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Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 5, 2021 12:00 am


Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 5, 2021 12:00 am

More. Isn't that what we all want? More money. More time. More success. More friends. More likes on Facebook. The apostle Paul was a human just like us, so if he could learn the secret of contentment, so can we.

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This is the secret I have learned to practice over all these years. And by the way, it's not a secret because I'm about to put it into print.

I'm going to put it in black and white. It's for everyone, every believer. Here's the secret. I can do all things through Him, that is Christ, who strengthens me. That's the inside scoop for the growing disciple to learn contentment. Acquiesce to Christ. Abandon to Christ whatever you attempt to do. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. How many times have you heard or read that verse?

I'm guessing it's many. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Steven Davies is going to help us understand the context of that passage so that we don't miss what God is trying to teach us. Our theme today is contentment. Do you ever struggle to be content and satisfied with what you have?

Do you occasionally feel like you don't have quite enough? The Apostle Paul learned the important principle of being content. And you can too. Stay with us for this message called, Enough. Thomas Watson, the Puritan pastor of 350 years ago, wrote that discontent dislocates the soul. It dries the brain. It corrodes the comfort of life.

And it wastes the spirit away. In his very personal letter to his beloved friends and old apostle, who doesn't really have very long before he nears the end of his life, as he is indeed when he writes it, he speaks to this subject of contentment. He even informs them that he has found the secret to overcoming this easily cultivated discontent. So take your copy of the New Testament and turn to his letter again, Philippians chapter 4, and where we left off in our last study at verse 10. Philippians chapter 4 and verse 10.

Now let me just kind of read the paragraph and then we'll go and sort of pick it apart, okay? Paul writes, but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly and now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed you were concerned before but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well to share with me in my affliction. Now what I want to do is go and pull from this text four words by way of observation and give four principles that Paul lays out here, if we could summarize it, that capture this challenging, this rather elusive, this godly, this mature virtue called contentment. That is so slippery, isn't it? The first word is gratitude and the first principle is this, appreciate whatever you have. Appreciate whatever you have. Now Paul has already told the Philippians, if you go back up to verse 4, he's commanded them in this series of imperatives to rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice.

Not optional, not incidental, it's intentional. Now down at verse 10 you're gonna watch him practice what he preaches. Notice again in verse 10, but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. And maybe you would wonder what in the world does Paul have to rejoice greatly over? He's chained to a Praetorian Guard on either side of him, he's under house arrest, he's eating a rationed meager diet, he's without many friends, the church in Rome is effectively abandoned him, and he writes, but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly. Why? Because Paul is focusing, as we'll learn, on what he has, not what he lacks.

And what does he have? Notice further, at last you have revived your concern for me, indeed you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. In our next session I want to explore their support as a church for Paul a little more carefully because of what it will teach us, but for now you need to know that Epaphroditus has arrived in Rome with a financial gift to meet Paul's needs.

Prisoners in this day under house arrest and even those in prison had to have their relatives or friends provide their food and the things they would need. So Epaphroditus arrives with a little money for Paul's needs and Paul rejoices over this gift, but he's rejoicing more than that over what it represented in their care for him. Paul actually describes their concern here with a word translated revived.

Notice, you have revived your concern for me. The word for revived refers to flowers blooming again. In other words, to Paul, their gift was like a fresh bouquet of blooming flowers that were blossoming in all their beauty. And Paul begins to greatly rejoice in the Lord because for Paul, here in these, you know, rented quarters where he's under house arrest, he's saying that your gift has effectively turned this room into a garden in full bloom. That couldn't help but think that Adam and Eve lived in a garden and it wasn't enough and Paul is living in chains and it has become to him a garden.

This is a contented man. He says now you lacked opportunity to help earlier and by the way, he doesn't mention why they lacked opportunity. If you go over to 2 Corinthians in chapter 8, it's possible that they were having their own severe trials.

They were impoverished. It could have been that Paul's imprisonment in Rome made him inaccessible to the Philippians. It could have been that the Roman believers weren't helping them in what they wanted to do.

We're not told. But it occurred to me that it very well might be, just knowing Paul as we're coming to know him, that Paul is simply choosing to write the best and to think the best of them as if to write here, I know you would have sent help earlier, but I'm sure it wasn't possible. I'm sure you didn't have an opportunity, but that's okay. Think of what he could have written. He could have majored on his suffering and the silence and the lack of support and the abandonment of the church and his personal deprivation and his long, long wait for a word or help from them. He could have begun at verse 10 to write something more like this, it's about time.

It's about time. I would have written something like that. The person with a discontented heart is usually convinced that everything he does for God is way over the top and that everything that God does for him is too little and usually too late. Paul has every reason to believe all of that, but you watch him here demonstrating contentment by choosing to rejoice in whatever he has.

That's gratitude. The second word that comes to my mind as I study this with you is the word responsibility, and here's the principle. Not only should we appreciate whatever we have, we should apply whatever we learn. We should apply whatever we learn.

Look at verse 11. Not that I speak from want, that is, or need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I have learned to be content. The verb Paul uses informs us that he has learned it by means of personal experience over time, which means that Paul had to apply God's truth that he learned to whatever he experienced in his life, which means that Paul did not reach contentment automatically, which means we don't automatically become contented in our lives just because we've been saved, which means that if Paul had to learn contentment, so do we. For Paul it grew over a lifetime as he faced one adverse situation after another in finances and health and relationships. He's learning to apply the truth of who God was and what God said no matter what he faced. He learned to grip, as it were, tightly, not his expectations of what ought to happen, but gripping tightly to the grace of God in the midst of whatever happened. In fact, the word Paul uses here for content, I have learned to be content, is a Greek word that refers to someone, now follow this, someone whose resources are within him so that he doesn't depend on substitutes around him.

Let me say that again. A contented person is someone whose resources are within him so that he doesn't have to depend on substitutes around him. In other words, your contentment cannot be created by your salary package. Your contentment cannot be created by a title or relationships or health or popularity. It doesn't hang on your retirement plan or the fact that you've got kids who are smarter than others or you got a big garage or a well-stocked tool shed. Those are externals. Those are substitutes and they haven't produced any more contentment in families today who didn't have a washing machine or an automobile or a cell phone than those families in 1900 that had none of it. Those are externals and they come and go like the ocean's tide. Christ-centered contentment, one author wrote on this text, is not pre-installed in our hearts like a software program that's pre-loaded into that new computer you buy.

No, no, no. You have to add it to the computer. You add it to your life. That's your responsibility. In fact, the Apostle Peter writes along these lines as he encourages the believer to apply all diligence and add to your faith moral excellence.

Pursue it. Add to moral excellence knowledge. Add to knowledge self-control. Add to self-control perseverance.

And on and on and on. First Peter chapter 1. These are things we learn and by the Spirit of God and the grace of God apply to our lives, taking on the full responsibility to refuse to excuse ourselves when we don't. Now keep in mind that the idea of learning, when Paul says I learned, we have to rewrite a little bit of this term in our minds. And in biblical terminology, learning is never related to simply learning the truth but in applying the truth. Learning in biblical terms is translating knowledge into wise living. That's why in biblical terms the opposite of wisdom is not stupidity.

The opposite of wisdom is disobedience. Refusing to apply what you're in the process of learning in a very real sense it's dangerous to learn one more thing from the Bible unless we're willing to apply it. This is something then according to Paul's own testimony that he's learning over a lifetime of practice and that's our responsibility to practice it as well. Let's make sure we're doing the homework. Let's make sure we're not skirting the assignments. Let's make sure we're getting the lessons right. One pastor wrote recently that he was wanting to teach his children contentment and also financial stewardship and so he taught them the envelope system.

Maybe some of you do it as well. When he said we gave them their allowance they would put into envelopes marked give some of the money and save some of the money and spend for the money they would spend. He writes, I thought I was teaching them that life was more than money. I thought they were getting the lesson until one afternoon I came home from work and I had a band date on my arm. My daughter was a bright second grader asked me daddy why do you have that band date on your arm? I didn't want to alarm her but I thought she was certainly old enough to get an explanation. So I told her that I'd gotten the medical exam that day so that I could buy a life insurance policy. She asked what's a life insurance policy? I explained well daddy loves you so much and loves our children and mommy so much that if anything were to happen to me it would provide immediately $250,000.

Her eyes got really wide. I knew she was worried but then she looked up at me and asked, a piece? Ruin that lesson. Let's get to it dad. Here's the lesson about contentment. It isn't a gift. It's something to be learned. It's an assignment. It's something you fight for as you wage war against the temptation to reach for that one more thing. To compare your lives to another, to envy, to fixate on one author says the uncomfortable or the inconvenient or the wrong that surrounds you and done to you. Contentment is the art another author writes of keeping a light touch on what we're calling these external substitutes that cannot satisfy. We apply Ephesians 1 it means that we keep a strong grip on the grace of God that has been lavished on every one of us already.

We know we have a grip when we're grateful for what we have and we're applying what we learn. Charles Spurgeon whose morning and evening is an enjoyment to me and perhaps to many of you in your own devotional reading when he got to this particular text he wrote this, contentment is not something that may be exercised naturally but a science that is acquired gradually. Brother and sister hush that complaint as natural as it is and continue on as a diligent student in the College of contentment.

That good. Stay in school. Practice the assignments of gratitude.

Do the homework of responsibility. There's a third word that comes to my mind from this text and it's the word acceptance. Not only should you appreciate whatever you have and apply whatever you learn, thirdly accept wherever you are. Notice further in verse 12 he writes I know how to get along with humble means by the way that refers to a humble status in society.

It's the same word used of Christ who became a servant. I know how to get along in a demeaning you know sort of bottom of the food chain status. I also know how to live in prosperity.

This word means to literally overflow with things. We know he came from an extremely wealthy family. He was able to be tutored by Gamaliel the leading scholar of his day in law. I know what it means to have everything. He says notice in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry. In other words I know what it's like to be stuffed with food and I know what it's like to be starving for food.

Both of having abundance and suffering need. He doesn't expand on this here but I want to go to another letter just briefly. You don't have to turn there and just give you a little bit of the details of his own personal testimony and the extremity of the circumstances. Just read his expanded journal in his testimony to the Corinthian believers where he gives the details of hunger and thirst being beaten and being homeless treated you could paraphrase it as the scum of the earth 2nd Corinthians chapter 4.

Where we Paul writes later learn he says we as servants of God experienced afflictions hardships calamities beatings imprisonments riots sleepless nights and hunger 2nd Corinthians chapter 6. Still later Paul writes five times I received 40 lashes minus one. Five times his back was covered with permanent scars. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned with stones. Three times I was shipwrecked.

They get that. Ones enough for me. How about you? He gets back on a boat I would have avoided the harbor three times shipwrecked. He writes and a night and a day I was adrift at sea. A night and a day adrift at sea. Unfrequent journeys in danger from rivers danger from robbers danger from my own people danger from Gentiles danger in the city danger in the wilderness in toil and hardship in hunger and thirst often without food in cold and exposure. 2nd Corinthians chapter 11. Who among us would like to live the life of the Apostle Paul? He didn't shy away from describing the challenges of the Christian experience he writes to them thank you for your gift I'm rejoicing in God greatly and made of my under intense pressure.

Don't you love hearing from someone who speaks with realism like that? He's already mentioned in his letters tears and at the same time as joy. How? How does he how does he do that? By developing the practice over time of gratitude accepting the responsibility to apply and acceptance with wherever God has placed them appreciating whatever you have applying whatever you learn accepting wherever you are. Fourthly it would be the word dependence dependence principle is this abandon to Christ whatever you do. Did you notice Paul added something in this text earlier he had simply said I have learned but now he adds I have learned the secret this is the secret I have learned to practice over all these years as an initiate in the gospel and by the way it's not a secret because I'm about to put it into print I'm gonna I'm gonna put it in black and white it's for everyone every believer here's the secret verse 13 I can do all things through him that is Christ who strengthens me there it is that's the inside scoop for the growing disciple to learn contentment acquiesce to Christ abandoned to Christ whatever you attempt to do he isn't saying I can do anything he isn't saying I can do everything he's saying I can do all things through him who strengthens me and what are those all things those all things he just described I can suffer hardship and persevere I can handle an overflowing cup with balance I can hold the humblest lowest status on the food chain without resentment I can be stuffed with food and starving for food without bitterness I I can be content in all things how through the strength of the indwelling Christ within me see here's the promise God is effectively promising to give us the strength to do whatever he wants us to do so what is God asking you to do where has he placed you today what challenges are you going to start facing tomorrow they're already on your mind today but pressures overwhelm you but losses grieve your heart today what abundance do you need to handle with humility and and wisdom God planned all of that and he can empower you as you depend in your weakness upon his strength and your inability on his ability does this verse promise the Christians can do anything they want to do no no here's the secret God promises that you can do everything he calls you to do as you depend on his indwelling person and power I can do all things through Christ is really the same thing as saying I can do nothing without Christ the great missionary explorer David Livingston his biography is worth reading served in Africa from 1840 until his death in 1873 on one occasion he arrived at at the edge of a large territory that was ruled by a powerful tribal chieftain there in Central Africa he would need this man's permission before he could move forward and according to tradition the chief with his entourage would come out and meet Livingston and if all went well living so would be free to travel but an exchange would be made first according to custom the chief would would come and inspect all of his belongings and he would lay it all out for him his clothing his coins his books his watch on this one occasion he did all of that and laid out his watch in his books in his clothing and and and and as his goat upon which he depended for milk because he struggled with intestinal problems that always flirted up when he ever had to drink the local water had it all spread out into his dismay the chief chose his goat and then as was custom he gave to David Livingston something to belong to him and he handed him his stick his stick Livingston writes how disappointed he was he didn't need a walking stick it wasn't long before he was complaining to God about this tradition and his chief and this ridiculous he said and useless walking stick what could he ever do with it compared to the goat he wrote that kept him well and his digestive system working properly as they traveled along one of the local men came to him and explained it to him what you have been given is not an ordinary walking cane it is the king's very own scepter it is his scepter and with it you will find entrance to every village in our country the king has honored you greatly sure enough Central Africa opened up to him and following him would come other missionaries and the gospel but reach that land according to Paul if I can take that illustration and bring it into here as we wrap this up God has not given us a walking stick in fact he hasn't even given us a royal scepter he has given us himself the king himself resides in us we have in Christ enough isn't that a powerful thought I sincerely hope that you found that to be true the principle we've learned today is that we have enough because we have Christ the world tries to sell us on the idea that we need more so I hope this time in God's Word today has helped you this is wisdom for the heart with Stephen Davey if you struggle with contentment and find it hard to believe that you have enough you might want to listen to this lesson again but even more than that you can access the PDF file of Stephen's manuscript that he wrote when he first delivered this sermon visit the home page of wisdom we post each day's message right there and you can listen or read the manuscript free of charge if you own a smartphone be sure and install the wisdom international app you can take this ministry wherever you go the app is free and it's available in the iTunes or the Google Play Store be sure and join us next time right here on wisdom for the heart
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-05 23:25:50 / 2023-12-05 23:34:40 / 9

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