The Secret of Contentment – Philippians 4:11-19

By Dave Urbanski.

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During our final Sunday studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Pastor Scott focused on the “Secret of Contentment” as we examined verses 11, 12, 13, and 19 in chapter four.

Here are those verses: “11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. …19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

A consistent theme in Pastor Scott’s message was that desires can create damaging mirages in our lives, minds, and hearts — false beliefs that once our desires are met, satisfaction will finally arrive for good. But even when we meet a goal, make that purchase, marry that spouse, get that promotion, satisfaction rarely lasts. We almost always want more, and our desires resume. And then desires can turn into expectations … which can become demands … which then can lead to anger and conflict. So how do we avoid such a dangerous, vicious cycle?

First, Pastor Scott showed the relationship between having a need and being content, which actually hearkens back to an “anything/everything” concept from a recent study of ours where Paul in Philippians 4:6 speaks to not being anxious about “anything” but in “everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” And that idea is repeated in verses 11 and 12 as Paul notes “…in whatever situation I am to be content” and “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

In other words, we are to practice being content in ALL parts of our lives. But this isn’t easy, is it? Instead we want control, we want things to break in our favor — and sometimes we even want revenge. We want what we want when we want it, and we hang on so tight to that. If we look at our hearts as a room, Pastor Scott said one side is encompassed by the desires of our hearts, and they can be dangerous. In fact, they’re so powerful at times they can take over the entire room! Therefore we need to curb our desires and practice placing boundaries over them and in front of them.

Which bring us to learning the virtue of being content, which Pastor Scott said is like learning a skill. That’s right! We weren’t born with this ability. We have to master it. And how? Practice! (And God is happy to help if you let him.) In truth, contentment is a CHOICE to experience joy right now, today, as opposed when our next desire is satisfied. And even more, it’s a skill to be practiced in all kinds of conditions — low or high emotionally, thin or flush financially, healthy or not physically.

That brings us to a key point: Paul uses “hunger” as an example of a state in which we must learn to be content. Most of us in America don’t know what real hunger is, but when we’re faced with it, working through hunger can be very difficult. But Paul’s message here is that it IS possible to learn to be content while hungry — or when battling any physical affliction. Pastor Scott noted that the solution lies with something other than a sandwich or a salad. The answer, in fact, is spiritual! He shared that discontent while hungry is a signal that we probably need to evaluate our character. That’s why the practice of fasting can be so beneficial, he added. Because when we specifically say “no” to food for a period of time (“No, you don’t control me.”) we’re saying “yes” to God. Again, it’s a practice, a skill, an intentional choice to open up our hearts and souls to the Lord and grow deeper spiritually.

Verse 13 ties in with this theme, as it describes us doing “all things” by the power that Jesus  gives us. Indeed, we’re dependent on the Lord, and we’re out of our depth without him. But through him, we actually can do things that are outside of our own abilities. However, Pastor Scott reminded us to keep this idea in context, as it’s also about contentment. Verse 19 sums it up by repeating the truth that God will “supply” us with everything we need — but not according to the world’s values or standards … instead according to his “riches in glory,” which no eye can measure.

For me, the best part of Pastor Scott’s message was the end when he reminded us that amid the struggle between needs, desires, and contentment, the Lord wants to give us freedom. He gives us all free will to accept him or reject him, and when we become Christians, the Lord gives us freedom from the weight and consequences of sin. No more guilt. We are free finally to live as we were meant to live. But more than that was Pastor Scott’s reminder that this freedom also means we don’t have to hold on to resentment or anger — gripping them tightly as actual NEEDS and stewing inside those self-made prisons, those self-afflicted cages. Truth is, if we struggle in this area and are still sitting in those jail cells, Jesus already has unlocked and opened the door. So what are we waiting for? We can forgive others, walk out of our cage, and let others go free, too. We’re free to be content in his forgiveness and can finally release those destructive desires to him. 

This promise, this gift … is for all of us … today … now. Therefore let us release our ungodly desires so we can make all the room in the world for desiring God … and finally rest in contentment with the freedom he so abundantly offers us. 

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