Philippians 4B: Putting It All Together
“ 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 things through Him( Christ) who gives me strength.” ( Phil. 4:11-13)
And a few verses later Paul encourages the Philippians and all of us with this well-known verse: “ My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. “ ( Phil. 4:19)
Paul tells us he can accept all things. He can do all things and he has a source which will meet all his needs. What is interesting is Paul said he had “ learned to be content.” Contentment in the Christian life is learned. Learned means Paul’s spiritual contentment was learned by experience. Paul as we have mentioned often in this study had been through numerous, difficult circumstances.
Where did Paul learn to be content? In Matthew 11:29, Jesus instructs us: “ Take my yoke upon you and learn from me..” Peter tells us: “ Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power and glory forever. 1 Peter 5.
I do not know about you, but I would hate to suffer what we must suffer and go through in this life and not gain from those experience what God wanted me to gain. I would not want to waste this suffering. It is too painful and often too costly to not have benefitted me in God’s conforming process. I want to become better, not bitter.
Let’s look at the spiritual resources which can provide us with contentment regardless of the circumstances and situation. All of these resources are available and your resource book is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will reveal them to you , when you search for them with all your heart. Here are some essential beliefs you must have to learn the lesson of contentment and joy:
- The Overruling Providence of God. Notice I described this providence as overruling. The word providence comes from two Latin words. Pro- which means before. And ‘video’ which means to see. God’s providence involves not only seeing and knowing what will happen before it does; it also means God is ruling over this and arranging the circumstances in order to fulfill his purpose which cannot be thwarted. Let’s take two very well known verses and understand what is God’s purpose. Romans 8:28,29 tell us: “ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to the who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” What I want us to see is life is not a series of accidents, it is a series of appointments. Adversity comes from the following sources: a fallen world which creates an environment of adversity. This means storms can strike anyone at anytime, just like a tornado. Adversity comes from sin. When we disobey God as Christians we can expect consequences. Also when others sin, their consequences can create adversity in our lives, like a drunk driver who crashes into you causing personal injury. God allows adversity in our lives to build something in our lives that cannot be built any other way except through adversity. Even then we know God will never place more on us than we can bear. We sometimes cannot see the purpose involved in the adversity we are suffering. Joseph and his brothers are an excellent illustration of God’s overruling providence. I believe this is one of the reasons God spends almost 1/3 of Genesis, the first book in the Bible to make sure we understand the purpose of adversity. Sold into slavery by his own brothers at age 17, Joseph would spend years in slavery and as a prisoner, imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. But God was in control, overruling the hatred of his brothers, the time in prison and in God’s perfect timing elevated Joseph to the 2nd most powerful position in Egypt. Joseph then was able to save his brother and many others because of the famine/ God foresaw all of this and used the adversity and overruled the hatred of his brothers and the lies of Potiphar’s wife to save many, including the family Jacob. Joseph sums it up: “ God sent me before you to preserve life. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to the saving of many lives. “ ( Genesis 50) God’s overruling providence means He always does what will accomplish the most good, for the most people for the longest period of time. He also always chooses the best method for doing this.
- God is absolutely Sovereign. There is never one fraction of a second in all of time from eternity past to eternity future when God has not been in control. Not a single sparrow can fall without His knowledge. Read Psalm 91 with me. This is a testimony to God’s sovereignty. What security we have when we trust in God. God is my Protector. He is the One who preserves my life from hour to hour, day to day, year to year. He is in charge of keeping me alive. Getting me through storms to the other side. Through fires which try me. I will be here on this earth alive until the split second He desires me to be in eternity with Him. Everything I have experienced, or will experience whether they be good, bad or seemingly insignificant God can turn it into eternal good if you trust in Him as your Sovereign Lord. This is why Paul tells us to give thanks in all things. And Peter adds: “ And the God of all Grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power and glory forever. ( I Peter 5) Did you notice it is Christ Himself who will restore you? And also notice what the purpose of the adversity and what it will accomplish when you trust Him: makes you strong, firm and steadfast. Hebrews 12 tells us even God’s discipline for our sins yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God wastes nothing.
- God is your Provider. This is another essential belief and truth we must embed in our hearts and minds. Again, the examples, illustrations in the Bible are too numerous to mention here. Abraham and Isaac, when the Lord provided a ram for the sacrifice. The manna in the wilderness to the nation of Israel for 40 years. The water from the rock. The ravens who brought food to Elijah in I Kings 17. The little boy’s sack lunch of bread and fish which fed thousand. The multiplied oil supply for the widow in 2 Kings 4. And on and on go the stories. Do you trust God to control your finances? Are you doing what He has commanded you to do regarding the tithe? You do realize it is God who gives you everything? He gave you the ability, the ideas, and the energy to make a living, to obtain possessions. He has provided opportunities for you. Everything we have is a gift from Him. He will provide for you as you trust Him, obey Him, and seek to do His will. “ My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus.”
- God made you the way you are for a reason and a purpose. God gave you certain talents and aptitudes that enabled you to develop certain skills. When you got saved God gave you spiritual gifts to use in a ministry to others. These will work with the natural abilities and talents He has given you. You must develop them through study, practice and efforts. God expects us to change whatever it takes to be our best at whatever we do. He wants us to look our best, dress our best, speak our best, act our best and give our best. This term best relates to your talent and your potential, not comparing yourself to others. When you compare yourself to others who are more talented in an area than you are, it will create envy and dissatisfaction that God did not make you that talented. When you compare to those less talented in an area, it can make you prideful. So avoid comparisons with others. You are running your race in your own lane. You are not competing except with yourself. You always want to do your best. Whatever your hand finds to do – do it with all your might to the glory of God. One of the secrets of contentment is to learn not to compare to others. God has supplied you with all need for your contentment. (Story of child with Down Syndrome)
- God has you in the place where you truly belong. This is why small groups are so necessary. We get to know each other. Love each other,pray for each other and encourage each other. Cannot do this just sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of other people. God chose the time and place where you and I would be born. No man is an island.
- God has a plan for your fulfillment. Jeremiah 29 tells us God has plans for us-‘ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord and will bring you back from captivity.”
Now we have looked at some essentials we need to believe. When we are talking about faith we need to understand what is the enemy of faith. The enemy of faith- fear.
The true opposite of faith is fear. There are two types of fear. Fear is an emotion God created in us. He instilled natural fear in us to protect us from physical harm. Fear of a snarling dog, a hissing snake are natural and this fear enables us to react quickly as God provides us with adrenaline rush to our nervous system which allows us to run or react quickly from danger to our physical well being.
There is also spiritual fear from God. This fear is a reverential fear, an awe of the Great Almighty, All Powerful God. Proverbs tells us the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is a fear which protects our souls. The fear of the consequences of disobeying God.
So we have instinctive fear which God gave us and spiritual fear- which God gave us to protect us from harm both physically and spiritually. When sin entered the world, Adam and Eve experienced fear and guilt and with that shame. Their emotions had been perverted. Ever since then we have been experiencing proper fear, as God intended it to be and improper fear which was perverted by sin. * We need to develop proper fear and we need to recognize improper fear and remove it or conquer it. *
This is why Jesus’ most often repeated command is : “Fear not.’
When I went to my 10 year high school reunion I was ashamed of how my life had turned out. It was not just pride, although that was part of it. It was something else- I knew I was not what I was supposed to be. I now understand, God was looking for me just like He came looking for Adam and Eve and He was asking me- where are you, Tim? He knew where I was and was asking this question to get me to look at myself and my life.
Realizing I was lost and drowning in a sea of alcohol from which I could not save myself was exactly what God wanted me to see. I awoke each morning with fear. Fear my wife would leave me. Fear I would never get sober. Fear I would be fired. Fear of failure. It was demoralizing, it was crippling.it was depressing.
Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame and guilt and fear. The immediately sensed something was wrong as soon as they sinned. They had feelings they had never experienced before- they experienced guilt and shame. They were devastated. They were afraid for the first time ever. They realized they were naked for their eyes had been opened to evil. They begin to look for a solution. Put up some type of exterior cover which would make things right. They sewed themselves some fig leaves to alter their exterior appearance, but it did nothing about their inner reality. We all attempt to mask our fears, guilt and shame at times, don’t we?
Then they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden and they hid themselves from God. Guilty people always want to hide. Hide their wrongdoings, just like I wanted to hide my drinking from my wife, parents, and boss.
God called out- where are you? He knew where they were, God wanted them to look at what their decision to disobey Him had caused. Hiding, afraid, guilt and shame- all of this as a result of their sin. Adam told God – we heard the sound of you in the Garden, and I was afraid because I was naked , so I hid myself.
Second question that day: who told you – you were naked.
Third question: Did you eat from the tree I commanded you not to eat from?
God was taking them through their actions so they could see the consequences- He was connecting the dots for them. We hide our sins with lies, cover-ups, excuses, blame just like Adam and Eve did. If we do, we will live in fear and shame and guilt. This may fool others for a while, but the problem is God does not look on the outward appearance, the Lord looks at the heart.
What has God given us for this wrong type of fear we must conquer ? He has given us three things: “ God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy) Power, the power in us is the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead. Paul says he can do all things because Christ is his strength. And we know Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness. We have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit of God. He gives me a sound mind when the Holy Spirit transform my mind with His truth and His Word is truth.
Putting it all together: Minding your mind
Paul has taken us through a progression which he had been through. Paul had learned through experience. Pain and adversity are great teachers. I believe these four types of mind or attitude Paul had developed were progressive and sequential. In the opening of this letter, Paul reveals the single mindedness he had come to have. Perhaps there is no other apostle who endured such constant adversity as Paul did.
Paul had come to believe whatever circumstance he found himself in, whether good or horrible, these were the circumstance an Almighty Sovereign Lord had allowed. He knew God was up to something , was at work and Paul with single mind looked for the purpose for which these circumstances were being allowed. This single mind is the first type which must be developed. It is foundational for the others.
Paul lived a purpose driven life. His life revolved around these five activities: worship, evangelism, discipline, fellowship and ministry. He disciplined himself like an athlete, and this discipline was a part of what he taught when making disciples.
In preparing himself for each day, Paul knew he must have a submissive mind. A submissive mind and outlook puts others before ourselves. Easy to do with those we love, but impossible to do in our own strength when encountering those we do not like.
Then Paul said we must develop a spiritual mind, putting our mind on things above, not on things here on earth. In running our race, there will be a lot of distractions to keep us from focusing on our race. Ever start praying, and your mind begin to wander about something and realize you are not praying any more? Or when trouble strikes do you run around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to solve the problem? Or do you realize this problem can only be solved by prayer? Charles Stanley says prayer is the greatest time saver. And we fight all our battles on our knees.
A single mind leads to a submissive mind and a submissive mind leads to a spiritual mind which gives us a secure mind. A mind at peace because King God rules from the throne our hearts and minds.
Living a life of joy.
The whole purpose of study is not just learning, but in living out what you have learned. Here are some activities you can build into your life to help these truths become a part of your life. In doing so, you will find you will learn to maintain your joy.
- Surrender your body, mind and will to God at the beginning of each day. Listen to Paul’s admonition, his urging: “ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed by this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ( Romans 12: 1,2) P+T= R. Give your body, mind and will by faith to God each morning.
- Let the Holy Spirit renew your mind each morning and through the day through the Word of God. Nothing has made as much difference in my life as the study and application of God’s Word . I remember when reading Psalm 1, I realized God was making me a promise based on meditating in His Word day and night.
- Your Bible study and prayer time should be combined. Pray and ask God to give you throughout the day a “ single mind, a submissive mind, a spiritual mind and a secure mind. In doing this you are setting the alarm to catch the thief who wants to steal your joy.
- Mind your mind during the day. If you have sinned, perhaps spoken sharply to someone, snapped at them out of frustration or impatience- confess it to God and apologize to the person.
- Guard the gates of your mind. Philippian 4: 8 Paul describes the things we should think about . Watch what you let come through the gates of your senses, especially the ‘ eye- gate.’
- Remember to keep it simple. JOY. Jesus first, others second, and yourself third.
No guilt in life. No fear in Death. That is the power of Christ in me! PRESS ON!