A SATISFIED MIND
A sermon on 1Timothy 6:6-19
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
September 29, 2019
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
I had an odd experience while I was watching Netflix the other day…
Currently available on Netflix is a documentary titled “Olé! Olé! Olé!” The program is part diary, part concert video concerning a 2016 concert tour of Latin America by the rock band The Rolling Stones. The film chronicles the 10 city tour with concert footage, interviews with the band, interviews with members of the audience and the drama surrounding the tour. The last stop on the tour was to be a free concert that The Rolling Stones were putting on in Cuba. This would be a momentous occasion for the band and for the country because it would be the first concert ever played in Cuba by a rock and roll band.
As it so happened, this concert date in Cuba was scheduled for Good Friday. And earlier that week, the pope was visiting Cuba as well. Consequently there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not the authorities would actually allow the show to take place. (Frankly I think the tour manager should have been fired on the spot. Scheduling a concert on the evening of Good Friday, a day of holy obligation…in a Communist country that is predominantly Roman Catholic…during the same week as the pope’s visit—why would anyone think that was a good idea?) But of course, as you knew they would all along, The Rolling Stones prevailed. The concert took place in spite of the controversies and, by the end of the documentary, everything was wonderful and glorious…
Everybody knows Mick Jagger. And everyone knows that he is the lead singer for The Rolling Stones. He is surely one of the most famous and successful musicians of his generation—or of any other generation, for that matter. When this tour took place, Jagger was 73 years old. By this time of his life, Mick had been married four times and had fathered eight children by five different women. He had come through a haze of alcohol and drug addiction in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, that he lived to tell about when many of his fellow musicians did not. He is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and he is adored by tens of millions of ardent fans all over the world. He has the respect and admiration of his peers in the music world. He has even been knighted by the Queen of England due to his service to the Empire. But here’s where it gets weird…
The closing song of the concert (and of the documentary) is their classic 1965 hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I am sure that all y’all know the song. When the song was released, The Rolling Stones were five young men in their early twenties, and the song expressed their feelings of adolescent rebellion against the status quo of conventional English society. The song was perfect for its time. It quickly became their signature hit and one of the songs that defined the music of the 1960’s.
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But now I was watching a 70-something year old Mick Jagger sing the very same song as he had for more than 50 years—dancing and shimmying across the stage, punching the air with his fists for emphasis. With all of the wealth and fame and accolades that he has garnered over the years, Jagger is now as much a part of the Establishment as anyone is. Yet there he was still singing “I can’t get no satisfaction…And I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried…Hey, hey hey—that’s what I say.” And I found myself thinking, “Really, Sir Mick? Is that how you really feel? For all that you’ve accomplished in your life…and for all the success that you’ve enjoyed…and for all the recognition that you have received, can you still not get any satisfaction? Are you still seeking a measure of meaning and contentment that you have yet to find after all these years?” I confess that the sight of Mick singing those words filled me with several emotions all at the same time—including a sense of skepticism… and a bit of pity…
And I then I thought, “Well, maybe I’m just reading too much into this. Maybe it’s just a song—a song and nothing more—something that has no more meaning to him than if he were singing, say, songs like “Moon River” or “As Time Goes By.” Maybe…Or perhaps the song is nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia for him and his audience in which to relive their younger years. Could be…
I do not know Mick’s heart nor would I presume to know it. But today’s scripture text from 1 Timothy 6 has something to say about the topics of success and its meaning in the life of the Spirit. And I think that these are lessons that can speak to us all about gaining a satisfied mind…
Today’s text contains what is probably one of the most quoted—and misquoted—of all of the Apostle Paul’s writings. The line that we may hear often goes like this, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Occasionally it gets garbled and reduced so that it is misquoted as simply “Money is the root of all evil.” The truth of the matter is that neither of things are likely what the Apostle Paul had in mind when writing these words to Timothy. Not all evil is done with an eye to gain money—though admittedly a lot of it is. And money in and of itself is not immoral. It is the attitude that a person has toward wealth that can poison one’s relationship to God and with others. And Paul cautions Timothy about that danger.
In the verses that appear earlier in this chapter, Paul writes against false teachers who have invaded the fellowship. He says that these false teachers have a habit of stirring up trouble that causes all kinds of things detrimental to the church—things like envy, infighting, malicious talk, and gossip. He adds to this list in verse five that these teachers “think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
The concept that we serve God because of what we can get out of it is the direct opposite of the gospel message. The “What’s in it for me” attitude toward serving Jesus is contrary to the teachings of our Lord. In Mark, Jesus teaches the crowd that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. In response, Simon Peter tells Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” As I read that, I detect a note of self-congratulation in his voice—that notion that since they have sacrificed so much for Jesus, that they will receive big rewards.
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But Jesus lets him know that it does not work like that in the Kingdom of God. Instead he declares that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. I am not sure exactly what that all means, but I think that the obvious meaning is that the kingdom of God and serving Jesus is not a quid pro quo, this-for-that kind of arrangement. Such thinking is antithetical to the gospel.
And so in the opening verse of the text, Paul writes that, in contrast to those teachers, the point to godliness is not to make money. Instead, he writes that the secret to the life of the Spirit is godliness combined with contentment. He says that we bring nothing into the world and we will leave this world taking nothing with us.
In verse 11, there is al list of six qualities of living the spiritual life that Timothy is encouraged to pursue. This word “pursue” in the Greek is diōke. This pursuit is not to be a once and for all only kind of thing. NO—Diōke means “to keep on pursuing.” What the apostle is telling Timothy is that the pursuit of godliness is a lifelong process. So what is Timothy to keep on pursuing?
Paul lists six qualities in verse 11 that we are to pursue. They are arranged neatly into two groups of three.
The first three characteristics of the spiritual life are aspects of our life directed toward God: First there is righteousness. Righteousness means living in a right relationship to God. Righteousness really means “right living.” Doing the things that you are supposed to do. Living your life under the Holy Spirit’s direction, doing what God wants you to do. Second there is Godliness. Godliness is nothing more than a way of life that is acceptable to God and pleases him. It also involves living your life as a living testimony to God before others, and demonstrating to them how the Lord can change their lives as he has changed ours. Third is Faith. Faith is simply trusting in God to the point of being obedient to him. It is counting on God to fulfill his promises to us—and then living our lives as if he will.
The second three characteristics of life in the Spirit have to do with our relationships with other people. Paul writes that we are to have: Love—the Greek word here used for “love” is agape. This is the kind of love that is self-offering and self-giving. It is the highest form of love, since this is the same word used to describe God’s love for us. We are to love as God loves—liberally, freely and unconditionally. Next is steadfastness. Often in the New Testament, this word is translated as “patience.” But here the focus is on the ability to hold on to, to persevere in the faith, to not give up, but to always be full of hope, even though the visible signs may point to something different. Finally there is gentleness. The old King James Version translates this as “meekness.” It is a quality of humility—of not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. It includes not
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being harsh or cruel to others. Instead it means to treat others in a kind and considerate manner in all of our dealings.1
The cultivation of these qualities in our lives, the Apostle Paul tells us, will result in godliness combined with contentment. These things add up to a satisfied mind.
Dr. Theodore Adams was a longtime pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. In his book, Making the Most of What Life Brings, he told this story about what it means to live with a satisfied mind:
When changes in your outer circumstances cannot be altered, then you must make inner adjustments. In one tragic hour, a woman of strong Christian convictions lost her loved ones, her home and her money. Others who lacked her faith might have cursed God and longed for death (as Job’s wife suggested to him.) But she continued to live with a serene and calm confidence. “How do you do it?” she was asked. Her glowing reply was “The chaos is around me, not within me.”2
That, I would suggest to you, is the essence of the satisfied mind in the life of the Spirit. “Godliness combined with contentment” is how the Apostle Paul put it…
We end today with the performance of Red Hayes’ and Jack Rhodes’ song “A Satisfied Mind.” It is a song that was a #1 hit in 1955 and has since been recorded by many different musical artists representing lots of different genres. This includes the likes of country singers Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, folksinger Joan Baez, Robert Plant (yes–that Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame!), jazz great Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Dylan. It seems to me that it echoes much of what the Apostle Paul had to say in this passage, especially when he warned about the dangers of wealth to the life of the Spirit. You will recall that Paul wrote these words to Timothy in verse 6, “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” The apostle would say that godliness plus contentment equals a satisfied mind…
How many times have you heard someone say
If I had his money, I’d do things my way
But little they know, that it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.
Once I was winning in fortune and fame;
Everything that I dreamed for, to get a start in life’s game
But suddenly it happened, I lost every dime,
But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind.
Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind.
1 I am indebted to W. Hulitt Gloer “1 & 2 Timothy” Smyth and Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2010), 202 for this material.
2 Quoted in C. Douglas Weaver, A Cloud of Witnesses (Macon, GA: Smyth &Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1993), 146.
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When my life is ended, my time has run out,
My friends and my loved ones, I’ll leave with no doubt
But one thing for certain when it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.3
To God alone be the glory! Amen.
The closing hymn this morning is a gospel hymn that makes the statement “I am satisfied with Jesus.” And then it comes around to ask “Is my Master satisfied with me?” As we sing this hymn together, I would ask that you look inside of your heart this morning and ask yourself that very same question, “Is my Master satisfied with me?” And then resolve within yourself to live the life that he has called you to live.
Insert—“Satisfied with Jesus”
A SATISFIED MIND