Monday, August 01, 2011
We are nearing a close of this wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul. As he is closing and thanking them for their gift of financial support, Paul is urging his beloved Philippian congregation to be content in their situation. He points to how he has learned to be content and calls them, as he has done before, to imitate him.
Last week, we studied Paul’s gratitude for the gift of support that the impoverished Philippian congregation sent to him. In doing so, Paul teaches that he has learned to be contented in all things and the reason he can be so contented is because God desires for His people to be content. That is the foundation for us, it is possible to be content in one’s present situation because it is God’s desire for us, for those whom He has called in His son to be content.
This week, I want to look with you at the Nature of Contentment.
II. The nature of contentment.
It’s very important that you understand the nature of this contentment as well, because there are all sorts of theories about contentment out there and how you attain contentment; but Paul, in verse 11, tells you something else about the nature of the contentment. Look at what he says at the end of verse 11: “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Did you catch that? “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Isn’t that an encouragement?
But here’s what I want you to see, maybe more than anything else: You are more likely to find real contentment when you realize your lack of real contentment than if you are in a circumstance in life where your situation provides you with such comforts that you are not thinking about your lack of the real thing.
This is why Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Why? Because the rich man can mistake circumstantial contentment for gospel contentment. He can mistake a superficial temporal contentment with a deep and permanent and eternal contentment, and he cannot seek real contentment because he doesn’t sense his lack of real contentment, because he’s in circumstances that make him content.
If you’re out there reading this saying, “Yes, Ligon, I am deeply discontent,” I’ve got good news for you. You are more likely to seek real contentment and find it than someone who is content in his or her circumstances.
And this then why it is so deadly what the “health and wealth” preachers are saying around you? They’re saying, ‘Look, God wants you to be affluent. God wants you to have stuff.’
Very often it is precisely the stuff and the affluence that blinds us to the real thing, and so God in His kindness takes away the stuff and puts us in hard life circumstances and situations so that we realize, ‘You know, Lord, I really don’t have gospel contentment.’ And for the first time in our lives we’ll realize that we don’t have the real thing, and we’ll want it, and so we will accept no substitute.
That means, if you’re just not content, hating where you are, things just don’t leave you satisfied, and your discontented, then this is for you.
Maybe it’s your finances. Bill collectors are calling, and the bills aren’t adding up to the income. And month after month you feel like you’re just slipping deeper and deeper, and you’re deeply dissatisfied and discontent with where you are.
Maybe it’s your marriage. You don’t say it to your spouse, but in the dark of the night you look up to heaven and you say, ‘Lord, this is not where I thought I would be. This is not what I thought I was buying into. This is not the dream of my heart as a child for my marriage.’
Or maybe it’s just your life situation…
Whatever it is, you are poised for a great discovery, and that is that your contentment doesn’t come from those things, and those things cannot stop the contentment of God. Your contentment – and that’s what we’re going to learn next week – is non-circumstantial. If you are after God-contentment, if you are after gospel contentment, if you are after real contentment, the first thing you learn about it is it’s non-circumstantial.
You are more apt to seek real gospel contentment and find it if you don’t have it than if you are fat with the circumstantial contentment of this world. That is really, really good news. That’s what we must understand and learn that we can be content in every situation because it doesn’t come from our present situation.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 10:59 AM