So last week at Melbourne Heights, we started a new sermon series called “Enough is Enough.” Now, this series isn’t about what to do when you get fed up with someone or something and you’ve reached the point where enough is enough. No, this series of sermons is about helping us all realize that God has given us enough in our lives. This series is about helping us be grateful instead of greedy. This series is about teaching us that enough is enough.
But realizing that enough is enough isn’t exactly easy. We talked about this last week, but we aren’t great at being grateful.
We aren’t great at being grateful.
And since we aren’t great at being grateful, that means that we always want more. We want more money in our bank accounts. We want more food in our pantry. We want more clothes in our closets. We want more desserts on our Thanksgiving table. We want more presents under our Christmas tree.
And since we always seem to want more that made me wonder: Exactly how much would be enough?
So let me ask you, how much money would you need to bring home every year to feel like you had enough? How much money would you need to bring home to feel like you had enough money in your bank account? How much money would you need to bring home every year to feel like you had enough food in your pantry or clothes in your closet? How much money would you need to bring home every year to feel like you would have enough desserts at Thanksgiving or presents under your tree at Christmas?
How much is enough?
Well, the average income for one person in the United States last year was $35,977 but, since we always want more, $35,977 clearly isn’t enough for us to be content. And the average household income was $67,521 but once again, since we always want more, $67,521 isn’t enough for us to be content either. So how much is enough?
If you made $75,000 a year would you be content? If you made $100,000 a year would you be content? If you made a million dollars a year would you be content?
Well, this is something that a group of researchers from Purdue University tried to figure out back in 2018. In conjunction with Gallop World Polls, these researchers surveyed more than 1.6 million people from all across the world trying to figure out just how much money someone needed to earn each year to feel satisfied with their life. And these researchers discovered that here, in the United States, a person needs to bring home $105,000 each year to be content.
Now, $105,000 is a lot of money. And it’s especially a lot of money to earn in one year. I mean, there just aren’t that many professions that will pay you $105,000 a year. But let’s just imagine that you had one of the professions that paid you that kind of money. And, after doing a little research I found that the average lawyer in Kentucky earns about $105,000 a year. So let’s all pretend that we’re lawyers.
Now, obviously, I’m a minister, not a lawyer so I don’t understand all the nuance that goes into this profession. But I do know that even though we all have the right to defend ourselves in a court of law that not everyone can be a lawyer. If you want to be a lawyer in the United States you have to have a college degree, you have to pass the Law School Admission Test (or LSAT, for short), you have to get into a law school where you need to earn your Juris Doctor degree and determine what area of the law you’ll specialize in, and, on top of all of that, you then have to pass the Bar exam in whatever state or states you intend to practice law in. And that’s all before you can even really apply for a job that might someday pay you $105,000 a year.
So, the average lawyer spends four years earning a college degree. They spend months preparing for their LSATs and doing everything they can to get into the most prestigious law schools possible. Then they spend another three years at law school before taking the Bar. And that makes it hard to believe that anyone would put in that kind of work to earn the kind of salary that other people only dream of only to walk away from it all. And if somebody did have the nerve to walk away from a prestigious career and a six-figure salary, it’s even harder to believe that they could end up being more content.
But that’s exactly what happened to the Apostle Paul. Now, the Apostle Paul was the foremost missionary and theologian of the first century. But before Paul became a missionary and theologian, Paul was a lawyer, he was an expert in religious law.
Now, Paul was a lawyer in ancient Israel so he obviously didn’t have to go through the same process to become a lawyer that modern-day Americans do. But that doesn’t mean it was any easier to become a lawyer back then.
Just like modern-day lawyers, Paul had to spend years studying the law. Now, Paul wouldn’t have been studying the Constitution or the US Penal Code. In Paul’s case, he would’ve spent years studying the law of Moses. And, just like modern-day law students want to study at the most prestigious schools possible, Paul would’ve wanted to study law under the most respected teachers possible.
So the book of Acts – which records the history of our faith in the decades after Jesus’ resurrection – tells us that Paul studied under a man named Gamaliel. And at one time Gamaliel was the president of the highest court in Israel, the Jewish Sanhedrin. So Gamaliel was kind of like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But Gamaliel didn’t just hold a high position in Israel’s courts, he was also one of the most respected teachers of his time. So studying under Gamaliel would’ve been like going to Harvard Law.
So the fact that Paul studied the law under Gamaliel tells us that Paul essentially studied at the most prestigious law school possible and that he clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court all at the same time. And that means that Paul was on the fast track professionally. If he had been applying to work at legal firms, he would’ve had the best recommendations possible – in Acts 22, Paul even says:
5 The high priest and the whole Jerusalem Council can testify about me.
Acts 22:5 (Common English Bible)
But then Paul meets Jesus on the road to a city called Damascus and everything changes. Paul walks away from his life as a lawyer and becomes a missionary. Paul travels the world to share the good news of Jesus. And, as a result, he often runs afoul of the law.
That’s right, Paul – who was once a lawyer – gets arrested at least three different times, and he spends more than five years in jail before he is executed for his crimes. And just what exactly were his crimes? Well, Paul gets arrested after he casts a demon out of a slave…and the slave’s owner gets mad about it. He gets arrested a second time for going to the temple to pray…only the folks at the temple weren’t glad to see him and his visit caused a riot. And we’re not exactly sure why he was arrested a third time, but there’s little doubt that his arrest had something to do with Paul sharing the good news good Jesus.
Now, I know that we’ve covered a lot of information so far today, so let’s take a second and recap what we’ve covered. So we’ve been talking about Paul. And we learned that Paul was once a lawyer. But Paul wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill lawyer. Paul was the ancient equivalent of an Ivy League grad who interned for some of the best legal minds of his time.
So, from the outside in, it looks like Paul should have been completely satisfied with his life. He had a prestigious career. He was well-known and well-respected. And, even though we don’t know what kind of money Paul earned, it’s a safe guess that he was well compensated. So Paul had just about everything we could want in life.
But then Paul walks away from it all so that he can follow Jesus’ calling for his life. Paul becomes a missionary, he travels the world sharing the good news of Jesus…but that gets Paul into a lot of trouble. Paul gets arrested on at least three separate occasions. He spent more than five years of his life in jail. And he ultimately gets executed because of his ministry.
So, Paul essentially lives the American dream in reverse. He starts with everything and ends with nothing. And that makes what Paul has to say in the passage of scripture that we’re going to be looking at today more than a little surprising. In Philippians 4:12, Paul says:
12…I have learned the secret to being content…
Philippians 4:12 (Common English Bible)
Did you hear that? Paul says that he has learned the secret of being content. Now, unless the next thing he says is that he learned from his mistakes and that you shouldn’t walk away from a prestigious career and a six-figure salary if you want to be content, it’s a little hard to believe that Paul has learned much of anything.
Because, remember what we talked about at the beginning of this message, we don’t do a great job of being grateful because we always want more. We live in a culture that tells us that the only way we will ever have enough is if we have more.
We live in a culture that tells us that the only way we will ever have enough is if we have more.
But here, Paul is going to tell us that the secret to being content isn’t having more. Instead, Paul is going to tell us, well, let me just read what Paul tells us. In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul tells us:
12 I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. 13 I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 (Common English Bible)
So, right from the get-go in this passage, Paul starts challenging our assumptions. Paul talks about the things that we assume will make us content. He talks about having more than enough, being full, and having plenty. But Paul also talks about the things that many of us believe would make us less satisfied with our lives. He talks about being in need, going hungry, and being poor.
And Paul says that no matter what circumstance he found himself in, he was able to be content. So Paul didn’t need more, more, more to be content. Instead in verse 13, Paul tells us how he was able to be content in every situation. When Paul says,
I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.
Paul is telling us that the secret to being content is to know that God is enough.
The secret to being content is to know that God is enough.
And how can you know that God is enough? Well, Paul explains that to us a little bit earlier on in Philippians 4. Going back to verse 4, Paul tells us that if we want to know that God is enough, we need to:
4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:4-9 (Common English Bible)
So in these verses, Paul tells us that the secret to knowing that God is enough is to focus on everything that God has already done. That’s what Paul is getting at when he talks about being glad in the Lord always…we can be glad because God has already done so much for us. And it’s what Paul means when he tells us to bring our prayers and concerns to God…we can bring our prayers and concerns to God because we have seen God answer our prayers in the past. And it’s what Paul means when he talks about focusing on, “all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” When we focus on all of these things, we see what God has already done for us.
So, as hard as it may be to believe, being content has nothing to do with how much you have. Being content has everything to do with realizing how much God has already given you.
Being content has nothing to do with how much you have. Being content has everything to do with realizing how much God has already given you.
Because here’s the truth, if you can’t see that God has blessed you if you only bring home $5,000 then you won’t see that God has blessed you if you bring home $105,000. Being content has nothing to do with how much money you earn because the more you earn the more you’ll want.
If you want to be content you have to know that enough is enough. And you have to learn what Paul learned. Paul knew what it was like to be rich, and Paul knew what it was like to be poor. Paul knew what it was like to feast, and Paul knew what it was like to go hungry. Paul knew what it was to have more than enough and what it was like to be in need. But Paul learned that the only way to be content is to realize that God is all you need.
And if we want to be content, if we want to stop chasing after more, we have to realize the same thing. God is all we need.