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Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

Author: Dr. George M. Flattery

Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

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Thoughts from Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

Millions of people everywhere are discontented. There is such an abundance of evidence of this, that it hardly seems necessary to substantiate it. All you have to do is look at the headlines on your computer screen and you will see the evidence.

The desire for contentment is nearly universal. Although there are many reasons why people are not contented, they often blame their discontent on their lack of material things. Material things are sought as the answer to discontent. However, people can be discontented whether or not they have material riches. Certainly, the poor have their problems. People who have material goods in abundance may also have problems.

The apostle Paul learned the secret of how to be content. When he wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison. It was near the end of his life and ministry. He had received a gift from Philippi, brought by Epaphroditus. Among other things, in his letter, he acknowledges the gift. Then he uses the opportunity to teach people to be content no matter what material things they possessed.

He tells us about it in his letter to the Philippians, 4:10-20. In our coming “thoughts” we will discuss the nature of contentment, how to obtain contentment and the source of contentment. About how to obtain contentment, we will highlight Paul’s learning experiences that led to contentment. In verse 11 he wrote: “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

Although Paul especially applied his message to material things, his encouragement to be content applies to all aspects of life. For example, people who have been contented during their working days, face new challenges when they retire. You may think of other challenges. Your comments are always welcome!

More Thoughts from Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

Our text is a statement by the apostle Paul about contentment. He was writing from prison and was no doubt doing without many comforts of life. Despite this, he writes: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (verse 11). Our highlight today will be the meaning of the word “content.”

Here, the English word “content” is a translation of a Greek word that means “self-sufficiency.” The idea of self-sufficiency can be used in an unfavorable sense. Many times we rely on others to help us. Moreover, we certainly must rely on God throughout our lives. In contrast, the idea of self-sufficiency can be used in a favorable sense. It is good to be as responsible and self-sufficient as possible. Here, Paul uses the Greek word in a favorable sense.

It is easy to see why the English word “contentment” is derived from this Greek word. To be content is to be satisfied with what you have. What we have can include, of course, the assistance provided by others. Certainly, it includes what God provides. Paul has learned to be content despite his circumstances. Whatever circumstances he finds himself in, whether in want or abundance, he is self-sufficient.

Our physical and material circumstances, or our life situation in general, can rob us of our contentment. We may be unfulfilled in so many ways, but Paul has learned to rise above circumstances. He has mastered them, rather than letting circumstances master him. We will study more about the nature of contentment in my next “Thoughts.” Your comments are welcome and helpful to others.

More Thoughts from Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

In my last “thoughts” we talked about the nature of contentment. Contentment is being satisfied with what we have. Contentment is neither apathy nor frustration. It is neither pride nor despair. It is not unfeeling passivity nor intense exhilaration.

We need to set goals and seek to reach them. We must work to eat. We must responsibly face financial needs. In our text, Paul applies the thought of being content to material things. However, the principle applies to all aspects of life.

We will feel joy and sorrow, but through it all, we will realize that all is well within. We will be contented with the way that God is leading us. When our lives are centered on God and we have learned to be content, we will realize a great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

We can determine to walk with the Lord and do His will. We can aggressively pursue the goals that He set before us. When we do, we can at the same time know that all results are in His hands. We can learn the vital lesson that we serve His ministry, not our own. When we do this we will not suffer frustration and defeat.

In my next “thoughts” we will review how Paul learned to be content. We can learn from his experience.

More Thoughts from Philippians 4:10-20 Learning to Be Content

The apostle Paul wrote these words: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (verses 11-12).

As Paul writes, he indicates that he has learned to be content. He has learned to get along with either humble means or with prosperity. Briefly, let us consider both of these circumstances.

On the one hand, Paul encountered many challenges during his ministry. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, he writes about being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, hungry, thirsty, and cold. Through it all, he learned to live with humble means.

On the other hand, Paul also knew how to abound, to live with prosperity. He wrote about the gift that the Philippians had given him. He said, “But I have received everything if full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (verse 18).

Paul acknowledges that before the Philippians sent their gift, he had needs. However, he rejoices more in the generosity he finds flowering in them than in the meeting of his own needs. He said, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to our account” (verse 17).

Paul has learned to be content. We, too, go through a learning process. In my next “thoughts” we will consider the source of our contentment. In this regard please read verse 13.

More Thoughts from Philippians 4:10-20 Contentment

Paul speaks about the nature of contentment and the fact that he has learned to be contented. The Greek word, here translated as contented, is self-sufficient. Although using this word, Paul points out that the source of our contentment in Christ.

Using the more literal meaning, Paul says he has learned to be self-sufficient. This was a favorite word of the Stoics. The Stoics practiced the virtue of being content in all circumstances by not letting adversity depress or joy elate them. Unlike the Stoics, Paul expressed both joy and sorrow, yet he was contented.

As Paul explains, he can live with humble means or live in prosperity. He has learned to be content. However, the source of his contentedness is Christ. He said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (verse 13). Although Paul’s focus is on living humbly or in prosperity, the principle applies to all of life. Whatever challenges we have, we can overcome them by relying on Christ.

Paul further says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in gory n Christ Jesus” (verse 19). God’s purpose for our lives may lead us through a degree of want or abundance, but His ultimate goal for us will be accomplished. Because of His care and provision, we can be content.

George M. Flattery, Ph.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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