Monday, July 25, 2011
After a brief break last week, we have drawn almost to the end of this great letter. The amazing passage that we are in for the next few days contains three of the most well-known and beloved phrases or sentences in the whole letter, which focus in on one theme: the theme of contentment, which will be our subject for the rest of the week or so.
First in this section, Paul is expressing gratitude for the gift that the Philippian congregation sent him. Paul knows that this congregation is exceedingly poor and exceedingly generous at the same time, and it’s almost embarrassing to receive a gift from them.
At a short, first glance, the Apostle Paul may seem be saying to them that he doesn’t need their gift, but that’s not it at all; he’s trying to show how God has made him content in all things. When the Apostle Paul thanks them he really means it, because he knows this congregation: they are less able than any other congregation in Macedonia to give him support, and yet he’s going to say later on in this passage they have been the only congregation to stick by him throughout his ministry. Even when he was in Thessalonica with people that could have supported him more easily than the Philippians, it was the Philippians that were supporting his ministry in Thessalonica.
The second thing is that he wants to make sure that the Philippians don’t misunderstand is he’s not asking them to send some more. Have you ever gotten a thank-you letter from somebody that was really just a request for another gift? Paul wants to make it clear that he is not doing that.
Along with this, Paul wants to do a third thing here: He wants to teach the Philippians something vitally important about the Christian life, about contentment.
Are you content? Right where you are now, right in your life situation? Or are you one of those honest people who, in the quietness of your heart and in the solitariness of your room, you look in the mirror in the bathroom and you look at yourself and you say, “No, I’m not content. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. I’ve not arrived at contentment. I’m not living in contentment. I’m struggling in ‘the summer of my discontent’ right now”? Well, I’ve got good news for you: precisely because you are where you are, Paul has a word especially for you. In this passage he teaches us five things about gospel contentment. He teaches us about the need for contentment, about the nature of contentment, about the secret of contentment, about the song of contentment, and about the gratefulness of contentment. We will look today at God’s desire for His people’s contentment and in the coming weeks, we’ll examine those other aspects of Paul’s message.
I. God wants His people to be content.
God desires His people to live in a state of contentment, and so Paul is first, in verse 11, going to speak of the need for and the importance of gospel contentment. Paul says (verse 11): “Not that I am speaking of need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am …” [what?] “…to be content.” He is commending to the Philippians his state of contentment, and he is saying to them that he wants them to be content; that God wants them to live in a state of contentment. Paul is saying here Christians are to be content – and Paul talks about this all the time.
Think of II Corinthians 12:10, where he says, “For the sake of Christ then, I am content...” and these are the circumstances in which he says this: ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.’ Perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Paul, you need to see a psychiatrist if you’re content with that!’ But for Paul it’s very important, and he follows up by saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” And in I Timothy 6:6-8, he says,
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world, but if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”
Contentment is a big deal for Paul. He taught his student, the author of Hebrews this truth, and in Hebrews 13:5, the author says,
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
Paul…the Bible…God is concerned for Christians to be content. It is a significant, important need for the Christian life.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:20 PM