Text: Hebrews 13:5-6
I’d like for you to open your Bibles to the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, and I want to read two verses. Hebrews 13:5-6,
Let your way of life be free from the love of money; being content with what you have: for he himself has said, I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. So that we confidently say, The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?
There are only two kinds of people in this building tonight. I wonder which kind you are. There are those tonight in this building who are covetous, and there are those who are content. Really, every person falls into one of these two categories. You are either covetous, or you are content. You can’t be both. There are no two things that are so mutually exclusive as covetousness and contentment. Like oil and water, fire and water, they won’t mix. You are either covetous or content.
I was thinking today, is there anything that a person could desire more than contentment? As a matter of fact, that is why a fellow is covetous. The only reason a person becomes covetous is because he wants to become content. So he feels if he is able to gain whatever it is he covets, that will make him content. Everybody may not call it this, or use this terminology, but everybody is looking for contentment.
The word contentment here means to be sufficient within yourself. It means to be possessed of a strength that is sufficient. One translation says to be strong enough for anything, to ward off or defend against anything—to be self sufficient, to be self sustaining. Another word would be satisfied, in the total sense of the word. To have such contentment, such sufficiency within yourself that if any covetousness comes knocking on your door, or any dissatisfaction comes to attack you, you can defend against it. You can ward it off.
One of the big problems in most Christians’ lives is that we have no defense against covetousness or dissatisfaction. Yet the writer of Hebrews is saying that the person who is content is a person who is possessed of such an inner strength and sufficiency that he can ward off and defend against any of these things.
Some of us are like a fellow who one day is satisfied; he thinks he now has everything he could ever want. He is perfectly satisfied. But the next day he is absolutely miserable. I wonder how many of us this describes in our Christian life. The only reason a person becomes covetous is so that he might become content.
The word covetous translated in the New American Standard is free from the love of money. Normally, that is what the word means—a love of money. It doesn’t mean having money. It means loving money, having such an emotional attachment to money that it dominates us, possesses us. But the word really is broader than simply a love for money. It simply means a dissatisfaction with what you have and an obsession to obtain something you do not have. It may be things, friendship, something tangible, something intangible, money, may not be money. It is to have such a greedy and grasping spirit that you are never satisfied with what you have, and you always want more. You burn every bit of energy. It occupies your mind. It absorbs your thoughts. It drains your energy. Your heart is the path to it. Jesus says that where your treasure is, there is your heart also.
Let’s not just think in terms of money because some of us really aren’t covetousness after money, but we are covetous after other things. We are not satisfied. There is a grasping spirit about us. This type of person never has enough; you can never do enough for him. No matter how much you do for him, he is never satisfied. No matter how much you give him, he is never satisfied. He always wants more. Nothing is enough!
Which person are you? Are you covetous, or are you contented? The writer is saying that we are not to be covetous, but rather we are to be contented. This simply means that we are to have within ourselves such an inner strength that there is nothing that can rob us of that soul satisfaction. If we could just move into this tonight, it would eliminate all envy. Do you know why a person is envious?—because they are covetous. This would eliminate all criticism. Do you know why a person has a critical spirit?—because he is covetous. You ask what he is coveting. He is coveting the good things you are saying about that other fellow.
I’m thinking of a man I know. If he is in a group and we start talking about a person who is not with us in a good way, saying what a fine fellow he is, this man will invariably have something bad to say about him. We were having lunch together not long ago. Somebody at the table began to talk about a pastor and what a fine man he was and what a gracious spirit he had. I knew what was coming. I knew he wasn’t about to let that go by. He never does. Immediately he began to say well, yes, but . . . . This is true of him, and he doesn’t have this. You see, he cannot stand to hear something good about anyone else. He is covetous, not after money but after flattery and applause; therefore, he is not content. A covetous person can never be happy because the main pain of a covetous person is that he has a gnawing anxiety and fear that he is not going to get what he wants, or that somebody else is going to get it first. He wants to be the first kid on his block to have one. He lives in a gnawing anxiety and fear that he is not going to get what he wants, or that somebody else is going to get it and be complimented for it.
I pray today: Lord, I want you to make me content. This word actually refers to any kind of circumstance. Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter 4? He is in prison, and he doesn’t know what is going to happen to him. As far as he knows, he is going to be executed. Actually, that what he thinks is going to happen. He has himself all primed to have his head cut off. So he says, but I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. This is the same word. Every time I read this, I say, Lord, you have made me content in a lot of places. If you could make me content in a Roman prison, facing death, being criticized and lied about by my colleagues, I think that would be contentment indeed.
I want to tell you something that goes along with contentment. Do you know what goes along with contentment? Confidence! I want to show you something in this Hebrews passage that is beautiful to me. In verse 5 the writer says let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for he himself (God himself. There is an emphasis in the text here. Who is it that said this? It is God. What has he said?) has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Notice this in verse 6.) So that we confidently say (or we say with confidence), “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?”
When a person is content and has learned the secret of that inner sufficiency that makes him satisfied in any circumstance, he is a person who always has a confident confession. You can come up to him in the midst of the greatest battle and say how goes the battle, and he will give you a word of confidence. You can meet the Shunamite woman as she comes from the prophet’s room where she has laid her dead boy on the bed, and say to her, is it well with thy boy, and she will give a confident confession. It is well. You can talk to a person as I did today who is lying on a hospital bed, seriously ill, but yet has found the secret of contentment. You can say to him, how goes it? And he will give you a confident confession—a courageous, confident confession. The amazing thing about this word confidently is that it has the idea of being cheerful, of being of good cheer.
I hope you are tying all this together. A person who is contented, who has found the secret and source of contentment is one who is always of good cheer, always cheerful. Concerning the person who has not found that, who is covetous, you may thank him, but you didn’t thank him enough. He may have gotten applause, but not applause enough. He lives in fear that somehow, somebody is going to get ahead of him. He always “down in the mouth.” He does not know the secret of joy and of being of good cheer.
I’ve said all that to say this: would you like to know the secret and the source of a confident contentment, no matter the circumstance. You can always have that inner sufficiency that wards off any dissatisfaction and malcontent. It comes from two things that God has said.
Look at the Hebrews 13:5, Let your way of life be free from the love of money; being content with what you have: (notice the next word) for (or because. He is giving to us the basis of contentment.) he himself has said, (the secret and the source of a contentment and a confidence is knowing what God has said, of believing what God has said. God has said two things. When we hear God say these two things to us, I’m not talking about reading them out of the Bible. By the way, you do know that there is a difference in reading God’s Word out of the Bible, and having God speak it to you as you read it. You didn’t know there was a difference? Yes, you know there is a difference. I pray that God will show you the difference, and how to make the difference. There is a vast difference between reading and knowing that God has said this, and then having God say it to me personally. That is the thrill of it all. There have been Scriptures that I have read, and I have read this one before. But, do you know what? God spoke this word to me today. I have read this a lot of times. I’ve read through the book of Hebrews. There was a time when I even thought about preaching on that passage, but God never said that to me. But in the wee hours of this morning, do you know what? God said this to me. Suddenly, this became my personal word from God. It couldn’t be any more personal than if God had written me a special delivery letter and said this is to you, Ron.) I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you. (It was no more just ink on paper; it wasn’t just what God has said; it was what was saying to ME. That’s what makes all the difference.
When this written Word becomes the living Word, and the Word becomes flesh and is translated into reality in your heart and life, God is speaking to you in your Spirit, and you know that it is true. That is where faith comes from. Faith comes from what?—hearing the Word. When God speaks his Word to you, faith is born. A lot of verses that I have faith in, and they help me to put my faith in God, and I can believe God, I’ve known those verses all my life, but I have never been able to believe God for them. Do you know why? Because I didn’t hear them, I just read them. But there came a day in my life, a moment in my extremity when God said to ME, the same thing that I had read and heard and heard preachers say. But suddenly God spoke to me through this book and made it personal. Suddenly, that is where faith was born.
What does God say? This is so much introduction, I may never get to the middle of it! He said two things: 1) I will never desert you. 2) Nor will I ever forsake you. The Revised Version has it like this, and it brings out better the idea of the word: I will never fail you. He said I will never fail you; I will never forsake you.
First of all, he says I will never fail you. Let me mention this. I found something today that I didn’t know was there. Bro. Ed Harris came in the office about the time I discovered that, and I shared it with him to see what he thought about it, to see if he felt like that was anything worth sharing. I didn’t know this was in there. I got so excited I almost shouted, but there was somebody in the next office, and I was afraid they might think I had taken leave of my senses.
As I looked this passage up in the Greek New Testament, I discovered that there are three negatives before each verb. When he says I will never desert you, there are three negatives there. When he says nor will I ever forsake you, there are three negatives there. Now, people, that is highly unusual and irregular. I’ve run across a lot of double negatives, but I don’t think I have ever run across a double triple negative in the same verse. Here is what he is saying. I will not, I will not, I will not fail you. I will not, I will not, I will not forsake you. Do you think God meant what he was saying? I don’t know about you, but that impresses me because God is of such a nature and character that he rarely ever repeats himself. I have this vision of God Almighty whose word is eternal, and he needs only to speak it once and it becomes eternalized. But he says three times, twice in that same verse, I will not, I will not, I will not fail you. I tell you what. That gives me confidence. After awhile, it begins to get through to me that God is trying to say to me I will not fail you.
This word fail is an interesting word. What God is promising here in this situation is his power. This word means to withdraw a hand that sustains us. It means to let go, to release a grip on somebody, to give somebody up. Here is what God is saying. The Bible says that I am in God’s hands. Jesus says no man can pluck thee out of my hand. My Father which gave them unto me is greater than all, and no man can pluck thee out of my Father’s hands. The writer comes along and quotes what God has said. He said I will never withdraw my hand that holds you up. I will never release or loosen my grip upon you. I used to think that my stability and success in the Christian life meant how firm a grip I had on the Lord. I used to hear people pray “just hang on, brother, hang on.” I don’t to get too far off here. I don’t know if this is theological or not. I’ll have to check this out. It might be correct to hang onto the Lord. Is there a verse of Scripture somewhere that tells us to hang on? That might be all right to hang onto the Lord. But I get in such straits that I lose my grip. It is not my hanging onto the Lord; it is the Lord hanging onto me. That makes all the difference in the world.
Years ago I heard a little illustration that I heard so much. It is so trite that I haven’t used it in twenty years so it will be fresh. A little girl was walking with her daddy. They were going to walk across a river on an old rickety bridge. The little girl was scared to death. As they started to walk across the bridge, the daddy said, honey, you just hang on to daddy’s hand and you’ll be all right. The little girl said, no, daddy, I’m afraid to hang onto you. I might not hang on strong enough. Daddy, you hang onto me. That is what God is saying here. That’s what gives a person confidence. If you believe tonight that you are hanging onto God, then the only way you can keep God in your corner or on your side is to get such a tight grip upon him that he can’t get away. When you begin to get weak and come to see yourself as you are and know you are, as worthless as God has known you were all along, you suddenly begin to lose confidence because you realize you are not strong enough to hang on. But he says I will not fail you. I’ll not let you go. You are in my hands, and I am never going to lose my grip on you. That gives me confidence.
He says a second thing that is even better. He says not only will I not fail you; I will not forsake you. The first one is a promise of God’s power, God’s protection. The second one is a promise of God’s presence, and that is so much better. He says I won’t forsake you. The word forsake means to leave in the lurch. Have you ever been left in the lurch? It means to abandon someone who is in dire straits. Have you ever been in dire straits? When people lose their contentment and their confidence, it is when they think in the midst of dire straits God has gone on and left us behind. He has abandoned us. Honestly, some of you think if you can ever manage to pull yourself out of those dire straits, God will come back and get hold of you again. God is saying not only will I not fail you; my power is going to be with you. I myself am going to be with you. That is why you ought to be content. You ought to be content because I am with you. If I’m not with you, you wouldn’t be content with everything, but when I am with you, you will be content with anything. I’ll never leave you behind. My presence shall go before you.
Do you remember over in Joshua 13, and again in Ezekiel 44, it is mentioned that when the people of Israel came into the promised land there were 12 tribes. God begins to partition the land off and to give to each tribe an inheritance of that land. Do you know what God said in Joshua 13:14? God said to Aaron, you can give an inheritance to the tribe of Dan, to the tribe of Beersheba, to the tribe of Judah, but you will not give anything to the tribe of what? Levi. What was the tribe of the Levi? They were the priestly tribe. Do you know what you are? You are a kingdom of priests. God has made you priests. You are Levites. You didn’t know that, did you? You thought you were Irvingites. He said to Aaron, you will not divide and not give an inheritance to Levi for I am their inheritance. God gave them nothing because they had everything. God said you can give the rest of these people a plot of land, but you don’t need to give the Levites anything. They have me. I will be their inheritance. They are not to take roots in ground; they are to take root in me. They are not to live off the land. They are to live off me. They are not to get their security, stability, contentment, confidence from owning a plot of land. They are to get it from me. I am their inheritance. They don’t need anything because they have everything in me.
I am amazed at how the Bible always points to Jesus Christ, always points to God himself as the solution to every problem. Moses prayed and said, Lord, show me thy glory. I don’t know all that Moses wanted, but he wanted something spectacular, something that nobody else had ever seen or had. Moses had just been commissioned for a terrific task, and I guess he thought he needed a little extra shot of something. God said, my presence shall go with thee. That’s all you need Moses. You don’t need anything else.
Philip in John 14, speaking to Jesus, said show us the Father and that will be enough. Jesus said he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. In Luke 1 when the angel came to Zacharias to bring the message that Elizabeth was going to bear a son, Zacharias found it difficult to believe. He said whereby shall I know that this thing is going to come to pass. In other words, he was asking for some additional information, some outside confirmation. Gabriel didn’t give him any additional information. He said I am Gabriel that stands in the presence of God. You are going to be dumb because you haven’t believed what I told you. What was Gabriel saying? He was saying, Zacharias, you do not need any more evidence than the fact that I am in the presence of God.
Jesus makes these audacious, remarkable statements. He said if any man thirst, let him come to me. All ye that labor and are heavy laden, come unto me and I will give you rest. Jesus always pointed to himself as the source of all the sufficiency. That’s all you need. You got that when you were saved. You received everything you needed when you were saved.
I want to share with you one passage of Scripture before we are finished. I will not read it because it takes up the whole sixth chapter of the book of John. In John 6 Jesus performs a miracle. Do you know what that miracle was?—bread. He fed the people with bread. Everybody is absolutely at what Jesus Christ has done. He has done the impossible. He has performed a miracle. Immediately, they have seen the miracle, eaten the bread, they begin to follow Jesus. Notice what they say. They have seen the bread. They like the bread. They are impressed with the bread. They follow Jesus and ask for more information. Show us another miracle. Do a sign that we may see and believe you. Does that sound familiar? We can’t really be sure you are with us, and that you are really who you say you are. You need to give us some additional information, confirm everything you said, show us a sign that we may see and believe. Their belief was based upon what they could see—a sign.
They said our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. As it is written he gave them bread out of heaven to eat. They said Moses did that. Can you do better than that? Jesus answered and said for the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world. That sounded so good to them they said therefore to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life. They didn’t understand it. He said you don’t believe it. They said, Lord, give us this bread. Feed us again. Give us another miracle. Gift us this gift, this experience. Jesus said, I am the bread of life. Lord, you don’t understand what we are asking. He said, I am the bread of life.
So he goes on in that passage of Scripture and points out that they are following him because of the bread. Jesus said unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood ye have no part in me. The Bible says in verse 66 when he said that many of his disciples withdrew and walked no more with him. Do you see what Jesus was doing?
We have a lot of miracle-mongers today. We have within us this insatiable desire for bread. We see Jesus perform a miracle. We see that bread and take that bread. We are so excited about that bread. We come to Jesus and say do it again. Do more. These people came in after you made the bread. Make some more or they won’t believe it. Jesus said, no. Jesus was trying to draw their attention away from the miracle and focus it on him. He said, I am the bread of life. You don’t need miracles; you don’t experiences; you don’t need gifts; you don’t need anything else. I am the bread of life. Unless you feast on me, find in me your all and all, eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. The minute Jesus began to de-emphasize the bread aspect of Christianity, and began to emphasize himself, the Bible says many of his disciples withdrew and walked away from him.
That is what is happening today. There is no contentment because so-and-so has a better gift than I, or so-and-so had a better experience than I had. He got and gave his testimony after I gave mine. His experience was so much greater. He had twice as many chill bumps playing leapfrog on his back than I had on mine. He had a miracle—a leg lengthened, an arm straightened. I didn’t have that. I don’t have what you have so I become discontent and (he said un-confident) lack confidence in my Christian life. Jesus said it’s me. It’s me. It’s not the miracles. It’s me. Unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my flood, you have no life in you.
If we are not careful, we find ourselves walking with Jesus because of the bread. Do you know what God said to me sometime ago? God blessed our church so much and did so many things. The power and anointing of the Spirit of God was on our church so much that you just drive on the parking lot and immediately fall under conviction. I remember one day I was driving down Rochelle thinking about all those things. I had written an article for the church paper that day and I had talked about all the things, the bread that Jesus had given us. As I was driving down the street, God came to say to me, would you still do all that and praise the Lord if I took away the bread—if you walked in and there was no feeling of excitement, no miracles, no ecstasy, no excitement? What are you following?—the bread or me.
A person who is won because of the bread will apostatize when Jesus goes out of the bread making business. I had supper with a young man, older than I am. For two hours we talked. His face shone like an angel. I’m not saying this to do anything but give you an illustration of what I am talking about. He is a Baptist, and also what is called a charismatic. I don’t like that word. It has become a technical term for some people. It is a good Christian word, and I don’t like to label people like that. He was caught up. For two hours he talked, and his expression was “the beautiful manifestations of the gifts that I have seen.” He went on and on about the manifestation of this gift. There is nothing wrong with the manifestation of the gifts. You know what I believe. I believe in the gifts. They are precious because God gave them. We finished, walked out. For two solid hours he had talked about the bread. He never once mentioned the name of Jesus. Never once did the name of Jesus fall from his lips.
Are you saying that he didn’t love Jesus? I’m not saying that at all; I’m just saying that he was more impressed with the bread than he was with Jesus. I will tell you what is going to happen. God has a sense of humor, an ironic sense of humor. There are a lot of us tonight who have been guilty of following the bread. God always invariably withdraws the bread to test our commitment. If he were to withdraw the bread tonight, would you withdraw from him? He says two things that ought to make you content. I will never fail you, and I will never forsake me. You have my protection and my presence. I am your inheritance. When we hear God say that, we can confidently say, the Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?
I wish I had time to preach the second part of this message, what God says and our echo. We say confidently, the Lord is my helper. These Christians at this time were going through severe persecution, but they said the Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid. The word afraid means I will not run from anything. I will not be put to flight. What can man do to me? Well, they will burn you at the stake! What can man do to me? The Lord is my helper. You may burn me at the stake, but that only brings me into the fuller presence of the Lord. What can man do to me?
I just want to acknowledge tonight and say with confidence, the Lord is my helper. That word is made up of two words. One means a shout, and the other means to run. I’m really not certain of all that means, but I get the picture of a huge giant of a soldier running to the defense of somebody and shouting victory, terrifying the enemy. He says you better leave me alone. The Lord will come running with a shout. Why should I run? Do you see the picture? This all fits together so beautifully. He said why should I be afraid? Why should I be put to flight? Why should I run in that direction? The Lord is running in my direction to help me, to save me. What can man do to me?
I want to say with confidence tonight that I am content and that the Lord is my helper. What shall I fear? What can man do to me?
Let’s pray together.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2006