Grateful Contentment

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Grateful Contentment

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Philippians 4:10-13



Sunday, March 15, 2020 pm           


     We are beginning to bring the book of Philippians to its conclusion.   Paul has encouraged these brethren to joyfully remain faithful even in the face of persecutions.   We now find a final show of gratitude for their help.

I.  Paul’s Gratitude (10)

  1. In this verse Paul notes that their care for him as again flourished.   Some observations, they had cared about him in the past, and NOW they have opportunity again.
    What was this help? Likely it involved supporting Paul (see 4:14-18 – we will address this in our next lesson), but it could also involve other ways they helped him.
    For a while they lacked opportunity – some contend that possibly they were unsure of Paul’s whereabouts (which was always a possibility with him), or because of circumstances they did not have the resources to support him as they wanted to), or some other reason.
  2. Paul appreciates what they did – it was not about the amount, but their motives to do what they could.     Consider the expression, “It’s the thought that counts.”
  3. When we are grateful, we will look at one’s motives over the end results.   Consider Jesus and the widow with 2 mites – Mark 12:41-44,
    “She has done what she could” – Mark 14:8
    Consider Paul’s commendation of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5
  4. In an ungrateful society, many are never satisfied and grumble because what they received was “not enough” for them. Many of our youth are spoiled and taught to care only about themselves (not in those words, but its what they have learned and observed).
  5. Gratitude is a fundamental quality in the disposition of Christians.   Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 – in our prayers, “in everything give thanks”. Thankfulness just leads to good attitudes.
  6. In our next lesson, I intend to conclude our study of Philippians by noting what these brethren had done for Paul that reflected his gratitude.

II.   Paul’s Contentment (11-12)

  1. I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content – Paul’s needs were very real, and as he writes to these good brethren he wants it understood that his gratitude toward them was much deeper and regardless of what they had supplied for him.   His point is that he learned to make do with whatever he received. It is written as if it is a life lesson, possibly from some particular event in the past – of which Paul had many to choose from.
  2. In vs. 12, Paul gives several contrasting situations.   I know how to be abased and how to abound… Everywhere and in ALL things to be hungry or full, to have more than enough or to be in a situation where he did not have enough.
  3. This is the description of TRUE contentment. It’s there regardless of the conditions.   It doesn’t mean a need is not genuine or that you do not want something that is lacking, but it is an attitude.
    A resolve that whatever your situation, you will make the best of it and make due.
    Many from older generations, and those raised in poor families understand this – you deal with where you are at.
    It is also something that is underappreciated in our current generation.   Because of the prosperity of our times, we have raised a generation that is mostly spoiled and used to getting whatever they want, when they want it and HOW they want it.   It is doesn’t meet their satisfaction they complain about it and demand more. And there are far too many who have been pampered and spoiled to the point that they could not do without. Look at our current culture of what is being defined as a “right”.
  4. Like gratitude, contentment is another fundamental quality (foundational).     And it is an attitude we are commanded to have.
    1 Timothy 6:6-8 – Paul begins a discussion about our attitude toward money with contentment. If we do not begin with contentment, it leads to far too many problems – both in attitudes and sometimes in actions.
    Hebrews 13:5, no covetousness, be content with such things as you have.
    Be satisfied with just enough – give me neither poverty nor riches – Proverbs 30:8-9.
  5. Thought: While a challenge, we typically associate contentment with lack.   We tell ourselves we will have to make due with what we have (in our current pandemic crisis this may be very applicable).
    BUT are we content when we have plenty?   Sometimes that is MORE of a challenge.
    Heed again 1 Timothy 6:9-10. This is about one who is NOT content.   Also vs. 17-19 supplements this with those who have plenty.
  6. Thought: There are Christians who wonder why they remain poor.   For some it is based upon poor decisions, but for others it comes with their faithfulness, or just circumstances as they are.   The world is not always a fair or righteous place, and sometimes we suffer through no fault of our own.
    Consider this: If riches were to get in the way of going to heaven, would you really give up whatever you have? Remember what Jesus said to the rich, young ruler – Matthew 19:21-22.
    SPECULATION: I wonder if God keeps some Christians poor because He knows what wealth will do to them.
  7. Again, this is about perspective – BE CONTENT and THANK God for your blessings.

III.    I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

  1. This is the attitude that will help us be content, as it did for Paul.
    The phrase “I have learned” (NKJV) in vs. 12 is a word that means to learn a mystery. The NASB and ESV says, “I have learned the secret…   The KJV, “I am instructed…”
    Paul is likely pointing to what he says here in vs. 13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (or “through Him” older mss).
  2. Understanding the phrase. It is NOT saying, that we can do the impossible (run 100 MPH, etc.
    We know it fits the immediate context where Paul is talking about being content regardless of his circumstances.   In that I think of 1 Corinthians 10:13 as an example: God will not give us anything that we cannot handle.
    BUT, we must be careful not to abuse this as sometimes done in positive preaching circles (e.g. God wants you to be a millionaire, God is going to heal your cancer, etc.) While these things MAY happen, that is not the intent of this verse.   NOR is it saying, “I can do whatever I want as long as Christ is in me (e.g. living in rebellion to His word).
    His point, as noted is we can accomplish whatever He has given us to do AND we can handle whatever is in front of us – with this proper attitude.
    BUT understand that the wording is powerful and a source of comfort.   The word for strength is a compound word that includes power (the word from which our English word for dynamite is derived).
  3. We have everything we NEED to accomplish His will. He has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)
  4. Our power is through Christ (In Him) – He is the source that we look to.   Has that not been Paul’s goal throughout this book?   Philippians 3:14 – he pressed toward the goal for the prized of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 3:8-11 – Paul gave it all up and was willing to suffer to: 1) Gain Christ; 2) be found in him based on his righteousness; 3) to know him and the power of His resurrection.
  5. Is Christ your strength? Clearly, this is not intended to be universal (for all mankind), but only for those who are believers.   Those who have put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27) and are living in Christ (Colossians 2:6 – as you have received Him, so walk in Him, 2 Corinthians 5:17, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things are made new.

These verses are a great source of comfort to Christians.   And while they are a hope for Christians, they are available to all. So what about you?   Are you enjoying the benefits of being in Christ?   If not, let us help you with that this very evening.     Think about it.