Philippians 4:11-13 – A Brief Exposition

Philippians 4:11 is our theme verse regarding Christian Contentment and it appears in the context as the first of three verses which end with Paul’s “secret” to being content. It obviously isn’t a secret because he tells us that contentment does not rest in us, but in what Christ can do in us. He assured us near the beginning of his epistle that, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Philippians 4:11-13

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” v. 11

Verses 10-19 is a discourse of how the Philippian believers supplied Paul with a gift to further his ministry. He assures them that even though it took a long time to reach him, he received it as a love gift and not because they were obliged to him. Their gift arrived late and he assured them that he was in no way offended or deprived by that. (v. 10) He assures them (v. 11a) that what he is about to tell them is not because he is in need of or asking for more frm them. He mentions three things:

  1. In Paul’s life of ministry he has learned something important through painful trials that apply to everyone. (See some examples in II Corinthians 11:23-28.)

  2. The lesson applies to every circumstance or trial which Paul elaborates on in the next verse.

  3. The result of these lessons is contentment. The Greek word for content is used only here in the New Testament and it is a word used by stoic philosophers of a man who is sufficient to himself for all things; able by the power of his own will to resist the shock of circumstance. It could be taken to mean self-reliance, but Paul explains what he means in the next sentence.

 “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” v. 12

Paul isn’t spouting some philosophical or theoretical notion. His own personal experiences of humiliation, hunger, and suffering bear out his assertion. Listen to this man who has proven what he claims in the harsh reality of life:

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. v. 13

Paul’s contentment does not come from stoical endurance or brave independence. His secret is not self-sufficiency, but all-sufficiency in Christ; it is dependence on Christ in all circumstances. The word strengtheneth in Greek consists of the basic word for power or strength with a prefix indicating the joining of this power or enabling between “Christ” and “me.” Christ working in the believer’s life is empowering, not just to produce contentment, but in accomplishing “all things.” He bears testimony to this power when he asked God to heal him of an illness and God’s answer was another trial to glorify Christ: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” II Corinthians 12:9

Next time – Jeremiah Burrough’s definition of Christian Contentment

 

The Loving Saviour Found Me Upon the Mountain Cold

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” Matthew 18:11-13 (KJV)

The parable of the lost sheep is one of almost 30 parables of Jesus recorded in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). This hymn by Judson W. Van De Venter dwells on the blessed truth that Jesus came to save sinners. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) When we were lost in a wilderness and wandering in the world without hope (Ephesians 2:12-13) Jesus not only sought us when we were rebels against Him, but took us to Himself and gave us eternal life when we believed in Him who shed His blood for us on the cross. (John 3:16-17)

 

The Loving Saviour Found Me Upon the Mountain Cold

by Judson W. Van De Venter *

The loving Saviour found me

Upon the mountain cold;

He threw his arms around me,

And brought me to the fold.

His love he freely gave me,

His precious blood applied;

He did it all to save me,

And I am satisfied.

Refrain

I’m satisfied, satisfied,

I’m satisfied with Jesus, the One who died for me;

I’m satisfied, satisfied,

I’m satisfied with Jesus, for he makes me free.

The Saviour lingered near me

When on the mountain wild;

When others seemed to fear me,

He owned me for his child.

With tenderness he took me,

When others turned aside;

He saved and ne’er forsook me,

And I am satisfied. [Refrain]

I’ll never, never leave him,

Forget, nor turn away;

I’ll love, adore, believe him,

I’ll trust him and obey;

I’ll go where’er he leads me,

Be ever at his side,

And work where’er he needs me,

For I am satisfied. [Refrain]

 

* Judson W. Van De Venter (1855–1939) was born in Michigan and following graduation from Hillsdale College, he became an art teacher and supervisor of art in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania. Recognizing his talent for the ministry, friends urged him to give up teaching and become an evangelist. Van De Venter wavered for five years between becoming a recognized artist or devoting himself to ministry. Following his decision to surrender his life to the Divine, Van De Venter traveled throughout the United States, England, and Scotland, doing evangelistic work. Toward the end of his life, Van De Venter moved to Florida, and was professor of hymnology at the Florida Bible Institute for four years in the 1920s. Van De Venter published more than 60 hymns in his lifetime, but “I Surrender All” is his most famous.

 

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646)

Jeremiah Burroughs

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” II Timothy 4:2

The character of Jeremiah Burroughs comes out clearly in his book first published in 1646 two years after his death at age forty-seven. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is compiled from his sermons on the topic and lightly edited for spelling and archaic words.

His treatment of the topic of Christian Contentment is remarkably practical. Unlike many of the scholarly clergy of his day who fed their flocks lofty and lengthy dissertations on theologically abstract concepts, Borroughs sermons were so down-to-earth that his congregants loved them for their sensible applicability. His book shows us that spiritual contentment is a very practical and useful subject.

Burroughs spent his life as a warrior for the truth. He left Emmanuel College in Cambridge when he realized that the Church of England was not as committed to the truth of the Word of God as he believed it should have been. He was labeled a “nonconformist” and associated with a number of like-minded Puritan men called the Independents who later moved to New England to form Congregational churches.

During a brief period in England’s history when persecution of Puritans abated, he moved to London and was chosen to preach at two of what some termed the greatest congregations in England (Stepney and Cripplegate). He was second to the senior minister and so assigned to preach at the 7 a.m. service. Before long, he was known as “the morning-star of Stepney.” Naturally, because he preached at the other church in the evening, he became known as “the evening-star of Cripplegate.” In both churches he faithfully preached the word of God and was loved for his sermons.

All who knew him said that he had a calm, peaceable, warm spirit. He was particularly bothered by divisions among Puritans over what he considered minor differences. He noted that the causes of rigid, hot-tempered disputes was usually a wrong spirit and wrong motives. Although his attempts to smooth over disputes was not always successful, he and a few other Puritan ministers managed to keep a sense of proportion. Many of his sermons still survive and their collection in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is a blessing to all who desire to glorify God in their daily lives.

 Next week: What Philippians 4:11 says about being “content.”

Hymn: All I Need

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”  II Peter 1:3       

One of the lessons of Christian contentment is realizing that many things in this life are not true necessities. We focus on material comforts as if they were essential to daily life. When we don’t have what we think are necessities we feel deprived, disadvantaged, unfortunate. When our material blessings are removed, we can get angry with God for not meeting what we think are our needs.

Job was tempted to curse God when he lost his children, his wealth, and his health. And yet, Job saw what he had as being given to him by God in the first place.

“‘…Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1:21-22

“‘…shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil [calamity]?’ In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” Job 2:10b

Yes, Job was discouraged, unhappy, and hurting. If God had turned against him, Job could see himself as an underprivileged victim, but God had not abandoned him. By the end of the book, Job learned that his only need was the holy, Almighty God who created him. When he reflected on his selfishness, Job concluded,

“…therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. …Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3b, 6

Have you ever wonder why we weren’t given everything that we wanted? Maybe it’s because we don’t need everything we want. Maybe it’s time to learn that God has already given us all that we need in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

All I Need

by Charles Price Jones (1865-1949) *

Jesus Christ is made to me,

All I need, all I need;

He alone is all my plea,

He is all I need.

Chorus:

Wisdom, righteousness and pow’r,

Holiness forevermore,

My redemption full and sure,

He is all I need.

Jesus is my all in all,

All I need, all I need;

While He keeps I cannot fall,

He is all I need. [Chorus]

He redeemed me when He died,

All I need, all I need;

I with Him was crucified,

He is all I need. [Chorus]

To my Savior will I cleave,

All I need, all I need;

He will not His servant leave,

He is all I need. [Chorus]

He’s the treasure of my soul,

All I need, all I need;

He hath cleansed and made me whole,

He is all I need. [Chorus]

Glory, glory to the Lamb,

All I need, all I need;

By His Spirit sealed I am,

He is all I need. [Chorus]

 

* Charles Price Jones  (1865-1949) grew up in Kingston, Georgia, and attended a Baptist church. He was converted in 1884 while living in Cat Island, Arkansas. In 1885 he was called to the ministry and preached and pastored several Baptist churches. After asking God for a deeper experience of grace and fasting and praying for three days in 1895, Jones experienced a closeness with God and joined with other Baptist holiness adherents. They started a holiness movement in the Baptist church, and he began teaching holiness in his congregation of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. For several years, Jones led a non-denominational holiness movement. In 1899 he began to write songs for his church. Most of his hymns were inspired by a scripture passage. In 1917, Jones organized Christ Temple Church in Los Angeles with a 1,000-seat sanctuary, printing press, school building, and a girl’s dormitory. He died January 19, 1949 in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

Introduction – Spiritual Contentment

“…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,

therewith to be content.”

Philippians 4:11b

Welcome to 2021 and the start of a new series! The next several months will be devoted to a very practical study of “Christian Contentment.”

We can easily become discontent with our circumstances and that discontent will drag us down spiritually. The past year of COVID-19 restrictions and uncertainty combined with a tumultuous social and political scene have driven some Christians to take on an attitude of discontent. Circumstances, personal trials, and conflicts give us handy excuses for being discontent. The Bible says that God “…hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3b) Certainly, these blessings are heavenly, but our omnipotent God is not limited to the spiritual only. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Our study will lead us into what Christian contentment looks like, what it means to learn to be content, what some of the (many) obstacles to contentment can be, and finally, what we can do to become more content in our Christian lives.

In preparation for our study of Christian Contentment, I asked myself some questions:

  • What is “spiritual contentment”? Happy, comfortable, successful, well-off?

  • What brings me real contentment in life? Where do I find spiritual contentment?

  • Are there circumstances that make me the opposite of spiritually content: disgruntled, frustrated, resentful? Do I express my discontent by complaining, grumbling, griping? Do I make excuses to justify my discontent? Is it sin to be  discontent?

Besides the Bible, our guide will be a little book written by the Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) titled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, published in 1648. I’ve been blessed by Burroughs’ deep, devotional love for Christ and his practical insights into what causes believers to be discontent, ungrateful, vexed, and disgruntled with what happens around us. This godly preacher of the Gospel had insights into the human condition that are as applicable in the 21st century as it was in his time four hundred years ago.

 

More about Jeremiah Burroughs next time.

 

Hymn: The Sands of Time Are Sinking

So teach us to number our days,

That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Lord! How long?

And have compassion on Your servants.

Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,

That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!

Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,

The years in which we have seen evil.

Let Your work appear to Your servants,

And Your glory to their children.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,

And establish the work of our hands for us;

Yes, establish the work of our hands.”

Psalm 90:12-17 (NKJV)

The Sands Of Time Are Sinking

Lyrics by Annie Ross Cousin *

The sands of time are sinking,

the dawn of heaven breaks,

the summer morn I’ve sighed for,

the fair sweet morn awakes;

dark, dark hath been the midnight,

but dayspring is at hand,

and glory, glory dwelleth

in Emmanuel’s land.

The King there in his beauty

without a veil is seen;

it were a well-spent journey,

though sev’n deaths lay between:

the Lamb with his fair army

doth on Mount Zion stand,

and glory, glory dwelleth

in Emmanuel’s land.

O Christ, he is the fountain,

the deep sweet well of love!

The streams on earth I’ve tasted,

more deep I’ll drink above:

there to an ocean fullness

his mercy doth expand,

and glory, glory dwelleth

in Emmanuel’s land.

The bride eyes not her garment,

but her dear bridegroom’s face;

I will not gaze at glory,

but on my King of grace;

not at the crown he gifteth,

but on his pierc-ed hand:

the Lamb is all the glory

of Emmanuel’s land.

 

* Annie Ross Cousin (1824-1906) was the only child of Dr. David Ross Cundell, a former surgeon at the Battle of Waterloo. She received a private education and became a skilled pianist. She married a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, with whom she had six children. Shortly after their marriage, Anne began writing church hymns for her husband’s services and many of these became very popular in Britain during the mid-to late 19th century.

Her most popular song, “The Sands Of Time Are Sinking”, was written in 1854. The original version was 19 stanzas, but was not widely known until a shorted 5-verse version appeared in a hymn book, The Service of Praise. A collection of her poems, Immanuel’s Land and Other Pieces, was published in 1876 under her initials A.R.C., by which she was most widely known. Anne and her husband retired in Edinburgh after nearly 20 years of religious service.

 

“…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,

therewith to be content.”

Philippians 4:11b

The Centurion Chronicles ends this week and this centurion thanks all soldiers who have followed along and given me words of encouragement.

My studies during 2020 have convinced me that I have a lot to learn about how to be content. I would like to share some of those lessons with you in 2021. Our study guide (besides the Bible) will be a little book written by the Puritan preacher, Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) titled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, published in 1648.

Please join me as we learn about Christian Contentment together.

Michael Vetter