Summary: We can find the “1 Secret” to contentment for:1) A Contented Person Is Satisfied with Little (Philippians 4:11), 2) A Contented Person Is Independent from Circumstances (Philippians 4:12) and, 3) A Contented Person Is Strengthened by Divine Power (Philipp
It has been said that dissatisfaction may be the most common feature of the bestselling Christian books. See if this sounds familiar: Christians generally all want to be great for God and do things that would be impossible without His presence and help, to live a life that’s Greater. We are called to stop living a life of comfort, ease and complacency, to step out and do something Radical. Avoid a life that is just passing you by as you sit on the sidelines, so God is calling you to be a follower, not a Fan. If you want more Jesus and are bored with what Christianity offers you. You need to rediscover God’s Crazy Love It goes on nearly ad infinitum. Some are awful, some are brilliant, but the theme is largely the same: There must be more to life than this! Please tell me there is more to life than this!
This dissatisfaction is a gift when it motivates us to pursue the best and purest source of delight. God’s gift to us is that we find all the pleasure we can, all the pleasure there is, in the good things of this life. Sharing a communial spirit, purpose, and hope as we have seen in Phillippians brings us together in a joyous unity.
This dissatisfaction is ugly when it paralyzes us with guilt or when it motivates us to act rashly out of guilt. It is unhelpful when it traps us in complacency and despair. It is also ugly when we become dissatisfied with the good gifts that God has given.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul deals with the topic of receiving gifts. In addressing this, he makes clear what is the “1 Secret” of true Christian contentment. But why should he be so concerned about this? It was for the sake of the Philippians themselves that he must deal with this subject. We must keep in mind that this passage is flanked by a reference to the Philippians’ anxiety over their needs (4:6–7) and by a promise that God will supply those needs (4:19). The Philippians needed to hear—and to see exemplified in the apostle—that the enjoyment of material abundance is not the basis for contentment (Silva, M. (2005). Philippians (2nd ed.). Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (204). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)
Christians live with this deep-rooted dissatisfaction. Authors have written of it, poets have reflected on it, songwriters have sung of it. We read what the Bible calls us to, we feel what our hearts demand of us, then we look at our lives and are disappointed, discontent. There has to be more than this. The Lord must expect more than this. With discontentment all around and within us, we must ask what’s the secret to finding this allusive contentment. The Apostle Paul knew that secret, for it comes from and was exemplified by Christ Himself.
We can find the “1 Secret” to contentment for:
1) A Contented Person Is Satisfied with Little (Philippians 4:11), 2) A Contented Person Is Independent from Circumstances (Philippians 4:12) and, 3) A Contented Person Is Strengthened by Divine Power (Philippians 4:13)
1) A Contented Person Is Satisfied with Little (Philippians 4:11)
Philippians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (ESV)
Lest the Philippians misunderstand his statement in verse 10 about his situation, Paul quickly added a disclaimer. He did not mean to imply that he spoke of being in need/from want when he thanked them for their gift. In fact, he had learned in whatever situation/circumstances he found himself to be content. Though his situation was extremely difficult, Paul was not discontent. It did not matter to him that he was a prisoner, living in a small apartment, chained to a Roman soldier, subsisting on a sparse diet. None of that affected his contentment, because he was satisfied with what little he had. His contentment was not affected by his physical deprivations.
The words “have learned” are in a construction in the Greek which speaks of entrance into a new condition. It is, “I have come to learn.” Paul had not always known that. He had been reared in the lap of luxury, and had never known want as a young man (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Php 4:11). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.).
But he has learned the secret of deep peace based on detachment from his outward circumstances. In whatever conditions of life he finds himself, he discovers the will of God for his situation. This is not a fatalism. It is, on the contrary, a detachment from anxious concern about the outward features of his life. This, in turn, arises from his concentration upon the really important things, the invisible and eternal (2 Cor. 4:16–18) and, above all, upon the closeness of his fellowship with Christ on whose strength he constantly draws (v. 13) (Martin, R. P. (1987). Vol. 11: Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (181). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).