A devotional, based on 1 Timothy 6:6-7, delivered September 19, 2023, for EPA&GNJ weekly staff worship.
“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment…” 1 Timothy 6:6
The apostle Paul is wrapping up the first of his letters to his young protégé Timothy, full of practical advice and pastoral care.
Paul has an ability, as he shared in Philippians 4:12 & 13, to be content! He is content and at peace with what he has, which is just the basics. This contentment is rooted for him in his relationship with God, which he seeks to live out daily.
We live in a nation with more material wealth than perhaps any nation at any time in history. Yet so many of us struggle with contentment.
I remember one of the times I was deeply content while on a mission trip to Puerto Rico with my family and members of our congregation. We were painting a church in Salinas and digging a drainage ditch near the sanctuary. It was tough, hot work; and yet our team was blessed and encouraged by the joy and contentment visible in the congregation and its community.
They had very little, but they knew God’s love. And they had a strong sense of community with visible, contagious joy.
Today, most of you reading this may be bombarded by up to 10,000 targeted media messages and advertisements. All of them are designed to make you discontent. These messages you receive are designed to make you want more or feel incomplete without their products or services. This focus makes us feel dis-ease, and this harmful contagion is rampant in our society.
In their second book, “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways that Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself,” two leading physicians from Cooper Medical Center Health Services in Camden New Jersey, write about the pervasive “Me-Culture” that has been gaining traction in the last 50 years. “Despite our obsession with self-care and devotion to wellness,” they say, “we aren’t doing so well. According to various reports, all the self-focus is harming our health.”
Dr. Stephen Trzeciak, Cooper Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, Co-president & CEO, share from a number of studies and research that show the hoarding that many do, the continual chasing after more and claiming “what’s mine” is hurting us and our entire society.
Their prescription is “Live to Give.” And they show seven, evidence-based ways to care for others, as one grows in impact and contentment.
As I read their book I smiled because medical science is now catching up with what we are called to believe and what we have been seeking to live out as followers of Jesus. We do this also through the lens of John Wesley: “Loving neighbor as self.”
The Wesleyan movement got the name “Methodists” as a nick name or “cat call’ aimed at John Wesley and the Holy Club at Oxford. They were methodical in living out their faith. They methodically, relentlessly visited prisons and hospitals and cared for the hungry and poor.
So much of the focus over the history of the church has been on its Orthodoxy, meaning “right beliefs,” what Wesley called works of piety. But Wesley and others seeking to live the “Jesus way” across the centuries also have sought to incarnate their theology. They sought to put their beliefs into action through “right practices,” Orthopraxis, or what Wesley called works of mercy.
There is great gain in a relationship with God (that is, godliness) that is lived out with contentment and in community. As we “live to give,” a number of health indicators improve.
Imagine what might happen this fall as a number of congregations intentionally reflect on Stewardship and Generosity through the GENEROUS Breakthrough Series or other resources? What extraordinary generosity might be unleashed, and personal contentment discovered, when members participate in daily devotions and small groups. Imagine the impact of reflecting on our relationship with God and how God is stirring us, even calling us, to share with others our time, talents and finances?
Giving for Wesley was a means of expressing generosity that is rooted in gratitude for God’s generosity and a means of fulfilling the great commandment to love God and neighbor. He was convinced that if the Methodists would give all they can, then all would have enough. Stewardship is gift-full living so that all God’s children can have a place at the table of abundance.” From John Wesley on Giving”-ResourceUMC
* The Rev. Brian Roberts is Executive Director of the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of Greater New Jersey.
Many churches are using the Generous Stewardship Series from Breakthrough. Why not join them so your church can learn and live to give?
As we learn how to find our contentment in God, we will also discover the beauty in giving. Our lives will be evidence that the good life is the generous life – a life through which the grace of God flows into the world. Click here for sermon series.