The Christian ought to be content in the Lord because of all that He has provided for them. Christ has provided the ultimate provision for the world in His death, burial and resurrection. The Lord never promises to provide for all of one’s wants but He does promise to provide for one’s needs. The greatest need one has is for them to know and understand that they are a sinner in need of a Savior who was born in a manager, lived a sinless life, died a bloody death for their sin and died in their place for their sin, was buried, rose again and is returning again to judge the living and the dead.
True Christian contentment calls one away from materialism and other isms, and into Christ and the Word of God. The Word of God is Life-giving food for the soul of the redeemed. Christ sent the Holy Spirit to indwell, sanctify and equip believers to know and serve Jesus in the world. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists to equip the Church to serve Christ, and make the name of Jesus famous in the world. True Christian contentment begins with God and His Word. Today we will look at 1st Timothy 6:6-7, Philippians 4:4-9 and Philippians 4:11-13.
1st Timothy 6:6-7
1st Timothy 6:6 finds itself in the context of 1 Timothy 6:2b-21 in which Paul is confronting false teaching. This concluding section of the letter bears a strong resemblance to the opening section (1:3-20). Both sections are bracketed by discussion of false teachers (1:3-7, 18-20; 6:2b-10, 20-21). Both contain exhortations to Timothy in light of this false teaching, specifically calling him to fight the good fight of faith against it (1:18; 6:12); and both contain a doxology (1:17; 6:15-16).
The Greek word for contentment means “self-sufficiency,” and was used by Stoic philosophers to describe a person who was unflappable and unmoved by external circumstances. Christians are to be satisfied and sufficient, and not to seek for more than what God has already given them. He is the source of true contentment (2nd Corinthians 3:5; 9:8; Phil 4:11-13 19). Paul gives Timothy an eternal perspective in 1st Timothy 6:7, which helps believers to avoid the allure of greed, with the result that they are content with what God has given them, even if it consists only of food and clothing.
The truly godly person is not interested in becoming rich. He possesses inner resources which furnish riches far beyond that which earth can offer. The truly pious individual has peace with God, spiritual joy, assurance of salvation, the conviction that “to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Hence he feels no need of “ample (earthly!) goods stored up for many years,” which can never satisfy the soul (Luke 12:19-20). He/she is content with what he/she has. It then becomes clear that we brought nothing into the world so neither will we be able to carry anything out.
In Philippians 4:4-9 Paul is teaching the Philippians to rejoice in faith. Paul calls the Philippians to attitudes of joy and reason, so that they replace anxiety with expectant, grateful prayer. He also calls them to think upon and practice Christian virtues. Philippians 4:4 Paul teaches the Philippians to “rejoice”. The joy that Paul calls for is not a happiness that depends upon circumstances but a deep contentment that is in the Lord, based on trust in the sovereign living God that therefore is available always, even in difficult times. Reasonableness is crucial for maintaining community; it is the disposition that seeks what is best for everyone and not just for oneself. The Lord is at hand emphasizes the fact that Jesus will surely return as judge and will hold people responsible for their needs (James 5:9). Paul does not specific when this will happen (Matthew. 24:36-44; 2 Peter. 3:1-13).
Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34) that believers are not to be anxious but to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus. Paul’s use of “guard” may reflect his own imprisonment or the status of Philippi as a Roman colony with a military garrison. In either case, it is not Roman soldiers who guard believers- it is the peace of God Almighty. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust their difficulties to him, who rules over all creation and who is wise and loving in all his ways (Rom. 8:31-39). An attitude of thanksgiving contributes directly to this inward peace.
Philippians 4:8 Paul teaches the Philippians to “think about these things”, which means they are to fill their minds with things that will inspire worship of God and service to others. Beyond having a proper spiritual outlook (v.8), the Philippians are to practice what they see Paul doing. As they make progress in this way they will find that it is not simply the peace of God but the god of peace himself who will be with them.
Philippians 4:11-13 finds itself in the context of Philippians 4:10-20 which is about thanksgiving for the Philippians’ gift and Paul’s contentment in God. Paul is grateful for the Philippians’ support, but he wants them to know that even in difficult situations he has learned to be content. The Greek word for content in Phil 4:11 means to be “self-sufficient” or “to be satisfied”. It is the same word translated “sufficiency” in 2nd Corinthians 9:8. It indicates independence from any need for help (Luke 3:14; 1 Thess. 4:12; 1 Tim 6:6, 8; Heb. 13:5).
Paul defines the circumstances he is facing in 4:12. Paul knew how to get along with humble means (food, clothing, daily necessities), and how to live in prosperity. The Greek word translated “facing plenty” was used of feeding and fattening animals. Paul knew how to be content when he had plenty to eat and when he was deprived of enough to eat.
Paul in Phil 4:13 uses a Greek verb that means “to be strong” or “to have strength” (Acts 19:16, 20; James 5:15). He had strength to withstand “all things” (Phil 4:11-12), including both difficulty and prosperity in the material world. The Greek word strength means “to put power in.” Because believers are in Christ (Gal. 2:20), he infuses them with his strength to sustain them until they receive some provision (Eph. 3:16-20; 2 Cor. 12:10).
The secret of godly living amidst life’s difficulties is simple: trust God in such a way as one can say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This does not mean God will bless whatever a person does; it must be read within the context of the letter, with its emphasis on obedience to God and service to God and others.
Are you obeying God out of obligation? Or are you obeying God out of necessity? The obedience of believers must be based on necessity for the grace of God. God saves sinners through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. All that Christ has done provides the basis for true Christian contentment.
The Christian who is truly content in God will find Him altogether satisfying in every way. The Christian who does not find Christ altogether satisfying will pursue pleasure outside of the confines of the Word of God. One of the greatest issues in the Church today- is Christians who pursue worldly pleasure outside of Scripture. Whether it is the pursuit of material, sexual or relational pleasure- God is not mocked, He sees and knows what the believer finds altogether satisfying.
If the believer is satisfied by the things of the world- the Lord God calls that idolatry. The Lord God takes the contentment of the believer seriously because what He has done in His death, burial, resurrection and ascension ought to be sufficient enough for the believer to find his/her pleasure and joy in Him alone. When the believer does not find his/her pleasure and joy in the Lord- they are dismissing and spitting upon the finished work of Christ.
In order to grow in godliness the believer must find Christ to be all-satisfying. The grace of God not only provides the ground for the believer’s justification and positional sanctification- it provides the basis for ongoing growth in grace all the way from progressive sanctification to glorification. As the believer grows in understand the grace of God- he/she will be able to find Christ continually satisfying. Tasting and savoring the goodness of God ought to lead one to see the ugliness of their sin, repent of their sin, and put their trust not in themselves but continually in God who provides the strength in order that they may obey.
Biblical obedience begins with all that God has done and leads to action in the life of the believer in repenting of sin and living for the Savior in the world. Obedience without grounding in the work of Christ is pointless because it produces an attitude of performance for God rather than a life of gratitude and thankfulness. God expects the believer to grow in godliness by recognizing their sin and the work of Christ. By growing in understanding of all that Christ has done for them- the believer can grow in obedience to God not out of obligation but out of necessity. It is necessary that the believer grow in a life of repentance unto God- turning from the darkness and sin of the world, and to the work of Christ, so that Christ may be glorified in all the believer does in knowing and serving Him out of a heart of joy and thankfulness.
Believers who have grabbed hold of the grace of God in their hearts and minds are infectious Christians. Such Christians understand the issue of contentment, pleasure and the Gospel. God desires His people to be a joyful and content people. God desires His people to be an informed thinking people whose hope is not just intellectual but heart-felt.
Are you living intellectually today for God? Or is your faith an intellectual yet heart-felt walk with God? How would others who know your walk with God well- describe your growth in the grace of God? I urge you today to examine yourself in light of these biblical teachings, and then repent, worship, adore, savor, taste and see that the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever. Only then will you find true contentment in the pleasure of knowing, and enjoying God’s grace, as well as proclaiming His grace to the world from your heart that is satisfied and set upon Him alone.