Session 16

Philippians Study – Session 16

Philippians 4:10-13

 

In the last part of Philippians 4:11, Paul makes one of the most amazing statements to be found in Scripture.  He wrote, "...I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." Not many people can honestly make statement like that!

 

The word translated "content" in that statement is one Paul borrowed from the Stoic philosophers of the first century.  It was used to describe a person who was entirely self-sufficient, one who was completely removed from the need for any person or anything.  To the Stoics, being content meant eliminating all emotion from life, denying all feelings, getting to point where you do not care about yourself or anyone else.  One Stoic philosopher put it this way:  "Begin with a cup or a household utensil.  If it breaks say, 'I don't care.'  Go on to a horse or a pet dog.  If anything happens to it say, 'I don't care.'  Go on to yourself.  If you are hurt or injured in anyway say, 'I don't care.'  If you go on long enough, and if you try hard enough, you will come to a stage when you can watch your nearest and dearest suffer and die and say, 'I don't care.'"...

 

That's how Stoic philosophers defined contentment.  But Paul took their word, a word with which Philippians would have been familiar, and gave it new and distinctly Christian meaning.  He says in Philippians 4:10-13 that for Christian contentment doesn't come from having a radical "I don't care" attitude.  It comes from living in the awareness of our dependence on each other and our dependence on Christ.  Look at Philippians 4:10-13.

 

T.S. -Immediate context of these statements about contentment has do with Paul receiving some type of gift from Christians in Philippi... however, Paul is speaking here about much more than being content with physical/material things...talking about being content with life as a whole... want you see two things he says about that...

 

I.    To be content we must maintain meaningful relationships with people

1.   This entire discussion about contentment begins with Paul saying that his relationship with the Christians in Philippi was source of great joy to him...look at first part v.10 again..."But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me..."...it wasn't merely physical gift they sent Paul which made Paul rejoice...was what gift represented...the gift reminded Paul of the good relationship he had with the Philippians Christians...

2.   More than likely most, if not all, of you have some things you keep, not because they have monetary value but because of their sentimecntal value...you keep the items because were given to you by someone special to you and they remind you of the relationship...

3.   Kind of sentiment Paul expressing these verses...contentment came not from the physical gift...it came as result of meaningful relationships from which the gift had come...

 

1.      Important truth here...contentment can never be found in things...it comes from relationships with people...one of great temptations of life, especially in our culture, is temptation sacrifice relationships for things...don't do it!...it's horrible trade!...things can never do for you what meaningful relationships can...

 

II.  To be content we must maintain a meaningful relationship with the Lord

1.   Philippians 4:13 is one of most well-known verses in Bible... it's beautiful statement of faith..."I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me."...

2.   To understand that statement, must read it within context in which Paul made it...talking about how be content in any life circumstance...previous verse spoke of being content--

--with humble means or prosperity...

--with being filled or hungry...

--with having abundance or suffering need...

Paul says secret is his relationship with Christ...

--while Stoic philosophers stressed self-sufficiency, Paul stressed Christ’s-sufficiency

--while Stoic philosophers stressed finding contentment in own power, Paul stressed relying on Christ's power...

3.   Literally the verse reads, "As to all things I am inwardly strong in the One empowering me."...Paul had faced wide variety of life situations...and in every situation found the empowering presence of Christ to be more than adequate...the person who walks with Christ and lives in Christ can deal with anything, no matter how difficult, life has to offer...

4.   Have you ever thought that the most important thing about a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system...apart from a healthy root system which goes down deep into the ground and draws up nourishment from the soil, a tree will not be strong...and the most important part of a Christian’s life is the part only God sees ...apart from a deep, genuine, abiding, real, dynamic relationship with God through Christ, we can never say with integrity what Paul said in Philippians 4:13 - “As to all things I am inwardly strong in the One empowering me...” 

5.   And it’s that relationship with Christ which makes it possible for us to be content in any and all life situations....

 

CONCLUSION

1.      My dad fought in Germany during WWII...he was always been very reluctant to talk about his experiences during the war, but knowing that he was there has motivated me to read a number of books specifically about Nazi Germany and the fighting in Europe...one of the most interesting books I have read on that subject is Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer...Speer was Hitler’s personal architect who became Minister of Armaments and War Production for Germany...in his book Speer tells about Hitler’s confrontation with a courageous German pastor named Martin Niemoller...Hitler was furious because Niemoller openly criticized him and his policies...in 1937 Hitler ordered Pastor Niemoller arrested and placed in a concentration camp...he stayed there 8 grueling years until the war ended...

2.      After the war, Albert Speer and the other Nazi leaders were placed on trial at Nuremberg...one day a bus stopped in front of the compound where Speer was being held and it was rumored that the bus contained former concentration camp prisoners and that pastor Martin Niemoller was among them...among the former prisoners who got off the bus was a frail, bent, white-haired man wearing a black suit...Speer assumed that must be Niemoller and he felt sympathy for him because he was so visibly marked by those 8 hard years in the concentration camp...

3.      One of Speer’s friends decided to approach the old man and apology for the ill-treatment he had received in prison...when he walked over and said to the man, “Pastor Niemoller?”...the old man replied, “I’m not Pastor Niemoller.”...then he pointed and said, “He’s standing over there.”...and in his book, here’s how Albert Speer describes Martin Niemoller: “There he stood looking youthful and self-possessed, an extraordinary example of how the pressures of a long imprisonment can be withstood.”

4.      I submit to you that Martin Niemoller had learned the secret of being content in whatever circumstances in which he found himself...the secret?...

--maintaining meaningful relationships with people...

--maintaining a meaningful relationship with God...

Comments