The Secret of Learning to Be Content
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Philippians 4:10-14
I. Paul faced many adversities during his life – more than most of us will see - II Corinthians 11:24-27
A. What sort of person would you be with this sort of life? What attitudes would people notice first?
B. Bitter? Hardened? Depressed?
C. Yet, through these experiences, Paul learned to be content - Philippians 4:11-13
D. Most people believe contentment comes from being shielded from harm – like a baby cradled in his mother’s arms
E. Yet, Paul tells us contentment is learned through a variety of situations – including adverse ones.
II. Learning Contentment
A. The Greek word manthano (in Philippians 4:11) means to learn through instruction, practice, or experience
B. The Greek word mueo (in Philippians 4:12) means to be initiated or to learn a secret
C. The Greek word autarkeia (in Philippians 4:11) means to have sufficiency, such as in II Corinthians 9:8. It is being at peace with your circumstances, such as in I Timothy 6:6-8. Basically, it carries the idea of being in need of nothing else.
D. Paul is saying that whatever life might throw at him, he has learned that he really already has everything he needs and so he is at peace.
1. If I learn this secret, then I could lose everything I own – like Job – but not dissolve away in tears or collapse in a dark corner
E. Sadly, people spend much of their life in a fantasy world
1. If they were just like someone else, or had something else, or lived somewhere else, and because they aren’t, they are discontent
2. Discontent is generated by presuming that someone else, something else, or somewhere else is better than my circumstances
3. “What makes us discontented with our condition is the absurdly exaggerated idea we have of the happiness of others” [French proverb]
F. Christians must be realists
1. They can accept life as it is and not as they wish it could be
2. They look at life as it really is and embrace it, even with its flaws - II Corinthians 12:7-10
3. Circumstances are not a prison
4. Life is an adventure and they rejoice because they see beyond the immediate circumstances to the One who is truly in control - Philippians 4:4-7
III. Contentment Is Not Complacency
A. Contentment is realizing you have everything you need regardless of circumstances. Complacency is self-satisfaction without consideration of your own deficiencies
B. Paul knew he needed to improve - Philippians 3:12-14
C. Be content with what you have and don’t be complacent with who you are
IV. What Is the Secret to Contentment?
A. It is realizing that I have Christ strengthening me - Philippians 4:13
1. Be strong in the Lord - Ephesians 6:10
2. Be strong in the grace that is in Jesus - II Timothy 2:1
3. Be strengthen through His Spirit - Ephesians 3:16-19
B. It is a secret reveal long ago
1. Psalms 18:1-6, 32-33 - I receive strength while surrounded by enemies
2. Psalms 118:14 - God is my strength and my song
C. Notice that God doesn’t change the circumstances or removes the obstacles
1. God does deliver us from situations that might overwhelm us - Psalms 18:1-3,16-17
2. But if we were rescued from every hardship, we would never grow
3. Remember Paul’s thorn? - II Corinthians 12:7-10
4. Hardships disciplines us and trains us - Hebrews 12:5-13
V. What changes is my attitude
A. Whatever the pressure, whatever the obstacles, they draw my closer to my Lord and God and they make me stronger
B. I’m no longer scared. I am a conqueror and more because I know God loves me - Romans 8:31-37
C. I can deal with my current circumstances. I can be content.
D. “It is not our circumstances that create our discontent or contentment. It is us.” [Vivian Greene]
E. Contentment comes from within
F. If I fail to be at peace with life’s challenges, I’ll become bitter - Hebrews 12:15
G. “As a rule, man’s a fool.
When it’s hot, he wants it cool.
And when it’s cool, he wants it hot,
Always wanting what is not.
[Bits & Pieces, June 22, 1995, p. 5]
H. Consider what you have - Luke 10:20
I. Consider that God is with you - Hebrews 13:5
Ideas for this lesson came from “Learning Contentment” by Wayne Greeson