Kevin A. Pierpont
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
We began discussing last week the recipe for contentment. We noted that to know contentment in the Christian life we’re going to have to have complete confidence in God’s power. That’s what we called, during our last study, the first ingredient to contentment—really it’s the foundation to contentment—complete confidence in God’s power.
There’s another ingredient to living the contented Christian life. Another ingredient you’ll find in the life of a believer who knows true contentment is that they are completely satisfied with God’s provision.
I think it’s clear in verse 11 of Philippians 4.
Philippians 4:11 – Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Many people pursue contentment all their lives never to find it.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”
Someone once said, “A contented man is one who enjoys the scenery along the detours.”
One afternoon author Patsy Clairmont found herself on an airplane, sitting next to a young man. She writes, “I had already observed something about this young man when I was being seated. He called me “Ma’am.” At the time I thought, ‘Either he thinks I’m ancient, or he’s from the South where they still teach manners, or he’s in the service.’ I decided the latter was the most likely, so I asked, “You in the service?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I am.”
“Hey, Marine, where are you coming from?”
“Operation Desert Storm, Ma’am.”
“No kidding? Desert Storm! How long were you there?” I asked.
“A year and a half. I’m on my way home. My family will be at the airport.”
I then commented that he must have thought about returning to his family and home many times while he was in the Middle East.
“Oh, no, Ma’am,” he replied. “We were taught never to think of what might never be, but to be fully available right where we were.” (Focus on the Family, July, 1993, p. 5)
That young man understood that to “be all there”, to do his job properly he’d have to be content where he was. That kind of an attitude is rare.
I stated last week that I believe that this verse really sums up the big idea of what we find in Paul’s closing remarks to the Philippian believers here in verses 10-19. And my prayer is that by the time we finish this series of studies in verses 10-19 that you’ll be able to say that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
We are called to live the contented life as followers of Christ. And the Bible, God’s Word, makes a very strong case for the believer to live the contented life.
One of the places we find the call to contentment is in 1 Timothy 6. Look at verses 6-10.
6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
There’s a warning here too for those who lack contentment.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Do you see that there’s great danger in lacking contentment? The Holy Spirit also instructs us in Hebrew 13:5-6;
5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
And we find in Luke 12:15;
Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
And Proverbs 17:1 says;
1 Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife.
God’s Word is clear—contentment isn’t found in the pursuit of more.
I think if we’re going to learn the contentment recipe we’re going to have to understand that there are some barriers to contentment. And we’ll need to understand what’s hindering us from being content.
In a moment I want to share with you what I see as the second ingredient to contentment, but first I want to help you see the problem. Let’s understand what bars contentment from our lives.
The problem lies in what we view as our “needs”. We’ve been so conditioned to believe that every whim and fancy is a do or die need. We’ve been convinced that if I like it, if it looks good to me then I need it. Where do we get this idea that everything my eye falls on is a need?
We’re so immersed in the belief that if you want something then you deserve it—it’s yours—all you have to do is figure out a way to get it. Whatever it takes—you can have it—just work harder—climb the ladder—work, trade, buy, sell, lie, cheat and even steal if you have to. If someone gets in your way climb over them.
Why is this? I think this is because the world at large believes there is no God—there is no God that will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). There is no God who cares for the sparrow and numbers the hairs on my head.
To the world there is no God—the world has no understanding of our God of whom the Psalmist speaks in Psalm 139:1-6.
Psalm 139: 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.
And to the world who knows nothing of God, there is no God and if there is no God then there is no future and there is nothing beyond this life on earth and if there is no God who goes to prepare a place for you then there is only today—there is only now—so get all you can get—get it now—do whatever it takes—live for today.
The bottom line is that the world at large believes there is no God who cares and graciously provides for people.
The world says it’s all about me.
I think the self centered nature of man is summed up fairly well in a song, country singer Toby Keith sings, called, I Wanna Talk About Me. Part of the lyrics go like this.
I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, usually, but occasionally
I wanna talk about me
That’s the problem—the world says “it’s all about me”. And it’s usually not just occasionally. And sadly, too often, the church buys into that kind of thinking and people in the church begin to think—“ya, it’s all about me—why aren’t my needs being met—I’ve got to look out for myself.”
We live in the midst of a society where the common belief is that you must look out for yourself if you want your needs met—there’s no one looking out for you and your needs. You must look out for yourself. And that can creep into our lives as believers.
And I think we need to understand that our lack of contentment may not only show itself in materialism but could also show itself in selfishness about having our way, and being pampered by having all our preferences catered too and a multitude of other ways. It could surface in the area of purity—our physical desires—or discontentment may surface in our friendships—those friends we choose—“they don’t meet my needs so they are right for me.”
But what we find in God’s Word is strikingly bold about dealing with discontentment. Colossians 3:5 directs us to put discontentment to death.
Colossians 3:5 – Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
So what’s the solution? How do we find contentment and free ourselves from fornication and uncleanness and passion and evil desires that drive us to discontentment?
Paul says in verse 11,
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Paul had learned—he had figured it out—he knew how to be content. So how did he learn this? Where did he find his contentment—what was his contentment based on.
Well—like we pointed out last week, Paul certainly had complete confidence in the power of God—that was his foundation—that’s the first, most important ingredient to contentment. But what we see here is that Paul also knew complete satisfaction with God’s provision.
How is it Paul knew complete satisfaction with God’s provision? He’s in prison, chained to a guard, no privacy, fed a prisoners rations, minimal comforts allowed—how could he not feel like he was in need? He says though, not that I speak in regard to need.
After rejoicing in the Lord greatly for their renewed care for him he’s quick here to point out that he’s not trying to make them think he now has a need. And he’s able to say that—when in human terms we might think he most certainly has great needs—he’s able to say he doesn’t have needs because he’s learned to be content no matter what circumstance or situation he finds himself in.
How does he do that? How is it that Paul had learned to be content whatever the circumstance? How could Paul experience complete satisfaction with God’s provision? And how can we experience complete satisfaction with God’s provision?
Let’s find out what Paul knew. Let’s discover what Paul knew about himself and how he fit into God’s purposes because I believe this is key in understanding how we can experience complete satisfaction with God’s provision.
First, Paul knew there is more to life than today. Paul knew that life wasn’t just what he could get out of today. Paul had an eternal perspective. In Philippians 1:21 we learned that Paul rested in the knowledge that whatever God had for him was for God’s glory. He says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
He knows that if God wants him to live it is so that he can glorify God, it is so that he can advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if he dies he knows that that is for his gain—that will be a great pleasure for him to be with Christ in glory—he says in 1:23, “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” He knows that if he dies that is actually better for him—he’ll be with Christ—but if he lives that is for the glory of Christ—it is for Christ to be made known through Paul’s living. Paul knew there is more to life than today.
He also knew his purpose on earth wasn’t one of self-fulfillment. We know that because of what we find in Philippians 3:8. Paul understood that life wasn’t all about self-fulfillment—self-gratification. He says, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
Paul knew that the sum of life wasn’t in things—it wasn’t in the piling on of more. He says, (my paraphrase) “the good things in life—the excellent things in life—it’s knowing Christ Jesus—I’ve willingly lost it all for the privilege of knowing Christ. All those things the world considers valuable I consider worthless trash compared to gaining Christ.”
No—he knew that his purpose on earth wasn’t one of self-fulfillment. He knew his purpose was one of making much of Christ.
Paul also knew that whatever the circumstances it was all a part of God’s purpose. That’s what we saw back in Philippians 1:12,13 when Paul says, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;”
Paul says, “Hey, God knows what he’s doing, whatever’s happening to me God is using to carry along and propel the Gospel of Christ. There’s no accident here—this is not bad luck what’s happening to me—this is God’s plan.”
And Paul’s attitude could be such because he had a deeper understanding that his life was not his own—it was Christ living in him and through him. He says so in Galatians 2:20.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Paul knew there is more to life than today, he knew that his purpose on earth wasn’t one of self-fulfillment and he knew that whatever the circumstances it was all a part of God’s purpose.
Paul knew that it wasn’t all about him. Paul knew that whatever he had is was provided by God—he knew that whatever he lacked it was not truly needed otherwise God would have provided—Paul knew that whatever situation he was in it was all a part of the sovereign God’s providential plan. He knew that God was working all things for the advancement of His purposes. And this is how Paul could say that, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Paul was completely satisfied with God’s provision. And he could be completely satisfied because he knew that his satisfaction and contentment didn’t lie in his own well-being but in his satisfaction with Christ.
And when we are satisfied with Christ and we are completely satisfied in His provision, then we’ll know true contentment. And that is when we most glorify Christ.
It is my prayer today that you’ll know true satisfaction in Christ. I pray that you’ll learn and know what Paul knew—that there’s more to life than today; that your purpose on earth isn’t one of self-fulfillment; and that whatever the circumstances it’s all a part of God’s purpose.
Will you be completely content with God’s provision in your life? Will you be completely satisfied with Him? Will you live your live in such a way that he is most glorified in you because your contentment makes much of Him?
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33