Summary: The secret of contentment isn’t found in something, but in someone. This message reveals what is involved.




Text: Phil.4: 10-13

Intro: Contentment is a very illusive condition for most people in society today. More often than not, the world tends to believe that contentment is something that comes from outside themselves—something that usually seems to be just beyond their grasp. Contentment tends to be viewed in the context of possessions or power, or perhaps prestige.

But according to the Apostle Paul, contentment cannot be defined by any of these things. Paul found the real meaning of contentment not in something, but in someone. Real contentment is found in the person of Jesus Christ. However, knowing that fact doesn’t mean that the child of God automatically knows how to be content in his or her life. Contentment must be learned.

Philippians chapters 3 and 4 give us some principles for contentment. You can learn the secret. God, through His Word, has revealed the secret of contentment for all His children to profit by. The secret simply must be applied. Let’s learn from what Paul had learned.

Theme: Paul reveals that:


A. Knowing The Secret Results In Not Relying Upon One’s Substance.

Phil.3: 8 “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.

B. Knowing The Secret Causes One To Be Self-Sufficient.

Phil.4: 10 “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

NOTE: [1] The word “content” (v. 11) means “…self-sufficiency, independence of all external resources.”(1)

[1a] There is a self-sufficiency that is nothing more than sinful pride. For instance, one might say, “I don’t need anybody. I choose to live my life on my own terms.” However, this is not the kind of self-sufficiency that Paul is speaking of here.

[1b] The idea of the word contentment is that of a city that comes under siege and is cut off from all outside resources, yet has sufficient supplies within its walls to survive.

[1c] Paul is saying that he had learned that he did not need things to make him happy. He had found within himself an inexhaustible resource for every circumstance and situation.

[2] Knowing the secret of contentment is vitally important because the moment we become dependent upon the world to give our life meaning, happiness and joy, we place ourselves in a compromising position.

[3] The Christian is something of a wealthy bankrupt. That’s the idea in Paul’s statement that he had “suffered the loss of all things,” that he might win Christ (Phil.3: 8b).

[4] Satan can’t tempt one who lives by this principle.

[4a] If Satan should tempt them saying, “If you do what I want you to do I will give you this, this, and this,” the Christian says, “You can’t give me anything. I already have everything (II Cor.9: 8).”

[4b] If Satan should tempt them saying, “If you don’t do what I want you to do, I will take this, this, and this away from you,” the Christian responds by saying, “You can’t threaten me with that, because I don’t have anything.”


NOTE: [1] Paul stated that he had “learned…to be content” (v. 11). The word “learned” means “learned by experience.”(2)

[2] In verse 12 Paul says that he had been “instructed” how to be content in both abounding and abasement. The word used there means “initiated into the secret.”(3) Paul was basically saying, “Through experience, I have learned the secret of contentment.”

[3] Contentment is not acquired by some holy “zap.” Paul said that he had learned the secret of contentment by those things that happened in his daily life.

A. Contentment Is Learned In The School Of Circumstances.

Phil.4: 12 “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

Rom.8: 28a “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…”

NOTE: Paul stated that everywhere he went, God taught him things about the secret of contentment. He said that in everything that he endured, God taught him the secret of contentment.

B. Contentment Is Learned By A Certain Curriculum.

1. Paul said, “I know how to abound” (Phil.4: 12a).

NOTE: [1] The word translated “abound” means “to overflow.”(4) The idea here is that of having more than enough.

[2] Still speaking of knowing how to abound, Paul uses the words “to be full” (v. 12b), which means, “to be satiated.”(5)

[3] Most of us have no trouble with this part of the curriculum of contentment. When everyone likes us and the money is coming in, we have little trouble being content. But God’s curriculum for contentment isn’t one-sided; it is well rounded.

2. Paul also said, “I know…how to be abased…” (Phil.4: 12a).

NOTE: [1] The word “abased” means, “to make low, to humble, to humiliate.”(6)

[2] In learning the secret of contentment, Paul had often experienced what it was like “to be hungry,” and “to suffer need.” Paul had learned to experience contentment, even in the loss of all things (Phil.3: 8b). That was due to the fact that he had learned to rely upon He who was everything—He who was the source of his supply: Jesus. In essence, Paul considered himself a wealthy pauper.

[3] Most saints aren’t trampling over one another to sign up for courses in abasement, hunger, and suffering. However, if we would learn to experience true contentment, these are necessary.

[4] The world seeks to give us contentment through more possessions. God seeks to give us contentment through decreased desires. More accurately, God seeks to produce contentment in us by giving us a singularity of desire—the desire for Him.

[5] Paul had learned that when he had everything, it didn’t add anything to him, because it paled in value when compared to Jesus. When Paul had nothing, he learned that it didn’t take anything from him, because Jesus was everything to him.

[6] The late Ronald Dunn, a former pastor and conference speaker, once made the statement, “You’ll never know that Jesus is all you need until He’s all you’ve got.”(7) Be careful about frivolously praying that God would teach you that Jesus is all you need. Learning that Jesus is all you need is more often than not, learned in unpleasant circumstances.


Phil.4: 13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Eph.1: 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”

NOTE: [1] The Amplified Bible translates Phil.4: 13 as follows:

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me—I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me, [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].(8)

[2] There are two kinds of Christians: (a) those who are constantly wanting things from Christ, and, (b) those who realize that they already possess all things in Christ.

[3] The self-containment or contentment found in Christ is illustrated by the following true story.

Once there was a wealthy man in England who possessed a wonderful and unique art collection worth about a million pounds ($2,000,000 U.S.). This man had one son whom he loved very dearly and had desired to leave his art collection to him upon his death. The son however, was killed during the World War II.

Since the wealthy Englishman had no other living heir, he stipulated in his will that his art collection was to be auctioned off upon his death, but with the requirement that the portrait of his son be sold first.

Eventually the wealthy man died. On the day of the auction, people from around the world were in attendance to bid on this priceless art collection. The rich man’s lawyer stood and informed the people present of the stipulation placed upon the auction by his client.

When the bidding was opened, no one wanted to bid on the portrait of the owner’s son, because they were waiting for the more valuable pieces to come on the auction block. However, there was a former servant of the owner in attendance, who had greatly loved the owner’s son, and had cared for him for many years. It was he who made the only bid on the portrait of the owner’s son. Finally, the auctioneer said, “Going, going, gone. Sold, to the man at the back of the room.”

The rich man’s lawyer immediately stood up and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the auction is now closed. According to the terms of the will, whoever purchased the portrait of the owner’s son is to receive the rest of the collection as well.”

Dear folks, Jesus is the secret of contentment. If you have the Son, you have it all.(9)

Theme: Paul reveals that:




End Notes:

(1) Alvah Hovey, D.D., LL.D., Editor, An American Commentary of the New Testament, published by The American Baptist Publication Society, Chicago, Los Angeles; Commentary on the Epistle To the Philippians, pg. 59.

(2) Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Joyful, published by Victory Books, Wheaton, Illinois; pg. 134.

(3) Ibid, pg. 136.

(4)Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies, Vol.II, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Philippians In the Greek New Testament, pg. 113.

(5) Ibid, pg. 114.

(6) Ibid, pg. 113.

(7) Ron Dunn.

(8) The Lockman Foundation, The Amplified Bible, published by Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan; Quoted from The Amplified New Testament, pg. 309.

(9) Source unknown.