Summary: In writing this thank you letter to the Philippians, Paul taught us about contentment, and about the relationship in the church between givers and receivers.
Paul’s Thank You Note
Philippians 4 – part 3
October 21, 2007
In a cemetery stands a grave marker with this inscription: SHE DIED FOR WANT OF THINGS. Alongside that marker is another which reads: HE DIED TRYING TO GIVE THEM TO HER.
The lady mentioned on the tombstone died for want of things. She apparently never learned contentment.
What are those circumstances in which you find yourself with a feeling of contentment? Vacation from work? A certain place – the mountains, the lake, the beach, the woods, your porch on a nice morning? When you have a lot of money? When you’ve finished a big job? When you’ve finished a major school assignment, or passed a big test? Or completed a big project of some sort around the house?
I’m feeling a great feeling of contentment now that the building looks so much better with a fresh paint job.
Here’s a dictionary definition of contentment:
1. The state of being contented; satisfaction.
contentment - happiness with one’s situation in life
- the satisfaction one feels when one has fulfilled a desire, need, or expectation;
the opposite is discontent, discontentedness, discontentment - a longing for something better than the present situation or circumstances
The last few weeks, as we’ve looked through Philippians chapter 4, we’ve seen the apostle Paul writing about peace, which isn’t really a synonym of contentment, but I think it’s a closely-related idea.
I think it would be hard to have contentment without having a sense of peace in your life. I also think it would be hard to have a sense of peace without being content in, not with, but in, your circumstances.
Remember two weeks ago, as we looked at verses 4-7 of Philippians 4, we learned that we can actually experience the peace of God, and we can rejoice in the Lord, when we determine to trade our anxieties about anything, for prayer about everything. That week, many of us put our worries into the symbolic worry bag, and effectively said to God – Dear Father, you please handle these worries, because you’re able and I’m not. If we do that, peace is the result. And that peace guards, like a soldier guards a fort, our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
Last week, when we examined verses 8 and 9 of Philippians chapter 4, we learned that what we think and what we do is related to this idea of peace. Specifically it’s God’s prescription for maintaining that peace which He gave us when we turned over our worries to Him. There is right thinking, and there is wrong thinking, and the right thinking that Paul encourages us to do results in Godly lives, with actions consistent with our right thinking. Then Paul develops the idea of peace further, by saying not only will we have the peace of God, but we’ll have the very presence of the God who provides that peace, in our lives.
When we look at most of the rest of the chapter, Paul changes directions somewhat, but we still see a thread of the ideas we’ve looked at the past few weeks in earlier verses of Philippians 4, especially in this idea of contentment.
Phil 4:10-19 10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I 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. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17 Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
There are several practical lessons in these verses, and here are a few: