CONTENTMENT IN CONFINEMENT
3 JUN 2020
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:10-23
We have now come to the last letter of Paul to the Philippians. In this letter, Paul shares with them a secret that he had learned of how to be content in every situation in life. Remember that Paul remains in prison as he writes this letter to the Philippians. As he remains confined in prison, he is reminding and encouraging the Christians that he has learned the secrets on how to be content as he suffers in prison.
Contentment is not about being happy. Contentment is an inner sense of rest or peace that comes from you being right with God and knowing that He is in control of all that happens to us. Contentment could also mean satisfaction. In other words, we find our satisfaction in God and that gives us joy. And Paul learned to find joy in his situation. Though he was confined on the outside, he was content on the inside. Paul could still find joy in God while in prison. But how did Paul manage to find contentment during his confinement?
Paul found contentment through by showing gratitude towards his situation. For Paul said “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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.” In other words, Paul was grateful for what was happening to him. Whether he had clothes to wear or food to eat, whether he was healthy or sick, rich or poor, he was grateful with what he had.
Gratitude is an attitude. When we thank someone for something that we receive, the right response is to thank them with joy. Do show gratitude to someone grudgingly? When we show gratitude, it aligns us to the Giver and increases His blessings in our lives. Not that we become grateful so that we receive more from God, but we become grateful because God is more than enough for us. We ought to be grateful towards God not just for the stuff that fills our bank accounts, but for who He is and who He has been to us. Gratitude begins when we understand how utterly depraved we are if it hadn’t been for His grace and mercy over our lives. We are here because of what He has given to us.
However, gratitude flows easily when we’ve landed our dream job or just receive a full scholarship to further our studies. It’s easy to be grateful towards God and put praise on our lips when things are going our way. But what about when it doesn’t? What happens when we catch the virus? What happens when we receive a bad report from the doctors that our days on the earth are numbered? What happens when you strive to do the right things only to receive the opposite in return? Can we still be grateful or show gratitude then?
An attitude of gratitude begins by acknowledging that everything you have ultimately comes from God and that He is in control of everything. Yes, you work hard for your paycheck, but who provides you with your health, the skills, and the opportunity for work? It all comes from God. When we realize that everything that we have comes from God, we will realize that we are not owners, but managers. The response of our hearts ought to be grateful that it is because of God’s grace and riches glory that we receive all that we have from God not that we earn it, but because He gives it.
Here we see that Paul was expressing his love and appreciation to the Philippians for the gifts that they have sent to him through Epaphroditus. Yet he was quick to point out that he is far more interested in what their giving does for them rather than what it does for him. You remember that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive.". In other words, it is more joyful to give than to receive. Not that Paul did not appreciate the gifts from them, but Paul was more joyful in the fact that they are pleasing God.
This is what the apostle is saying, "Not that I seek the gift; but I seek the fruit which increases to your credit." These are really financial terms. The word "fruit" here is a common word in the business world of that day for "interest". What Paul is saying is "I don't desire the capital but I desire the interest which is continually increasing to your account in heaven." That is, as you continue to give to me with a generous heart, there is actually a blessing in which God is building up for you in heaven. He was trying to have them understand that though you give to me, but actually what is really happening is that you are giving to God through me.
That's what he is after; not that he needs the gift. He wants them to be blessed through the giving, and that is why he so gladly receives these gifts from them because it is God who credits it unto them. Generosity brings out joy in our giving for God blesses those who give out of their expression of love through their generous heart.
Unfortunately, we often subtract it from its context and take it as a blank check we can cash any time we are in need. It is not to be taken to apply to everyone everywhere. Because the reality of it is that some of us are still in need today even though we give to others. However, the promise for us is that God will supply to you according to Him. In order to receive His supply according to His standards, I must prioritize God in my life. The source of my supply comes from the personal relationship and experience that I have with “My God". Not just God will supply, but my God will supply. Know God for who He is to you and He will supply all your needs according to His riches in heaven as you give unto others with a generous heart. It is good to receive, but it’s even better to give.
True contentment is by resting in the sufficiency of Christ because contentment comes from Him. Some of us have lost our jobs, we have lost our hope, we have lost our faith in humanity and we can’t seem to find a reason to be content, to rejoice, to praise God. But contentment is God’s work through the finish work of Jesus Christ in your life. As we rest in the sufficiency of God, we are able to experience the joy of God because we know that everything that I have is because He gives. We can experience joy and peace because there is no need for me to strive to collect material possession on earth. But rather trust that as long as I remain connected to the Source which is God, He will supply all that I need according to His riches and glory. He will supply any physical needs, emotional needs, relational needs and even spiritual needs not according to our capabilities but according to His richness abilities. Jesus is both the source and the substance of your joy and contentment in life. Everything we ever need in this world can be found in and through Jesus Christ.
A heart that is content knows that ultimately, the life we have is given by God and ours to steward. Though Paul’s body may be on earth, his eyes are set on heaven, trusting Christ at each step of the journey, in each crisis and in each victory.
Paul had learned that God had created man to love people and to use things. But somewhere along the course of life we have reversed that truth and learned to use people and love things. But through the years the apostle Paul had learned to be content in whatever the situation. The true calling of God for us is the ability to love God and love His people. Everything else that we have in this world has no value in light of knowing God and loving His people.