Shelby G. Floyd
10 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. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 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. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—NKJV 1982.
We can all tell that we are very happy to be back together again, to worship God and have fellowship one with another. It has been very difficult to stay in our homes, and sometimes not even able to visit with our children and grandchildren. This virus has created conditions throughout the world and throughout our country that none of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. It has been a great time of adjusting. And I am wondering how most of us have dealt with it. Have we learned to be content with the situation? Or have we become very discontented and unhappy with ourselves and everybody around us?
*Benjamin Franklin said, “Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”
*You cannot buy contentment at any price! If you are not contented where you are, you’ll never be contented where you are not!
REJOICE GREATLY IN THE LORD!
10 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 (Phil. 4:10 NKJV).
When Paul wrote his letter to the church at Philippi, he was in prison for the testimony of Jesus Christ. A prison is the last place that any Christian would want to be. Yet the apostle Paul always wanted to make the best out of any situation he found himself. Paul wrote this letter of Philippians to the Christians at Philippi from a Roman prison! And he said, “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” (Philippians 4:10 NKJV).
Paul had made a great sacrifice to bring the gospel to them and to establish a congregation in their midst. Though he had not asked for any help from the Philippians, he was very glad when their love and care flourished again in providing his needs. The Philippians had sent Epaphroditus to Rome where Paul was in prison with this gift, and Paul was sending back this letter of Philippians to them through Epaphroditus. They cared for Paul greatly, but they had lacked an opportunity to do anything about it. But now their love and care for him has flourished!
While this is a very extreme condition, even in our everyday normal situations we often have problems being content and enjoying every day to its fullest. It is somewhat like this poem that goes like this:
It was spring, but it was summer I wanted, the warm days, and the great outdoors.
It was summer, but it was fall I wanted, the colorful leaves, and the cool dry air.
It was fall, but it was winter I wanted, the beautiful snow and the joy of the holidays.
It was winter, but it was spring I wanted, the warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted, the freedom and the respect.
I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted, to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted, the youth and the free spirit.
I was really tired, but it was middle age I wanted, the presence of mind without imitations.
My life was over, but I never got what I wanted.
It is wonderful when God’s people can rejoice in the Lord, even when bad things are going on and life is very tough. Though Paul is in prison he rejoices in the Lord. His rejoicing is even greater now that the Philippians have taken care of his pressing needs. Paul was happy that their love and care for him had flourished again. What Paul was really saying is that their gift was like the blooming spring flowers after a long winter. We know that is what he meant, because the word (flourished 1) is a horticultural term describing flowering plants. Paul’s imprisonment had been like a gloomy winter, but with the coming of Epaphroditus and receiving this love offering, it was to Paul like blooming flowers in the springtime. Do we see how all of us can make somebody’s life really happy and rejoicing when we help them over the rough time in life? We can be to them like blooming flowers in springtime. Will all of us members here at Heartland, try to make somebody’s life to be like blooming flowers in the springtime after a long winter! Let us all be like Paul who wrote earlier in the letter to Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). When we learn to have this kind of spirit we will be very contented in our everyday life regardless of the circumstances!
CONTENTMENT IS LEARNED (Philippians 4:11).
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances—NKJV.
The reason the apostle Paul was able to rejoice in all and every situation is because he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. And we know from reading the life of Paul that his everyday circumstances were in many variegated colors. But through it all, he learned to be content. Notice, he said he had learned to be content.
Almost everything in our life we have learned in school by great teachers or we have learned in the school of “hard knocks.” The word learned in the original language is from (emathon 2), and means “To be in the habit of learning and increasing one’s knowledge by use and practice.” Paul not only wanted the Philippians to learn on their own, but he wanted them to learn contentment from what they had heard from him and what they had seen in him. Our own conduct in going through good and bad times will be the best teacher to all of us, and especially to our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this same context Paul said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
Probably all of us have heard the story about the wealthy father who took his son on a trip to the country to show his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son,
“How was the trip?”
“It was great, Dad.”
“Did you see how poor people live?” The father asked.
“Oh yeah,” said the son.
“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.
The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon.
“We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond sight. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, but they have their friends to protect them.”
The boy’s father was speechless.
His son then added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we really are.”
The Philippians should imitate Paul, because he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances. The word content comes from the word (autarkes 3), and refers to a perfect condition of life, in which no aid or support is needed; hence, a sufficiency of the necessaries of life. And subjectively it refers to a mind that is contented with its lot in life. Paul had learned by experience that God would take care of his needs and also the needs of the Philippians. We must trust that God will meet all our daily needs through Christ. We can choose contentment in all circumstances, rather than being discontent half the time. Have you learned to be content whatever the circumstances are in your life?
THE SECRET OF CONTENTMENT IS…
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Philippians 4:12 NIV).
In Philippians 4:12 Paul continues to emphasize that contentment is not to be found in things! He said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12 NIV). In this verse the word (learned 4), in the original language is not the same as the word learned in the previous verse. Learned here comes from a word that was used when people were initiated into some special group or society. It might be like when people are initiated into the Masons or the Odd Fellows or some other secret society. What secret did Paul learn that initiated him into the special group of people that know how to be content in any and all situations? Paul had learned the true secret of life and he desired to share it with the Philippians. Therefore it would no longer be a secret, if they accepted and adopted what Paul had learned. The verb (learned 4) is in the aorist tense and the action had already taken place and the end result of contentment is what really mattered. Each one of us made a commitment to serve faithfully, no matter what the circumstances might be! Have you determined to serve God Almighty no matter what happens?
AN ILLUSTRATION OF A RUSSIAN WOMAN, THE COW AND THE CHICKEN
A Russian woman lived with her husband and two children in a very small hut. Her husband’s parents lost their home and she had to take them in. It was unbearable! In desperation, she went to the village wise man, which she knew had solved many, many problems. “What should I do?” she begged. “Do you have a COW?” asked the wise man. “Yes,” she replied. Then bring her into the hut too. And come back and see me in a week,” said the wise man. A week later she was back. “This is utterly unbearable” she said. “Do you have any CHICKENS?” asked wise man. “Yes,” she replied. “What about them?” Bring them into the hut too, and come back and see me in another week.” “Now you’re utterly out of your mind,” she said. Nevertheless, still awed by his reputation, she did as he asked. A week later she returned. “This is absolutely impossible,” she said. “Our home is a mess.” “All right,” said the wise man, “take out the chickens.” The next week she reported that without the chickens it was definitely better, but still a miserable situation. “All right,” said the wise man, “now take out the cow. That will settle your problem.” And it did. Without the chickens & cow, the woman, her husband, the children, and his two parents got along quite peacefully. Everything is relative! Sometimes we don’t know how well off we really are!
We also can learn to be content with more or less. Contentment is not about things or stuff. Contentment has more to do with the condition of the heart than about worldly possessions. Paul has set his priorities in the right place. He could see life from God’s point of view! After Paul learned the secret of contentment by instruction and experience, he could write to the young preacher Timothy about contentment:
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NKJV).
Having been initiated into the secret world of learning contentment in any and every circumstance, Paul knows some things that he wants all of the members at Philippi to know. He said I know how to be humbled and I know how to abound, in everything and in all things. Paul had been initiated and had learned the secret to be full, and hungry; to abound and to be deficient. When we learn the secret that Paul revealed to us, we also can learn to be content in all things. Therefore, we should be somewhat detached from things. Instead we should set our site on the eternal qualities of life! Greed brings much grief into our lives.
There was a story about a man named Danny Simpson. At the age of 24 he robbed a bank at gunpoint in Canada. He robbed the bank for $6000. Shortly thereafter, he was captured. When they found the weapon that he is used to rob the bank, it was a 1918 45 Caliber semi-automatic Colt and it was worth $100,000. Danny’s problem was that he did not know what he had in that gun. If he had known how valuable that gun was, he would never have robbed that bank! He had not learned to be content in what he had!
CONTENTMENT IS IN AND THROUGH CHRIST
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV 1982).
The great apostle Paul ends this discussion on contentment when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Christ will meet all of our needs. Christ is all we need! Unless we believe that we will never be content. There will always be some people who have more and others will have less than we do.
To practice the secret that Paul learned, we must consider everything in this world rubbish, in order that we may know and gain Christ Jesus our Lord. In the previous chapter of Philippians Paul said, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Let us also remember that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that man does not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4). What we need is Christ. God loved us enough to give us Christ. He will now take care of his people. God will supply us with all of our needs through Christ. Paul was very thankful that the Philippians had sent him a gift by Epaphroditus. He said it was a gift that was a sweet smelling aroma, and an acceptable sacrifice and it was well pleasing to God. And just as Paul could do all things through Christ, he advises the Philippians that God also will supply all of their needs: “And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
As we bring this lesson to a conclusion, let us remember that Paul said that “what we have learned we must now put into practice” (Philippians 4:9). And let us always pray, “Now to our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:20).
1 Flourished, Phil. 4:10, verb, from anethallo, “to shoot up, sprout again, grow green again, flourish again, trop. Of those whose condition and affairs are becoming more prosperous.” –Thayer, p. 37.
2 Learned, Phil. 4:11, verb, manthano, to learn, understand, find out, discover, know.
3 Content, Phil. 4:11, autarkes, an adjective found only one time in the N. T. and means to be self-sufficient, satisfied, adequate, enough, and content.
4 Learned, Phil. 4:12, mueo, a verb found only one time in the N.T.,and means initiate into, learn a secret, instruct and taught.
Shelby G. Floyd delivered in essence this sermon May 24, 2020, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142. This lesson begins my 60th year of “preaching the word!” The illustrations have been gleaned from many sources. Copyright © 2020 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved.
You may listen to this sermon that was presented online May 24, 2020, at http://www.heartlandcoc.org.