Summary: God empowers contentment for those who learn to trust in his plans.
Once upon a time, a great king suffered terribly from a painful ailment. His astrologer told him that the only cure was to find a contented man, get his shirt, and wear it night and day. Messengers speedily traveled the whole of the king’s realm, searching for such a man, intent on returning with his shirt. Months passed as the servants looked high and low. One by one they returned, but none brought back the healing shirt.
“Did you not find a contented man in all my realm?” the king asked.
“Yes, O king, we found one—just one, in all your realm,” they replied.
“Why did you not bring back his shirt?” cried the king!
“O great King,” they answered, “the man had no shirt.”
Are the wealthy ever content? The Apostle Paul was much like the shirtless man. He had nothing, locked away in a cell for preaching Jesus as Lord. When a gift from his friends in Philippi arrives, he is (of course) thankful. But can he teach us contentment? Let’s hear his answer in Philippians 4.10-13, then I will ask God to teach us the same secret.
[Read Philippians 4.10-13. Pray.]
We began Godly Men training last week. In preparation, I reviewed the Biblical character qualifications for a church officer. One of the questions we ask is, “Are you free from the love of money?”
The New Testament warns about the “love of money” seven different times. It seems that wealth may not be as great as problem as how we feel about what we have.
There are Biblical examples of the danger of money. In Proverbs 30.8-9, a man named Agur, prays: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
That prayer appeals to all true Christians because we recognize the power of money to tempt our hearts. And Agur is correct: both poverty and wealth tempt to worldliness—poverty to worldly care, riches to worldly satisfaction. When we lack enough for even our daily bread, we are tempted to steal; when we have more than enough to take care of our needs, we are tempted to dispense with God. Both are to be feared, even though we admit that having money is the greater danger. Jesus did warn, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10.23). Wealth clearly poses a greater danger to our souls.
And yet, in spite of the very real influence money wields over us, there is a greater grace available than Agur mentions. The cold steel of covetousness, when it impales our hearts, is drawn first toward the magnet of fear of poverty and then to the magnet of the lust for wealth. Agur’s asks God to remove the magnets from his vicinity by protecting him from any financial extremes. Would it not be better to remove the steel? Jesus did just that for Paul: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul’s answer moves beyond the Proverb.
Do not misunderstand: the godly Christian continues to pray, “Lord lead me not into temptation—give me neither poverty nor riches.” The wise believer knows her own heart—the steel rod of sinful desire can never be demagnetized and will not be removed before heaven. Even so, the grace of God is sufficient for even this temptation. God can teach us contentment in any and every circumstance.
1. We Must Be Thankful As God Supplies (Philippians 4.10)
An unexpected visit, or a letter, or gift from an old friend certainly encourages the heart, does it not? This is the basis for a new business. At a certain website you can see if anyone is searching for you. The lady in the advertisement is thrilled to find that 6 people are looking for her. The possibility of renewing contact with long-missed friends warms our hearts.
Paul did not have a web site, but Epaphroditus did bring him greetings and a gift from the church in Philippi. And the Apostle is grateful, filled with rejoicing, delighted to know that his friends still care and show their concern.
The story is told that coming downstairs one morning, Lord Congelton heard the cook exclaim, “God, if I only had five pounds, wouldn’t I be content!” Thinking the matter over, and anxious to see the woman satisfied, he shortly after handed her a five-pound note. She thanked him; but after Congelton left the kitchen he paused outside the door to hear if she would thank God, as she had used his name in her first complaint. She turned back to her work and cried out, “Why didn’t I say ten pounds?”