to covet. "'You shall not covet,'" he says, "'your neighbor's house.'" Literally the Hebrew word is household. It refers both to belongings and to people within that household. Now, at this point when Moses recounts the decalogue again in Deuteronomy 5, he inserts another expression, and remember, he was there so he knows what God says. There he inserts the word field, don't covet your neighbor's field, or property. You see, property was and remains one of the major expressions of a person's financial wealth and financial worth. He said, so don't covet your neighbor's property.

Now, back to Exodus 20:17. He says, "'You shall not covet your neighbors wife.'" Listen, you can covet a person. And when you covet a person it usually has reference to sexual sin. That's why Christ says, in the Sermon on the Mount, he who looks upon a woman to crave her, to covet her in his heart, it's as if before God he had committed adultery with her already in terms of his personal guilt.

He goes on in Exodus 20, God does, to say, "'don't covet your neighbor's male or female servants or his ox or his donkey.'" Now, in an agricultural society those were the typical expressions of wealth, because you needed those things, servants, oxes, and donkeys, to produce more wealth. And so, he saying, don't pursue and covet and want and crave those things that are your neighbors' wealth or that would produce additional wealth for you. When you change from a non-agricultural society such as ours, the sins change slightly. That's why in Acts 20:33 Paul says, "I coveted no one's silver or gold." Because now you change from an agricultural society with farm animals and land to a monetary unit such as money as we use.

He goes on to say, Paul does in Acts 20:33, he says "I haven't coveted people's clothes." That's an interesting expression, isn't it? Why would Paul say that? Because again, in that culture, clothes was another expression of a person's wealth. If you didn't have money in that culture it was difficult to have the clothes that expressed wealth. There were certain kinds of clothes that were considered kingly garments and garments that only the upper crust in the society wore, and if you didn't have the money you didn't wear them. So Paul says, "I haven't coveted clothes."

Back in Exodus 20:17, notice he finishes it off with a sweeping statement. He says, don't covet "anything that belongs to your neighbor." Boy, that is an interesting statement, because now we leave the area of just things and we go to intangibles. "Don't covet anything that is your neighbor's."

You see, you and I can covet a lot more than things. And you may be sitting there thinking, well you know, I never coveted my neighbor's house or his wife or, you know, I'm okay. But we can covet a lot of things that are intangible. For example, we can covet the appearance of others. We can covet their power, their status, their position. We can covet a more loving and emotionally affirming husband. We can covet a more beautiful or doting wife. We can covet a better family situation. There are any number of things that are intangibles that aren't possessions you can put your hand around that we can covet that belong to others. And we are strictly forbidden from craving anything that God has not chosen to give us.

Covetousness, by the way, like its sister lust, springs from our hearts. The problem isn't our circumstances, the problem is our hearts. Christ says this in Mark 7. He says, "'out of the heart,'" comes "'deeds of coveting.'" Like a ferocious animal, covetousness can never be satisfied. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income." We always think, just one more thing will bring me that satisfaction.

I read about David Robinson, the superstar center for the San Antonio Spurs, a number of years ago. He spoke about watching Michael Jordan holding the Chicago Bulls first championship trophy and he described the feelings that he had at the time, like this. He said, "Here I am with five cars, two houses, and more money than I ever thought I would have. What more could I ask for? But there's Michael Jordan and he has more than me. Boy, I'd like to have some of the things he has." Commenting later on his feelings at that time he said, "What I had should have been plenty, but no matter how much I had it didn't seem like enough because material things can't satisfy your deepest needs."

Listen, this is a problem with human nature from the earliest years. I remember as a kid thinking, you know, if only I could have that authentic Colt cap gun, you know, the one with ivory handles and real smoke, then I would never need anything else in life. We see the same temptation with our children. They're tempted to think that the latest or the most popular toy is somehow going to bring them the ultimate satisfaction. You know they think, if only I can have that, whatever that is, then I'll never want or need another thing.

Sadly, what we easily recognize in our children we find much more difficult to see in ourselves. If we're not careful we can convince ourselves of the same thing we did when we were children. If only I could have that job, that husband, that wife, that salary, that house, that car, those clothes, then I'd be happy. It's a terrible lie.

In the early 1900's John D. Rockefeller was the world's richest man. It's estimated that his wealth in the early 1900's was right at a billion dollars. In today's money they estimate that would be worth about two hundred billion dollars. Someone once asked John D. Rockefeller, how much money is enough? His answer was, just one more dollar. That's the way it goes with covetousness, it's vanity, it's worthless, it's chasing after wind, it never satisfies.

But there's another problem of covetousness, it also doesn't come alone. It always brings forth or bears illegitimate children. It always produces other sins. For example, in 2 Kings 5, you remember the story of Gehazi, Elisha's servant, who sets his eye on the things that Naaman offered. And he follows Naaman, and he says, oh, listen, Elijah sent me because he's changed his mind, he really would like to have those things after all. Covetousness often leads to lying, leads to lying to your boss, lying to your customers, lying to the federal government about your income. It leads to all kinds of sins. It leads to theft. You remember Achan when he took those things from the city of Jericho he says, when he's finally found out, he says in Joshua 7:21, he says, listen, "I saw, I coveted, and therefore I took." It leads to all kinds of sins.

But nowhere is that more clearly put than 1 Timothy. Turn to 1 Timothy 6. Paul describes the children that come with covetousness. First Timothy 6:8,

If we had food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into [notice the children here] temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful cravings which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and some by a longing for it [and this is tragic] have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Perhaps nowhere in Christian literature is this inward craving and coveting more powerfully illustrated than in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Many of you have read that little story. In that story, the evil white witch finds Edmund alone and hungry and thirsty and she offers him something to drink. And then Lewis writes, "She offers him a box with several pounds of the best Turkish delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. At first, Edmund tried to remember that it's rude to speak with one's mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish delight as he could. And the more he ate, the more he wanted. At last the Turkish delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box, wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking, for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it 'til they kill themselves." This is at the beginning of the adventures of The Chronicles of Narnia and it isn't until Aslan the lion comes and frees the boy that he's finally saved from the temptation of Turkish delight.

Lewis's message is consistent with that of Scripture. Christ alone can rescue us from our craving for whatever it is we don't have. Ultimately, when we crave or covet something that doesn't belong to us we are showing dissatisfaction with what God has given us. It is to be discontent. To lust or to covet is to be discontent; they are the opposite of contentment. And when we are discontent, we're not merely discontent with our circumstances, ultimately we are discontent with God Himself.

Let me ask you a question this morning. If we could take the contents of your heart, the contents of your thoughts over this last week, and project them on a screen behind me, what would they show you crave? What is it that you delight in? What is it that you crave to have that you don't? What is it that motivates you to want to have more? Whatever it is, acknowledge that it's a sin against God's character, confess it to Him as a sin and forsake it, leave it, and ask God to give you a contented heart, a heart that is pleased to have Him and Him alone. Whatever it is that you desire, could be stuff, it could be those intangibles we talked about, it could be something I haven't mentioned at all this morning, but whatever it is that is your craving, it's Turkish delight; it will not, it cannot, satisfy your heart. You were made for God and your heart cannot rest until it finds its rest in Him. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this look at what causes us to be discontent. It's these cravings that express themselves out of our sinful flesh, longing to have what we don't and coveting, a heart that wants to have more. Lord, these have to be the ultimate expressions of our sin. Forgive us for having You and wanting anything else. What a violation of Your character that must seem to You. Father, I pray that You would help us to do serious introspection of our own hearts, to discover what it is that we crave, what it is we live for, to confess those things as sin to You and to ask You to give us a contented heart, a heart that is content to have You as our portion, and You alone.

And Lord I pray for the person here this morning who lives enslaved to their cravings, absolutely chained to their lusts. Lord I pray that You would strip away the veneer they've constructed this morning. Help them to see their hearts as You see them. And help them to come to You in true faith and repentance, embracing Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the only One who can overcome the Turkish delight of our souls. I pray it in the name of our Lord Jesus, amen.


Six Steps to Spiritual Stability - Part 4

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:1-9

Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 1

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:10-13

Contentment: The Lost Virtue - Part 2

Tom Pennington Philippians 4:10-13

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