by Pastor Andrew
2018 is here and in full swing. Yesterday’s sermon was called Making Camp: Where will you set up your tent? We started the account of Joseph in Genesis but stuck to the overall theme of contentment. The message contrasted Joseph’s contentment in his circumstances with his family’s and overseer’s discontent. We closed with the idea that you can make camp in discontent or contentment, ending the sermon with the question where will you camp this year?
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, says this: “11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13, ESV). This passage is often reduced from its greater context, and we frequently reduce it further, leaving it to declare simply: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” It is a powerful declaration for Christians to make. It is motivating and easy to rally behind, or even to shout as one of our battle cries. It is so inspiring that it has the potential to drive a believer, who is not cautious and is being fueled by emotions, to exercise a behavior or action that aims to satisfy one’s flesh instead of bolstering one’s spirit.
In this chapter, Paul is referring to the difficulties that accumulate while living and/or serving the Lord. In Paul’s case, he was talking about being supported in his missions to further the Gospel. Many translations of the Bible have a heading over this section of Philippians that states God’s Provision. Comparing this title with the text that follows it helps us to begin to identify the applicability of Paul’s words to our lives. I think that it is here that it should be noted that one’s search for contentment must be driven by a righteous cause, or righteous discontent in order to truly have the full weight of God’s support behind them as indicated in our power verse, Philippians 4:13. Yesterday’s sermon included a brief description of Rueben’s attempt to dissuade his brothers from killing Joseph (Genesis 37:22). On the surface, this reads as a genuine act where Reuben did not want to see his brother killed. We could even draw the conclusion from this verse that Reuben was discontent with the idea of killing Joseph. Discontent perhaps, but his greater discontent was rooted in the fact that he wanted Jacobs favor and position within the family. He believed his contentment could be found in that position; therefore, his discontent with the murder plan was not with the act of murder, but with his own situation. This discontent drove him to seek contentment within his flesh rather than in something righteous which in the long run would have only led to further discontent.
We seek provision from God in many of our life situations and we should believe that through Christ we can accomplish wondrous things; however, if what we are trying to accomplish is not for the glory of the Lord then we should not be surprised when Christ does not help us accomplish things. It may sound harsh or extreme, but if you step outside of the fleshly, human, box that we are often stuck in, it begins to make sense. We declare and stand behind statements like, “God never changes” or “God’s rules are black and white, He doesn’t deal in gray,” but then we try (both consciously and unconsciously) to bend the scriptures to our own personal desires. If we can do ALL things through Christ, then why do some of our endeavors fail, why do we lose jobs, and why do relationships with those we care about fail? Another, more simplistic, example is this: In this world, we need money to function and survive. If we do not have the money to pay for our basic needs, but a bank does; can we then rob the bank under the justification that having that money would make us content and therefore, with the strength that Christ gives us we can take it by force? Of course, the answer is no.
The application of this verse is fulfilled when we are in any circumstance that is good or bad and we say with our words and actions, that we are fine with where God has us. If we are financially well off, healthy, have a good job we praise Him. Conversely, if we are poor, sick, or lose a job we must say it is well with my soul and praise Him still. This is the point that Paul was getting at. Regardless of where he was in life, on a high point or even at the lowest of low points, he was fine because that is where God brought him while living his life for the Lord. He expands on this idea by indicating that regardless of his situation, he could handle it because he had the strength that could only come from Christ through the Spirit. Contentment comes from knowing and accepting that wherever you are at in life, that God is in control, has not forgot about you, and has a much better plan to get you through and out of the lows. The ability to do all things through him who gives us strength comes after we are content with wherever God has us and we choose to seek righteousness opposed to our flesh. It is perhaps better understood if we look at it not as I can do all these things (indicative of accomplishment), but rather, I can endure the difficulties that I will face because I have God (indicative of being provided for).
Are you camping in content or discontent? If you are camped in discontent and are struggling to endure, perhaps it is time to change campsites and move to be content. What are your thoughts?