As we have been studying over the last few weeks Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, we now come to a very important topic for today, the topic of contentment. As we live through the most challenging time, perhaps in the history of Western civilization, I believe we can find encouragement and comfort in Paul’s words in the fourth chapter of Philippians where Paul writes- “ 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength”, (Phil.4:12,13 NIV). In the last two months over 40 million people have filed for unemployment, as their job situations proved to be temporarily put on hold (hopefully) by the Covid-19 virus. These are overwhelming numbers and we currently have more people unemployed than at any other time in the history of our nation. So, the question of contentment is not a shallow subject for us to be considering in the face of our current situation. Yet once again Paul demonstrates the model and example of how we should respond to great threats and difficulties in our lives.
Paul was content because his perspective was from God’s point of view. Remember once again that even as Paul is writing this epistle, he is in a Roman prison having survived a terrifying ordeal and shipwreck to get to Rome. As Paul state, “I have learned”, learning contentment was something that Paul had to experience through his many difficulties. Several lessons I believe Paul had learned that we should also learn is first of all God is in control of our circumstances. Nothing will ever happen in our lives that God is not aware of or that He doesn’t have His hand in. Paul had found also that there is safety in contentment. I’ve never had a desire to climb Mount Everest. Because I have never been tempted to undertake such a task, I never have to worry about dying on Mount Everest as hundreds of other people have. Being content also enhances our joy and diminishes our miseries. Often the desire for more or better possessions, thinking they will fill some void in our lives, results in people finding that those things do not bring lasting satisfaction or contentment. I’m reminded of the old rock song by the Rolling Stones – “I can get no satisfaction” if you’re looking for your contentment in things or possessions you will be singing the same lyrics. It’s also important to remember that many times our possessions end up possessing us and controlling large portions of our lives.
Paul also had found that contentment is a great means of receiving new lessons from God. I’m reminded of the story of 4 hikers who set out for a day hike in the beautiful Swiss Alps. As they were walking along the first hiker constantly complained about a stone in his shoe. The second hiker saw a beautiful house on the side of the mountain and spent his whole time coveting and wishing that the house was his. The third hiker looked at the clouds and kept expressing his concern that he was expecting it to start raining at any time. Only the fourth hiker was elated by the amazing view in the mountains and enjoyed so much the hike as he focused on the beauty of the surroundings and the joy in the journey. Many Christians today have just about everything and yet are still discontent. Maybe this pause in our lives over the last two months will help us to reevaluate what our priorities are and what we should be valuing the most.
I must confess to you that I’m struggling with a certain level of discontentment, as I have a hard time understanding why our governor continues to refuse to open churches and allow people to meet together. Across the street from our church is a lawn and garden place that every day has big mobs of people going there and shopping shoulder to shoulder. Hundreds of people are going every day and they even have a police officer outside to direct parking traffic. How can the governor determined that these folks can practice safe social distancing, but having 25 people in our church is against the law? Something seems a little fishy to me and I am bringing my concern to the Lord. Pres. Trump has declared that churches are essential businesses, but our governor says we can have no more than 10 people at a time in our church building. It seems to me that our governor has decided that he is the one who will pick the winners and losers. People can go in mass to Home Depot or Walmart or the garden place, but they can’t go out to dinner or go to church? Who should I listen to, the president or the governor? Most importantly I want to listen to the Lord Jesus Christ, and yield my life to Him and what He has impressed upon my heart and life. He is the one that I should be following as I try to lead our church family during this profoundly significant and difficult time. Paul had this rather unusual ability to adapt to any circumstances, I’m trying to learn the secret of contentment in applying these principles into my own life. There is one last secret that Paul shared about the source of his contentment that Lord willing we will address next week. Until then stay safe, practice social distancing, and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to speak into your heart and work in your life.
Still serving the King,
Pastor Rich Sivo