Biblical Contentment

This was from 10.14.11 at the Vernon Care Group – working thru Philippians 4:10-13…

                I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 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. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

“Care” groups:

  • We’re drawn together primarily by location, Green Pond common bond
  • When we meet together we:
    • Fellowship
    • Worship
    • God’s word
    • Open hearts for prayer
    • Encourage each other
    • But we also “Gospel” each other:
      • we bring the truth of the gospel to bear on another’s life so that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus[1]
      • This means talking about the S word – SIN.  And learning how to bring the truth of the Gospel in God’s word to bear on our lives – letting it fall on us and letting the Holy Spirit change us, change our heart.  We need to be spurring each other on in our sanctification journeys – urging us to become more and more like Jesus and less like sin in our actual lives.

Tonight is one of those “Respectable” Sins – as author Jerry Bridges calls it.  It’s not murder, it’s not pornography, or stealing, or drunkenness. It’s an attitude of the heart which sometimes spills out of our mouths  – as the word says – out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

So this passage is about contentment . Specifically learning contentment and living our lives in the power of the Gospel of Jesus.

First let me offer a definition of contentment:  sufficient satisfaction within the heart through the fellowship with and power of Jesus Christ apart from external circumstances and people.[2]

What is the key here?  What do we see?

  • Satisfaction is where? in the heart
  • Who gives it?  Jesus Christ
  • Where is it not?  external circumstances and people.

I would offer one helpful addition that segues into our text – how is it received?  It is learned.

DA Carson writes – ‘the secret o contentment is not normally learned in posh circumstances or in deprived circumstances, but in exposure to both.’[3]

We see this from the Apostle Paul – OK, this guy has been through it all, beatings, stonings, multiple imprisonments, he is about 2 yrs away from having his head permanently separated from his neck.  This guy is the one saying he is content, that is perspective this is coming from.

I wanted to look at the Perspective of contentment in the scriptures[5]

  • A content person is able to accept their condition (Phil 4:11-13)
  • A content person is able to accept their contents (Heb 13:5)
  • A content person is able to endure their circumstances(2 Cor 12:10)
    • “Endure circumstances because we know the God of circumstances”
    • “Enjoy the good. Endure the bad.  Live for neither, live for Christ”
    • This is one of Gods attributes – Sovereignty – it means he works all things to the counsel of his will, his plan.  (Eph 1). He is over all things and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17)
  • A content person is pursuing Christ likeness (1 Tim 6:6-8)
  • A content person is not a complainer (Phil 4:11-13; 2:14)
  • A content person has an attitude of consideration (Phil 2:3)
  • A content person is depending on Christ (Heb 13:5; Phil 4:13)

Jerry Bridges writes “whatever situation tempts us to be discontent, and however sever it may be, we need to recognize that discontentment is sin. When we fail to recognize these responses to our circumstances as sin, we are responding no differently from unbelievers who never factor God into their situations. ..whatever your circumstances, and however difficult they may be, the truth is that they are ordained by God for you as part of His overall plan for your life.  God does nothing, or allows nothing, without a purpose. And his purposes however mysterious and inscrutable they may be to use, are always for his glory and our good.”[4]

Ed Hart from ABC puts an exclamation point on that by saying “his glory and my good are never in conflict.”

Rom 8:28 cannot be read and understood apart from Romans 8:29 – he works everything for good, but what is the good?  To be conformed to the image of his son.  Not our image of what we think things should look like – the image of Christ – which by the way is for our best good.

NIV study Bible note sums up these verses well “Union with Christ is the secret to being content and the source of Paul’s abiding strength.”

I can do all things thru him who gives me strength.  Strength to do what?  Live for myself? When we are in stressful situations and trials and we are reaching out to God – let’s search our hearts – where is the sin…it’s gotta be in there somewhere.   On the contrary –  In the context of this letter – to let your lives be worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27).  Look at all the other instructions in this letter.  Very often when we pray we fall into saying the same thing over and over again – “Be with” or “Help” – Yes and Amen – but what also is helpful is how David prayed – “Search me, O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24).  There is always sin to be dealt with.  And we deal with sin by the cross of Jesus Christ – this too comes back to the gospel.  When we get sin dealt with where it belongs and re-orient our minds, our inner selves towards pleasing God instead of us – we see the power of God in Jesus in our lives.  But knowing this is the hard part – that’s why Paul prayed in 3:10 – that he wants to know Him and the power of his resurrection.

Paul sums it up very well in this prayer in Ephesians 1:17-21

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of Glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”


Ouch Questions:

  • What do I want that I cannot control getting?
  • What am I getting that I don’t want and can’t control it?
  • How am I responding? Is it sinful?
  • What do I need to accept that God has allowed?
  • How do I need to obey God in this situation?
  • What has God promised in his Word that I can rest on in accordance to this situation?
  • How can I adjust my desires to match my situation?
  • What verses in this passage or elsewhere has the HS grabbed you this week?
    • How do you need to change as a result?


[2] Nicholas Ellen, NANC 2011, Learning to be Content session

[3] Carson, 118

[4] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, pg73-74

[5] Nicholas Ellen, NANC 2011, Unlocking Heart Issues, April 9, 2011


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