Contentment…not a popular buzz word in our society, but Biblically there is a connection between goodliness and contentment. From a prison cell, the Apostle Paul in his closing comments address’ the need for our hearts to be focused, above, on others, and on eternity, not ourselves. The key to contentment is a satisfaction in Christ!
4.10-14 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
- If our understanding of what contentment is and where it comes from is not rooted in Scripture, the pursuit of contentment can become an ever-elusive black hole. We go after what we think will make us happy only to find that it didn’t work. A new car, a new home, a new look, and yes, sad to say, a new husband or wife. Only to find that after the initial shine wears off, we are just as discontented and empty as we were before we began the quest.
- It’s like the story of two teardrops floating down the river of life. One teardrop said to the other, “Who are you?” “I’m a teardrop from a girl who loved a man and lost him. Who are you?” “I’m a teardrop from the girl who got him.”
- There was a story posted in Readers Digest about a Jewish man in Hungary who went to his rabbi and complained, “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?” The rabbi answered, “Take your goat into the room with you.” The man was incredulous, but the rabbi insisted, “Do as I say and come back in a week.” A week later the man returned looking more distraught than before. “We can’t stand it,” he told the rabbi. “The goat is filthy.” The rabbi said, “Go home and let the goat out, and come back in a week.” A week later the man returned, radiant, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat– only the nine of us.” Perspective helps, doesn’t it!
One would think that the person to tell us how to be content would the man or woman who has it all together. They have the killer looks, the killer bodies, the 6 figure income, a mansion (or 2), and all of the perks and creature comforts that one could ever desire. Right? Wrong. Ask Solomon. In Ecclesiastes, he tells us that he had it all. But what word did he use to explain what having it all is like apart from a genuine, transforming rebirth by The Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ? Vanity. Emptiness.
Jesus told the woman at the well, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep:from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4.10-14).
I find it interesting that here in Philippians 4:10-13, Paul the apostle is sitting in a Roman prison cell because of corrupt officials awaiting possible execution over false charges. He has next to nothing in the way of furniture or creature comforts and his daily food rations would be less than what the everage American would feed their pet cat or dog. And The Holy Spirit anoints him to tell us (the vast majority of whom live in suburbia America) how to find contentment.
A little bit of background here.
- Ten years had passed since Paul’s ministry in Philippi had resulted in the founding of the church in that city. The Philippians had generously supported him when he left Philippi to minister in the Macedonian cities of Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-13). When Paul moved south into Achaia, the Philippians continued their support as he ministered in Athens and Corinth (Acts 17:14-18:18). As the years passed they had consistently been concerned about Paul, but lacked any opportunity to provide support for him… But recently opportunity arose when Epaphroditus arrived in Rome, bringing with him a generous gift from the Philippians (Php 4:18) for which Paul rejoiced in the Lord greatly.(MacArthur, J. Philippians. Chicago: Moody Press)
- In our texts he is expressing his heartfelt thanks, but at the same time he doesn’t want to give the impression that the Lord was not sufficient for his every need.
- Even though Paul had been in a very difficult situation (4:14, “affliction”), he didn’t want these precious saints to think that he had been discontented before their gift arrived. But on the other hand, he does want them to know that their generosity was truly appreciated. So he combines his thanks with this valuable lesson on the secret for contentment.
- Please note in verse 11 that contentment was something that Paul had learned. Just as our Lord “learned obedience by the things that He suffered,” so the Apostle acquired the habit of contentment by practising it. He had schooled himself, by constantly applying the Cross of Jesus to his ambitions, his murmurings, his tendency to complain. He had accustomed himself to dwell upon the bright side of things, to lay more stress upon what he had than upon what he lacked. F.B Meyer
- So what does contentment mean? Webster defines it this way: the feeling or manifestation of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.
- It is an inner sense of rest or peace that comes from being right with God and knowing that He is in control of all that happens to us. It means having our focus on the kingdom of God and serving Him, not on the love of money and things.
- The secret for contentment in every situation is to know that The Lord Jesus Christ is (1) the Sovereign One and God of providence to whom I must submit; (2) He is the Savior whom I must serve; (3) He is the Sufficient One whom I must trust.
- True contentment in life comes from submitting to the absolute, providential Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is the realization that it is in those circumstances, The Lord is giving unto us an opportunity to proclaim to a lost and materialistic world that Jesus Christ is our all-sufficiency. supremacy of His grace and majesty in our lives!
- Psalm 73.25,26 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever
- While Paul was in prison, he wrote a number of letters during this time to various churches and individuals (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon), and he asks for prayer in those letters. But never once does he mention his financial needs. Rather, he asks for prayer for boldness and faithfulness in his witness. He trusted in and submitted to the sovereignty of God to provide for his needs.
- In our materialistic culture that we live in, we need to learn like Paul did that contentment (peace of heart, mind, soul and strength) comes from who we are in Christ and by setting our affections on things above, not on tings of the earth.
- Jesus put it this way, Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). All what things? Read the context. It refers to what you shall eat, what you shall drink, what you shall wear (6:25). No cell phone or x-box? No mansion because I’m a kings kid?
- Jesus was teaching that if we will make the priority in our lives seeking Him and His kingdom, The Father will take care of our basic material needs. Please take note that He promises to supply our needs, not our greed. Beloved, the opposite of contentment is covetousness.
- Most of us living in America have far, far more than what we need. Compared to the majority of other people on the planet, the vast majority of us this morning are living in relative luxury, even if we live in a house that is too small or only have one car. Sometimes we need to remember that people in other countries squeeze ten family members into a one-room, dirt-floored shanty.
- Contentment is a gospel-centered discipline that comes from focusing on the Lord as the Sufficient One whom I must trust. Paul says that he had “learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need”. In times of need, we need a trusting heart. In times of abundance, we need a thankful heart.
- This subject of being content in any situation is the context of the oft-quoted passage, I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.
- Unfortunately, many people take this verse out of context and use it to reinforce a “triumphalist” or “super-Christian” mentality. Some take it to mean that if I were to have a 500 pound bar bell on the platform this morning, all I would need to do to lift it over my head would be to confess Philippians 4.13 over and over again. How do you spell hernia????
- This passage described the strength of Jesus in Paul’s life to be content when he had abundance and when he suffered need.
- We cannot quote Phil 4.13 without John 15:5: for without Me you can do nothing. With Jesus we can do all things, without Him we can’t do anything. The emphasis in Phil 4.13 is not I can do, but Christ.
- Hebrews 13.5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
- 1 Timothy 6.6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 6.7 for we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 6.8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
15-18 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia (this refers to Paul’s pioneering missionary efforts in Europe, recorded in Acts 16 and following), no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
- Paul described the gift of the Philippians in terms that remind us of sacrifices in the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18, 29:25, and 29:41). Our giving to God’s work is similar to Old Testament sacrifices, which also cost the person bringing the sacrifice a lot. Bulls and rams did not come cheaply in that day. Biblical giving is always sacrificial. Biblical giving is not “tipping God” 10% for doing another great job this week!
- Sweet smelling aroma– Paul knew that these people made this sacrifice not only out of love for him but because of love for God and that He would be glorified. The word aroma is used to refer to the burning of incense in the temple that was done as an act of worship. Paul describes their extravagant giving as a form of worship.
- Well pleasing to God – When people perform acts of kindness to those who are in service to God, it is as if they are performing them directly to God Himself as an act of worship. IN as much as we do it unto one another, we do it unto Christ.
- I want to point out here beloved that giving isn’t God’s way of raising funds. God does not have telethons to keep heaven operating. Giving is God’s way of raising children whose hearts are rich toward Him. One pastor wrote, God raises our standard of living so that we can raise our standard of giving.
- If you are a Christian, then you will want to give. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul states: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)
- The Greek word translated cheerful is the same word we get our word hilarious. God loves extravagant, joyful, hilarious givers who realize that the can not out give God. Jesus said, “It more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
- What is the promise to the cheerful giver? God will supply all of our_______? What Paul tells these saints is that they will never be the poorer for having given unto The Lord. God will never be our debtor, and we can never out-give God.
- We shouldn’t think that the Philippians were wealthy benefactors of Paul who could easily spare the money. As Paul described them in 2 Corinthians 8, it is plain that their giving was sacrificial. 2 Corinthians 8.1-5 tells us that they gave willingly, out of their own need, and they gave after first having given themselves to the Lord.
20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
- This was not some passing comment made by Paul. It was an expression of adoration and praise to God for His glorious provision for us in and through His Son Jesus Christ.
- Jude 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
- Romans 16.27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.
- 1Timothy 1.17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
- Ephesians 3.20,21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen
21,22 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.
- Paul calls every born again believer as a saint in Christ Jesus. This clearly states the fact that the title saint applies to all Christians, not just to an elite few. The Catholic Church doesn’t make saints, faith in The Lord Jesus Christ does.
- Even while in prison, God used Paul to bring many into the fold of Christ through the preaching of the gospel.
23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
- Paul did not say this to simply fill up space at the end of his letter. To him, the Christian life begins and ends with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so it was appropriate that his letters began and ended with grace also.
Let me close with this: the Bible tells us not to be conformed to this world system (which is essentially discontented) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Please get this beloved, contentment is a part of the process of sanctification that must be learned, for it is not natural, it is supernatural. Contentment is not a mellow temperament.
It is a myth for any one of us to believe that the value or worth of a persons life consists in the abundance of the things which he or she possesses. Sound familiar? It should, Jesus said it right there is Luke 12.15. The worldly spirit of covetousness will spoil any possible experience of biblical contentment.
Have you repented of your sin and trusted in Christ alone as full payment of your sin debt? Jesus said In Matthew 11.28,29, Come unto Me all you that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Then He says, learn of Me and I you will find rest for your souls.
There are 2 rests spoken of here, one speaks of the rest of your soul knowing that by the grace of God, through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ you are forgiven. Some of you here this morning have never been born again, but today is the day of salvation. Will you embrace Him as Lord and confess Him today as your Savior.
The other rest is a rest that is learned as we choose to follow Jesus Christ…it is a rest that is the process of sanctification whereby we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. This rest is a rest that frees is from the rat race of the world and is a rest of a peace and contentment that the world cannot give you.
Contentment is a battle that you and I are engaged in each and every day loved ones. Choose to live more for Christ and less for things, and you will find rest for your souls. May our daily prayer be that we would grow in Christ and grow in contentment.