June 30, 2010 David Balzer

Philippians 4:10-23: Be content!

Do you remember Fonzie from “Happy Days”? Cool, full of self-confidence. And he was NEVER wrong. At least, that’s what he THOUGHT.

In one episode, though, he WAS wrong. And so he had to apologise. But he couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even SAY THE WORDS.

“Yes Richie, you were right, and I was rrrrrr…”

“I’m sss… sorry”

Some people aren’t good at saying sorry.

Have you ever had one of THOSE apologies? The sort where someone says, “I’m sorry I lost my temper… But you really annoyed me.” OR “I’m sorry for backing into your car… But you should have seen me coming.”

With these sorts of people/ you just KNOW the “BUT” is coming.

Or what about people who have a hard time saying “Thank-you”? They don’t like to be in ANYONE’s debt. Ever had one of THOSE thank-you’s?

“Thanks for the food and blankets. I’ll make sure I pay you back”

“Thanks for the help, but I was just about to lift the car off my foot by myself.”

Some people read this last section of Philippians, and think that’s what Paul’s doing. “Thanks for your gift. But I didn’t really need it anyway”

He says it twice. Look there in v11.

“I’m not saying thanks because I’m in NEED. For I’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

And again down in v17.

(Phil 4:17 NIV)  Not that I am looking for a gift…

He sounds UNGRATEFUL. You could understand why the Philippians might say, “Well if THAT’S the way he’s going to be, he can look after HIMSELF from now on!”

And yet it’s the very thing which DISTURBS these critics which makes this thank-you note so wonderful.

It’s not that Paul isn’t grateful for the gift. He says in v18 that he’s AMPLY SUPPLIED now that he’s received their gifts. It’s just that what REALLY excites him isn’t the gift itself, but the sentiment and motivation BEHIND it.

You see, the gift points towards something that’s FAR more important than mere money – the genuine FRIENDSHIP and LOVE he has with the Philippians. And THAT’S what he’s REALLY thankful for.

Look at the depth of his feelings for them. V10

“I rejoiced GREATLY in the Lord that at last you’ve renewed your concern for me”

And down in v14.

(Phil 4:14-16 NIV)  Yet it was good of you to SHARE in MY TROUBLES. {15} …not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, EXCEPT YOU ONLY; {16} for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid AGAIN AND AGAIN when I was in need.

It’s their THOUGHT and CONCERN for him that Paul really values. And that’s what their gift REFLECTS. That’s why he’s glad to receive the gift.

It’s the same as when we’d just moved into our new house. And a few people went to the trouble of providing a meal. It wasn’t so much the MEAL we appreciated. As the thought and concern and love that went BEHIND it. That’s what was so special.

And Paul was the same. If he’d been happy to hear from the Philippians ONLY because of the gift. That would actually be INSULTING them. It’d send the message that he’s more interested in THINGS than PEOPLE. When the OPPOSITE is actually true.

So that’s the background.

But we still come up against the problem of how Paul is able to say he doesn’t really NEED the gift. His evangelistic work is a full-time job. He’s got to find food and shelter somewhere. Where does he get the freedom and the sufficiency to say he doesn’t need anyone’s help?

It comes because he completely trusts God. He has a firm commitment that his heavenly Father will meet his every need. But not just for him. For EVERY Christian. Look at it there in v19.

(Phil 4:19 NIV)  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Look carefully at what he actually says. He’s not SPIRITUALISING things. He says ALL your needs. He doesn’t say “Physical needs aren’t important. But God will give you SPIRITUAL needs through Jesus.”

He says ALL your needs.

And notice something else? He doesn’t say “My God will meet all your needs THROUGH his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Or BY his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Or BECAUSE OF his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” That’s what we might expect.

But he says ACCORDING TO. In the same order of magnitude. The same generous measure God used when he dished out the riches we have in Jesus. Is the measure he will use in meeting ALL YOUR NEEDS.

No riches by THE BUCKET with Jesus, but then by THE TEASPOON when it comes to our OTHER needs. NO! He meets our physical needs ACCORDING to his glorious riches in Jesus. That’s how much our heavenly Father looks after us!

And the argument is “He’s already given us his only Son to put us right with Him. Why would we doubt that he’d meet our OTHER needs, too?

It’s the same argument Paul uses in Rom 8:31.

(Rom 8:31-32 NIV)  …If God is for us, who can be against us? {32} He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Our confidence that God will look after our needs generously comes from the CROSS. And understanding the generosity God’s shown THERE. The cross is the key to Paul’s confidence for his physical needs.

But just because Paul’s talking about PHYSICAL needs here. There’s no way we can get some sort of PROSPERITY doctrine out these verses.

“According to his GLORIOUS RICHES in Christ Jesus” DOESN’T mean he’s going to make all Christians gloriously RICH. He’s NOT saying that faithful Christians will be more prosperous than other Christians, or non-Christians.

In fact, faithful Christians may be more likely to have LESS than other people.

First. Notice that God will meet all our NEEDS. Not WANTS. Not luxuries. Food, clothing, and shelter. God promises to richly meet THOSE needs.

Just because he’s going to do that RICHLY/ doesn’t mean we’ll always get MORE than we need.

And Paul’s an example of that himself. He describes how sometimes he’s got plenty, and sometimes he does without. But in EVERYTHING he knows that God will meet his EVERY need according to his glorious riches in Jesus.

Be content! (4:10-13)

That’s the confidence that Paul has. And because of that trust. He’s able to BE CONTENT. Whatever life throws at him.

Look there in v11. He’s just said how grateful he is for the gift. And then he says.

(Phil 4:11 NIV)  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be CONTENT/ WHATEVER the circumstances.

To be content. It’s to be SATISFIED. At peace. Life’s good. Not wanting to be anywhere else other than where you are at the moment. Quite happy with the green-ness of your own grass. And not looking over the fence at anyone else’s.

Richard Coerkin, at Men’s Convention last year, told the story of a fisherman and a millionaire. The millionaire was walking along the beach one day when he came across the fisherman sitting in the sand. His rod was next to him, with the rest of his fishing gear, but he wasn’t fishing. He was just sitting there, contentedly looking out to sea.

The millionaire said to him, “Why aren’t you fishing?” And the man replied, “Because I’ve already caught all the fish I need.”

So the millionaire asked, “But why not catch some MORE fish?”

“What would I do then?” the fisherman replied.

“You could SELL THEM, and make some money,” came the answer.

“What would I do THEN?” said the fisherman again.

“You could catch some MORE, and then sell them. And make some MORE money,” the millionaire replied.

“But what would I do THEN?” the fisherman replied.

“Well, I suppose if you made ENOUGH money, you could buy some fishing boats, and employ people to catch fish for you”

The fisherman thought about it for a moment. And then, once more, came the question, “But what would I do THEN?”

Well, by now, the millionaire was ready for him. “Then you’d have enough money that you’d have the time to take life easy. To sit by the ocean, and enjoy the view.”

The fisherman turned away from the man, and looked out to sea. “But that’s exactly what I’m doing NOW,’ he said, contently!

Which of these two men are YOU more like?

It’s a terrible trap! To think that MORE STUFF will make you MORE CONTENT. Because it WON’T. Listen to the advice Paul gives Timothy. 1 Tim 6:5. (p841) And it’s advice that Paul obviously lived-out himself.

(1 Tim 6:5-11 NIV)  (Some) men of corrupt mind, have been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain. {6} But GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT IS GREAT GAIN. {7} For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. {8} But if we have food and clothing, we will be CONTENT with that. {9} People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. {10} For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. {11} But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

To chase after riches in search of contentment is a TRAP. And we have to FLEE from it. And pursue the things of GOD. Because that’s where contentment comes from.

It’s hard to be content. It doesn’t come ly. Or easily. Which is why Paul says he’s LEARNED it. As each new situation has come along, Paul’s APPLIED himself to pursuing the things of GOD, rather than riches.

Back over in Philippians. Look at v12.

(Phil 4:12 NIV)  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.

He’s known POVERTY and he’s known RICHES. And he’s LEARNED to be content in both. When he’s got a full stomach, he’s learned to thank God for it, and not boast.

And when he’s hungry, he’s learned to thank God for the experience, to follow after Jesus. And to long for heaven.

WHATEVER comes along, he says in v13, God gives him the strength to see it through.

You see, that’s what v13 REALLY means. You sometimes hear people explain this verse as meaning something like “Whatever your situation/ God can give you the strength to CHANGE it. You can do ANYTHING. Like a spiritual SUPERMAN”

But it’s not saying that at all. Paul’s point is that your situation will probably stay EXACTLY THE SAME. But God who empowers you will give you the strength to ENDURE the situation AS IT IS. The strength to BE CONTENT in the situation.

And that’s completely different from the way SOME people understand the verse. But it’s a much greater, and more comforting, promise!

Be generous! (4:14-19)

Now that Paul’s outlined his view of possessions and contentment, he gets back to THANKING them for their gift. Look at v14.

(Phil 4:14 NIV)  Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

And then as he goes on to describe how good the Philippians have been to him, he gives us some useful principles for giving to Christian work.

The most obvious one, is that giving should flow from the same attitude of contentment that Paul’s just described. The logic goes like this.

I know God will meet all my needs according to the riches of Jesus. Because I know THAT, I’m CONTENT with my present situation. Because I’m content however much I have, I can give GENEROUSLY.


The second thing we see about giving is that it’s a MEANS OF SHARING IN TROUBLES. To contribute to the needs of Christians on the frontline is to stand side-by-side with them. In solidarity.

At the very least, your gift is a comfort, and sign of support, to the missionary, or Christian worker. It’s a message to the worker that YOU TOO reckon the gospel’s a crucial thing to be involved in.

But perhaps more than that. There’s a sense in which you can even PARTICIPATE in some of their troubles. By giving generously you may do WITHOUT some things. You may choose to make do with a few MORE hardships. So that they can have a few LESS.

Giving is sharing in troubles.

A third principle of giving is to give QUICKLY AND REGULARLY. Look there at v16.

(Phil 4:16 NIV)  for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid AGAIN AND AGAIN / WHEN I WAS IN NEED.

They heard about a need. And they gave. No counting the pennies. No to-ing and fro-ing. No wavering. A swift response is a sign of generosity.

And it was regular. Again and again. The need was consistent. So the giving was too.

The fourth principle of giving is that giving BUILDS SPIRITUAL INTEREST. Look there in v17.

(Phil 4:17 NIV)  Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for WHAT MAY BE CREDITED TO YOUR ACCOUNT.

The economics of God’s kingdom is upside-down. Back-to-front. Your friends and neighbours just can’t understand it. The more you give to God’s work, the more interest you are building in your HEAVENLY account. God loves to see your rewards building up IN HEAVEN/ as you sacrificially put his purposes first HERE ON EARTH.

In fact, God loves it so much, that a contented and generous attitude like THAT/ is WORSHIP of God. That’s the FIFTH principle of giving. Look there at the end of v18.

(Phil 4:18 NIV)  …the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Money given for building up God’s kingdom is a fragrant offering. An acceptable sacrifice. Pleasing.

It’s the language of the pagan temple. People burning incense and offerings. All that money going up in smoke. To gods who aren’t even real.

But Paul says generous giving is more than just giving to PEOPLE. It’s a pleasing gift to God.

And the last principle of giving. Is that when we DO give generously. God provides richly. It’s there in v19. And we’ve already looked at it.

When we understand all that God’s given us in Jesus. And we live that out in trusting contentment and generosity. Then God will meet all our needs. RICHLY.

And that’s another aspect of the upside-down kingdom economics. When you give your money AWAY, in trust that God will provide, you always have enough. Many of you have proved that theory again and again. And it’s something you can’t explain any other way. But when you honour God in your giving, he provides your needs.

But one final question. Who should we give our money TO? There are so many causes. And they’re all good. Helping people. Finding cures. Relieving suffering. You probably get the phone calls as well. The Kidney Foundation. Or the Royal Blind Society. Or the Life-saving Society. All worthwhile charities.

But God’s priority is GOSPEL work. 1 Tim 2:3-4 says

(1 Tim 2:3-4 NIV)  … God {4} wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

That’s what God LONGS for. But for that to happen. People needs to BE TOLD. Romans 10 puts it like this

(Rom 10:13-15 NIV)  for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” {14} How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? {15} And how can they preach unless they are sent?

God’s PRIORITY / is that people are SENT to tell others the good news about Jesus. That’s HIS priority. And it should be OURS TOO.

It might be missionaries overseas, or workers here. Like Anthony Gregory at Doonside High. Or supporting people TRAINING for ministry – like the Blands or Steve and Ingrid. Or church –planting. Helping churches who are GROWING, but can’t afford to support a minister themselves.

God’s priority is the GOSPEL. That’s what the Philippians were giving money for. For Paul. What about YOU?

I hope I haven’t guilt-tripped you. My aim isn’t to make you feel guilty.

Let me finish by reminding you of where we started.

God’s given us the riches of Jesus. Get your head around that. Focus on the CROSS. That we UNDERSTAND it is a real priority for Paul. Listen to what he PRAYS for us. Eph 3. 17.

(Eph 3:17-19 NIV)  …I pray that you …, {18} may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, {19} and to KNOW THIS LOVE that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The LOVE of the CROSS. When we understand that more and more. We’ll become more and more confident that he’ll look after our OTHER needs as well.

And as we understand THAT. WE’ll be content where we are. And generous with all that God’s given us. So that MORE people can hear about God’s riches in Christ Jesus.

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