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The Secret of Contentment - 22

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman
The Truth Network Radio
September 4, 2022 7:00 pm

The Secret of Contentment - 22

Beacon Baptist / Gregory N. Barkman

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September 4, 2022 7:00 pm

Pastor Greg Barkman continues his expositional preaching series in Philippians chapter four.

A New Beginning
Greg Laurie
Insight for Living
Chuck Swindoll
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Abidan Shah
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Jim Daly
Grace To You
John MacArthur
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

Well, we are coming, as you know, today to the last section of Paul's epistle to the Philippians. And what we see in verses 10 through 20 is an extended thank you note. That's unique among Paul's epistles.

You won't find anything quite like this in the other 12, but here it is in this particular epistle, because it is a response to a financial gift which has come to Paul, who is under house arrest in Rome, from the church of Philippi, delivered by Epaphroditus, one of the leaders in the church, and it represents a great act of love and concern and encouragement by this church to the beloved apostle Paul. In this section, we find two very well-known texts, two perhaps of the most quoted verses in all the New Testament, one in verse 13 and one in verse 19. Verse 13 says, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Verse 19 says, and my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Two wonderful verses, wonderful statements, wonderful promises, often quoted but frequently misunderstood and misused, and therefore we need to look at them carefully in their context. Today we take up the first of those two in verse 13 as we examine what Paul is saying by this statement, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me and how we are to understand that within the context in which it resides. The Stoics in Paul's day taught that the secret to contentment is to get rid of all desires, just somehow train yourself not to desire anything, overcome by the strength of your will the desire for anything in this world besides just the barest of necessities, and thereby you achieve happiness and contentment.

And interestingly, they are close to the mark, but they haven't quite hit it, have they? And Paul says, well, that's close, but actually you don't do this by your own strength and by your determination of your will, but rather you do it by yielding all your desires to God. You can't just rid yourself of them in your own strength, but you can in the strength which Christ imparts to his people. I, said Paul, can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. And so as we look at the first part of this inspired thank you note, we will see how it teaches us the art of contentment. We shall notice number one, concern demonstrated in verse 10. Two, contentment described in verses 11 and 12 rather. And third, confidence declared in verse 13.

Concern demonstrated. Verse 10, Paul says, but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last your care for me has flourished again, though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Paul begins with a declaration of joy and not just any joy, but great joy. I rejoiced greatly.

There's a cause for great joy here. And that statement is introduced by a small connecting particle translated, but in my Bible, the Greek word day. And that particle both introduces a new section because it's very clear that Paul is moving on to a different subject than what he has addressed prior to this statement.

And yet it also connects with what has previously been said. And among other things, in the previous section, Paul has talked a great deal about the peace of God. He told us in verse six, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And again, when he comes to verse nine, he says, the things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly and so forth. And what Paul is going to show us is here is a demonstration of the peace of God in my heart in regard to material things. When I tell you that there's a way to drive anxiety out and receive the peace of God, this is what I'm talking about. Here's an illustration of it. When I tell you to watch my life, learn what I have taught, but also learn from what you see demonstrated in my life.

This is what I'm talking about. I'm talking about this demonstration of peace and contentment in the midst of sometimes of need and poverty. But nevertheless, you can see how I have peace in my heart and all of these things. A declaration of joy, but I rejoiced greatly. But Paul gives the reason for the rejoicing, which is indeed a tangible representation of their concern for him.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care of me has flourished again. And in the context, we realize he's talking about their gift. They have sent a gift undoubtedly in the form of money in gold and silver coins as money existed in that day. And they had sent that to him. And it is a demonstration of their care for him. Their tangible concern for Paul and his life and needs is manifested in this way.

The gift showed their care. Your care for me has flourished again, an interesting word, that word flourished. It might be better translated or more literally translated has blossomed again.

It's a botanical term. When winter is over and spring comes, we are glad to see trees that once looked dead. Now putting forth leaves, now putting forth blossoms, now manifesting that they have life. It didn't look like it before, but it was there all along. And the leaves and the blossoms and the new branches that are shooting forth are evidence that life was there all along. But it was dormant and now it blossoms again.

And that's what Paul is saying. I know your care for me was there all along, but it didn't manifest itself for a while. It's kind of like the dead of winter, but now it has flourished again, it has blossomed once again like a tree in the springtime. And this gift that showed their care came after a period of delay. At last is one way of describing that. It wasn't something that had been going on, this care wasn't something that had been going on over a regular period of time.

But after a period of dormancy, at last, it flourished again after having not flourished for a while, though it used to flourish quite a while ago. We even read about that in verse 15. You Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only, for even in Thessalonica, about a hundred miles from Philippi, he hadn't even gotten very far down the road in his missionary ministry. But even in Thessalonica, you sent aid once and again, at least twice while he was in Thessalonica. They sent gifts to him and he continued to receive gifts from them to help him in his ministry and then it stopped.

But I rejoice greatly, but now at last, your care for me has blossomed anew. And so the tangible evidence of their concern is causing rejoicing in the apostle Paul, not the gift itself, as he makes clear, but the sentiment that it demonstrates, the concern that it communicates. This proves that they were concerned. This proves that they did love him. This proves that they wanted to be in partnership with him in the work of the gospel. This proves that they esteemed the ministry that Christ had entrusted to the apostle Paul and they wanted to help with that. And that caused Paul to rejoice.

I rejoice greatly for this evidence of your loving care and concern that has come to me again. That's what caused Paul to rejoice greatly. What causes you to rejoice greatly? Would the things that cause you to rejoice the most greatly have to do with spiritual concerns and the progress of the gospel and the interest of Christ's kingdom and the preaching of the gospel like is evidenced here?

Or is it always material and physical things alone that causes you to rejoice? But before Paul finishes talking about this concern demonstrated to him by the Philippians, he mentions an explanation for the delay. I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again. And then this, though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. It may be that the first part of the verse, verse 10 that Paul wrote, he looked at before he went on and said, they might misunderstand this to mean that I'm rejoicing because of the value, the monetary value of the gift and that I'm scolding them that it hasn't come more regularly. And he said, I don't want them to think that.

That would be a mistake entirely. So let me make clear to them that I know that they cared all along and that the only reason they hadn't demonstrated this loving concern before was because they lacked opportunity, not because they lacked concern, but that they lacked opportunity. He said, I know that and no doubt they know that, but they need to know that I know that, that I'm not thinking something else in regard to this gift. And so the delay, this interim period, however long it was, and we don't know, in which he had not heard from them in regard to gifts which they formerly had sent regularly, was not there because of their lack of concern, though it might have seemed that way to those who did not know, but it was because of an absence of opportunity. Though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Now Paul does not tell us what exactly was that lack of opportunity, what precisely were the obstacles that kept them from sending regular gifts as they formerly had.

Any reasons that we might offer must of necessity fall into the category of speculation because we're not told. But it wouldn't be hard to think that Paul was difficult to track down at times. He was on the move. And about the time that communication reached them that Paul is in court, he had already moved on. And about the time they received more communication that he was in Ephesus, he had already moved on again.

That was the nature of his ministry, moving from place to place as a missionary, as an apostle who traveled around in the Roman Empire. And so it very well have been that they said, let's send a gift to Corinth. Whoops, he's not there anymore. Let's send a gift to Ephesus. Whoops, he's not there anymore. Let's send a gift to Troas. Nope, he's already left there. Where is he?

How do we know where he is? That might be the lacking opportunity of which Paul speaks. Or it's also possible that they didn't at all times have properly appropriate messengers to send. Because you recall, sending finances in that day was a very dangerous matter. You had to have more than one person or you would surely see that money get robbed along the way. They couldn't send checks. They couldn't send wire, funds by wire. They couldn't do the things that we do today that make transmission of funds relatively easy and pretty safe, except for computer hackers, which is another story, of course. But on that day, they had to carry it with them and they couldn't even carry bills or checks. They had to carry gold and silver coins. And if there was any substance, any largess involved, then that would be a heavy, heavy package to deliver that would probably need to be divided up among several messengers.

And several messengers would need to be along to guard it against thieves that would be on the lookout for an opportunity. And so maybe that's what was lacking. They lacked the appropriate messengers to send gifts to him in a safe and orderly way. Whatever the reason, Paul wants to make it clear, I know that your lack of giving was not because of your lack of concern. And by saying this, Paul teaches us that concern is demonstrated in tangible expressions. How do you communicate your concern to others? Buy a gift, buy a note, buy a visit, buy a meal. It is not sufficient to have warm thoughts about them if you don't communicate that to them.

Send flowers. It's not enough to pray for them, which is a wonderful thing, and maybe in many cases really the most important thing we can do for others. But if they're going to know of your concern, you're going to have to tell them that you're praying for them. They're not going to know that automatically. You're praying, but the Holy Spirit isn't going to tell them that you're praying.

So you need to tell them. And you know how encouraging that is. I can't tell you how many times, already this morning I have been encouraged by people who've told me, I'm praying for Jessica, we're praying for Jessica, how's Jessica doing, we're praying for Jessica. There isn't anything you could do that would be more encouraging and helpful than that. But if you did that and didn't tell us, then we wouldn't know and we wouldn't be encouraged, would we? But encouragement has to be communicated. Don't think because you have warm thoughts that people can sense that warmthness radiating from your head or heart.

You're going to have to communicate it. Concern is demonstrated by tangible expressions. But moving on from this concern that is demonstrated, we come to contentment described in verses 11 and 12. Paul goes on to say, not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. We find a simple declaration of verse 11 and then an enlarged explanation of that declaration of verse 12.

The simple declaration of verse 11 is just this. Paul says, I am not in need. I thank you for your gift and I appreciate it more than you could possibly know because of the love and concern that I know it communicates. But I would have been OK without it. We say, should he have really told them that? That sounds a little bit ungrateful, but he did. He wants them to know that he was OK with or without their gift.

He appreciated their gift and he would use their gift and it would help him and it would encourage them. But he was OK without it. Not that I speak in regard to need. Not that I speak, as the old King James says, in respect to want, a word that we don't use in that way anymore. But not that I speak in regard to need.

I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. And so this gift was welcome, but Paul's needs were being met even without this gift. And that causes us to wonder for a moment, what exactly were Paul's needs at this time in his life? Well, number one, he needed to pay rent.

You say, really? He was a prisoner of Rome. He needed to pay rent?

Yeah. Did you read Acts 28, 30? Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house and received all who came to him. That's describing his house arrest in Rome.

Rome didn't pay the rent for the house. They gave him the privilege of living in the house under arrest, chained to soldiers, rather than being thrown in a dungeon. This was a great advancement, but they weren't paying the rent, Paul was. So Paul had to pay rent on this house that he was privileged to live in. And because of living in the house rather than being in prison, it gave him greater latitude for ministry, even though he was chained to soldiers.

What else? Well, Paul had to buy food. You say, wait a minute, he was a prisoner of Rome. They would have fed him in jail.

No, no, that's the way we do it in America and other Western countries. But that's not the way they did it in Rome. Prisoners had to be fed by their family and friends, or they starved to death.

Rome wasn't going to keep a prisoner up at their expense. He had to have food. And occasional clothes. I'm sure he didn't use a lot of clothes. He wasn't wearing them out by digging ditches all day, but still, clothes have to be replaced from time to time. And so he had food and clothes.

He had no doubt ministry expenses. He was writing letters. He needed writing materials. He needed parchment.

He needed ink. He needed other things. He may have needed other ministry materials in order to dispatch his partners to other places in the Roman world where they were ministering. And so he had needs. He had expenses.

But he makes it clear they are being taken care of. Who was supporting him besides Philippi? We don't know, but undoubtedly some other churches were also helping. Very likely the church at Rome, where he was now a prisoner, was helping with these things.

Friends from other places were no doubt helping him with these things. So Paul's needs were being met, but one reason that they were being met, even while he was not able to make tents or to earn a living in the normal way, was that he kept his needs to a bare minimum. He had to have a place to live. He paid the rent.

You might even say, well, that's a luxury. He could have gone to prison and had to pay rent. But this was important for ministry. So he had rent.

He had to acquire food some way or another, either buy it or have it brought to him, other materials. But Paul clearly didn't let his mind blossom to encapsulate many more needs than he actually had, like we are prone to do. We tend to, whenever we want something, we tend to say, well, I really need that. Right?

I mean, we tend to do that, don't we? I need a new car. Really?

Isn't the old one okay? Well, I need a new one. Here's why. We can come up with reasons why we need other things. I need this. I need that. Clearly, Paul didn't have that mind sent.

Not at all. Paul only needed a few things. And so his simple declaration was he was not in need, and one reason he was not in need is because his needs were minimal and didn't require a lot of upkeep. But he gives an enlarged explanation in verse 12, I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I've learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. And Paul makes it clear that he was content with little, but at the same time, he makes it clear that there are times when he had a bounty, he had plenty. But he had learned to be content with little, and he'd learned to be unspoiled with abundance in either situation.

He'd learned how to respond properly in a God-honoring way. He was content with little. He uses three words to describe times of meagerness. He was at times abased.

He was at times hungry. And there were times when he suffered need, whatever that need may have involved. And Paul is not here by saying that he chose a life of hardship and rejected plenty if it was offered to him, as some people misunderstand the Christian life.

Not at all. He didn't choose hardship, but he didn't resent it and reject it when God sent it. That's the point. He learned to be content with whatever God designed for his life at this particular time in his life, and it wasn't always the same. Sometimes he was abased and hungry and suffering need. Other times, he abounded and was full.

That word abound is found twice in the word full once. And so there were times when Paul had more than he needed, and there were other times when he had just the barest necessities, almost less than he needed, but not quite. Now, as we think about the life of the apostle Paul, we can see that there were some indications of wealth in his background. From all appearances, his family was probably wealthy.

Why do we say that? They lived in Tarsus. That's a long way from Jerusalem. But when their son Paul, who was a promising young man with a very keen intellect and showed a great deal of ability, when he grew beyond the education that was available to him in Tarsus, they had the means to send him to Jerusalem and to place him in the school of Gamaliel, the leading scholar of that day. That would be kind of like, I suppose, in our day sending him to Harvard. And whatever that means, and you have to be pretty smart to even get into that school, and I'm sure Paul had to demonstrate great ability to even be accepted as a pupil to Gamaliel, but whatever that means, if you get your child accepted into Harvard, I'll tell you one thing it means, are you going to have the money to pay for it?

Because it doesn't come cheap. Paul's family had the means to do this. So it looks like he came from a background of at least moderate, if not substantial wealth. He had learned, he'd grown up in that atmosphere. He had been accustomed to that kind of life.

He had enjoyed the luxuries of life, the extras of life. He had not been in need in penury and poverty when he grew up, from all indications. And furthermore, as he developed into one of, if not the leading Pharisee of his day, that also included wealth. When Paul left his position as a Pharisee to become a follower of Jesus Christ, he not only turned his back on his former religion, but he turned his back on a great amount of material advantage, which was guaranteed to him as long as he pursued the life of a Pharisee in such an industrious way. So Paul had known abundance in his background.

He'd known that more than he'd known poverty. Poverty came when he became a follower of Christ, but he probably hadn't known any of that until he became a follower of Christ. And yet the way he puts this here, it seems to indicate that there were times even as an ambassador of Christ that he had abundance. He doesn't seem to be referring to his family days. He doesn't seem to be referring to his school days in Jerusalem. He doesn't seem to be referring to his days as a Pharisee. He seems to be referring to his life as an apostle of Jesus Christ. And he said, sometimes I am abased and hungry and suffer need, and sometimes I abound and am full.

And it's OK either way. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I have acquired an ability which not everybody acquires.

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances God appoints for my life at that particular time in my life. Did Paul get that ability on the Damascus road when he was saved? No, he had to learn it. I have learned.

He didn't start out with that. I have learned. The words actually indicate I have learned the secret.

It was a word the Philippians would have been familiar with because in their day, there were a lot of what are called what were called mystery religions in which the particular religion claimed to have special knowledge which could only be communicated to the initiated. You had to earn the right through a long process of time and demonstrating your loyalty and faithfulness and commitment to this religion. And finally, you would get to the place where you could say, all right, now we will initiate you into the secrets of our mystery religion.

We will let you know things that hardly anybody else knows, just a few secrets that a few of us know. The closest thing I can think of in our day is the degree of masons. They have something like that. And to become a 32nd degree mason is at the top of the line.

I think it is. I don't know that much about masonry. But you have to really prove yourself over a long period of time. And when you get to that point, I am told, then you get in on some secrets that nobody else knows.

I doubt they will be very beneficial to you in this life or the life to come. But Paul said, I have been initiated into some secrets, and one of the most important ones is I have learned. I have acquired the ability and the knowledge. I have been initiated into this special ability which a lot of people don't have. I have learned in whatever state I am there to be content.

Wow. Jeffrey Wilson's statement at this point is neither overwhelmed by poverty nor intoxicated by prosperity. And William Hendrickson says, calm in adversity, humble in prosperity, content but described.

And finally, confidence declared. And now we come to the text. Verse 13, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Let's look at this text in four perspectives. One, the statement is commonly understood. Two, the statement as it stands alone. Third, the statement in its context. And fourth, the statement in appropriate expansion. The statement as is commonly understood, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, which most people, when they quote that, mean I can do anything I desire, I can do anything I put my mind to because I'm a Christian and Christ is going to enable me to do it.

Is that what this means? I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Well, looking even at the statement itself as it stands alone without considering the context, that's not quite right because there are some modifiers here.

There is great potential. I can do all things. That is an expansive term. Bible scholars, however, realize that the alls of the Bible seldom, seldom mean everything without exception or every person without exception.

The alls of the Bible are almost always limited to a particular group or class and the context helps us understand what that is. But nevertheless, it's clear that Paul has something expansive in mind. I can do all things.

But there's a foundation under that statement. I can do all the things through him. Whatever these all things are, they've got to be tied to Christ. I can do all things that he approves of. I can do all things that he allows. I can do all things that he wills. I can do all things that he enables.

It's not just anything that I can think of that I desire. And yes, Christ is going to be my, my what should I say, willing enabler to help me and enable me to do whatever my heart and mind desires. That is not what this text is saying, not even as it stands alone without the context. That's not what it's saying. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. God infuses power.

Dunamis is the Greek word. But now look at the statement in context. And what have we just learned in the context? Well, Paul's told us that he is content with meager resources when that is God's appointment for him, as well as unspoiled with bountiful resources if that's God's appointment for him. And Paul seems to have gone back and forth between the two. And that's the most remarkable of all, to be able to switch back and forth with contentment. Those who grew up in relative poverty can usually be content with that all their life.

If that's God's appointment, that's what they're accustomed to. But if they come into abundance somewhere along the way and get used to that and then lose it, so that they're back in the state of difficulty that they were before, some people find that very, very difficult. Well, why is that so difficult? You did fine with it before you ever got rich. Why can't you go back to that way of thinking and living again and be just fine? Well, because now I have known abundance. Now I can't be content with meagerness. Paul said, I can. I can go back and forth according to God's appointment. I can be content with meager resources as well as live in a God-honoring, unspoiled way with bountiful resources. And I'm able to switch back and forth with contentment. How in the world can you do that, Paul?

That really seems hard. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. There's the verse in its context. I can be content with little through Christ which strengthens me. And I can handle bounty in a Christ-honoring way, but only because of Christ who strengthens me. By flesh, I wouldn't do that in a Christ-honoring way, but with Christ's strength, I can handle material resources in abundance or in scarcity as God appoints by His strength, by His help, by His power. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

That's a downer for some people. You mean that's what that verse means? You take it from, I can do anything my heart desires and you bring it down to this one little thing.

I can live with contentment, with meager resources. If you're going strictly by the context, that's pretty much the conclusion you would have to draw, but I'm going to concede that it probably goes beyond that. I think that phrase all things can legitimately be expanded to go beyond the things that he just mentioned in the previous three verses. I can do these things and I can do other things through Christ who strengthens me.

But still, taking it all in context, it would have to mean something like this. I can do all things according to all the circumstances that are appointed in my life by God. I can do them all. I can accept them all.

I can live happily with them all. I can fulfill all the duties that are appointed to me by God. I can do all those things that God commands me to do. And I can live according to the circumstances that God places in my life. And I can do all the things that God desires for my life.

I can do all these things through Christ, through him who strengthens me. Let's make some applications. First of all, about human needs. This is really thought-provoking. It's clear that Paul considered human needs to be very minimal. We tend to make them larger than is probably, well, almost always larger than is legitimate. We tend to define our needs according to what we see over the fence when we're looking at our neighbor's house and neighbor's garage and neighbor's things. We tend to define our needs according to what our friends and people we know have. And we need what they have. No, that's not the way Paul defines needs.

Here's what he said in 1 Timothy chapter 6. Now godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing with these, we shall be content.

That's pretty much it. Food and clothing. You might throw in shelter. Paul had to pay rent on the house. He didn't live out in the rain or in the elements.

Food and clothing and shelter in a minimal way is all we need. And put this one in your mind, as I used to hear somebody say, put this one in your pipe and smoke it. In other words, think about it for a while. I'm not recommending smoking pipes. According to what is said here, occasional hunger must not represent a need. When God promises that he will supply our needs, and Paul tells us there were times when he went hungry, either God didn't keep his promise to Paul or occasional hunger is beyond the realm of necessity. In other words, when God promises to supply our needs, he promises that we're not going to starve to death, but he doesn't say, I promise you'll never miss a meal.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. You see how minimal our needs really are? Probably do us all good to miss a meal now and again, wouldn't it? That's another subject. But in this passage, we also learn the key to happiness. And I'm going to equate happiness and contentment because I think the two go very much together. Wanting more than God has supplied causes discontent.

And when we're discontent, we're unhappy. I want more. I need more because we're not content to accept what God has supplied. But maturity recognizes, listen to me, I don't need more than God has supplied. Can you say that? I do not need more than God has supplied. Do you believe that? Can you say that?

Do you accept that? Do you live that way? But a third lesson here, and one that some Christians have difficulty with, is to realize that abundance is not a sin. Sometimes Paul was in a tight financial situation. Sometimes Paul had a surplus, an abundance. And the Bible teaches that it's legitimate to enjoy abundance if we are humble and unselfish with it. Paul goes on in that same chapter in 1 Timothy 6 to say, Command those who are rich in this present age. And some people are waiting for him to say, Command those who are rich in this present age to sell everything they have and give to the poor. That's what Jesus told the rich young ruler.

And apparently that was kind of a standalone situation that had other reasons for it, because Paul doesn't say that by the Spirit of God. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty. Don't be proud. Don't get proud because of your riches. Not to trust in uncertain riches. Don't act as if you have life taken care of because you've got an abundance of wealth and you think you can address every possible need and situation. But trust in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

Let them do good, these with riches, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come that they may lay hold on eternal life. And so abundance is not a sin. It's legitimate to enjoy abundance if God gives it and if we're humble with it and unselfish with it. And if you have an abundance and lose it and that makes you feel like life is over, it's crumbled, it's destroyed, there's the evidence that you did not view nor handle your abundance properly. You weren't holding it loosely. You were holding it too tightly. You weren't using it for the purposes for which God gave it.

You were using it selfishly. So that brings me number four to talk about how God intends for us to use abundance. If we are given abundance, how are we to use it? And it's clear that God expects us to give a substantial part of it away. The more God has given, the more we should give. It's an enigma that those who gather statistics tell us that the people who give them the highest percentage of their income to the Lord are generally the poorest people. The richer people get, the less percentage is their giving to God. Now they're giving more dollars and that's why they feel okay about it.

They feel justified. I'm wealthy. I'm giving big bucks, big money. And these poor people, they're only giving small amounts, not the way God measures it. God said the poor widow who gave the two mites gave more than all the rich people. The way it ought to be is the more you give, the higher the percentage of your giving should be.

If when you're on meager resources, it's a real struggle to give 10%, but you do it to honor the Lord, then when God gives an abundance, you can increase that. Why not start giving 11%, 12%? You've still got more to live on. Why not give 15%? You've still got more to live on.

Why not give 20%? You've still got more to live on. You still have a surplus.

You still have more, but you should be giving more. So God intends for us to give a substantial part away if he gives us abundance, but he is satisfied. He encourages us to enjoy a portion of the abundance for the extras of life with gratitude to God.

He gives us all things richly to enjoy. And then finally, and I touched on this earlier, but it is the concern must be communicated, not merely thought. You've got to have tangible ways of expressing your concern, but this that goes with it, gratitude must be communicated, not merely thought. How many times has someone done something nice for you, given you something, and you said, you know, I really ought to write a thank you note, and you meant to, but zip, time went by and you never did.

You never communicated your gratitude. It needs to be communicated in some appropriate way. The concern must be communicated or people won't know you're concerned. Gratitude must be communicated or people will not know you're grateful.

They'll assume that you are not. And those are lessons we find in this passage. Shall we pray? Father, help us to think like you think. Help us to view possessions the way you would have us view possessions. Help us to trust you to give us what we need and to be content with what you give. Help us, Lord, to be faithful with whatever abundance you may bestow. Teach us the secret of contentment in life, in view of that incredible bounty of the life which is to come. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-01 12:31:22 / 2023-03-01 12:46:34 / 15

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