Contentment in Christ

fishing_jpg.jpgPhilip Parham tells the story of a rich industrialist who was disturbed to find a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. "Why aren't you out there fishing?" he asked. "Because I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman. "Why don't you catch more fish than you need?' the rich man asked. "What would I do with them?" "You could earn more money," came the impatient reply, "and buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could purchase nylon nets, catch even more fish, and make more money. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats and be rich like me." The fisherman asked, "Then what would I do?" "You could sit down and enjoy life," said the industrialist. "What do you think I'm doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to sea. (Our Daily Bread, May 18, 1994)

Need

* To understand the concept of contentment and how it can be achieved in the life of a believer.

 Bridging sentences:

Text: Philippians 4:10-13 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

* Textual idea: in this passage, Paul thanks the Philippian believers for their generosity to him and teaches them about Christian contentment.

Sermon idea: from this passage, we learn that contentment is a mark of a mature believer in Christ.

* Interrogative: how can we be content in Christ?

* Proposition: we can be content in Christ by learning about Him and His provision for us.

I. WE CAN BE CONTENT IN CHRIST BY LEARNING ABOUT HIS PERSON. (vv. 10-13)

A. Explanation:

1. The concept:

a) Paul first teaches us that contentment is something that is learned.

(1) Contentment doesn’t come and go.  It’s a habit of the soul that comes with time and experience.

(2) There is an element of mystery in learning contentment.  In verse 12, the literal translation could read “I have learned the secret…”

(3) Contentment is not easily or instantly learned.  There is no magic formula to recite or existential zap to experience.

b) Paul also teaches us that contentment does not depend on circumstance.

(1) This is a confrontation with the sovereignty of God.

(2) God has wisely designated a path for each one of us.

(3) Notice Paul’s response to circumstance (2Cor. 4:8-9)

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

c) Paul next reveals the secret of his contentment, the Person of Jesus Christ. (v. 13)

(1) Look at verses 7 and 9.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

(2) Here is the difference between the carnal man and the believer in relation to contentment.

(3) The carnal man is content when he has outward peace (not the peace of God); the believer must have both the peace of God and the God of peace, both the Cause and the Effect.

(4) David’s declaration in Psalm 73:25.

73:25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

d) Conclusion:

(1) Contentment is a learned habit of the soul; it is not easy.

(2) Contentment for the Christian is not dependent on circumstances.

(3) The secret of contentment can only be found in the Person of Christ.

B. Illustration:

Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, distinguishes between colors in the face that arise from passion and those that arise from complexion.  The pale face may look red when it is blushed, but this is only a passion.  He is said properly to be ruddy and sanguine who is constantly so; it is his complexion.  He is not a contented man, who is so occasionally, and perhaps when he is pleased, but who is so constantly.  It is the habit and complexion of the soul.  (Watson, p. 21)

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God's sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation–the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands–the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.  (C.H. Spurgeon)

C. Application:

1. Is your life characterized by contentment?

2. Is your contentment based on external achievement or the God of those achievements?

D. Transition:

We are now ready to define contentment from the Scripture: Contentment is being satisfied with Christ, nothing less and nothing more.  

II. WE CAN BE CONTENT IN CHRIST BY LEARNING ABOUT HIS PROVISION.

A. Explanation:

1. The concept:

a) The first thing Christ provides for us is new desires.

(1) One of the basic ways that unbelievers and believers can be distinguished is by transformation.

(2) For the believer, once “in Christ,”  everything becomes new, including our desires.

(3) However, believers live with the flesh and often succumb to the old desires.

(4) One of the most misunderstood verses dealing with contentment is Psalm 37:4:Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.While many use this verse to show that God will grant our wishes, the verse is really teaching that, if we delight in Him, He will provide our desires for us—the right kind of desires.

(5) To regain these rights desires, we must delight in him which takes us to this principle.  Contentment is conditional upon our relationship of love/obedience to God.  How do we delight ourselves in Him?  By obeying him.  The Greatest command we are to obey is to love God; the supreme form of love is obedience.  This circular process will result in our desires becoming God’s desires and contentment is one of the byproducts of this process.

(6) Read 1Tim. 6:6.   But godliness with contentment is great gain.Great gain in our Christian life is godliness with contentment.  The lifestyle is inseparably linked to the mindset.

b) The second provision of Christ for our contentment is His strength. (v. 13)

c) A third provision of Christ helping us to be content is His presence. (v. 9)

9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

(1) Because He is everywhere with us, no temptation is without escape. (1Cor 10:13)

(2) We can do “all things” because of His abiding presence and help.

d) Conclusion:

(1) Transformation in Christ helps us cultivate godly desires.

(2) Contentment for the Christian is not achieved by adding things to match our desires; it is achieved by subtracting desires until we are satisfied only with Christ.

(3) His strength and His presence are sufficient.

B. Transition:

Gaining a right perspective on Christ and His provision help us to learn contentment, but so many people build barriers to contentment by holding onto a wrong perspective about themselves. 

III. WE CAN BE CONTENT IN CHRIST BY LEARNING ABOUT OURSELVES.

A. Explanation:

1. The concept:

a) Contentment is conditional upon self-denial.

(1) I am nothing in myself.  Christ is all in all.

(2) I deserve nothing, except Hell.  

R.C. Sproul says, "In our partly sanctified lives, there lurks the godless temptation to assume that God owes us a better condition than we presently enjoy. Such is the misery of sin, which misery is defeated by the triumph of God's saving and providential grace. It is in this grace that Christian contentment may be found."

(3) I can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

(4) I am so vile that I cannot of myself receive any good.  I am not only an empty vessel, but also a corrupt and unclean vessel.  My heart is deceitful above all things.

(5) I can make use of nothing, if God withdraws Himself from it.  Even if in His grace, He bestows upon me a gift, I cannot use it as intended without Him.

(6) We are worse than nothing.  Sin makes us more vile than nothing.  We are not empty pitchers in respect of good, but we are like pitchers filled with poison.

(7) If we perish we will be no loss.  God can raise up someone else in my place.

B. Illustration:

He that is down needs fear no fall; He that is low, no pride; He that is humble, ever shall Have God to be his guide. I am content with what I have, Little be it, or much; And, Lord, contentment still I crave, Because Thou savest such. (John Bunyan, quoted in Anthology of Jesus)

C.  Application:

1. Why should we go through this humiliating process of self-denial?

2. Because a man who is little in his own eyes will account every affliction as little, and every mercy as great. 

CONCLUSION:

* This is by no means a thorough treatment of biblical contentment.  This is only a start of the study.  I hope every one of you will begin to learn if you have not already the process of contentment.

* In order to learn contentment, we must first deny ourselves daily so no covetousness may creep into our lives.

* Then, we must purpose to learn our Savior, delight ourselves in Him through obedience and savor His presence and strength on a daily basis.

* You can have this complexion of the soul regardless of your circumstance or complaint.  May you find both the peace of God and the God of peace.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I have been trying to find a way to describe the difference between contentment in Christ – being still and not listening to our material wants, outside “noise”, vs. not being content in our walk and always needing to search after our Lord – as I believe is a lifelong endeavor. Thank you for this.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Heidi on May 14, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    I really needed this study. Jesus bless you.

    Reply

  3. Great post on contentment! I’d be content to link to it! Thanks!

    Cheryl Ricker
    author of “A Friend in the Storm”
    A Poetic gift book of comfort
    Zondervan, August 2010

    Reply

  4. […] Contentment in Christ […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by JERO on January 8, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I am enjoying this site please, include me in your mailing list.

    Thanks in Kristo,

    jero

    Reply

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