Lessons from the Book of Philippians



            Greetings precious people, I do hope that you are doing well today and giving thanks to God for all of His goodness to you. In last week’s article we saw God’s cure for worry from the Book of Philippians. In today’s article we will see what God has to say concerning the area of contentment. Lets begin by understanding what contentment is. Webster’s Dictionary defines contentment as being happy enough with what one has or is; not desiring something more or different, satisfied.

            Before we look at the verses that we’ll study today on contentment, I would like to ask you a few questions to ponder. Are you content? Are you content with what you have? Are you content with what you do not have? What do you think would make you content, more money, a nicer home, bigger car, a different spouse?

            Listen to what the Apostle Paul had to say while he was in prison for doing nothing more than what every Christian ought to do, obeying the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:10-12, “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. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I 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.”  

            In Paul’s lifetime, he had known both the ‘good life’ as well as the not so good life. At one time he was highly esteemed by the religious community and respected by all. That all changed after he met Jesus while on the road to Damascus. He became despised and rejected by many; he would even refer to himself as the ‘scum of the earth’ in how others would view him. I venture to say that Paul knew much greater contentment and peace of mind when he was thought of as the scum of the earth than when he was highly esteemed by the religious community. The reason for this is that when he was highly esteemed among men he didn’t know Jesus Christ. It is impossible to know true contentment apart from knowing Jesus Christ personally and intimately.

            Contentment is closely related to peace of mind and quietness of heart. It does not rely upon outward circumstances, other people, places, or things. You can be like the Apostle Paul who as he wrote this letter was in the midst of a great trial, a whirlwind of circumstances and events that challenged everything that he had come to know and believe about Jesus Christ.

            Jesus put out a call to the people of His day and He puts the same call out in our day as well, it’s found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." And in John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Jesus said this to a people that were being enslaved by the Romans and being used and taken advantage of by their own “religious” leaders. He was not promising freedom from these oppressions rather peace and contentment in the midst of it all.

            Don’t make the mistake that is commonly made, contentment, peace of heart and quietness of mind is not dependent upon being taken out of one set of circumstances and placed in a better one. Though God may work this way at times, I have found it is much more common for Him to give contentment and peace in the midst of the trial and difficulty as I surrender to Him and trust Him to take care of me.

            Notice something of great importance that Paul mentions in regard to how he came about this contentment. He tells us that he had “learned” to be content in whatever circumstance that he found himself in. The word ‘learned’ comes from the Greek word ‘manthano’ which has the meaning of to learn, to be instructed, a learner. It conveys the idea of one going to school to learn. For Paul and every other Christian, the school for learning contentment is not the one we went to when we were young, rather it is the school of life and the classroom is daily living with the Bible, the Word of God as the textbook.

            Paul had experienced many hardships in his years of serving the Lord. A partial list of these hardships are given to us in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness--  besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

            It was through these times that Paul learned the true meaning of contentment. For it was through these experiences that all that he rested in and sought contentment from, apart from Jesus Christ, had been stripped away. As these were removed form his life he was able to have a much greater intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not that everything in our life is necessarily bad in and of itself. It is when we look to those things, people, positions, and places to give us what only can be had in a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul would attest to this in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

            I know some of you reading this article long for peace and contentment in your life. You have sought after it through relationships, pursuits of pleasures, fame, and fortunes only to find yourself without peace and discontent. You need to realize that you will never find the peace that Jesus spoke of until you have peace with God. The reason that you and I and every human on the face of this earth need peace with God is because our sin places us at enmity with God. The Bible says that we are sinners by nature and sin puts us at odds with God. Jesus went to the cross to reconcile us to God. He paid the price for our sin as He suffered and died upon the cross.

            This is clearly stated in Colossians 1:19-22, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” And in Colossians 2:13-14, “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the hardness of your heart, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” 

            When a person, any person like you or I, realize that we are sinners and that sin has separated us from God and puts us at enmity with God and repent of that sin and believe that God in His great love sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sin and turn to faith in Christ our sin will be washed away and we will have peace with God. Then as we begin to grow in this new relationship with Jesus Christ and come to trust Him more and more we will experience the contentment, peace of mind, and quietness of heart that the Bible speaks of.

            This is for you today dear one; won’t you turn to Jesus today and trust Him as your Lord and Savior? If you have any questions concerning this or anything else you may contact me by one of the ways listed at the end of this article. Next time we will continue our study in the Book of Philippians. Until then may the Lord richly bless you beloved. 

If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests you can contact me at: Calvary Chapel of Alpine, P.O. Box 1528, Alpine, Ca. 91903 or call 619-445-2589, or e-mail ccalpine@juno.com or visit our web site to read all previous articles at www.calvarychapel.org/alpine/index.htm

Drew Macintyre is pastor of Calvary Chapel of Alpine