Monday, August 08, 2011
We are rounding out this penultimate section of Philippians in which Paul is both thanking the Philippians for their faithful support of him and his ministry as well as exhorting them to contentment. Last week we saw how Paul described the nature of contentment, and how – very often – those who are most content in this life with their circumstances are prevented from having true contentment. We also said that those of us who are most discontent with this life, this was passage was written especially to encourage us. This week I want to begin by looking at what we might call the “secret of contentment.”
III. The secret of contentment.
Now, so what’s the secret? He tells you in verses 11-13 that his contentment doesn’t come from his circumstances; that they do not contribute to or detract from the gospel contentment that he enjoys. That’s still not the secret, but it sets you up to hear the secret.
It’s interesting, there are many forms of Buddhism all concerned that you cultivate contentment. One significant brand of Buddhism says the way you cultivate contentment is you lower your expectations. And Paul’s telling you at the outset, “Wrong! Not the source of contentment. Contentment doesn’t come from circumstances or your lowered expectations of those circumstances. Contentment, real, gospel contentment comes from someplace else.” Where? He tells you in verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
In other words, the secret of contentment is God’s providence apprehended by your soul. It’s not just the doctrine of God’s providence, though you’ve got to understand the doctrine before you can experience contentment. It’s not just the doctrine of God’s providence taught to you, it is the God of providence embraced by your soul so that you believe it. Gospel contentment rests on a deep, personal embrace of God’s providence.
Paul is not saying you can do anything. In this verse God is saying to you, “anything that I ask you to do and anyplace where I put you, you can be content and thrive. Because I’m the one who strengthens you.”
It takes years to work that truth deep down into your bones so that it is your default setting, but that is the secret of contentment. The battle is of course getting it into the heart so that it dominates all of your circumstances.
IV. The song of contentment.
Now, contentment has a song. Contentment has a song, and the lyrics are written down in verse 19. Here’s the theme song of contentment:
“My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The song of contentment is, ‘My God, I believe that Your supply of my needs is more real than the air that I’m breathing right now. I believe that Your supply of all my needs is more real than the food that I eat, more real than the skin that I’m in, more real, more lasting, than any circumstance that I’m in right now. That’s my theme song.’ And until the truth of God’s providence has worked deep down into our hearts so that it is the reflex reaction the minute that we’re in any difficult circumstances of life, we haven’t yet apprehended the secret of contentment in the way that we need to.
V. Contentment is grateful.
Now there’s one last thing: Contentment is grateful, and you see it in the doxology that Paul sings in verse 20:
“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Contentment expresses itself in constant gratitude to God. God-glorifying gratefulness flows from the heart of the one who is content. Show me a content person in gospel contentment, I’ll show you a person who’s grateful to God. Put them in the worst circumstance of life, they’ll still praise God. Why? Because He has supplied all their needs and they know it. And they know that nobody else in the world can take away what He has supplied. The world can take everything else away, but they cannot take what He has supplied.
You may be a Christian who is discontent. That’s okay, and that’s not okay. It’s not okay because God wants you to live in contentment. It’s okay because you’re at the starting block if you’re there. If you’re content in yours circumstances, you’re not even in the game yet. But if you’re a Christian and you’re discontent, there is really good news waiting for you. Pick up the Bible and starting working through it.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 2:20 PM