Summary: What a beautiful letter from Paul to the Philippians! Chapter four points to the peace of God from the God of peace and the power of contentment through the strength of Christ. A must read for all Christians looking for joy and encouragement in Christ!
(Read the entire letter of Philippians as if hearing it’s loving message for the first time).
What a message from God! Notice the ending of peace and contentment and having all our needs supplied through God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus!
Contentment... what is that?
A poet once wrote: “As a rule, man’s a fool. When it’s hot, he wants it cool. And when it’s cool, he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.”
Or, as the Rolling Stones sang: I can’t get no, satisfaction.
The Mishna asks, “Who is rich?” and answers, “Those who are happy with their portion.”
Rabbi Meir Leibush comments: ... contentment is a feast without end.
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6 "... godliness with contentment is great gain."
Let’s look at what appears to be the final instruction of Paul about a powerful peace in Philippians 4. It culminates in contentment that settles us no matter what circumstances the world throws at us.
He begins this discussion telling two Christian women to make peace with one another in verses 2-3.
He continues by instructing us all in having joyful peace that passes understanding through thankful prayer in verses 4-7.
He then points our thinking toward good, wholesome, heavenly things with the promise that the God of peace will be with us if we practice this in verses 8-9.
Today let’s see how this peace leads to the power of contentment in every circumstance as Jesus Christ strengthens us. Christian Contentment is the result of the peace of God as we are guarded by the God of peace and empowered by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Think of the people you know who are content in their lives. What is their secret? Is it that they have no struggles or situations that disturb them? Do they have everything in the world that they want? Are these the things that bring contentment?
Look at what the Bible says here about contentment. Christian contentment is not necessarily the removal of ourselves from trials, temptations, or struggles in this life. Christian contentment is not a feeling of getting everything our hearts desire. In fact, those who receive the most things in this life are often the least contented people.
Think about this generation and how much stuff we receive. If you want contented kids, do you give them everything their little hearts desire? Will that build contented children? No! That may only feed the monster that is the enemy of contentment. The least thankful and contented generation has had the most stuff ever, but not the most love, nurture and discipline. The ingredients of contentment are love, joy, peace, thankfulness, humility and service to Jesus Christ. If you have true contentment, it came from Him.
Listen to the passage again starting in the middle of verse 11:
...I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to have plenty and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What has Paul uncovered here for us? Is it not the peace of contentment through the power of Jesus Christ in any and all circumstances?
Notice the circumstances he specifically talks about: abased and abounding, full and hungry, having plenty and being in need. These are things we experience and understand. Notice that contentment is not about abounding, being full and living with plenty. Contentment is still there when the Christian is abased, hungry and even in need. Christ strengthens us to have contentment in all circumstances.
There’s a song that talks about the raging storms of life and how Jesus Christ has the power over all things. The song writer instructs us to trust in Jesus and give ourselves to His care, knowing He is with us and will see us through. The refrain says, “Sometimes you calm the storms, and sometimes you calm the child.”
Contentment! God’s power in Christ giving us peace in any and every circumstance.
Paul proclaims, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”
The Stoics of Paul’s day used to say, “If you want to make a man happy, do not add to his possessions, but take away from his desires.” They said that the wealthiest man was the one who was content with the least.
The Stoic method of reaching contentment was to eliminate all emotion and feeling and do away with caring for anything at all. Epictetus taught his disciples: Begin with a cup or household utensel, if it breaks say, “I do not care.” Go on to a horse or pet, if anything happens to it say, “I do not care.” Go on to yourself, and if you are hurt or injured in any way, say, “I do not care.” If you go on long enough and try hard enough you can watch your nearest and dearest suffer and die and say, “I do not care.” Love was rooted out of life and caring was forbidden. (Barclay’s commentary on Philippians).