ďTHE SECRET OF CONTENTMENTĒ

Philippians 4.11

EXPOSITION:

1.   The apostle John wrote these words in First John 2.15-16:  ďLove not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.Ē

2.   Lust, of course, is a craving appetite, a longing for something that you do not have.[1]  So, believers should not love the world or the things that are in the world, and should recognize that lust and pride does not come from God the Father, but comes from the world.  As for the world, John adds in First John 5.19, ďAnd the whole world lieth in wickedness.Ē

3.   Against the backdrop of Godís people and Christís church being both different from and opposed to the world, while concerned for the spiritual welfare of lost people (who are both in and of the world), letís turn to our text for today, Philippians 4.11.  Stand and read along with me silently, while I read aloud:  ďNot that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.Ē

4.   I think this is an appropriate text for this day after Christmas.  You and I both know people who possess almost everything this world has to offer, and yet leading up to Christmas they craved more, more, always more.  When it comes to material things, some people are content with none of the things they already have, but always want more.  Did you see any of that leading up to Christmas day?  I did.

5.   The retail and advertising industries, with their billboards, with their radio and television advertising campaigns, with their magazine ads, and with their Christmas holiday sales, exists for the sole purpose of educating you in such a way, and exciting you in such a way, that you will be so dissatisfied with what you presently possess, or will be so dissatisfied that you do not presently possess, that your lack of contentment will motivate you to go out and buy their product.  And if you donít have the money to buy it?  Charge it.  That is what is really behind the Christmas season in the United States of America.

6.   But possessions are not the only thing related to contentment.  You and I both know people who are not content when it comes to interpersonal relationships.  Either they have relationships they are not content with, or they are not content because they are lonely.

7.   With people like this all around us, how striking it ought to be that the apostle Paul, sitting there in that Roman jail, chained to that Roman centurion, as poor as a church mouse, and with so many of the professing Christians in Rome at odds with him because they thought he was making things bad for them by stirring up the emperor against Christianity, and facing the possibility of execution in the near future, writes to the Philippians about . . . contentment.

8.   Isnít that amazing?  Youíve heard the saying about the man who complained because he didnít have any shoes, until he saw a man who didnít have any feet?  That speaks to the subject of contentment to some degree, but not to the degree that Paul spoke to the subject.  For with Paul the subject of contentment has nothing to do with counting yourself lucky that misfortune hasnít befallen you.  Neither is contentment really about the willingness to settle for less.  With Paul, contentment has to do with your soul really being satisfied.

9.   And in Philippians 4.11, for his beloved Philippians who were concerned about the increased opposition to Christianity in their destitute region, and for you sitting here 2000 years later, Paul provides the secret of contentment.

10. My friends, the pressures and forces we face are different than those Paul and the Philippians faced in their day (so much easier), but the effect on them and the effect of what we face today is the same.  You are not faced with either slavery or execution.  But you are faced with debt pressure, physical ailments, perhaps loneliness, or an uncertain future.  The effect of what you face is to deprive you of your contentment.

11. Pay careful attention, this morning, to Paulís secret recipe for contentment.  Here it is:  Contentment is the consequence of a right concern.  Contentment is the consequence of a right concern.

12. Three items in our text that show us, as he showed the Philippians, how Paul could be content while sitting in a Roman jail, just as they remembered that he had once, after a particularly bad beating, been content sitting in a Philippian jail.

 

1A.   First, THERE WAS PAULíS CONCERN.

1B.    Does Paul insist that contentment is the consequence of a right concern?  Okay, then what was Paulís concern?  A reasonable question, wouldnít you say?  Examine those things that were important to Paul and you are impressed by the fact that his primary concerns were always eternal, with temporal concerns being secondary.  With Paul, it was God first and man second.  It was the cause of Christ first and the cause of men second.  And always, it was Paul last.

2B.    Another way to see Paulís concerns are in terms of his ultimate concern and his immediate concern.  His ultimate concern was always to see God glorified, to see Christ exalted, to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.  Then, secondarily, and as a means of seeing his first concern achieved, Paul would attend to immediate concerns.

3B.    With this idea in mind, look at what Paul wrote in verse 11:  ďNot that I speak in respect of want.Ē  This statement guarantees that the Philippians understood his rejoicing over the offering Epaphroditus had brought to him from Philippi, that we read about in Philippians chapter 2.  To be sure, Paul was destitute in that prison.  But thatís not why he was delighted with the offering.

4B.    Paulís first concern was that God be glorified, that Christ be exalted, that the cause of Christ be advanced.  Thatís the primary reason Paul was thrilled with the offering.  Secondarily, he was pleased to see that his beloved Philippians were participating in his ministry again, after being unable to for some time.  You see, Paul knew that God was blessing them by enabling them to give, and that God would bless them for giving.  So, Paul began this verse by pointing out what his concern was not.  His concern was not for his own needs, though he had heeds.  His concern was God-ward first and man-ward second. 

5B.    Would you like to know the contentment that Paul experienced?  You donít have to serve time in a Roman prison.  But you do have to redirect your concern . . . from self to God, and Christ, and the cause of Christ; and then to others.  Not others first and God second.  Thatís idolatry.  Not even spouse first and then God, or your child first and then God, which is the yuppie and baby boomer form of idolatry.  It has to be God first.  As the Lord Jesus Christ said, ďSeek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . . .Ē

 

2A.   To Reiterate, MAKE PAULíS CONCERN YOUR CONCERN.  Second, THERE WAS PAULíS CONSEQUENCE.

By consequence I mean that which resulted from Paulís concern.  Cause and effect.  He writes, ďNot that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned. . . .Ē

1B.    The apostle Paul knew God.  The apostle Paul knew things about God.  The apostle Paul also knew the Christian life.  But if we are not careful in our consideration of what Paul knew we can easily confuse how he came to know the various things he knew.

2B.    For example:  There were some things that Paul knew by revelation from God.  Revelation has to do with that which was imparted to Paul suddenly, miraculously, and without experience.

1C.   Turn to Galatians 1.11-12:  ďBut I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.Ē

2C.   Here we see that the message which Paul preached (the gospel of Jesus Christ), was not something Paul learned, was not something Paul had been taught by anyone.  The content of the gospel truth which he preached to the lost was just given to him. 

3C.   It was like a downloaded file.  One day he did not have the gospel, and the next day he did have the gospel.  And it was given to him by God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

3B.    Another instance of Paulís reception of truth by revelation from God is found in First Corinthians 11.23:  ďFor I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread.Ē

1C.   Folks, Paul was not present at the Last Supper.  He had been, at that time, an enemy of Jesus Christ.  But after his conversion the details of the Last Supper were imparted to Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ so that he could speak authoritatively on the subject when teaching believers.

2C.   But the facts that he taught others had not been taught to him.  He had been given them by revelation from Jesus Christ.

4B.    In contrast to revelation, what Paul refers to in Philippians 4.11 is what came to him by means of sanctification, what he learned from God as a growing Christian.  He writes ďfor I have learned.Ē

1C.   In this respect Paul learned just like every other Christian has to learn some things.  Not that what he learned he didnít learn supernaturally.  The things you and I learn in connection with the Christian life can only be learned through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit of God.

2C.   But what you learn of the Christian life as God works in your life (sanctification), you usually learn slowly, and you oftentimes learn by the painful and agonizing experiences of life.  It is supernatural, because it involves the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but it isnít revelation that is just given to you.  Itís truth that you must learn.  And itís oftentimes truth that you must work for.

5B.    So, there were things Paul learned.  And the learning process for him, just as for you and just as for me, wasnít always easy.  Sometimes itís very hard.  Sometimes itís very difficult.  But you must realize that, unless your concerns are parallel to Paulís concerns, unless your primary concern is God and Christ and His cause, you may not ever learn the secret of contentment.

 

3A.   SO, MAKE PAULíS CONCERN YOUR CONCERN.  AND PAULíS CONSEQUENCE WILL BE YOUR CONSEQUENCE.  WHICH MEANS THAT PAULíS CONTENTMENT WILL BE YOUR CONTENTMENT.

1B.    My friend, if you will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness a number of things shall be added unto you.  One of the things added to you, which may not be added to you immediately, but which is certainly promised eventually, is contentment.

2B.    What is contentment?  Contentment is a feeling. 

1C.   We say that Christians are not supposed to live by feelings, and that is certainly for the most part true.  But there are some wonderful feelings which God does bestow on His people.  Assurance of salvation is a feeling.  And so is contentment.

2C.   Contentment has to do with satisfaction and a sense of well-being.  It has to do with a fullness of the soul that is so profound that a fullness of the pocketbook, a fullness of the gas tank, a fullness of the tummy, or a fullness of the refrigerator, is no longer so important a concern, but is seen to be a rather small detail of life.

3B.    This contentment is typically learned over time.

1C.   Though there are some Christians who are content from just about the moment they get converted, for most Christians contentment is something that is acquired gradually.  You see, over a period of time spent walking with God, experiencing the blessings of God in your life, seeing the beauty of His holiness, and knowing the joy of sins forgiven and sweet fellowship with the savior, you can begin to realize by experience that ďJesus is all the world to me.Ē

2C.   Sometimes God will bless you materially and you will feel no sense of contentment.  Then, at other times, God will let you come up short materially, and you will discover that youíre still doing just fine.  Then it begins to dawn on you that it is God Who gives real contentment.  It is Jesus Christ Who satisfies the soul.  Not these mere things.

4B.    But contentment doesnít stop there.  Over time God will also show you that He provides contentment of a variety that cannot be imitated by the attention or love of other people.

1C.   Some of you are so young.  You are so naive.  You think you just cannot live without that person you love.

2C.   But there are some here who have learned that there can be contentment without your spouse, either because that spouse has been taken from you by death or divorce, or because that spouse is lost and hates the savior you love.  Others, thankfully, have learned this truth in a less painful school of experience.

3C.   So, contentment of the soul is not gained by material prosperity, or by friends and loved ones.  It is a gift.  Sometimes given suddenly by God, but usually (as with Paul) given by God through a gradual process of learning.  However it is given to you by God, it is always a consequence of proper concern.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Contentment is the opposite of lust, which is the strong desire that erupts from an uncontrolled appetite. 

2.   But when your soul is satisfied, when Godís grace has established a relationship with the One you were originally created to commune with through faith in Jesus Christ, contentment can come to be yours.

3.   When contentment comes the sin of lust will evaporate as the morning dew disappears under the light of day.  But be careful at night, because the dew returns and must once again be dispelled by the warmth of the light.

3.   Are you content this morning?  If not, examine your concerns.

4.   Brother Isenberger comes now to lead us in a song before this morningís sermon.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   There are many religions which claim to provide satisfaction for the soul, inner peace, what Paul refers to as contentment.  But their claims are all lies.  In the Word of God we have seen that contentment is the consequence of a right concern, with that right concern being the God of the Bible, and the Son of God, the Jesus of the Scriptures, and the things of God.

2.   To be even more specific, contentment is something which only the child of God can truly possess.  Oh, the various religions of the world spend a great deal of time and energy erecting a facade of tranquility, inner peace, and contentment; but thatís all it is.  There are even converts to other religions who trumpet that their newfound religion, whatever it may be, is superior to the Christianity they have forsaken.

3.   But all that tells us is that they like Buddhism better than they liked Roman Catholicism, or that they like Hinduism better than they liked new-evangelicalism, or that they like Mormonism better than they liked the Southern Baptist church they attended.  It doesnít tell anyone anything but that they have forsaken a caricature or shabby imitation of the true religion for a religion that is thoroughly false.

4.   In reality, the child of God, that person who is truly converted, that sinner who has come to Jesus Christ by faith for the forgiveness of his sins, and has become a blood bought and blood washed child of God, is the only person on earth who can experience true contentment.

5.   Lost folks, whether you be lost folks who are Hindus, lost folks who are Mormons, lost folks who are Catholics, lost folks who are Charismatics or Pentecostals, or lost folks who are members of fundamental Baptist churches, can be temporarily happy, can be for a time serene in your thoughts.  But unconverted people simply cannot be content in the truest sense of the concept.

6.   Let me show you why you cannot be content so long as you are unconverted.  Just one line of reasoning today.

 

1A.   First, BECAUSE YOUR ATTEMPTS AT CONTENTMENT ARE WRONG

Whether you are willing to admit it or not, the Bible declares that there is nothing new under the sun.  What that means is that the methods by which you attempt to content yourself, just like everyone else, falls into several predictable categories of effort, differing only in degree, or the amount of energy you are willing to commit to your attempts to content yourself.

1B.    Some people strive for contentment through asceticism.

1C.   Asceticism is not as popular in our country as it is in other countries, unless you are into Buddhism, or some other eastern religion, or some form of environmental wackoism.  In some countries there are still Roman Catholic ascetics, who deny themselves and starve themselves and deprive themselves in one way or the other.

2C.   But asceticism, which has to do with denying yourself and retiring from any semblance of a normal life, doesnít give anyone real contentment.  Ascetics, you see, deny to themselves the physical and material things, which are not in and of themselves wrong, but they receive nothing in return to satisfy. 

3C.   The whole premise of asceticism is that contentment is the result of denial.  But thatís wrong.  Asceticism leads only to becoming proud of what you think you have done to deny yourself the pleasures of life.  It does not fill the soul with contentment.

2B.    Others strive for contentment through hedonism.

1C.   A hedonist is someone who lives only for personal pleasure.  The drunkard is a hedonist.  The fornicator is a hedonist.  The gambler is a hedonist.  The party animal is a hedonist.  And there are other hedonistic pursuits.  Anything that produces pleasure and thrills can, if taken to an extreme, be hedonism.

2C.   A glutton is a hedonist.  A lazy sluggard is a hedonist, concerning himself only with relaxation and ease.  Some folks become hedonists when they retire and purpose to do nothing in life but what they want to do; driving here and there in a motor home, or playing bridge all day, or golfing all day.

3C.   But does the hedonist find contentment in hedonism?  How can anyone think you can find contentment in hedonism when those who pursue hedonism to the fullest, the rock stars, and the high living celebrities, are so very unhappy with their lives?

4C.   No, if seeking pleasure brought contentment, then seeking more pleasure would bring more contentment.  But what do we find?  Go to downtown Los Angelesí skid row.  Look at what hedonism did for those guys.  That is the ultimate end of hedonism pursued to its conclusion.

5C.   Perhaps you donít think you are a hedonist, but you may very well be.  What motivates you in life?  Is it your pursuit of personal pleasure?  Do you complain when you donít get to do what you want to do?  Do you live to get what you want?  Do you seek to control others and influence them so that you get to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it?  Are you stubborn and rebellious?

6C.   Most children are hedonists, committed to their own pleasure.  But guess what?  No one can ever get enough pleasure.  You will always want more.  And that, in and of itself, shows hedonism to be a failure in providing contentment.  So, hedonism doesnít bring contentment, only the craving for more pleasure.

3B.    If you donít strive for contentment through asceticism or hedonism, then you may strive for contentment through materialism.

1C.   The hedonist likes the pleasures of sensations.  He likes the satisfaction of controlling someone else, or the pleasure he senses when he eats too much, or drinks, or commits other sins.  The hedonist likes to escape reality in his dream world of movies and pop corn, or nonstop net surfing.  The materialist, on the other hand, likes things.  He likes stuff.  And the more stuff the better he likes it.

2C.   This is because his philosophy of life, his approach to achieving personal contentment, involves accumulation.  You see this philosophy written out on bumper stickers that read, ďThe One Who Dies With The Most Toys Wins.Ē

3C.   We once had a neighbor on the corner across from our house who had every kind of toy you could imagine an adult having.  Quad runners, motor cycles, bicycles, power tools, weight lifting equipment, pool, sauna, gadgets, widgets.  You name it and this guy had it.  This guy wants things and stuff.  Now, perhaps the stuff you want to give you contentment are power tools.  Perhaps they are beauty aids.  For Bill Gates I suspect they are money and power.  For Rupert Murdoch I would guess that itís power.

4C.   Whoever you are, if you are not saved, if your soul is not satisfied by Jesus Christ, then you attempt to find contentment by means of asceticism (which is self-denial), or hedonism (which is the pursuit of pleasure), or materialism (which is the pursuit of things), or some combination of these. 

5C.   Unless you have given up.  Perhaps you are depressed over the realization that you will never be content.  Not enough money, or enough talent, or enough drive to even try.  Youíve just given up and resigned yourself to misery, lacking only the opportunity to do what I have described.

 

2A.   THE REASON YOUR ATTEMPTS AT CONTENTMENT WILL FAIL IS BECAUSE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD CONTENTMENT IS WRONG.

1B.    You will remember from our text, Philippians 4.11, that Paulís contentment was derived from his concern.  In other words, Paul did not seek to be content.  He did not strive for contentment.  Paulís concern, we see throughout Philippians, was for God, for Christ, for the cause of Christ to be advanced, and secondarily for the spiritual welfare of the Philippians.  In other words, Paulís entire attitude about contentment was opposite yours.  What do I mean?

2B.    Turn to Genesis 3.6-11:

6      And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

7      And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

8      And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

9      And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10     And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11     And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

 

1C.   In this passage we see a critical component of sin.  Adam and Eve were created sinless by God.  In their sinless state they concerned themselves with God and the things of God. 

2C.   But take note of what happened when they sinned.  The most obvious consequence of their sin was their sudden awareness of their own nakedness.  Because they were self-conscious they hid themselves in the bushes and made fig leaves to cover themselves.

3B.    So you see, sin shows itself first and foremost by self-consciousness and self-interest.  And when you seek to find contentment for yourself by means of various pursuits, the very fact that you are seeking contentment, and the very fact that you think you deserve to be content, shows how sinful you really are and how opposite to Godís will your thinking is.

4B.    And consider what your thoughts might be right this moment.  Your thoughts are liable to be, ďI have a right to be content.Ē  No, my friend, you do not.  You are the creation of God.  You have no rights; only responsibilities.  And your responsibilities are to worship, serve and glorify God.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   The old time Baptists used to use catechisms.  The 18th century English Baptist, Benjamin Keach wrote a catechism, as did the famous 19th century Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon.  They used their catechisms to indoctrinate believers in the faith.  The word catechism refers to a book that contains the elementary principles of the Christian faith.[2]

2.   We use Spurgeonís catechism in our church, and you will find one question and its answer from Spurgeonís catechism in your bulletin each week, designed to help you properly train your children. 

3.   Perhaps the most famous catechism in the English speaking world is the Westminster Catechism, named after a group of theologians that met in Westminster, England, some centuries back.  The Roman Catholic Church has also used catechisms for centuries.

4.   The point that I seek to make is that, generally speaking, most of the Baptist and Protestant catechisms include an answer to a question that sounds very much like this:  ďThe chief end of man is to enjoy God.Ē

5.   But in this day of practical atheism and the denial that man is the direct creation of God, so many people strive to construct a life without God.  There are even people who convince themselves that a meaningful life without God is possible.

6.   If you believe this to be true you are mistaken.  And though it is the most natural thing imaginable for a human being to strive for it, you must certainly fail in your attempt at contentment.

7.   Why?  Because you are striving to create contentment.  You seek, by some form of self denial, or some form of hedonism, or some form of materialism, to generate contentment.  The very fact that you seek it for yourself makes your pursuit of contentment selfish.  Neither stuff or the lack of stuff brings contentment.

8.   The Bible shows that contentment does not come by trying to grasp for it, not by selfish pursuits of any kind; but by a selfless devotion to God, and Christ, and the cause of Christ.

9.   In short, my friend, it is not possible that you will ever attain anything close to contentment unless and until you come to know Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins and the cleansing that comes only through faith in Him.

10. Why must it be so?  It must be this way because this is the way your Creator constructed you.  You will never be content any other way.


[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 372.

[2] Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 327.

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