“TRUE CONTENTMENT” Phil. 4:10-20
INTRO – STARTING NEW SERMON SERIES – “MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!”
Where does your contentment in life come from? Does it come from your circumstances? From your family members or friends? From your job, or your level of success, or your popularity, or your good health?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes to them to acknowledge his gratitude for a financial gift that this church had given to him. Philippians is a wonderful letter, extremely personal & intimate, & filled w/ expressions of joy – at least 10 in these 4 short chapters. “Philippians can be called ‘Resources Through Suffering.’ The book is about Christ in our life, Christ in our mind, Christ as our goal, Christ as our strength, and joy through suffering.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Philippians.html) He is in prison when he writes this letter to them, & yet, in spite of his difficult circumstances, he is filled w/ joy & contentment. But his contentment is not due to the money that he had gotten from them. His contentment is connected to his faith & trust in God to give him the strength he needed & provide for whatever needs he had in his life.
Have y’all seen the “Settlers” TV commercials for DirecTV? Watch this one. Not promoting DirecTV. But they’ve tapped into a mindset in our society today – that you can’t be content w/ what you have right now.
Reminds me of the devout Quaker who was leaning on his fence watching a new neighbor move in next door. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings had been carried in, the Quaker called over, “If you find you’re lacking anything, neighbor, let me know and I’ll show you how to live without it.”
It’s so easy for us to fall prey to discontentment, especially when it comes to money & material possessions. Apple works overtime on us by introducing a new iPhone just when we are getting used to the iPhone we just bought 3 months ago. Hilary & David capitalize on the discontentment of homeowners in their TV show “Love IT or List It.” The description of the show on HGTV’s website says, “When a house no longer feels like home, homeowners are left with a big financial and emotional question: renovate or sell it? ‘Love It or List It’ helps fed-up homeowners decide…It’s a tough decision either way. Which choice would you make?” (http://www.hgtv.com/shows/love-it-or-list-it)
But Paul had some important things to say about material & monetary contentment in these verses in Phil. 4. Before we look at them, let me share w/ you 3 terms that need to be struck from our financial vocabulary if we are going to be truly content:
As we turn now to Phil. 4, I want to share w/ you 4 considerations for contentment that we find in these verses:
LEARN CONTENTMENT – v. 10-12 – Paul had to learn to be content. Sometimes we forget that the biblical writers were normal human beings like you & me, & that they struggled w/ many of the same things you & I struggle with. Some of them had anger issues, issues w/ lust, pride, greed, & self-control. And apparently Paul had a struggle w/ the lack of contentment at some point in his life. Here in v. 11, he said that he “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” That word means that he needed to be taught how to be content, that he studied how to be content, & that he came to understand contentment as a result of his studies & his learning.
Part of our growth in spiritual maturity as a Christ-follower is to LEARN contentment. It’s not a natural part of our life or temperament. Our flesh leans toward greed. We are pulled toward selfish ambition, toward jealousy & envy & covetousness. Our old nature is prone to idolatry & is never satisfied or content. Gal. 5 & Col. 3 tell us that we have to put our old flesh to death DAILY & LEARN contentment.
Discontentment is a DANGEROUS thing. It is so subtle & inconspicuous, & is a prime weapon in the hands of the enemy to draw us into deeper, uglier, more devastating sins.
- Instead of being content w/ what we have & where we are, we wish we had a bigger house like our friends have, or a nicer truck like our buddy has, or the shoes that our BFF has.
- Instead of being content, we are envious that our friend’s kids go to a better school than our kids. We are jealous that our neighbors just got back from a big vacation. We covet our coworker’s bigger office.
- Instead of being content, we take the extra shifts at work just to make more $, even though it means missing important events in our kids’ lives, or missing church.
- Maybe it gets even worse, to the point that we become such a malcontent person that it drives us to have an extramarital affair, or to conduct dishonest business deals, or cheat someone else in some way, or take advantage of someone in a hurtful way. Our discontentment will lead us to think that we need to keep more & more, which means that we give less & less to the Lord’s work through the church – IF we give anything at all. If we aren’t actively learning to be content, this is the direction our lives will end up going as Satan tempts us more & more by using our discontentment to his advantage.
Paul LEARNED contentment by doing what our next contentment consideration teaches us:
LET GOD STRENGTHEN YOU – v. 13 – True contentment in our life only comes when we realize that we have to have God’s strength in our lives. Paul wasn’t some superhuman who never struggled. No, we read about his struggles with sin in Rom. 7:18-19 where he says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do no want to do – this I keep on doing.” He knew what it was to struggle & battle against temptation & sin, against the forces of evil in our world that cause us to live discontented lives. And he knew that the ONLY way he could live & walk in victorious contentment was to rely on doing “all things through Christ who [gave him] strength.”
This verse isn’t some trite phrase that an athlete nonchalantly quotes. This verse is THE KEY to living in contentment. You & I CANNOT do it in our own strength & by our own willpower. We will fail every time we try. One commentator wrote: “The Christian life is not only difficult; it is also impossible unless we acquire the power to live it through Christ. To be sure, this truth does not come naturally to us but must be learned.”
Learning to live in the strength of Christ is crucial to learning to live in contentment. He will strengthen your faith so that you can trust Him in ways you never dreamed you could trust Him. In the context of this passage, which is about Paul’s material & physical needs, we will learn to give more than you’ve ever given, do more for His K’dom than you’ve ever done, joyfully sacrifice more than you’ve ever sacrificed, as we learn to do all things through Him who gives you strength. When Christ is your strength, it doesn’t matter what the stock market does. When Christ is your strength, a 10% tithe is just a starting point of joyful obedience. When Christ is your strength, worry & anxiety is overcome by trust & confidence.
How can this be true? Look at our next contentment consideration:
LEAN ON GOD TO MEET YOUR NEEDS – v. 14-19 – Paul knew what it was like to have much & he knew what it was like to have little. In his time of financial need, these Philippians believers gave over & over again to support him & encourage him. Other churches that Paul had ministered to had received the blessing of having him teach them & share w/ them, but those churches had not responded by giving back to him as they should have. That was definitely a source of discouragement in Paul’s life.
But not the Philippians believers! They recognized that they had a responsibility to support the work of Paul in the spread of the Gospel. So they gave money to him over & over again, investing their financial resources in the spread of the Gospel.
The result of their generosity & sacrifice?
- Paul’s needs were “amply supplied.”
- Their offerings were “pleasing to God.”
- And God would meet their needs “according to His glorious riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Bottom line: The “glorious riches” of God that are found “in Christ Jesus” are available to those who give like the Philippians did for Paul. How did they give?
- They gave out of their understanding of the importance of Paul’s ministry in spreading the Gospel.
- They gave b/c they understood their partnership in spreading the Gospel.
- They gave over & over again, consistently & faithfully supporting the ministry of the spread of the Gospel.
- They gave generously so that Paul would be “amply supplied” as he spread the Gospel.
LIFT YOUR PRAISE TO GOD – v. 20 – Paul was so touched & moved they their generosity & partnership in the spread of the Gospel that he broke out in praise to God!
That’s what happens when we develop contentment & give to the Lord’s work – HE gets the praise!
 Anders, M. (1999). Galatians-Colossians (Vol. 8, p. 264). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.