Philippians (15): Dealing with Contentment

Date: 11/4/2012
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Contentment
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

Philippians (15): Dealing with Contentment

Phil 4:9–13 (NASB) - “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Their Concern and His Circumstances - Paul shares his gratitude that they have continued to send support for him. Given an 800 mile distance between Philippi and Rome, they were not able to readily provide a gift for him. Now he has received this gift and blesses them for it. In expressing thanks he gratefully points to his own character of learning the skill of contentment. Paul was imprisoned and yet able to endure with very little support. The term he uses for being “content” ordinarily means “self-sufficient” or “self-reliance” and was a favorite virtue of Stoic philosophers of the first century like Seneca. They taught, “be sufficient unto yourself for all things, and able, by the power of your own will, to resist the force of circumstances.” Paul had to “learn” this virtue. He calls learning this a “secret.” Literally he says, he has been “initiated into the secret,” as in a sacred and secret mystery. Knowing this secret gave him the ability to handle whatever circumstances came, whether humble means or prosperity, being filled or going hungry, abundance or suffering.

Our Contentment - In this case, self-sufficiency in all the circumstances of the moment does not equal self-reliance. This self-reliance is not self-reliant at all. It is Christ-reliant. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” v19. This is the secret: depending on Christ. It is presently grounded in living unto Christ: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). It is grounded in the future basis of resurrection, “who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (3:21). It is grounded in the ongoing practice of “envisioning” the true, good and beautiful in every circumstance (4:8). It is the peace of God expressed in a worry-free life (4:6-7) of being satisfied in a range of circumstances.  

Practicing Contentment - A lack of contentment is expressed in acting selfishly (2:3), complaining, grumbling (2:14), disputing (4:2), impatience harshness (4:5), worrying (4:6), and negativity (4:8). Contentment is practiced in rejoicing (4:4), patience, gentleness (4:5), praying (4:6), accepting peace (4:7), and in envision good (4:8).

The area of my life that I am least content in is ___________________.
Circle those applicable -  Regarding this, in the past week I have acted 1) selfishly, 2) complained, 3) grumbled, 4) disputed, 6) impatiently, 7) harshly, 8) worried, and 9) negatively in my thinking.

Circle your commitments -  Regarding this, in the coming week I will practice contentment by doing what is in my power to do and then: 1) rejoicing in being in Christ, 2) being patient, 3) being gentle, 4) praying specifically, 5) accepting and recognizing peace, and 6) in envisioning good.

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more