Summary: To see how we can be content no matter what the circumstances
SBC Philippi 5/15/05 pm
Rev. Jeff Simms
Primary Purpose: To discuss the secret of being content no matter the circumstances.
There is a story about millionaire William Randolph Hearst who invested a fortune in collecting art treasures from around the world. One day Hearst is reading a description of a valuable art item which he sent his agent abroad to find. After months of searching, the agent reported that he had finally found the treasure. To the surprise of Hearst, the priceless masterpiece was stored in none other than his own warehouse. The multi-millionaire had been searching all over the world for a treasure he already possessed. Had he read the catalog of his treasures, he would have saved himself a lot of time and money. (From Today in the Word, Dec 13, 1995, pg.20) I think we as believers are like that. Contentment isn’t something that world can give us, but that Christ has given us.
Very few people that I know of would I use the word “content” to describe them. It seems to me that we live in a society where people are searching for peace and contentment. People are looking for it in all kind of places. The advertising world tries to capitalize on this need by saying, “If you buy this you will be content or happy.” Or they try to tell you need this experience or this relationship. Happiness is said to be right around the corner. Let’s look at what Paul said about contentment in Phil 4:10-13.
Paul might be the last person who we would expect to be content in his situation. He writes this letter from a Roman prison. Life has been hard since becoming a believer and a missionary. Prison and mistreatment, beatings and poverty has been a way of life for Paul. Yet, Paul tells the church in Philippi that he has learned to be content regardless of the circumstances.
Paul isn’t downplaying their gift to him. In fact, he says the concern the gift demonstrated brought him great joy. These friends had lost touch with Paul for 2 years, but now they have been reunited. Paul rather is using this situation to speak to them about the sufficiency of Christ v.13. For the word contentment is the word autarkes- self-sufficient, adequate, needing no assistance. In Paul’s case, we might rather call him God-sufficient than self-sufficient.
When we look at why or how Paul could express contentment in prison. We can look back over his life and writing and see a couple of important clues to this contentment. The first thing you notice is that his contentment comes not from doing, but in knowing whose you are. Many people today seek to find satisfaction in doing. Many men in particular find their identity as a person in their jobs. If the job is going well then they are doing fine. Paul could have found satisfaction in his work as a apostle first, but it doesn’t seem this is the case. Paul didn’t have the mentality that many people today do that says, “When I achieve this or get this job or marry this person, then I’ll be happy.” Yet, when they get there that isn’t the case. Or, it doesn’t last as long as they like.
Paul’s contentment wasn’t even related to his circumstances. The point in verse 12 is that Paul could be just as content in a palace as a prison. The Philippians knew this wasn’t just talk because they could remember Paul and Silas when they were thrown into prison and put into the stocks. Midnight finds them praying and singing hymns to God Acts 16:25. Paul’s son came from a joy that God gave him. It is according to Galatians 5:22 a gift and fruit from the spirit. For Paul, contentment came from valuing what he had which most importantly was his relationship with Christ and peace with God.
A second thing you see here is that Paul drew his strength from the Lord. V.13 Because of that Paul drew his strength from God. Because of that Paul had a “I can do everything through him. . . .” kind of attitude. A lot of people get their strength from other sources other than God. They might depend on a bottle or a person or an idea about what they are going to do next weekend to make it through the day. But, as a believer my first resource isn’t other people. You know people can bring you down as well as up. We need to remember the words of David in Psalm 9:9-10
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”