Words often fail me, especially when I am describing
something truly beautiful or significant.
I feel like as we’ve gone through Paul’s letter to the Philippians that
I have probably not captured everything that Paul was writing. I feel I’ve probably sped through some of the
important themes or just made a jumble of things from time to time. Why do I feel this way? I think this letter is so significant to our
growth as followers of Jesus. Of course
all scripture is God-inspired and profitable, but I’m drawn to this particular
letter because of the passion with which Paul writes. I want to know what it’s like to be able to
say, “To live is Christ…” I want to
truly consider everything as rubbish for the sake of knowing Jesus. I want to rejoice always because Jesus is my
Last week we reviewed the entire book and as we walked
through each chapter we could see that probably the theme behind the entire
book is this idea that “to live is Christ.”
Knowing Jesus supersedes all things and while this may make us
uncomfortable with our own walk, it is nonetheless true. We talked about the fact that Paul’s line of
thought is indeed very linear. If he
doesn’t say that the whole point of life is Jesus, then he can’t say that we
should in humility consider others better than ourselves. If he doesn’t call us to humility then he
can’t say that looking back everything in his life is worthless compared to
knowing Jesus, because Jesus is infinitely greater than Paul. Finding this to be true, then, it is no
surprise that we should press on to know Jesus better and that, knowing Jesus
better we can always rejoice.
I hope that you hear my heart in this today. I hope you can listen past all the
simple-mindedness of my presentation to hear the truth that is greater than all
truths: Jesus is King. He is the first and the last. Eternal life is knowing Jesus. There is none beside him. To live is Christ.
Today we finish the book of Philippians. I can feel the collective sigh of relief that
we’ll be done with this book. When was
the last time you spent 10 weeks reading a 4 chapter book? I know that preaching straight through
scripture can be kind of dry, but thank you for sticking with me in this
study. I think it’s important for us to
let the text speak to us, to let the text read us and tell us what we need to
know, not simply what we want to know.
Most of us don’t like to feel uncomfortable; we don’t like to be
challenged, especially with truth we already know. Remember verse 16 in chapter 3; let us hold
true to what we have attained. Let us be
obedient to the truth we’ve already studied.
We don’t like to be told what to do, and that’s the problem with reading
through a book of the Bible rather than simply picking verses out of context,
which we’ll see in greater detail in a few moments.
I was listening to a pastor named Matt Chandler this week
and he was talking about how much we like convenience and ease. Describing the past it reminded me of my own
childhood. For instance, and you’ll
probably have more of these you can tell, too, when I was young I remember that
cartoons only came on in the mornings, after school, and on Saturday
mornings. Now there are multiple
networks devoted solely to cartoons.
When I was young video games consisted of an Atari. The controller was a black box with a
joystick and two red buttons. All the
games made the same sounds and they were in a weird color pattern. The little man you were controlling looked
like a pile of Legos. Now you can conduct
simulated war games online with millions of other people and the graphics are
terrifyingly realistic. You also have
this headset so that you can taunt the person in Britain that you just killed
by virtually knifing him in the back.
When I was young TVs were pieces of furniture. The 19” screen was imbedded in a cabinet upon
which my grandmother would place flower arrangements and other sundry
decorations. There were these two knobs
that you had to get up, cross the room, and manually turn in order to change
the channels, adjust the color, and fine tune the reception. Now televisions are available in 3D, without
frames at all, and so thin that it literally looks like you are observing a
foreign world through a view screen much like what would appear on the starship
Enterprise. And they’re in High
Definition, which looks better than real life.
I remember making popcorn as a child. Let me rephrase. I remember my dad making popcorn when I was a
child. Dad made it because you had to
make it on the stove in a pan. You
poured in oil and dried corn kernels.
Now you throw a bag in the microwave and push a button that says
“popcorn.” I remember when my dad
brought home our first VCR. We had
rented these amazing machines before and they were miraculous. You could insert this black plastic cartridge
and they played movies that before you could only see at the theater (which
only had two screens). Now you can press
a button on a remote control that allows you to digitally record an entire
season of TV shows. I remember in
Longview there was a theater called Northloop Six in which there were six whole
screens. There was such a variety of
movies there! Now a church meets there
because 10- and 14-screen theaters opened.
When Amanda and I lived in Mesquite there was an AMC 30 movie
theater. There were 30 screens! When we first walked into that building it
felt like walking into an amusement park.
That’s another thing; there are entire chains of theme parks, places
designed for our amusement and entertainment.
I don’t say these things to prove how bad I had it as a
child. I had a great childhood. We played outside with sticks and had an
awesome time. I remember one time when
it had iced over my dad and I put some trash cans on their sides in the driveway
and played hockey with a foil ball and sticks.
It was one of the coolest moments I had ever experienced. I was probably six or seven and I still
remember that day. I’m not sure I even
really knew what hockey was, but it was fun.
I say all of these things to draw out the fact that we live in the most
technologically advanced, most highly entertained, and most well-fed generation
ever to walk the earth and we’re bored out of our minds. If we’re not bored, it’s because we’re too
tired from all the work and play that we do.
We’re easily distracted from what is truly good that despite all the
technological advances and devices designed to make life easier, we are
probably the unhappiest people ever to have lived.
I draw your attention to verse 11. Remember that Paul has declared knowing Jesus
to be his most ardent pursuit. In this
closing passage of the letter, he commends the Philippians for their care of
him. They sent money to help meet his
needs. They stayed in contact with him
and maintained their relationship. There
was a mutual love between the Philippian church and Paul. He thanks them for their continued support
and then uses this as a teaching opportunity.
He says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in
whatever situation I am to be content.”
I am to be content. You may not
see it but this is a profound statement.
I am to be content. In the
previous paragraphs Paul told the Philippians to rejoice always. We are to be content people. Listen, “in whatever situation.”
We are to be content.
And yet, so often we’re not. So
often we’re caught up in the latest new thing.
So often we’re concerned with things we don’t have. Paul said he had learned in whatever
situation he was to be content. He goes
on in verse 12 to define that more: “I
know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned
the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” There’s an important word in verses 11 and
12. Paul says he “learned” how to be
content. Is it possible that contentment
is a learned behavior? Is it possible
that left to our own devices we will always seek more and more, bigger and
better? Paul says he learned how to be
content. It required effort. I think many times we don’t want to put forth
the effort to be content. We’d rather
feel sorry for ourselves. We’d rather
complain. Perhaps people would notice
our plight and do something for us.
We’re manipulative aren’t we?
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to
abound.” What’s he saying here? I don’t think he’s talking about learning how
to live like a wealthy man. I don’t
think Paul is talking about learning how to live in opulence. Instead, I think he’s saying that whatever
the situation, he learned how to live for Jesus. If he experienced plenty, he learned how to
love Jesus through that plenty. He
learned how not to let the plenty become his god. I’ve never lived what most Americans would
call an opulent life. We have nice
things, but not the nicest things.
However, I have learned something about myself. I like nice things. By most of the world’s standards, my life is
very easy. By most of the world’s
standards, I am very affluent. I’ve
learned that when we make a lot of money, I’m probably not the most faithful
person with it, always wanting more. I
think Paul would chastise me. Hear me,
now. I’m not talking about having much
as being a bad thing. What I am saying,
however, is that in having much, we cannot let the wealth become our god. We must learn how to love Jesus in our
wealth, treating every opportunity as a chance to spread the love of Jesus, not
to let wealth control us, not to let our house or our job become more important
Conversely, Paul says that, being brought low, being in
need, he was still content. He had
learned that Jesus was the only thing he needed. If he was hungry, he loved Jesus. If he was full, he loved Jesus. If he was wealthy, he loved Jesus. If he was in need, he loved Jesus. He learned to be content in every
situation. While I may not have lived an
opulent life, I have definitely never been impoverished. I have never been without. This part of Paul’s plea is foreign to
me. I’ve had less at some times than at
others, but never to the point of being impoverished. Yet Paul says that in whatever situation he
encountered, he had learned to be content.
He says he learned “the secret of facing plenty and hunger.” What was the secret? The secret is found in verse 13: “I can do all things through him who
One of the great benefits of preaching verse-by-verse
through a book of scripture is one we’ve said many times. It allows us to see the whole picture of what
the author is trying to say. This verse
is one that many would consider to be one of their favorites in the whole
Bible, yet we so often misquote and misapply it in our lives. When I was in High School I was in FCA, the
Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I
remember seeing T-shirts that had football players and baseball players drawn
on them with this verse emblazoned across their bats and uniforms. It made one feel like a home run could be hit
because of the power of Jesus. That’s
not at all what this verse is saying. It
also doesn’t really apply to most of our life situations. Instead Paul says it right after he declares
that in every situation he has learned to be content. The power of Jesus is what can bring
contentment. Our relationship with Jesus
is what gives us peace and joy. Knowing
Jesus is what it’s all about. It’s the
entire theme of this letter. To live is
Christ. It can’t be said too many
times. You probably think it can be said
too many times, but it is essential to understanding what Paul is talking
Are you willing to forsake everything to follow Jesus? Hear me; that doesn’t mean necessarily that
you give everything away. It may mean
that, it may not. What it definitely
does mean, though, is that you take on the humility of Christ, becoming like
him. It means you seek so passionately
to know him that you forget your past and press on toward the prize, which is
Jesus himself. It means you leave behind
the desires you once had for your own life and you take on the desires of
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the
desires of your heart.”
Like some other passages, I believe this one can be
misconstrued and misapplied if we’re not careful. First of all there is the fact that this is a
conditional statement, an “if, then” proposition. If you delight in the Lord, then he will give
you the desires of your heart. There is
also the idea that God will NOT simply give you the things you want. Instead, I believe the idea in this verse is
one that God will give you new things to desire. Your desires will conform to his and become
his desires. Delight yourself in the
Lord, and he will change the things you desire to be more like his. Is this not what happened with Paul? As Paul became more delighted with the Father
didn’t he desires change? As Paul fell
more in love with Jesus didn’t he learn how to be content whatever the
situation? This is what I’m trying to
get at this morning. Let our minds be
fixed on Jesus. Let our eyes look only
towards him. May he give us new
desires. May he grant us transcendence
over our situations so that we might be content in him always.
Paul concludes his letter by thanking the Philippians for
their care for him. This church was
fully engaged in the furthering of the gospel.
They supported the cause of the gospel by supporting Paul in his
missionary endeavors. They lived out
Paul’s exhortation to make Jesus their foremost pursuit. They even sent their own into the fields to
help. I think this is a good example for
us to follow, not simply to sit and talk about what it means to follow Jesus,
but to actually follow Jesus.
As we close this study, my prayer is that you will honestly
examine your own lives. Examine this
church. Think about what it means to be
content in Christ. Think about what it
means to pursue him, to forsake everything else. I hope that you’ll allow the magnificent love
of Jesus to change you completely and magnificently. I pray that you will declare boldly that you
love Jesus and live out that love. I
pray that you won’t allow the things of this world to determine whether you’re
content or not. I pray that you will
find your joy and your contentment in Christ alone, because he alone is good.