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In Financial Uncertainty, Part 1

From the series I Choose Peace

A scouting report is designed to provide the inside scoop, the lay of the land, accurate conditions, so our tactics, in a given circumstance, will be successful. In this program, Chip tells us we need a scouting report when we pursue peace.

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Message Transcript

How many people know what I’m talking about if I say “a scouting report”?  What’s a scouting report? You look at the film, you watch the other team, and what do you do?  You figure out what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, so you come up with your game plan.

If you have small children, and someone says, “Can your little girl come over and stay overnight at our house?” and it’s someone from school and you don’t know them, what do you do?  You make phone calls to find out about these people; you go on the Internet and find out if there are any sexual offender predators in that neighborhood.  I mean, you check out what’s going on!

On a less light note, I had a very, very good friend, in my years in Dallas, who was a squad leader in Vietnam.  And he would take 12 to 15 men out, and they would do a little circular – about three to four miles – and make a loop, and he said the most terrifying thing – because he was the leader, and he had about 10 to 12 men in his care – and he said, “We would go out, and we’d make this loop, not every day, but very frequently, we’d find ourselves where we’d be in jungle, jungle, jungle, and then we’d have to go across a space of about a hundred yards – maybe two hundred, max – and it would be wide open – just rice paddies.  But you were completely exposed.

And so, he says, “I’d get a couple of my scouts, and they would literally, get down, belly with their rifles, go all the way.”  And then he says, “When they made it, they had everything checked out, they’d get up on one knee and – and motion us.”

And he said, “You watch guys with packs: We would run across there as fast as we could, with our hearts pumping, because we know the exposure in that hundred yards.”

And he said, “If we had a good scouting report, it wasn’t a problem.”  But he said, “There were times where I ran across there, and then I heard – Boom!  Pow-pow-pow, pow-pow-pow, pow-pow-pow! – and I would watch as one of the men I was responsible for would be hit, and we would all hit the ground.  And I had men with bullet holes and blood coming out of them that died in my arms because a scouting report was inaccurate.”

We’re going to talk about contentment’s greatest competitor, and we’re going to talk about how to beat it.  And the apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, is going to give you a scouting report, and this scouting report is, in fact, more serious than my friend in Vietnam.  If he got a bad scouting report, people could lose their physical life.  The scouting report that you’re going to get, if you don’t understand it and heed it, you can lose your soul; you can lead your kids and your friends, for all eternity, off the wrong path.  So, this is a serious message.

The apostle Paul gives us the scouting report in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 5 to 10.  And a good scouting report does about four basic things.  It says who’s the foe, how formidable is the foe, what are his tactics, and then where are we vulnerable?  So, let’s follow along.

The context is, some false teachers are moving through the Church, and so, he says, in verse 5, false teachers produce men of corrupt minds – that’s the product of false teaching – “who have been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”  That’s the context.

Paul is writing to his son Timothy, and he writes this letter and he says, “Timothy, when you receive this, you’ve got to understand, these false teachers are going around, they’ve been robbed of the truth, and what they teach – they actually teach – Can you believe this, Timothy? – that walking with God, serving God, loving Christ, is a way to get rich!  The reason you walk with God is, He’s going to make everything turn out great, and you’ll be wealthy.”  Does that sound familiar?

And then he’ll give his thesis: By contrast, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”  That’s our word.  The fact of the matter is, walking with God and knowing God and loving God, when there is a sense of supernatural sufficiency in Christ, is a great gain.

And then he’ll give two facts: Why is this true?  First, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”  “Timothy, these guys are promising, and people are wasting their lives, but Timothy, you need to remember you come in as this little, naked baby, and you go through ups, downs, but you know what?  They may put clothes on you, they may put you in a big, expensive casket or a wooden box or burn you up and put you in an urn, but you come in with nothing and you leave with nothing.”  And it’s a hundred percent true for a hundred percent of the people.  So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to follow these false teachers.

The second fact you need to remember is that, “If we have food and [clothes], we will be” – and then circle the word, it’s our word – “content.”  “If we have food and clothing” – put a line under the word clothing, because, literally, it means “covering.”  The apostle Paul says their teaching doesn’t make sense, but if we have food and covering – and the idea is covering for your body, clothes to keep you warm – and a covering, a roof could be a tent, it could be a RV, it could be a house, it could be a condo – but if you have something over your head to protect you from the elements and you have food, with Christ, Paul says, you’ve got all you need.  If He gives you more, great – be a wise steward of it, but that’s all you need, to be content with that.

And then verse 9, he’s going to give the scouting report.  In contrast to that mentality, people “who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires.”  And what do those harmful desires do?  They “plunge [men] into ruin and destruction.”  Well, why, and how does that happen?  Verse 10: “For the love of money is” – not “the,” but, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, [eager to get rich or] eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Now, I said a good scouting report answers those four questions.  Let’s take this text and let’s answer those four questions.

Question number one: Who is our foe?  The technical name is philarguria.  The little phrase there, “who want to get rich,” the phrase “love for money, eager for money” – the root word behind those, phila – to love, remember, like, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love? – phila philarguria – greed.  The street name is just “materialism,” “greed,” the belief “more, more, more, got to have – that will satisfy” – the love of money.  Age old.  That’s who our foe is.

How formidable is our foe?  If you have a pen, pull it out.  I want you to circle a few words that tell you how formidable this foe is.  Circle the word plunge.  Circle the word ruin.  Circle the word destruction.  Circle the phrase a root of all kinds of evil.  In other words, the love of money, it’s not just a financial problem.  Sixty percent or more of most marriages that fail are rooted in some financial issues.  It “is a root of all kinds of evil.”  Circle the word wandered.  Circle the word pierced, and circle the word griefs.

This foe is formidable.  It is a deeply, deadly, powerful, ruthless enemy that wants to destroy your physical life, your emotional life, your family life, your spiritual life, and take your soul!  That’s how formidable.

What are its tactics?  Put a box around the word temptation.  Put a box around the word trap.  Put a box around the word foolish, and put a box around the word harmful desires, and you will see the tactics.  The word temptation – what’s temptation?  Temptation is simply, usually, offering a good thing in the bad way.  Temptation is missing the mark.  A temptation is a lure.  The word for lure or trap, here, it’s that shiny thing that a fish sees, that gets its attention, but behind the shiny little lure is a hook.

And so, money promises power, position, popularity, self-image.  Money will give you this.  Money, you can live like this.  People will love you; they will like you.  You’ll be significant; you’ll be of value – until you chase money, and then – Ow!  Arghh!  That’s what the word is.  And that hook will plunge you into destruction in relationships.  It’ll alienate you from God.  Like Jesus said, it’ll be like the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, it’ll take the work of the Spirit of God and the Word of God in your life, and little by little, it will strangle you.

But notice the tactics.  Did you notice some of the words?  Trap, temptation, foolish, harmful, desires.

And then the product is, some, for their eager love of money, “have wandered.”  It’s in the passive voice.  You don’t wake up and make a willful decision, one day, to say, “You know, I love God, and I like being a student at this school, and I want Him to really use my life,” or “I’m married,” or, “I’m single, and, “I’m glad God’s given me these kids, and this is what really matters.  You know what?  I am just tired of living this way.  I think I’ll just chase money and throw all that away, and I’ll go hog wild and try and get rich.”  No one wakes up and does that.

Remember, what did Jesus say?  It’s “the deceitfulness of riches.”  Do you understand what deceit means?  It means that when you are loving money, and when you are wandering away from Christ, the only person that doesn’t know it is you.

The “have wandered from the faith,” it’s a picture of, like, two people talking in a boat, and there’s a current in the stream.  And they get talking – and they’re in a good conversation – and as they’re talking – the dock is right here . . . – and as they’re talking – “Oh, how’s that going, and how’s that going?” and they’re so engrossed in the talking, but the boat is being pushed down the stream.  And when they stop talking, they look up, and they’re two miles away from where they thought they were.

That’s this word.  You just wake up one day, and you’re far away from Christ.  And your priorities are out of order, and there’s tension in your marriage, and your kids are seeing things in you, and you are driven, and work is totally out of proportion, and things and what’s new and what you’ve got to have.  And your debt continues to rise and to grow.  And pretty soon, you have rationalized your way and you have pierced yourself with many a grief.  That’s his tactic.

And where are you vulnerable?  First and foremost, in your heart.  The heart is deceitful above all else.

Can I just let you in on something?  The issue is not if you have a problem of philarguria; the issue is not if you’re being deceived.  The issue is not if you are greedy.  We’re just going to try and find out how greedy you are and how greedy I am.  All right?

We are vulnerable, not only in our heart – but you are living in a culture, and I am living in a culture, with every commercial and every magazine and every advertisement and every new style and every new car.  We are the people.  The goal of an advertisement is to – what? Produce discontent.

Those old shoes aren’t good enough.  That old car’s not good enough.  You don’t want that house.  Those kind of sinks aren’t in anymore.  You know what?  The skirts are too long; now they’re too short; now they go to the middle.  The heels are high; now they’re flat; now they’re red; now they’re white.  Pink is in this year; light blue’s going to be next year; lime green really coming in!  Until we got closets full of stuff that we don’t wear that’s good, because we’ve been hooked and deceived.

So, the issue today is not, are you greedy; the only issue is, to what extent is the hook in your mouth, and what are you going to do about it, and what am I going to do about it?  Because the implications . . . ruin, plunged, pierced, destruction. This is way heavier than my Vietnam story.

Because you might jot Luke 16, 13 through 15: When Jesus took the whole area of spirituality, He said, “You know what?  There are basically two options: You can either worship Me, or you worship” – what He called mammon, or money, or greed, or materialism, or consumerism.

You are either in this camp or in that camp.”  And so, what I want to help you – by God’s grace and His Spirit, through His Word – I want to help you, and I want to help me, break the grip of greed in my life and in yours.

This isn’t something you can just grow into someday, some way.  It is possible to come to a point, spiritually, where you can say, “When times are terrible or where times are great, as I learn to be grateful, as I learn to be teachable, as I learn to be flexible, and as I learn to be confident, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  It is possible to be completely content in this life, by the power of the grace of God through your relationship with Christ.  And that’s priceless, as the commercial says.  I mean, that is really priceless.

I think it was Jean Paul Getty who, at the very end of his life, had amassed millions and millions and millions, and they asked him, “What’s it really take to be satisfied?”  His answer?  “Just a little bit more.”

And so, what we’re going to see from the Philippian church, they are going to be a model for us.  We’re going to look at the Philippian church and how they related to Paul, and they will model how you can break the grip of greed from your heart and life, and how I can do it, as well.

So, after saying he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, he’s going to say, “Here’s how to break the grip of greed: Develop personal compassion.”  See, what greed does, it hardens your heart.  What your focus on money does is, things, things, things, things become important, and God, God, God, and people don’t.

And so, the only way to combat that is, you’ve got to get your heart tenderized so it’s soft toward God and soft towards people, so you care.

How do you develop compassion?  By putting others’ needs ahead of our wants.  That’s how you do it.  You take some of your wants, and you find someone who has a real need, and you say, “I’m going to let go of that want, and I’m going to take the time or energy or money for that want, and I’m going to give it to this need.”

Watch how the Philippians model this.  Verse 14, after he says he “can do all things through [Christ] who gives me strength,” he says, “Yet it was good of you to share in my [trouble].  Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days” – it was about 10 years ago, and best you can piece it together, the church was planted plus or minus around 10 years ago.  And if you want to get the story, jot Acts 16.  That’s where Lydia – the church started, there by the riverbank.  And then the Philippian jailer comes to Christ and Paul gets in trouble, like usual, and . . .

But, they’ve built this bond, and this is a real connect.  And he goes, “It was good of you” – literally, “it was beautiful, it was winsome, it was a – it was a thing of beauty, the way that you were to koinoneo with me.  You shared with me.  We became partners.”  And he said, “When did we become partners?  In my troubles.”  And the word for “trouble,” there, is a technical word in the New Testament for the afflictions or the pain that would come on a person’s life for sharing Christ.

And he goes on to say, “You remember the old days, when you were first acquainted with the Gospel, and then I set out for Macedonia?  Not one church shared,” or, literally, “partnered with me in the manner of giving and receiving, except you only.”

And Paul basically is saying, “This is a thank-you letter, and Epaphroditus brought the financial gift, and I’m in prison, and I just want you to know . . . thank you so much.  I’ve learned to be content, so I didn’t really need it, yet it was good of you to help out.”  And then he goes on to say here that, “Moreover, you were the only church to share.  You were this poor, little church, and you saw my need, and you generously gave to supply my needs.  You put my needs ahead of your want.”

And that’s how you do it.  This idea of giving and receiving, it’s all through the New Testament, of those who supply spiritual food for us – giving – need to receive financial provision so the ministry can go forward.  Paul will make that point in all the churches.

And I thought to myself, Where or how did this most profoundly get worked out in my life?  And I was in Dallas Seminary – because when you see a principle like this, you think to yourself, Well, when I really get a lot of excess, then I can help some other people, but . . .  What you know is that everybody is mentally middle class.  You do know that.  I don’t care what you make.  You make a hundred million dollars –the – billionaires, they’re rich, not me.  Right?  You make 80,000, you make 30,000 – I don’t care what you make, whoever makes more, they’re rich and you’re in need.  It’s life.

And so, I thought of a time when I learned this, when, in my mind, at least, I was very poor.  And so, we’re in seminary, and I’m making just under a thousand dollars a month, and I have three kids and going to school full time, and a guy comes to chapel – I’d never heard of the group, called “World Vision.”

And he came – and there were about a thousand students in this chapel – and he showed a video where, I’m crying and thinking of these poor kids and saying, Boy, I wish I could help them.  But, I can barely pay my rent!

And the guy gets up, and he said, “You know, you’re probably wondering why I would come to Dallas Seminary to show you this.”  And I’m thinking, Yeah, I’m wondering.  First of all, I’m glad I know now.  But I thought, Boy, I sure would love to help them, but I can’t.  And he said, “A lot of you are probably thinking that you’ve got two jobs; you’re barely making it.  Your wives are putting you through; you don’t make any money.  So, why would I come here?”

And he said, “Before I answer that question, can I just ask you a little quick question here in the group?”  And I still remember this.  He said, “How many of you – I know you don’t have hardly any money, but how many of you, just as a little treat, maybe at least once or twice a month, take your families out to McDonald’s?”  And, like, 95 percent of the hands went up.  Mine went up.

I mean, that was big time.  Three kids, two and a half Happy Meals.  We split the cheeseburger; everybody gets water.  I can get out of here for 14, 16 bucks!  And that’s, “Whoa!  Hey, kids, here we go!” – right? – “Ronald.  We’re going to have fun.  Golden arches.”  That was the moment.

And then I’ll never forget, he clicked a button and put a picture up of what I’d seen, and he said, “You know, if you go to McDonald’s twice a month… you know what I’m asking you?  That’s a want.  Would you be willing to give up going to McDonald’s once a month, and take that 16 dollars to feed and educate that child?”

And I’ll never forget walking home – that was 30-something years ago now, I think – and bringing a little picture of a little girl or a little boy – I can’t even remember now – and that started a 30-something-year journey that I thought, Yeah.  Decision.  Am I going to go to McDonald’s twice, or that kid get to eat once?  You see, compassion – your heart gets soft when you take your wants and sacrifice your wants for someone else’s need.