Philippians 4:10-13 | "10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. 12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ."
Today we are considering Philippians chapter 4, verses 10 through 13, The Key to Contentment. Philippians 4 beginning at verse 10, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Now that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
I want to begin this lesson with emphasizing the importance of the original context in which Paul was writing. He says in verse 13, “I can do all things through Him that is through Christ who strengthens me.” What that means in this context is that in Christ in all circumstances, Paul has learned the secret of being content by the grace of God. When he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he means he can be content with very little. He may be in great need and yet he’s content in Christ because of who Christ is and what he has done for Paul or he may have an abundance, an overabundance, plenty, and Paul is still content in Christ. Now, this verse which says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” does not mean that we can do anything and everything we set our minds on and train our bodies to do, no matter what. Oftentimes that’s how it’s used but that isn’t the original context and that’s very important for us, because we don’t want to just extract out of the Bible a verse and apply it willy-nilly to any and every situation and circumstances; otherwise, we will mean something by using a certain portion of scripture that God did not intend originally.
Okay. The first point I’d like to focus on is this: That we rejoice in the Lord when other believers respond to a need we have, by meeting that need. Think of it this way. When somebody responds to our need, they meet our need, then we rejoice in the Lord. That’s where we’re going. Verse 10, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were concerned for me but you had no opportunity to respond.” What’s happened here is the Philippians had a great concern for the apostle Paul, but they didn’t have the opportunity at that time to meet his need. When they had the opportunity, they revived their concern for him and they responded to his need and the result was, Paul rejoiced. Paul had a great physical and material need, the Philippians met that need, and Paul as a result would have given thanks to the Philippians, but also rejoiced in the Lord. That’s an important order for us to keep in mind. We need to remember that when we have a need and that need is met by the Lord, using His people as the instruments of his grace. Our response, of course, would be as human beings to thank the people, but also to thank the Lord primarily and to rejoice in the Lord, to experience joy in Him for meeting our need. So when a need is met, that’s a horizontal activity. Person to persons or persons to person. The Philippian church to Paul. Somebody to me. That’s a horizontal need. And then our response is to rejoice in the Lord. There’s that vertical response. And that’s very critical for us to have both. Remember that. If you have a need and it’s met, how are you going to respond? Well, you’ll thank that person, but you’ll also thank the Lord for that person and you’ll rejoice in the Lord that He has met your need. It may a critical need, a vital need, at that point in your life. So, remember that two-fold response, to thank the individual but to thank the Lord and to rejoice in Him.
Secondly, we are actively look for opportunities to meet the needs of other people. Verse 10, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned but you had no opportunity.” We’re to meet the needs of others as we have opportunity. Listen to Galatians chapter 6, in verse 10, “So then as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially those who are of the household of faith.” That’s a wonderful passage and dovetails nicely with Philippians chapter 4 in verse 10. When Paul says, “as we have opportunity, do good to everyone especially those who are the household of faith,” he’s saying to us as Christians, to you and to me, everyone watching this video, everyone around the world, he is saying be proactive in looking to meet the needs of other people, of all people, as we have opportunity. You have an opportunity every day to meet the needs of people. Just look for them and as you look for them. And as you have those opportunities, you’re living as Christ’s child, as a member of the family of God, you’re going to meet that need as you are able to. It’s really exciting and it gives us an opportunity to be very active in the Christian life and focused on the needs of other people. So, again, if you’re thinking, what do I need to do today as a Christian? Think and pray, Lord, provide with an opportunity to do good, to meet the needs of somebody in my home, a neighbor or somebody in my community or town, help me to become aware of what they need, and to pursue that need and be proactive in meeting that need.
Now, in Galatians 6, Paul also says, ‘we have the opportunity to do good, do it to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith.’ What does it mean? Do good to everyone. Don’t do good only to your Christian brothers and sisters; do good to all people. Jesus went about Palestine doing good, everyone. We’re to do the same, meeting needs, proactively. I’m laboring that point because it’s critical and we like to play favorites. But the Bible says do good to all. But it does prioritize doing good to Christian people. Do good to all people, especially those who are of the household of faith, because those are the ones that Christ identifies with personally. All people are creations of God, but only believers in Jesus are children of God. So while we prioritize doing good to Christian people, we nonetheless do good to all people. That may be the best way that an unbeliever see’s the love of Jesus. You meet their very real and pressing need and they’re wondering, why did you do this? Great opportunity for you to enter into their lives, just as you may have entered into their lives materially and physically, meeting a need and communicate why you have just done that good deed to them.
Alright, thirdly, from this passage we learned several helpful truths about being content and the first is that contentment is a learned behavior. Verse 11, “Not that I am speaking of being in need for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Paul has learned to be content. Now contentment is not innate in human beings. That means no human being is born with a great understanding of what it means to be content, okay, and even as Christian people, this is not automatic. Contentment is not automatic upon our conversion to Jesus Christ. It’s a result of living the Christian life in Jesus Christ by the presence and power of God’s Spirit as we soak ourselves in the scriptures, as we live life in the real world, with real people. We will make some mistakes. We won’t be content at times. We’ll learn how to be more content at other times. We learn contentment, but it is in Jesus Christ. It’s in nothing in and of ourselves.
Well, what else? Contentment by Gods grace in Christ is required in every setting and situation in which we find ourselves. Look at verses 11 and 12, Paul says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, I know how to abound in every and any circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need,” and he can do it all through Jesus Christ. Paul knows how to be content with little provision. He said, if I’m brought low, if I’m in hunger and in need, I know how to be content. It’s Jesus Christ. In Him, I’m content. My situation hasn’t changed. My situation may be bad, maybe I haven’t eaten in a few days, but Jesus can overcome my circumstances. Paul isn’t trying to minimize his hunger and his lack here. He’s maximizing how great Christ is because Christ enables him to be content when he’s hungry or when he’s doing without other things materially. See the temptation when we don’t have is to obsess over what we don’t have. Paul is saying, well, you may -- absolutely, scripture would say make your situation better. Do what you can. Don’t obsess over it. Obsess over Jesus Christ and seek to change your situation. Be content in Christ. Focused on Him.
Also, though, not just being content with little, Paul says let’s be content when we have an abundance. That’s what he says -- when I abound, when I’m facing plenty, when I have an abundance. Now, we might be thinking, now, wait a minute, Paul. Why would you exhort us through your own experience to be content when we have an abundance? Aren’t we content when we have an abundance? Paul’s saying there’s a danger. When we have an abundance, the temptation is to obsess over what we have. It’s to be content in things, in our money, in our food, in our luxury, in our cars, in our homes, in our cruises. That’s very different. Paul says if you have an abundance, you better still be content in Christ. Learn to be content in Him and to live life with an abundance. And, of course, scripture elsewhere would say, be generous, do good to others if you are rich in this world, according to this world. So it’s really important, again, coming full circle, when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” for us to understand that as being content with little or with much. Not obsessing over what we don’t have. Not obsessing in the material things we do have. Being obsessed with Jesus Christ, in Him crucified, Him risen from the dead and coming again in power and in Glory. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you for your truth and we ask that you would bless us. Help us to be content whether we have little or whether we have much. Help us not to focus so much on our circumstances that we lose sight of all Jesus is, who He is and what He’s done for us. Help us even today to be content in all things. In Jesus’s name, amen.