FREED: To Contentment | Philippians 4:10-23
Topic: New Testament Passage: Philippians 4:10–4:23
Christopher Rich – June 24, 2018
FREED | From Prison to Peace | Wk 12
FREED: To Contentment | Philippians 4:10-23
Introduction | How do we find Contentment?
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we’re cont our series FREED: From Prison to Peace.
Are you content? Are you satisfied with every aspect of your life? What circumstances are easier for you to experience contentment in? When have you come to a place you thought would be peaceful, accomplished, fulfilled only to find you end up wanting more, or something different? Why are we not content? Why are not able experience contentment in situations where we should be able to say “this is good”. What about when are so discontent because we have so little we are not satisfied and it makes sense. This can’t be all there is. You are clearly in need or have less than should lead to natural satisfaction. What are you looking for to find contentment in? It is in a spouse or family? It is in health and prosperity? Is it in having things that are new? Is in maintaining things that are old? Eventually, this lack of contentment will lead to one of two things. Either catalytic movement to effect some sort, any sort of change. So you’ll change jobs, move houses, leave spouses, anything to keep things changing never “settling” hoping that the next change will be the one that will finally bring contentment. In desiring to never “settle” you are constantly unsettled. The other option is maybe even more common. You’ve decided true rest and contentment is too difficult so you succumb to complacency. I’ll stop caring so much about the state my life, my family, my church, my community. In a desire to not be let down you’ll lower expectations for your life below what is profitable. We cannot simply change or lower our expectations. Ok I’ll just want less. Is that really the answer? As if we just tell ourselves we shouldn’t want as much and instead settle with less. We want more. We always want more. We are creatures with souls built to think of eternity, so more than this is a natural desire. But our joy is not found in having more of what doesn’t satisfy. If contentment is going to be known and it will need to come from a satisfying source. In Christ, we are FREED to Contentment.
PART I |FREED to Contentment in all Circumstances | v10-13
Philippians 4:10-13 | 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This section of scripture, ends with an often quoted verse by professional athletes and Christian motivational posters. Like a Jesus version of “You can do it!” I am sure as Paul writing this he hoped Steph Curry might throw it up on a graphic on his Instagram or write it on his sneaker. Context matters. Paul is in a difficulty situation but has Joy from God, in God, that there are other people who are supporting, and concerned for, Paul personally and his ministry in general. Here is a guy under house arrest, facing trail and execution from the world outside. He’s facing competition and being reviled by people in the church who like Jesus but don’t like Paul. He’s facing Gospel corruption from people coming into the church who are trying to tell people they can have salvation without Jesus but their own work, but he says “I am not talking about my needs or being needy” I have all that I need. I have contentment in this situation. I have contentment in this situation because I’ve leaned how to have contentment in EVERY situation. Because I am content, I am not truly in need. What a bold statement that we can barely comprehend. Any and every situation? Contentment is fleeting when it’s dependent on our circumstances. So our contentment cannot be found in something situational because as soon as a circumstances changes so does our contentment. So this means we need to look beyond our outside circumstances. Maybe we can find it from within, being pleased with ourselves. If we were more settled in who we are we could be content in all circumstances. Believe in yourself more and no matter what happens you’ll be content. But when we look inside ourselves and find fickleness, brokenness and want we end up disappointed. As strong as we are, there are circumstances that simply overwhelm our ability on our own to remain content. What are these struggles?
Content with little - I know how to be brought low, facing hunger, and need. “Little” can be a prison. We may not have enough to eat. We may not have enough to pay our bills. We may need to ask ourselves why we have the bills we do, but that is another issue. We may be lonely. We may be experiencing injustice. We may be ashamed of our circumstances. How can we be content it these types of situations?
Clearly there are ways NOT to face these things. Gripping, endless complaining about the circumstance we’re in. Covetousness and Jealousy - I want what someone else has. Someone else has more. Entitlement - I deserve more than I’ve received, I’ll be content when I have it. I am not content because I am insecure (need more) It MAY come from reorienting our perception of what we truly possess and have more gratitude for what we do have. This is a noble and timeless idea. When Socrates was asked who the wealthiest person was he said: “The one who is content with the least, for contentment is nature’s wealth”
He’s close. But he’s settled for less than where full contentment is found. He’s happy enough to think this comes from “nature” or we’d say “the universe” as if this is an impersonal unnamable force of creation will be able to satisfy a personal individual eternal created soul. You are not enough for you, creation is not enough for you. In true hunger need and humiliation you cannot simply lie to yourself and say “It’s not that bad.” When it is. Paul is using this to talk not about being completely self-sufficient independent of all. But to have contentment independent of the circumstances we find ourselves in. I think it is easier to see how we can struggle for contentment when we are truly in a place of need. It is more difficult when you have much.
Content with much- I know how to abound (meaning), facing plenty, and abundance. Why would we struggle when “facing plenty”. How many of us would like to have to “face abundance.” Much can be a different prison. Because we don’t realize how much (or what) we truly need. Paul’s been a rich kid, he was born and raised in Tarsus (it’s more Beverly Hills than West Philly) he experienced being a privileged Roman citizen while also being highly educated as a religious elite. He has experienced having much. Ways not to face these things. Gluttony, following our own desires. Being unsatisfied or discontent.
Having more but still being focused on ourselves can spoil us to allow us to pursue our self-centeredness more and more. It can imprison us to believe having “much/plenty” is having more than we currently do. It can rob us of gratitude because we’ve believed a lie that we don’t have what we need to survive when in fact we’ve been given an abundance. Much = more than what you need to eat and survive. We’re not talking about what it means to thrive. Example: In 2004 Latrell Sprewell NBA Guard with 14.6 (8+ after taxes and fees) million dollar contract said in complaining about his contract “I’ve got my family to feed”. I’ll cut him some slack because he had 6 kids, but according to Sport Illustrated article he could have “feed” his family AND 431 other families! That’s extreme, but we forget we’re the top 1% of the world.
We think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Entitlement (I deserve all that I have, because I’ve earned it, and I want MORE) (What’s your #? More.) I am insecure because I know how much I want and can’t yet have. You will never experience security (and contentment) if it’s in things that can leave you.
Jesus is the secret of Contentment. Paul says, I have learned the secret (I’ve been initiated it what was previously unknown or hidden) into something that brings, supplies contentment in all these circumstances. I can face all these challenges and trials, successes and failures with and because of Jesus. We need to be reoriented from circumstance-sufficient, self-sufficient, creation-sufficient to Christ-Sufficient. We can be content in all circumstances when we are content in Christ because Christ is with us in all circumstances.
Our contentment comes from our communion with God and our communion with God comes from our reliance of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Communion with Jesus initiates us into contentment.
Hebrews 13:5-6 | Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man (or my circumstances) do to me?”
In Christ, we have a God who doesn’t leave us, who doesn’t turn His back on us. We can find contentment with Him in all circumstance because He is reliable and unchanging. We can have confidence because GOD is our “helper” He provides the strength to endure all circumstances. So we don’t have to fear. He is the one who strengthens. We are weak all circumstances and not able to properly deal with them in ways that show contentment. In Jesus, we have a God we identify with who has experienced each of these sets of circumstances and navigated them without sin. He has endured little (being brought low) AND He knows how to abound with Glory, honor and wealth. He uses it for mercy, grace, justice, and peace. This would be a great place to end this sermon, a great verse for us to stop and consider the victory of contentment we can have in all circumstances because of the Gospel of Jesus. We could have this theological concept of contentment in Christ but not know the tangible and practical outworking’s of this contentment in how God provides for us in need and how we are to respond in plenty as disciples of Jesus who gives contentment.
PART II | Content in Partnership | v14-19
Philippians 4:14-19 | 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
We transition to the concept of contentment in Christ to the application of contentment in Christ. Here is the idea (be content with Christ) let me show you an example. You sharing in my trouble (being brought low, need) by participating in filling it. Part of the secret to being content in Christ is being remembered by those who are also content in Christ. God is the one who supplies, strengthens, sustains and supports! And he does it through the provision, giving, stewardship, and hearts affections and actions of other Christians. You will actively contribute to the mission of the Gospel in time, talent, and treasure (Serving, Skills, bills) when you are content in Christ. Wait he’s talking now about financial support/Giving?! How did he make that turn? I didn’t, the text did. Immediately after talking about being content in all circumstances (in the context of rejoicing in God because of their support) the text goes into how the Philippians financial giving, offering, support of “sharing in my trouble” Gospel ministry is an example of their contentment with Christ AND God’s provision for one of His ministers through the collective giving of the church. I believe it would be pastoral malpractice to only talk about contentment in Christ because of the Gospel and not talk about the comprehensive aspects of what it frees us to do. In part, it frees us to generously live and support the work of the Gospel. When we are more content with Christ than our cash then we can talk about how/why it’s given to support the Gospel because what we’re giving away, stewarding, isn’t our greatest treasure, Christ is!
Specific to this text there is a partnership in “Giving and receiving” This partnership has been a theme throughout the entire letter. Paul is giving in preaching the Gospel, leading churches, inspiring faithfulness, exhorting, providing an example what a disciple looks like, these are all “intangible” things, but the Philippians have received them to their benefit and growth. The Philippians have given prayer, encouragement, continued in faithfulness AND they have given (on several occasions) financial support to sustain Paul’s ministry while also sending him Epaphroditus to come and help him. Paul has received this partnership to his benefit and contentment. They have supported him substantially to the point he can freely say “I have received ‘full payment’ and then some!’ I am well supplied.” The Philippian church has actually stepped up above and beyond what any of the other churches we’ve seen in the NT. How would you feel if you were the other churches in the first century and you got a copy of this letter? Thessalonians weren’t working and waiting for the rapture so they couldn’t pay a pastor. The Corinthians were wealthy but they are were morally corrupt and didn’t steward their money or their bodies to God’s glory but instead their own. There may be a bit of healthy conviction on their part on what their discipleship and stewardship looked like. But the Philippians have been consistent partners is this ministry. Paul has, and could again be a tent maker to supply his needs but they know it’s better and more effective if he be released from that work, being supplied/supported, at a level to dedicate full time labor to and for the Gospel. It led to great thankfulness for Paul. Yes, Paul is thankful for their support obviously but he is explicitly desirous of something greater than merely his provision. He cares about the growth of the church in Philippi. Not just their numeric growth but in their maturity and faithfulness. He is seeking their fruitfulness that “increases to their credit” So who’s balance sheet is he ultimately concerned with? His or theirs? Thiers! His greatest concern is their credit.
Partnering for the Gospel leads to personally profiting in the Gospel. He knows as they partner with him (and his ministry) in “giving and receiving” there is fruit that will be credited to their account. Literally profit accruing to your account. He knows they are growing as they’re giving and benefiting (not losing) as they’re giving. Anyone who has experienced getting gifts verses giving them knows that there is a deeper, longer lasting joy experienced in giving compared to receiving. In Verse 18, There is a transition from accounting language to worship language. But that shouldn’t be a surprise at all. We show what we’ve placed worth in how we steward and spend money. Their giving is a barometer of their maturity and faithfulness. It shows how they view God (in terms of provision – Who actually provides all things, who is the one you can actually rely on?) and His mission (in terms of priority, what is most important in your life, what is of “first importance”? ) The gospel going deeper in the lives of others and father to people and places who have not yet been impacted by it. He wants them to gain, and they will gain as they give.
We experienced this in the life of our church over the winter/early spring. Our balance sheet as a church did not look strong. We were concerned with our ability to support our pastors/mission. We shared this need with our church (taught on Gospel Giving) led with a clear plan to greater stability and we were overwhelmed with the response! Yes, it is better be able to say “we are well supplied”, it’s better to lead with equipped with resources and pursue key initiatives. But the best part was knowing people we repenting of sin and walking in greater obedience and faithfulness to God. In a word we are “proud” of our church. There were gains our collective stability, because there were gains in individual faithfulness.
Paul makes a pretty clear and bold statement. He equates the financial gift given to him to support his ministry of preaching the Gospel and teaching the bible as a fragrant offering (OT this was an offering directed to support the levites (priests) and a sacrifice that is both pleasing to God and acceptable to God. God is pleased and God accepts as an offering/sacrifice giving to the ministry of those people, churches who are preaching and teaching the Gospel. This is why he can say back in verse 10 “I rejoice in the Lord” for their support because He knows their support of him and his ministry is really worship to God. And God uses their worship of God to bless/supply Paul. Paul assures them (and us) God is a giver to us.
Content knowing our God gives- “My God” will supply….. every fleeting desire? No, but He provides every need of mine and yours… These needs are spiritual and these needs are temporal. God is the one who fills our needs, because what we need most IS God. Connection with Him, life from Him. We are in need.
We have sin, we need salvation. We have shame, we need honor. We have brokenness, we need healing. We have defilement, we need to be clean. We have death looming, we need life everlasting.
We have weakness, we need strength. We have complacency, we need comfort. We have anxiousness, we need peace. We have fear, we need hope. We have discontentment, we need joy. HE GIVES US ALL THIS!
How does he do this? because of His riches. The Riches of God are decidedly “a lot” Bezos doesn’t hold a candle (island off Kauai own by someone) cool island! I’ve got 7 continents! All the wealth, all the riches of God all the He promises to supply in us. Where can we find this? Where are these riches displayed? In Christ Jesus, it says. Life with Jesus, is a life of contentment in all circumstances and in every gospel partnership because we’ve been given what we truly need through our life with Christ.
PART III | FREED to Contentment in Glory and Grace | v20-23
20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
So this letter (and sermon series) closes with the two mega ideas we’ve been wrestling with. How can we go from being imprisoned in our sin searching for glory in ourselves and where can we experience true peace in a life that is greater than we deserve because of our sin. All glory belongs to God and we will find the glory we seek when we direct our lives to God. God sets us free from our prison so we can worship Him and it leads to healing, freedom, humility, contentment, generosity, and joy as we are not left out alone but we graciously experience life with Him in Jesus. Not as an estranged sinner, slave and enemy, but as a freed adopted family member, citizen, and (here) saint. This new identity is a beautiful theological truth found in what it means to be saved by Jesus work, but it is also something that is personal and specific. Our prayers is that we would be a people FREED from seeking glory in ourselves, and would direct glory to where it belongs, to our God. FREED to glory in God and relationship with His People.
This letter is from and to specific people. Who need to be freed to worship what truly matters. We should hope that this grand concepts and ideas wouldn’t live in our pulpits and podcast but in our daily lives and conversations with specific people who knowingly or not desperately need what only Jesus can provide. New forever life with Christ. Pray for specific people in our church and in our city would become our brothers and sisters. We are people who have been freed by Grace. We deserve nothing, we’ve earned nothing but judgement, but we’ve been given EVERYTHING we actually need when we Trust Jesus.
More in FREED | From Prison to Peace | Philippians
June 17, 2018FREED: To Peace in Conflict | Philippians 4:2-9
June 10, 2018FREED: to Present Maturity and Future Glory | Philippians 3:17-4:1
June 3, 2018FREED: from our PAST to His Future | Philippians 3:12-4:1