Summary: We often live our lives thinking "If Only," and this attitude foils the contentment God wants us to live in daily.
January 12, 2003
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.
Now isn’t that so true? When we have the hot summer weather here in Tulsa, we complain about how dreadfully hot it is.
When it gets cold like it is now, we gripe because it’s too cold.
Gee, if only it were a little warmer, or a little cooler. That’s the title of this morning’s message: If Only – and we’ll travel down that road a little bit more later.
But for now, we’ll use that little ditty and this story to introduce our theme this morning:
There’s the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. “Why aren’t you out there fishing?” he asked.
“Because I’ve caught enough fish for today,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the rich man asked.
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money,” came the impatient reply, “and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you’d have a fleet of boats and be rich like me.”
The fisherman asked, “Then what would I do?”
“You could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing now?” the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea.
Both our opening poem and this story illustrate in different ways what the apostle Paul wrote about in our scripture text this morning. Paul wrote, beginning in the middle of verse 11 this morning,
Philip. 4:11-13 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
With this as our theme, we want to explore several aspects of this very familiar passage of scripture this morning. Paul started by noting that he had “learned” to be content. It’s important to note that the “I” in the Greek here is emphatic...
in other words, Paul, if he were speaking, would not have said, I have learned, but rather, I have learned.
One commentary said that it’s as if Paul was saying,
“I leave it to others if they will, to be discontented, however, I, for my part, have learned, by the teachings of the Holy Spirit, and the dealings of Providence, to be content in every state...”
Paul said he had learned, he’d learned through circumstances, and the Holy Spirit had illuminated those circumstances, to the point that Paul was able to see them as from the hand of God, for his benefit, so he could learn, most likely learn among other things, contentment.
Paul could learn, we can learn. Note, too, that Paul repeats the phrase “I know,” and “I’ve learned” twice each in the space of three verses. That says to me that Paul is indicating that the years He has known God have given him ample opportunities, in many different circumstances, both good and bad, to learn contentment. Paul’s voice is the voice of experience.
Paul says that he’s learned from these experiences not only how to cope with both good and bad in life, but how to triumph, how to live with what Jim and Joel have referred to in sermons, and what Sue Wright referred to in her exhortation to this body last Sunday, about having a Christus Victor mentality....about having the mindset that Jesus is Lord over our circumstances, He rules and reigns in our lives, and we can rest content in that, and rest victorious in the knowledge that Christ has already won the victory.
So, because Paul first says that he’s learned contentment, that says to me that contentment doesn’t come only because we decide to be content. It doesn’t come primarily as an act of our will, though, of course, when we learn something,
we must decide to use what we’ve learned.
It comes as a result of what we’ll see a few verses later – it comes as a gift, a gift we can learn to use in our lives.
As we move on, we also see that contentment doesn’t come because of circumstances. Paul said he learned to be content ...regardless of what the circumstances in his life were.
Now, it’s important to note that the immediate context of this passage is clearly material provision... and money. In a few weeks, we’ll look a little more closely at that aspect of this passage and others, but it’s not stretching scripture at all to note that this contentment that Paul learned, goes beyond just contentment with material things.