We find Paul here expressing his gratitude for the care that he has been shown, and for the provision that God has provided through the love of the Philippian church. He then goes on to speak about sacrificial giving, contentment, trust in the Lord, bearing fruit, provision and need. It is his words about contentment that have been most often quoted, preached about, and studied from this section of Scripture. The full context of “doing all things through Christ” becomes as rich and full as it should be when kept within the backdrop of …
… the lessons Paul has learned about being content. When Paul speaks of learning to be content, his original language reveals that he as developed this contentment over many experiences. So must we. Every circumstance that we find ourselves in serves to strip away all that we may be tempted to depend upon and to make us more like Christ. As we learn to be content and to reflect the image of Jesus, we realize more of the truth of who we are, the purpose of our circumstances, and who God Himself is, and we learn that nothing outside of Christ can serve to make us truly content and that nothing outside of Christ can force us to be discontent. In Christ alone is truly where our Hope is found.
Session 2— Contentment in Our Purpose
What have you been taught (both in the church and outside of it) about your purpose?
1. When we understand that we were created to bring glory to God, we can rest in His will and be content in all circumstances.
When we have a lesser or cheapened view of our purpose, tied to our jobs or our ministries or our families instead of tied directly to glorifying God in all of those things, then we are tempted to place our hope in and to cling to tightly to things lesser than God Himself.
2. When we orient our hearts and lives towards our true purpose of glorifying God, we can be free of the distraction that discontent brings about and is fueled by.
We can glorify God over a sink full of dishes, at work amidst chaos, in pain, in loneliness, in desperation, in the face of the unknown, and quarantined at home. Because bringing God glory doesn’t depend upon ideal circumstances, neither should our contentment.
Session 3— Contentment in the Purpose of Our Circumstances
What is your typical first response when things don’t work out how you wish they would?
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
2 Corinthians 4
1. When we believe the glorious truth that our circumstances are both presently being used by God to bring about good and also being used to bring an eternal glory, we can rest in contentment.
We must evaluate whether we actually believe that God is sovereign and whether we actually believe that we are meant for eternity. The implications of being fully convinced of both of these things is that we have no reason to be anything less than content to know that God wastes nothing and that if we are in the midst of something difficult, it will be used for God both now and in eternity.
2. When we fully understand that God’s desire for us is not our comfort, our ease, or our excess, but our sanctification, then we can truly be content in all facets of our life.
All that God does is to make us look more like Christ, and while His lavish love for us causes Him to give us good and perfect gifts, His work in us so often involves our discomfort and our meeting the end of ourselves. When we face the end of all that we thought we could do and all that we thought we were maintaining control of, we find there that God at work in us powerfully and perfectly is so much sweeter and so much more joyous than the ease of circumstance that we ourselves would design or choose.
Session 4— Contentment in Who God Is
How does a knowledge of God’s character bring about contentment that is unaffected by circumstance?
1. God’s Attributes
Slow to Anger/
How does knowing and believing each of these aspects of God’s character impact our ability to be content in Him and in Him alone?
Because God is good, I am content in___________.
Because God is Sovereign, I am content when______________.
2. When we truly know and trust in who God is, we are left with absolutely no reason to be discontent in any circumstance.
(Even isolation, a faltering economy, fear, the outbreak of disease and financial difficulty- even then. Especially then. Because God is still God.)
It is in the midst of change that we can most fully and clearly behold the One who never changes.
Session 5— Choosing Contentment
1. To wrongly reach for, pursue, or entertain anything less than God’s Word and the gospel of Christ is to turn away from contentment and to turn towards the distraction of what is temporal.
2. The gospel is STILL all that we need to be content, and God’s Word is STILL all that we need for life and godliness.
We won’t find contentment in the news, our social media feeds, our political party, or in our lives going back to “normal”. We will find contentment in the Truth of the gospel, and in the breathtakingly beautiful reality of our Hope in Christ which is unshaken by these difficulties or by any that are yet to come. Every word of God remains true, God remains good and sovereign, and His will remains perfect.
When we rest in that, we are content to watch Him work and to trust Him in the face of every unknown, every new restriction, every lonely day, every fear, and every moment of our lives here as those created to reflect the image of Christ, to bring God glory, and to remember that we are made for eternity.