Summary: Philippians 4:10-23. Learn how to be satisfied with what you have from the experiences of Paul.
AGAIN I SAY REJOICE
THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT
- A few weeks ago when we were discussing how to pursue the prize of Christian maturity I quoted Dr. Warren Wiersbe as writing that “A divine dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress.” In the context of that quote and in the context of my sermon the point was that believers should never be satisfied with their level of spiritual growth. They can and should be joyful that growth is occurring, but should never assume that they have done enough; that they are mature enough; that they are godly enough. So as it relates to spiritual progress, Scripture commends discontentment.
- But now we come to another matter altogether. In Philippians 4:10-23 Paul addresses a different kind of contentment. Now, spiritual growth is not the subject of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, but rather material belongings and physical provisions. What we are going to see as we close our look at this Apostolic letter is that there is a certain kind of contentment which is indeed godly; that while we should never be satisfied with our spiritual walk, we should always be satisfied with our physical possessions.
- Much of what we will discuss today will fly in the face of all that Americans hold dear. In fact, the accumulation of wealth and possessions is almost a given in our country – that’s just what we do. That’s what life is all about. We are born, we go to school to learn general knowledge, we go to college to learn specific knowledge that we can apply in a particular trade, we find a job (optimally in the trade we trained for), and we begin to make and accumulate money so that we can buy cars, buy houses, buy clothes, buy jewelry, buy cell phones, buy video games, buy all sorts of stuff.
- While that may be the typical American life, that is far from the expected biblical life. For Scripture does not suggest that possessions are evil or that having many of them is necessarily evil, but that possessions should always remain possessions and never become possessors. As believers, we control our possessions for the glory of God. The biblical thinker understands the role of material things in this life as we prepare for the next life – our true, abundant, and eternal life.
- Contentment is such an important Christian virtue that Paul instructed Timothy, the young pastor at the church of Ephesus, in the ways of contentment when he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6 that: there is great gain in godliness with contentment. We will look at the passage in depth in just a moment. So the Bible is well aware of, as we would expect it to be, the natural, sinful human tendency to covet after more and more material possessions and set those possessions up as idols.
- The way to avoid that particular form of idolatry, of course, is to develop contentment. The question before us then is this: “How do I develop contentment?”. What is the secret of contentment? What one thing, if there is only one thing, do I need to come to grips with in order to see the covetousness that so naturally arises within me transform into contentment? Let’s see what the word of God has to say about this matter in Philippians 4.
[READ PHILIPPIANS 4:10-23]
- The first thing we learn from the Apostle Paul in this text is this:
A CONTENT PERSON KNOWS HOW TO HAVE LITTLE
- The main thrust of this passage is Paul rejoicing and thanking the Philippians for a gift that they had sent to him. He speaks of them reviving their concern for him, which is a way of alluding to their support of him. Then in v.18 he mentions the gift specifically.
- Remember we noted in our look at the end of chapter 2 that this gift was sent to Paul from Philippi by the hand of Epaphroditus. And I mentioned what an enormous task it would have been to travel from Philippi to Rome bearing a gift. The 1200 mile journey was by no means easy. So Paul, again recognizing this, begins to express his gratitude for their generosity.
- And as is often the case, he states something very important in the midst of his overall comment. He wants the saints to know that he is especially grateful for their gift, but that with or without the gift he would be content. In fact, it goes beyond that. He states that whatever situation he was in, he had learned to be satisfied with what he had. And in saying this he claims that he knew: how to be brought low...[and] the secret of facing hunger...and need.
- Here he is: aside from Jesus himself, the greatest missionary to ever walk the planet. A giant of all giants of the faith humbly admitting that he knew how to do without. I want you to get a picture of this from the book of 2 Corinthians. For some this will be an eye-opener and others a refresher. What kind of things did Paul deal with while preaching the gospel in the name of Jesus Christ?