Summary: Election results will leave half the voters disappointed. This message instructs Christians on how to deal with the ups and downs of life.
We are in a study of Philippians. The key verse in this epistle is Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind [mindset; way of thinking] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”i Throughout this letter Paul is teaching us the way we should think about our lives. It is the pathway to abundant life.
Unfortunately, some Christians equate abundant life with financial abundance.ii God sometimes lavishes material abundance on a Christian for His own purposes. But the abundant life Jesus wants for His followers is not dependent upon financial gain. In fact, Jesus told us that a person’s life cannot be measure by his affluence (Luke 12:15). He followed that statement with the story of a man who spent his life accumulating material things—so much so that he kept building bigger barns to store it in. With all those resources the man was looking forward to a life of ease and pleasure. Jesus ended the story with God speaking to the man and saying, “'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Jesus then added, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” The problem was not in his wealth. The problem was that he had laid it up “for himself,” and the man was “not rich toward God.” There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy. God gives some people wealth so they can steward it for Him. But wealth and abundant life are two different things.
Abundant life is something that goes on in the heart of the Christian who has embraced Christ’s way of thinking. The abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10 is not dependent on external circumstances. It flows out of relationship with God. It is characterized by “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Our text today deals with a specific aspect of abundant life: the capacity to enjoy inner contentment regardless of our external circumstances.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 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 abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I. STATE OF CONTENTMENT:
The particle de, translated “But” marks a transition in this letter. Paul has finished the exhortations shared in 4:1-9. He now turns his attention to the gift these Philippians sent him by the hand of Epaphroditus. He alluded to it at the beginning of the letter and in chapter two verse 25. But he explicitly expresses his appreciation here.
In fact, he thanks them for the gift three times: (1) in verse 10: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again.” (2) in verse 14: “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.” (3) in verse 18: “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.”
Why say it three times? Each expression of gratitude, especially the first two, needed explanation to avoid any misunderstanding. Out of concern that his readers might draw a wrong conclusion from his statement, Paul would clarify what he meant. But then he wanted to make sure they knew he was indeed grateful for the gift. So, he would thank them again. For example, in his explanation in verse 11 he says, “Not that I speak in regard to need.” Did that qualifier mean that Paul didn’t appreciate what they had done? To make sure they didn’t think that, Paul affirms his gratitude in verse 14, “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.”
Let’s look a little closer at Paul’s statement of gratitude in verse 10: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.” In the early years of the church the Philippians had generously supported Paul financially (4:15-16). Paul mentioned it in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 and said they were giving beyond their ability to give. But apparently there was an interval in which they were not giving to Paul. Is Paul reprimanding them for not giving during that time? Not at all. They had no opportunity to do so during that interval. It could have been an issue of logistics. Maybe they didn’t even know where Paul was. We don’t know why they couldn’t give during that interval. Our English translation could lead us to assume a subtle correction in in verse 10. It is not there in the Greek. iii There is nothing negative in verse 10. Paul knows and they know that the lack of financial support during that time was not due to a lack of concern but a lack of opportunity. His expression of gratitude is wholehearted.