Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 5, 2004
The Practice of Contentment, Part 1
Philippians 4:10-19, Selected Scriptures
For the last couple of sermons we have been talking about being content.
Webster defines contentment as: the state or quality of “being satisfied, not
dis-pleased,” but that definition can also be used of both complacency or
something temporary. Everyone has times when things go the way that they like
and they are pleased. They are content for the moment by Webster’s definition,
but circumstances change and when things are not pleasing the sense of
satisfaction also disappears. Even when things continue well, that sense of
pleasure that comes with achieving some goal quickly diminishes resulting in a
loss of contentment. The contentment that some gain from their complacency is a
sad substitute for true contentment. Many people, including some professing
Christians find this kind of contentment through one of various philosophies
that Satan has used to deceive man, but Webster’s definition is not adequate for
the contentment God wants us to learn.
God wants us to learn to be content in the same sense that Paul speaks of in
Phil. 4. Staring in verse 10 he says, ” But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly,
that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were
concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want; for I
have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Him
who strengthens me.” Paul then goes on to thank and encourage the
Philippians. The contentment Paul speaks of here is active, not passive. This
kind of contentment feels the full range of human emotion, yet remains in
control, self-satisfied, and still pursuing a sense of purpose regardless of the
present circumstances. It is being content while still living life to its
fullest, life on the ragged edge of emotion and experience.
The contentment Paul speaks about here must be based on something far beyond
the temporal world we live in. It must have a foundation in something eternal,
strong and unchanging, that can be trusted even when life turns tragic or
bitter. This kind of contentment can only come to those who hold to Biblical
Christian Theism. There is a real and true, infinite, personal, creator God who
has revealed Himself in both what He has made and in the Bible. He loved me
while yet a sinner and has provided a means to take care of my sin problem and
bring me back into relationship to Him through faith in the person and work of
Jesus Christ. I belong to God, and my life makes sense in living for His
purposes in everything.
Remember that the definition for the Greek word for contentment here means to
be “self-sufficient,” “not needing assistance from outside.”
Because Jesus Christ is sufficient in and for all things, as I walk with Him, I
am in need of no other assistance. The secret of contentment is found in verse
13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” I am
self-sufficient in Christ for He strengthens me to do all that God asks of me. I
can live my life in such a way that regardless of circumstance, I can fulfill
the purpose of my existence in bringing glory to God. He has made His power
available to me so that I can do what honors Him in any situation. My life is no
longer controlled by what happens around me but by the Holy Spirit within me. I
may not like what is happening. I might prefer something else. My emotions might
even be extremely strong, but I am no longer a thermometer fluctuating with the
changing temperature in sinful response. Instead, I am a thermostat that affects
my environment with my demonstration of a Christ like character in all
For too many Christians this seems to be more of a cliche than a living
reality. Too many Christians claim a faith they do not live. Their trust in God
is smaller than a mustard seed’s faith to grow into a plant. This morning we are
going to learn how to be content in Christ alone by going through various
examples from life and putting into practice Biblical truth.
The key to being able to be content and rejoice in all circumstances is to
walk by faith with God. You are not to be conformed to the image of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. In order to do that: 1) You
must know God personally. You must be a Christian. 2) You must remember who God
is and what He has done. 3) You must obediently follow Him. Regardless of the
emotions involved, you must not shy away from the troubles and trials of life.
You must face them head on with submission to the commands, principles and
precepts of God’s word. 4) You must bow the knee to the sovereign God in all
circumstances and even have the attitude of, “Lord, thank you that I am here.”
You may not be happy about the present situation, but remember that you were
buried with Christ and then raised with Him to live in the power of His
resurrection. You are no longer to live being controlled by your circumstances.
You are not in charge. The Lord is in charge, and you follow His orders.
Even the trials that come are to be seen as something that God can use to
change you make you mature. The result is, that, like James 1 states, you
consider your trials to be all joy because they test your faith producing
endurance and maturity. Along with Paul (Romans 5), you exult in your
tribulations knowing they bring about perseverance, proven character and hope
based in the fact that God loved you even while you were a sinner.
Let’s now look at some real life situations and see how these truths can be
put into practice. You can learn to be content in all circumstances because you
can do all things through Him who strengthens you.
Who is God: The eternal creator who is holy, just, pure, righteous, good,
gracious, merciful, lovingkind, sovereign, all wise, all knowing, omnipotent,
omnipresent, unchanging, true, the giver and sustainer of life.
What has God done: He is the source of physical life, salvation, of
love to sinners, hope, and the giver of every good and perfect gift.
What Biblical Principles apply: 1) There is always hope because the love
of God has been proved in Jesus Christ – Romans 5. 2) God uses the trials of
life to test our faith and mature us making us more like Jesus – James 1. 3) God
is sovereign and works in all situations for the good of all that love Him and
are called according to His purpose – Romans 8:28. 4) God always provides a way
to endure through or escape all temptations, so I can never blame Him for my sin
or that of someone else – 1 Cor. 10:13
How can you obey Him? What specific actions will I now take in
obedience to God and His word.
A. RELATIONSHIPS PROBLEMS.
1) People do not like you (co-workers, at school, neighbors, etc.).
* Who is God? Your creator (Gen. 1)
*What has He done for you? Loved you while you were a sinner. Redeemed
me through Christ (Rom. 5:8)
*What Biblical principles apply here? A) Gal. 1:10 (For
am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If
I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.)
– Are you seeking the favor of God, or are you striving to please men ? If you
are still trying to please men, you are not being a good bond-servant of Christ.
B) Are you doing your part to resolve any conflicts? Romans 12:18 – “If
possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
*How can you obey Him? It hurts to not be liked, but you can be
content in God’s love for you. You are to do your best to be at peace with them.
You may need to talk with them about it, but if it relates to your following
God, then He must be first in everything. You must strive to be a good testimony
for Him and be content in pleasing Him. Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you – Mt. 5:44.
2) Your in-laws don’t like you and try to interfere in your marriage. (Or
your folks don’t like your spouse & interfere).
* Who is God? Your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 6:9)
* What has He done for you? Adopted you into his family (Eph. 1:5 –
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according
to the kind intention of His will)
* What Biblical principles apply here? A) We are to honor our parents,
which include those of my spouse – Ephesians 6:2; Exodus 20:12. B) We are to do
our best in maintaining a blameless conscience before God and before men – Acts
24:16. C) The husband / wife relationship is the priority for the man is to
leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two become
one flesh – Matt. 19:5; Genesis 2:24, and D) what God has joined together, no
man is to separate – Matt.. 19:6
* How can you obey Him? Try to resolve what ever problem there is with
the in-laws. Warn them about interfering in the marriage and what consequences
may come if it continues. Keep the priority of your marriage. Be content in
being part of God’s family while fulfilling God’s role for your family.
3) Your spouse is not satisfying. He/she is not romantic. He/she does not
please you, and you want something different? (The grass is greener on the other
side of the fence, because the septic tank is there)
* Who is God? The one who gave you life (Job 33:4 –
The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the
Almighty gives me life.)
* What has He done for you? He joined you together – Matt. 19:6
*What Biblical principles apply here? The various roles given to us by
God in marriage – Husbands love your wives (Eph. 5:25, etc.). Wives, submit to
and respect husbands (Eph.5:22,33). Husbands, live with her in an understanding
way (1 Peter 3:7). Wives, win him without a word by their chaste and respectful
behavior (1 Peter 3:1-6).
* How can you obey Him? Fulfill the role God has given you. Be more
concerned about your pleasing God and your spouse than about your spouse
pleasing you. Find your contentment in seeing God at work in you and through you
4) Your fianc‘, boyfriend / girlfriend
doesn’t like you anymore. Broken relationships, broken engagement,
*Who is God? The one who is not a man that He should lie nor the son
of man that He should change His mind (Numb. 23:19).
*What has He done for you? Promised never to leave or forsake you
*What Biblical principles apply here? Same as given earlier regarding
those who do not like you. Seek to be at peace with people as far as it depends
on you (Rom. 12:18), but please God, not people (Gal. 1:10). God is maturing you
in the midst of trials (James 1:2-4). God works all things together for good for
those that love Him (Rom. 8:28). True love seeks the best for the other person
(1 Cor. 13:4-8).
* How can you obey Him? Seek to resolve any conflicts. Learn from your
own mistakes and failures. Extend to them godly love. Be glad the conflict arose
before you were married. A broken relationship is better than a broken marriage.
4) Your spouse wants a divorce.
*Who is God? The One that joined you together – Matthew 19:6
*What has He done for you? He made you alive in Christ (Eph. 2:5) and
raised you up that you might walk in newness of life and be a slave of
righteousness instead of a slave to sin (Romans 6).
*What Biblical principles apply here? God hates divorce – (Malachi
2:15-16). Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:32). God has
given husband and the wife specific roles in marriage (Eph. 5:21-33, 1 Peter
* How can you obey Him? Fulfill the role God has given you as husband
or wife. Seek to be at peace as much as it depends on you. Win them by your
behavior. Confess your sins and seek their forgiveness for what you have done
wrong. Do not let yourself be the cause of a divorce. Find fulfillment and
comfort in God’s promises to love you.
5) Your married to a non-Christian. They do not share your beliefs and
values. Why doesn’t God save that person! (or other loved ones).
* Who is God? The sovereign one who chooses people in Christ before
the foundation of the world that they should be holy and blameless before Him
* What has He done for you? He has saved you and has offered salvation
to all (John 3:15 – that whoever believes may in Him
have eternal life. 1 Jn 2:1, He Himself is
the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for [those of]
the whole world etc.).
* What Biblical principles apply here? James 5:16b – “The effective
prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Luke 18:1-8 “Now He was
telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to
lose heart…”. 1 Peter 3:1,2 – 3:1 “In the same way, you wives, be
submissive to your own husbands so that even if any [of them] are disobedient to
the word , they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as
they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord
is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward
you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
* How can you obey Him? Continue to be patient. Continue to be fervent
in prayer. Continue to live out the truth of the gospel before them. Let your
life match your words. Be content that the longing you feel for their salvation
is akin to God’s love for them. Do not let the doctrine of election and the
sovereignty of God lead you to fatalism or think we are but game pieces in great
cosmic game. As 2 Cor. 5:20 points out, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as
though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God.” You can be content when you see yourself as God’s
messenger of mercy, the instrument of His patient, longsuffering love to your
unsaved spouse. Never be complacent in your effort to love them and win them to
B. MATERIAL LOSS
1) You go outside to get in your car and find that someone had smashed into
it. Your house is burglarized, etc. You suffer some loss of something you own.
*Who is God? The righteous Judge of all the earth (Ps. 94:2
Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to
*What has He done for you? Provided a means in Christ for your sins to
be forgiven so that you are no longer under His condemnation (Rom. 8)
*What Biblical principles apply here? Rom. 12:19 “Never take your
own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God,] for it is written,
‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Matt. 6:15 – “But if
you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”
Luke 12:15 – “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed;
for not [even] when one has an abundance does his life consist of his
possessions.” Numbers 5:7 – “and he shall make restitution in full for
his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give [it] to him whom he has
*How can you obey Him? Seek justice, but not revenge. Be forgiving.
Remember that life is not about how much you own. God owns it. You are just
using it. (“Dad, they smashed your car).
2) You lose everything you own to a fire, flood, tornado, earthquake.
*Who is God? The One who owns all things. “The earth is the Lord’s,
and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it” Psalm 24:1
*What has He done for you? Provided you with life (Acts 17:25 –
He Himself gives to all life and breath and all
things), and everything you need to live (Rom. 2:4,
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His
kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God
leads you to repentance etc.)
*What Biblical principles apply here? Romans 8:32 “. . . He freely
give us all things?” James 1:17 – “Every good thing bestowed and every
perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom
there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” 2 Peter 3:9-13 10 “But the
day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with
a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and
its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in
this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the
heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense
heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new
earth, in which righteousness dwells.”
* How can you obey Him? Look to God to provide for your needs in the
midst of your loss. Remember that all those possessions have just burned a
little early. They are not what your life is about. Be content with what you
have and be grateful for it.
C) FINANCIAL STRESS
1) You find yourself suddenly unemployed?
* Who is God? The one to whom belongs heaven and the highest
heavens, the earth and all that is in it – Deut. 10:14
* What has He done for you? He gives you food out of His
lovingkindness (Ps. 136:25 – Who gives food to all
flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. ; Romans 2:4)
* What Biblical principles apply here? Matt. 6:33 – “But seek first
His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
Psalm 37:25 – “I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the
righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread.”
* How can you obey Him? Work hard to find employment, but put God’s
kingdom and righteousness first. Live in expectation that He will meet your real
needs, not your wants.
2) Your financial income precludes you from having what other people have.
The wicked are better off than you.
* Who is God? The sovereign creator who is characterized by being
compassionate and gracious , slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and
truth” – Exodus 34:6. His kindness is a cause to lead the unrighteous to
repentance – Romans 2:4.
* What has He done for you? Provided your needs – Psalm 145:15,16
The eyes of all look to Thee, And Thou dost give
them their food in due time. 16 Thou dost open Thy hand, And dost satisfy the
desire of every living thing.
* What Biblical principles apply here? 1 Tim. 6:7,8 -7 “For we have
brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Psalm
73:12, 16,17 – “Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have
increased [in] wealth. 16 When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome
in my sight 17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; [Then] I perceived their
* How can you obey Him? Repent of your covetousness and envy. Be
thankful for what you have. Remember to see things from God’s eternal
perspective. His final judgement is still to come. Material wealth will not do
the wicked any good then.
D. PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES.
1) You don’t like your role as a wife/husband, mother/father,
*Who is God? The Self-sufficient one in need of nothing outside
Himself (Exod. 3:14 – And God said to Moses, “I AM
WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has
sent me to you.'”) Who made you for His own purposes (Isa. 64:8 –
But now, O Lord, Thou art our Father, We are the
clay, and Thou our potter; And all of us are the work of Thy hand.)
*What has He done for you? Jesus Christ humbled Himself to become a
man and die on the cross in your place for your sins (Philippians 2:5-8)
*What Biblical principles apply here? The many commands to be humble
(James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6) and have the attitude shown in Jesus Christ in Phil.
2:3-8f. Also every command and principle in the Bible concerning specific roles
God has given us.
*How can you obey Him? Repent of your foolish selfishness. Have the
attitude of Jesus. Be the best you can be in your various roles whatever they
2) Your political freedoms are being lost.
* Who is God? The sovereign Lord of all (Rev. 17:14 –
“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb
will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who
are with Him [are the] called and chosen and faithful.”)
* What has He done for you? He set you free from your bondage to sin,
self and Satan (Rom. 7:14, 24,25; 8:1 – For we know
that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin,
24,25 Who will set me free from the body of this
death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those
who are in Christ Jesus. Eph. 2:1-10).
* What Biblical principles apply here? Rom. 13:1 “Let every person
be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except
from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore he who
resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed
will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Daniel 4:34-37 – God lifts up or
puts down governments as He desires.. Phil. 3:20 “For our citizenship is in
heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
* How can you obey Him? Submit to God first, then to the authority of
men (Titus 3:1 – Remind them to be subject to
rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2 to
malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all
men.; Acts 5:29 – But Peter and the apostles
answered and said, “We must obey God rather than men.) Pray for those in
authority over you (1 Tim. 2:1-3 – First of all,
then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be
made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, in order
that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity).
We work to make changes in our living situations, but we must also remember the
eternal perspective. We are but aliens and strangers here.
3) Your kids rebel
*Who is God? The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and
great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all
His works – Psalm 145:8,9
* What has He done for you? Holds you accountable for your actions
while extending to you a means of mercy and grace – Romans 14:12 (So
then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.) Romans 8:1
* What Biblical principles apply here? Ezek. 18:4, 20 “Behold, all
souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine.
The soul who sins will die.” 20 “The son will not bear the punishment for
the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s
iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the
wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” James 5:20 – “let him
know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul
from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” Ephesians 6:4 “And,
fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
* How can you obey Him? Recognize and repent of your failures in
raising your child (Every parent fails to some degree). Hold your son / daughter
accountable for their own actions. DO NOT protect them from the consequences of
their sin unless there is genuine repentance on their part. Their soul is more
valuable than your pride or rescuing them from the misery of their own sin.
Next week we will continue doing this same thing concentrating on the areas
of physical hindrances and personal tragedies. If there are specific issues you
would like me to address, just write them down and give them to me, put them in
my mail box in the office or put them in the Faith Box and I will include them
in next week’s sermon.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “God”is mentioned in the
sermon. Talk with your parents about who God is and what He has done. What
difference does that make in your own life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Define “contentment” according to Phillippians 4:11-13. How could you be
content in each of the specific circumstances listed below. Use the four general
questions to find solutions that will enable you to be content in your own
Sermon Notes – November 28, 2004
The Practice of Contentment, Part 1 – Philippians 4:10-19,
The Key to Contentment: Walk by faith with God
1) You must know God personally. You must be a Christian. 2) You must
remember who God is and what He has done. 3) You must obediently follow Him. 4)
You must humbly yield to God’s sovereign plans in all circumstances.
Who is God?
What has God done?
What Biblical Principles apply? Romans 5:8; James 1:2-4; Romans 8:28; 1
How can you obey Him?
People do not like you
Your in-laws are interfering
Your spouse is not satisfying
Your boyfriend, girlfriend / fianc‘
breaks up with you.
Your spouse wants a divorce
Your married to a non-Christian
Your Car is smashed, house burglarized, etc.
You lose everything in a disaster
You are suddenly unemployed
You can’t have what others have. The wicked prosper while you struggle.
You don’t like your role as husband / wife, mother / father, etc.
Your political freedoms are being lost
Your children rebel