“Learn the Secret of Christian Contentment”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.10-13.contentment
Please turn to Philippians 4. A donkey, during a particularly hard winter, longed for a little warm weather and a mouthful of fresh grass… He was sick of the dry straw and the cold barn. In the course of time, the warm weather and the fresh grass came… But so did the hard work along with it. And so the donkey quickly grew sick of the springtime as much as he did of the wintertime.
So, he then longed for summer … But when summer came, he found that his hard work and drudgery was greater than in the springtime! But then he thinks to himself, “Ah, but it will be much better when the Autumn arrives.” And sure enough it did arrive… along with harvest… Carrying apples, grapes, fuel and winter provisions … He found himself in more discontentment than ever before. And in the end, after he has gone through the cycle of the year in a circle of restless labor, his final desire is for winter yet again so that he may get his rest from where he began to complain.
I’m sure many of us can relate to that; that simply shows your lack of what we’re talking about this morning.
The oil mogul John D. Rockefeller who is said to have been one of the richest men in history was asked, “Mr. Rockefeller, how much money is enough?” And he answered, “Just a little bit more.”
Simply a lack of what we’re talking about this morning: a lack of contentment.
Our culture is not known for its contentment. Look at our debt. The amount Canadians owe compared with how much we earn hit another record high last year. Debt levels are 167.3 percent of income levels. That means there was $1.67 in credit market debt for every dollar of income in 2016.
The divorce rate. The average marriage in Canada lasts 14 years. More marriages end in divorce today than 100 years ago, but that rate is actually declining. Why? Because people aren’t getting married, they simply live common law and when they get discontent with their partner, they move on to the next one.
Plus, half of Canadians are not happy with their jobs. People in the world can’t find happiness or contentment.
It seems so elusive like the fly on the inside of my window, buzzing trying to get outside only to come back inside again…or it’s like the cow who’s constantly looking on the other side of the fence observing what seems to be much greener grass!
You too need to learn the secret of Christian contentment. If you want to learn the secret of Christian contentment, learn from Paul who has learned it.
Philippians 4:10–13 10 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. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
But you see it’s not just the world that’s discontent, but God’s people are too. Christians are dissatisfied with the church they attend and so they constantly are looking for another church.
They are discontent with the church name, the people who go there, the sermon is too long or too short. Pastor is too funny, not funny enough, too short, too tall, too lanky, too fat. I don’t like the Bible translation, the building layout. The community is not diverse enough, there aren’t enough functions… to many functions… the parking is poor. Drinking isn’t allowed, the music style is too conservative, the music leader is too whatever, we can’t make the service times, too many songs in the service, not enough songs, the pastor is too nosy, or he never talks to me, there isn’t coffee and no free wifi…Too many Christians are discontent with their churches for nonbiblical reasons!
But you are to be content! 1 Timothy 6:6 … godliness with contentment is great gain! What about godliness without contentment? Not great gain! Godliness with contentment is great gain.
Hebrews 13:5 5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
Be content with the presence of God in times of need.
But Paul in our passage tells us what contentment is.
Christian contentment is rejoicing in the sovereign Lord despite circumstances through Christ’s strength.
Let’s “Learn the Secret of Christian Contentment.”
Rejoicing in the sovereign Lord (v.10)
Rejoicing in the Lord
He is sovereign
First, Christian contentment is rejoicing in the sovereign Lord.
Philippians 4:10 10 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.
EXP: Rejoice in the Lord! Paul’s in jail, rejoicing in the Lord greatly! He’s tied to Roman soldiers, rejoicing in the Lord greatly! In a Roman jail, you don’t exactly live a posh lifestyle supported by the prison system run by the taxes of the Roman citizens; you have to fend for yourself and be dependent on others outside of prison for food. Paul literally has nothing!
The Philippians send him a gift via Epaphroditus and he’s rejoicing in the Lord.
So if you’re discontent for whatever reason, find your joy in God. He is to be your satisfaction, your purpose in life in every circumstance. He is your joy whether you act like it or not or whether you believe it or not; He is the only one who satisfies.
Paul says, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly!” Mega rejoice! But it’s in the Lord…it’s not that he rejoices in the gift, in some material provision, but in the Lord. The focus of his joy is not on material things that God provides, but on the God who gives.
APP: The God who gives His joy in Himself needs to be in your meditations and prayers. Whether you rejoice in God or in what He gives will be reflected in how you think and in how you pray. Contentment demands that you rejoice specifically in the Lord. Purposefully do that…think long on Him, Him Himself, every day!
TRANS: And rejoice in the sovereign Lord. Specifically rejoice in His sovereignty.
EXP: The Lord is sovereign. Paul says … Philippians 4:10 10 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.
Opportunities are in the hand of God!
Here’s the background. The Philippian Christians gave money to Paul, 4:15.
Philippians 4:15 15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia [Philippi is in Macedonia…after he leaves the Philippian Christians], no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;
Paul then leaves Philipi and goes to Thessalonica. And the Philippians were supporting Paul financially the moment he left. More than once even…
Philippians 4:16 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
And now, 10 years later, they are supporting him again. They revived their concern again after a long time. Paul knew that during those years, they didn’t have opportunity to give. V.10 says they what? They lacked opportunity.
Paul therefore knew Who it was Who was not giving them that opportunity: the sovereign Lord. But Paul is content even though no one was giving to him. Why? Because Paul knows and rejoices inthe sovereign Lord; he knows the One in control of every opportunity.
Rejoice in the sovereign Lord.
APP: In fact, you’ll never find contentment if you don’t find your joy in the one who controls everything in your life.
When some bad thing happens, whether you’re having family problems or difficulties at work or this particular situation doesn’t go your way or you’re exhausted all the time or whatever it is, if you don’t know that the Lord is in control, you’ll be tempted to grumble.
But if you do deeply know the One who is in control, you’ll know that every event of your life is given to you by the good hand of God.
ILL: It was this way with Joseph. Remember Joseph in the book of Genesis. Life didn’t exactly go his way. He has these dreams from God about his future…he didn’t ask for them… but his brothers are jealous of him and so they sell him to the Midianites, who take him to Egypt and sell him into slavery.
And there, he’s thrown in jail for something he didn’t do…what a raw deal? Does he complain? No!
Then, through various other circumstances, he then becomes the second most powerful in all of Egypt. And through his leadership, thousands of people are saved from famine, including his very own family back in the land of Canaan.
And as God’s sovereign control would have it, years later Joseph and his brothers meet again.
Does Joseph take revenge on them? Does he even grumble? No! Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
God is completely in control and when He brings disaster or disappointment, there is a greater good. God is good enough and He’s in control enough that you may be content enough in Him.
You need to deeply understand God’s control in order to be content.
God knows how to turn bad into good; look at Christ! That the Son of Man is killed, what a tragedy! But God turned that into good, not only raising Him from the dead, but giving eternal life to millions through it! The eternal good far outweighed the bad.
Romans 8:28 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Not some, but all things!
But if you are discontent, you may know God’s sovereignty, but you are at least not submitted to it.
Is there some trouble that God’s hand has brought your way and yet your heart is full of strife, discontent, and even anger? What? Are you above God? Is this not what the hand of God has brought into your life? Would you put your will above God’s will?
No! Tell yourself, “My soul submit under God’s authority. Keep under His hand.”
Not only submit to it, but take delight in God’s providence. You need to purposely take delight in what He has done for you. If you are going through some trial or distress, praise the Lord and say, “thank you that you are working this together for my good and to make me like Jesus.”
GOSPEL: Or if you don’t know if you’d go to heaven when you die, allow God to use this bad thing in your life to lead you to trust in Him and repent of your sins!
You need to say with the psalmist in Ps. 119:71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.”
TRANS: Paul’s contentment is in the sovereign Lord; He rejoices greatly in the sovereign Lord: He’s submitted to God’s providence and even takes delight in it…even though up to this point, Paul has nothing!
Somebody says, “Well, Paul did get some money, surely his contentment has something to do with with material stuff, right?” No!
Apart from circumstances (v.11-12)
Paul’s contentment, his satisfaction, his joy is apart from circumstances. It doesn’t matter if he has a lot or if he has little.
Philippians 4:11–12 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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.
Paul knows how to be content apart from circumstances. If he was without, he didn’t complain. If he had too much, he didn’t get arrogant, boastful, and dependent on the things he had.
He was truly content in Christ. How could that be? He learned it. … v.11 “ I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” verse 12 … “ in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry…”
He learned it how? By exposure to both kinds of circumstances, whether a lot or a little. Whether you have a lot or a little, you can learn the secret of contentment too.
ILL: Now, let me tell you if you’re in this room this morning, it is most likely that you are not poor. Having $5,000 to your name makes you richer than half of the world. Earning just over $40,000 a year puts you in the top 1% of the entire world.
Your problem is you don’t know how to be content with a lot. Most of us don’t have a little. The love of money has corrupted our society. Remember how much is enough? “Just a little bit more.”
But God uses His own grace, as you expose yourself to it, and He uses the circumstances He brings you into … whether you have a lot or a little… in order to help you learn contentment.
ILL: And so contentment is not natural to the heart of man. You have to learn it! I have no need to plant dandelions, thorns, and thistles in my garden. They grow up naturally. I also have no need to learn to be discontented, covetous, complaining or grumbling. They grow naturally in my heart.
But what I value in Christ and what I value in my garden both take work. If I want to have a harvest of carrots cucumbers potatoes and corn I must cultivate the earth, weed, sow, weed some more, and harvest.
To have an abundant harvest of contentment in Christ, takes me cultivating my heart taking out the weeds of covetousness grumbling and constantly by constantly repenting of them and then sowing the seeds of contentment…purposefully rejoicing in the sovereign Lord.
You will by no means ever be contented without learning the secret. Don’t think that you will be content in Christ if you are spiritually lazy and have no discipline to seek his face.
TRANS: Be content. What does that mean? Christian contentment is rejoicing in the sovereign Lord despite circumstances. But how do you do that?
Through the strength of Christ.
Through Christ’s strength (v.13)
Philippians 4:13 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Paul learned contentment through Christ giving him strength. This isn’t Paul just pulling himself up by his bootstraps and toughening through it. To be strengthened by Christ to be content in any circumstance required at least two things.
1. Humility from weaknesses
2. Abiding in Christ
Paul knew his weaknesses, then he was strong
2 Corinthians 11:23–28 23 …, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
1 Corinthians 4:11–13 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.
Poor Paul, he’s soooo weak! Right? No!
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul knows that to get Christ’s strength requires knowledge of weakness first! The humble are exalted, the repentant are forgiven, the weak are strengthened.
But the self-sufficient fall. The self-made millionaire struts along his way, thinking “I can do all things,” the lost politician voted in again says, “I can do all things” and the proud and obstinate also say to themselves “I can do all things” but little do they know that they will be destroyed and God will bring them to ruin, “Everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled.” But it’s the humble who will be exalted.
Know your weaknesses and be content with them and ask for strength from Christ. That’s how you get Christ’s strength to be content.
Paul was connected to the vine=strength
And second way to get strength is you must abide in Christ. John 15, Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branch that bears fruit is pruned to bear more fruit. But the branch that does not bear fruit is burned in the fire. Christians bear fruit. The branch, which is us, by itself does not bear fruit. By its own work and effort, it does not bear fruit. It only bears fruit by drawing on the life energy of the vine. Just like that, Jesus says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
So you must abide in Him as the branch abides in the vine. This means to obey his commands and commune with him, sitting at His feet.
Whether much or little, Paul can do it all through Christ’s strength. Humbling himself through deep knowledge of his own weaknesses, thanking the Lord for His strength and obeying Christ’s commands and communing with Him.
If you practice drawing on Christ’s strength in this way, you’ll be content. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself not content, but grumbling and discontent.
To get the strength of Christ that helps you to be content no matter what’s going on, abide in Him, obeying His commands and following Him today; also, know your weakness to the point that it causes you to draw on the strength of Christ.
To motivate you a little here, do you know how bad discontentment and grumbling and complaining is?
Preach Against Discontent
ILL: It’s exactly what the children of Israel were doing in the wilderness after they were led out of the land of Egypt.
So God leads them out of Egypt with 10 plagues… 10 miraculous signs of God’s deliverance. Pharaoh’s army is chasing the Israelites to the Red Sea. They are terrified and so what do they do? They grumble…
Exodus 14:11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?”
God then parts the Red Sea. What do they do? Exodus 15:23-24 says they grumble that in the wilderness, they don’t have any water…
But then God miraculously provides water. And then what do they do? They grumble, Ex. 16:2-3.
And the LORD miraculously provides meat and manna. What do they do? Grumble against the LORD, Ex. 16:6.
All grumbling is against God. Chapter 17, no water again. The wilderness is hot, a desert. What do they do? Grumble! Ex. 17:2-3
And Moses strikes the rock at the direction of the Lord and water gushes out. God miraculously provides water.
And at the end of the 40 year wandering in the desert, it hasn’t improved at all. Numbers 11:1. And the Lord is about to deal with them… Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
The Lord then gives them meat to eat and kills many of their people with a very severe plague, 14,700 died.
Should we not be surprised that doesn’t happen today?
Why do you grumble? Why do you debate and argue, complain and bicker? You’re resisting God’s providence, unpleasant though it may be. Far from delighting in His providence for you, you aren’t submitted to it, and yes you are resisting God, rebelling against God, testing the Lord, rejecting Him… if you are grumbling.
By the way, do not tolerate complaining and grumbling in your home! If the Lord sends a plague because of it, should we tolerate that at home? By no means!
Again, this is you when you complain about your circumstances…Why did you do this or that? Slow wifi, waiting in the drive through, your work, your boss, the weather, Monday morning, tailgating, your children…spouse, siblings, job…friends, your busy-ness, lack of sleep, health problems, lack of money, you name it. And you bicker and complain…
And so why is discontentment grumbling so bad again?
First, grumbling and complaining like this shows you distrust God’s gracious providence. You pray, “O Sovereign Lord, I give myself to thee…” but then trouble comes within His sovereignty and you complain and grind, fester underneath…His sovereignty!
Second, Grumbling is also evil because you’re demanding things that God has not promised. He hasn’t promised that you wouldn’t spill that milk or that your coworker would be perfect to work with! Why do you covet such perfect comfort…comfort God hasn’t promised? Complaining is evil because it distrusts God’s gracious providence and you’re demanding things God hasn’t promised.
You are so discontented because you do not have something that God has never promised. You’re coveting…that makes you an idol worshipper, Col. 3:5
But third, grumbling is also a wicked, wicked sin because it is rebellion. Comparing Num. 16:41 with Num. 17:10 we understand that grumbling is rebellion.
Grumblers are rebels. Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in his excellent Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment written in the 1600s says, “You who are guilty of this sin of complaining are this day charged by the Lord as being guilty of rebellion against Him. God expects that when you go home, you should humble your souls before Him for this sin.”
ILL: Burroughs goes on to point out that if your body … if your physical body was of such a condition that every tiny little scratch on your skin makes your skin to fester and be so sore, full of puss… Every tiny little scratch… You would surely say that your body is so sick, corrupt!
So it is in your spirit if every little trouble and affliction makes you so discontented and full of complaint … Your spirit within you is festering because of some little tiny providential discomfort… You have a sick soul…and you are heading toward all kinds of evil. Complaining and grumbling is a horrible evil that leads to so many other evils … after all that God has provided for you, that you could stoop to that level to complain…a most wretched, rebellious sin.
But for you…if you are a believer … God the whole time has been energizing you to do His will even if it’s during times of lack or in times of wealth…and His will we know is to be thankful and content.
APP: So everything you do must be without grumbling. If you are grumbler, it shows you have a corrupt heart. Repent of that sin; humble yourself before the Lord of hosts.
TRANS: But if you have true Christian contentment, what a glory is yours!
Preach its excellence
As Burroughs points out, if you have contentment, you have come to give God the worship that is due Him.
If you are content, you’ll know the marvels of God’s grace, you’ll be prepared to receive God’s mercies in times of trouble, you’ll be empowered to do His service, you’ll be delivered from many temptations, filled with comfort and pleasantries in your soul, and you’ll be joyful no matter what the condition.
Don’t you want that?
Preach How to Gain it
It is the strength of Christ that will help you. So you must deny yourself today, tomorrow and the next. You don’t need your own way, or this or that to be more pleasant, you need the Lord. If you don’t seek Him, you’ll be miserable, discontented and grumbling. Seek Him!
Somebody who has denied himself recognizes that he is nothing that he deserves nothing but by himself he can do nothing good and only of himself he is sinful. Through a deep recognition and prayerful understanding of that, you will gain humility will begin to delight in the highest good which is God. And with him no one has ever been disconnected.
-getting Christ’s strength
Abide in Him by obeying His commands and seeking Him daily; know your weaknesses to the point that it drives you to your knees to get Christ’s strength.
If you do that, you’ll have Christ’s strength which empowers you to be content. But if you fail to show the dependence on God and be dependent on him in prayer, you’ll cultivate the weeds of a proud heart and you will not prosper and you will not be content.
Once earthly joy I craved,
Sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek,
Give what is best;
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.10-13.contentment
In your riches, don’t forget Him.
In your lack, don’t complain.
Proverbs 30:8–9 8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.
Christian contentment is rejoicing in the sovereign Lord despite circumstances through Christ’s strength.
Be weak to be strong, focus on Christ everyday, not on you, and purposefully make Him your one true joy.
Burroughs Rare Jewel ↑