Restoring the Joy
A Study of the Book of Philippians
Sermon # 12
“The Secret of Contentment”
“A Russian woman lived with her husband and two children in a very small hut. Her husband’s parents lost their home and she had to take them in. Unbearable. In desperation, she went to the village wise man, whom she knew had solved many, many problems. "What should I do?" she begged. "Do you have a COW?" asked the wise man. "Yes," she replied. Then bring her into the hut too. And come back and see me in a week," said the wise man. A week later she was back. "This is utterly unbearable" she said. "Do you have any CHICKENS?" asked wise man. "Yes," she replied. "What about them?" ‘Bring them into the hut too, and come back and see me in another week." "Now you’re utterly out of your mind," she said. Nevertheless, still awed by his reputation, she did as he asked. A week later she returned. "This is absolutely impossible," she said. "Our home is a mess." "All right," said the wise man, "take out the chickens." The next week she reported that without the chickens it was definitely better, but still a miserable situation. "All right," said the wise man, "now take out the cow. That will settle your problem." And it did. Without the chickens and cow, the woman, her husband, the children, and his two parents got along quite peacefully. Everything is relative! Sometimes we don’t know how well off we really are!”
Surely one of the greatest causes of a believer not having joy in their lives is a lack of contentment. Contentment is an illusive commodity today! Tragically, Christian and Non-Christian alike fall for the world’s lies about the secret of contentment. Never, it seems have so many wanted so much and found so little contentment once they got it. This is hardly surprising when we consider that we are bombarded on a daily basis with advertisements whose sole purpose is to breed discontent so that we will buy their product. How tragic it is that we live in one of the most prosperous nations on the face of the earth and we still struggle with contentment. We seem to live in a culture that is not content, ever, with little or with much. It appears that the more people have the more discontent they are… Typically the richest people in the world are the most miserably unhappy.
In marked contrast with the widespread discontent of our world, the Apostle Paul spoke on the subject of contentment in his letter to the church at Philippi.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. (11) Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: (12) I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Every-where and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV)
In verse ten, Paul speaks from a heart full of gratitude for the financial support he has received from the church at Philippi. But we are going to skip over verse ten and consider it next week as we examine verses fourteen to nineteen. This morning I want us to listen in as Paul tells us “The Secret of Contentment.”
Some translations translate verse twelve to read, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” (NIV) The idea expressed at the end of verse eleven and in verse twelve, literally means “I have learned the secret.” Paul tells us the he has learned the true secret to life and he wants to share it with them.
First, He tell us that Contentment is a Learned State. Contentment is not something that comes naturally. Paul said that he had to “learn to be content” (v.11)
Contentment then is learned. Paul’s content-ent was not instantaneous, it was the fruit of many years of faithful fellowship, learning from the experience that he could trust the Lord to provide what he needed.
Part of our problem is that we do not understand what contentment is nor where it is found. We have been taught to understand that contentment comes from People we know. “If I could Just hang out with the Right People?” But people never live up to our expectations.
We have been taught to understand that contentment comes from Positions we hold. “If I could just get the right job, that allows me to make the a good income, drive a nice car, live in a nice house, I would be content.” But what happens if we don’t get that job or we get it and lose it?
Contentment is reaching the state of mind that we are at peace with where we are and who we are in Christ.
Contentment then is a Learned State and …
Secondly, Contentment is Not Found in Possessions or Circumstances! (v. 12)
“ know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Paul is saying that regardless of our circumstances, whether we have money or not, whether we have abundance or are in a very strained circumstances, we can still have contentment because the secret is something other than what we do or do not possess.
Paul later tells his son in the ministry, Timothy, (1Timothy 6:6-10), “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (8) And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (9) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced them-selves through with many sorrows.”
Paul tells Timothy that we start with nothing and we end with nothing. So contentment is not about what we accumulate, it is about living with satisfaction one day after another.
In Hebrews 13:5, the author says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have….”
Contentment Then Is Not Found in Possessions or Circumstances and …
Third, Contentment Comes From Learning To Appreciate What We Have in Jesus Christ. (v. 13)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
That phrase is actually one word in the original Greek and Paul wrote it twice. That means that it is something that Paul wanted his readers to really notice. He is saying, “I can do all things, I really can!” True contentment comes from living life under-standing that everything pales in comparison to knowing Christ. Discontent often comes from feeling deprived, but when we under-stand what we deserve and compare it with what we have received in Jesus Christ we can truly be content!
He looked to the Lord in every circum-stance to help him to be content. He looked to the Lord to strengthen him against the temptation to be self-sufficient and complacent when times were good, and he looked to the Lord for strength when times were rough and he faced the temptation to feel sorry for himself. Through it all and every circumstance, he found the Lord’s strength was sufficient.
Let me close by giving you Four Practical Steps To Becoming A More Content Person. [Roddy Chestnut. “Learning Contentment.” Sermon on Phil 4:10-13 –www. Sermoncentral.com]
First, Learn to Act Better Than You Feel.
Wouldn’t it be great to always feel like doing everything we need to do. Sometimes we have do something because it is right or because it needs doing, not because we feel like it. To truly be content we are going to have to let our minds and not our emotions guide our behavior.
Someone has said, “It is easier to act your way into a better way of feeling than to feel your way into a better way of acting.” Someone else said, “If you go through the motion, you will feel the emotion.” And the motto of the AA is “Fake it until you can make it!”
Some of you are already thinking, “Now wait just a minute, Bro John, Isn’t that being a hypocrite?” But you need to understand that there is a difference between hypocrisy and acting responsibly. “It’s like the mother who is awakened in the middle of the night by her crying baby. Does she say, “I’m sorry, I can’t get up right now and change your diaper. I don’t feel like it and I don’t want to be a hypocrite?” Of course not, she gets up and takes care of her baby and she fakes it. She talks sweetly to the child, changes the diaper and rocks it back to sleep. [And then she crawls back into bed and hits her husband who never heard the baby in the first place. But that’s a difference story.] I point is that sometimes we step up and do the right thing because it is the right thing do do!
Secondly, Refuse to Compare Yourself With Others. Have you ever noticed that when we are comparing what we have against what others have we always pick out someone who has more not someone who has less. If we are sort of feeling sorry for ourselves and believing that we are deprived we always pick out the family that has more. We say, “Why the Smiths have two cars, and they are both Lexus’s and their house is a ½ million dollar mansion.” We fail to consider how many in this world have less than we do.
One of the surest ways I know of to make yourself miserable and discontent is to start comparing yourself with others because you can always find someone who….
•Has a better income than you do
•Has a bigger house in a nicer sub-division.
•Gets better grades or more promotions
•Is better looking, or taller or thinner.
You need to stop the comparison game!
Third, Accept People The Way They Are And Not As You Would Like For Them To Be!
After almost 25 years of ministry I have discovered you can’t fix people you either accept them as they are or you are miserable. The same thing is true of churches. Some of you may have a fantasy of what a church should be or do. Reality never measures up. It can’t! Because you are measuring it against a fantasy. Someone has said, “Churches are like people; they do not change in order that they might be accepted, they must be accepted in order that they might change.”
Fourth, Accept Things As They Are And Not Like You Would Like For Them To Be. When we refuse to accept things as they are we cut ourselves off from the present and when we cut ourselves off from the present we kill any chance we have for contentment.
The Secret of Contentment is….
- Contentment Is Learned
- Contentment Is Not Found In Possessions or Circumstances.
- Contentment Is Found In Learning To Appreciate What We Have In Jesus Christ.