Paul says being content is something of a mystery. He gives a stark contrast. He knows what it is to be in need and what it is to have everything. We strive to obtain the best possible circumstances. Paul doesn’t know if he’ll be led to execution. He is amply supplied and is content.
Being content is something we learn
Paul has set out the pattern of how to learn throughout Philippians. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus. Being content isn’t dependent on how we feel about a situation. Lasting joy and satisfaction can never be forced into your life by a new job or child etc. We think and live as if our circumstances now is all there is. The only way we can be content isn’t by being self sufficient but by being Christ dependent.
Being content is depending on Christ
Orientate your life on someone who is unchanging. The risen, exalted Jesus. He is who we rejoice in. Learn to set your mind on him. We need to look away from ourselves. It’s only through Jesus that we can have the strength to be content. Paul means that in whatever situation he finds himself in, he can be content, because it comes from God.
Being content leads to blossoming generosity
Paul rejoices greatly in the Lord as he sees the gospel minds of the Philippians blossom. He rejoiced in their motive. People who give generously know that being content doesn’t come from their circumstances. It’s not a sacrifice to earn a favour. Paul concludes by sending greetings. Their gift has helped others in Rome become Christians.
What is your treasure? What’s worth giving up your life for? The issue is where these things sit on the scale of what’s most important to you. Has it replaced the God who made you? Knowing Jesus as Lord is better than anything else. It’s only through faith in Jesus that we can be made right with God forever.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is better than our performance (v1-7)
The key to a Christian’s spiritual safety is delighting and rejoicing in the Lord. Paul says to watch out for wild dogs. Our lives aren’t spent learning how to be good enough for God. Paul knew that our performance isn’t going to protect us. We can never be good enough on our own. Surrender your performance to him.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is worth partnering in suffering (v8-11)
Paul expands the value of Jesus. A relationship with Jesus surpasses anything the world can offer. We gain Christ that guarantees righteousness with God. The mark of a relationship with Jesus is resurrection power in your life.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is the ultimate prize, but we’re not there yet (v12-14)
God calls us to press on towards the finish line. Paul’s staying focused on what matters. Fix your mind on knowing Christ himself. Is knowing Jesus the treasure of your heart? He demonstrated how much he loves you by dying for you.
We become what we see. We have numerous things that influence us. People around us influence us. Who we look to is who we become like. God uses others to help us become like Jesus.
Paul wants the Philippians to have the mindset of Jesus. We will glory in him who has overcome death. He is instructing them to remain faithful to the gospel as citizens of heaven. They were dealing with people preaching with bad motivations. Paul wants to send two people to show them what Jesus is like.
He has great affection for his friends in Philippi. We experience lasting joy in our friendships with other Christians. These two have the mindset of Jesus so that they can encourage them. They model what it’s like to be like Jesus in unique ways.
Timothy appears a lot in the NT. He is like Paul’s son. There’s no one who shows genuine concern for the Philippians like Timothy does. He loves and cares for them. He trusts him because he models Jesus. He is proven trustworthy. He’s with him while Paul is writing this. He has followed Paul’s example as Paul has followed Jesus. They’re willing to live their lives for the sake of others. How are we helping each other?
Paul thinks it’s good to send Epaphroditus as he’s a good example as well. Paul calls him a brother. He uses this language to describe what the church should be like. God takes enemies and makes them children. If we are in Christ, we are each others’ brothers and sisters. Being a Christian means being part of the family of God. Paul also calls Epaphroditus a coworker and a soldier. He shares the same battle as Paul. He risked his life for Paul and for Jesus. His return should cause great joy.
We ought to rejoice and honour those who live lives for the gospel. We seek to become humble and to serve and to commit to loving others. Who are you following? Do the people you follow help you become more like Jesus? Who is following you? Who is like your spiritual child? Look to Jesus who left his glory in heaven and died on a cross for us. He turns us into his friends and into children of God.
Lasting change comes from God working in us.
Christians have a heavenly citizenship
Paul tells us to stand firm and behave as heavenly citizens. Because of who you are, make his joy complete. In humility we will value others above ourselves. His expectation is that wherever you are, we’re clear that we’re citizens of heaven. We share a unity and a mutual concern. He wants us to have the same mindset as Jesus. Jesus didn’t hang on his reputation or status. He made himself nothing. Our God is the selfless servant. He’s the one who demonstrated his love by dying for you. Do we have this same mind?
Citizens of heaven shine the gospel brightly to others. Lasting change can’t merely be achieved by trying harder or positive thinking. It’s God who works in you to will and to act. If you change your behaviour on the outside it won’t change your sin on the inside. Paul is saying we should strive to be the people God has made us to be. The world in which we live will always be twisted. God’s purpose is for his heavenly citizens to shine like stars in the world. As we do this, we’ll stand out.
Lasting change comes from God working in us showing what it’s like to live as heavenly citizens. If you live out who you truly are, you should rejoice. The next time you complain, consider who your heart really belongs to.
Paul is a missionary. Philippians is a letter that’s like a prayer email from a missionary, except Paul is in prison. The reason he’s writing is shown in v29-30. He was confident God was going to continue this good work. It’s not always joy, but they can continue living a life worthy of the gospel regardless of their circumstances. Their struggle is the same as the one he had.
Paul shows that he and they and we are capable of living a life worthy of the gospel regardless of circumstances (v12-14). He doesn’t want them to be discouraged. Him being in prison has had the opposite effect of what he thought. He preaches the gospel and even the guards listen and believe for themselves. His boldness encourages others to proclaim Jesus.
Some of their preachers are bad examples. What Paul says is confusing (v15-17). Whatever the motive, the gospel is preached. He knows Christ is better, so regardless of why or when or where, that is cause to rejoice.
In every circumstance, Paul is able to rejoice. He can hope in life and can hope in death. He expects and hopes that he won’t be ashamed in neither life nor death. What has happened to him will turn out for his deliverance. Jesus is better than the best things in your life and more powerful than the worst things in your life. He loved us so much that he came into the world to rescue it. This is why Paul can say “to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
We too can rejoice. No matter what is going on, if we have Jesus, we have the best. If you have Jesus, you have everything you need. For the Christian, death is the next great adventure. Paul says this is better. Being a Christian isn’t about doing what’s best for yourself, but doing what’s best for others, because that’s what Jesus did.
All of Paul’s writing is meant to produce a lasting joy. He instructs us to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. Live it together with other Christians. Being a Christian means being part of a community. In the face of suffering or persecution, we ought to be brave. Together, we know Jesus Christ has overcome the world. Be convinced and let your boasting in Jesus abound.
We struggle with being content and having joy. Joy can disappear when life gets tough. If we could say what Paul says in 4:12, we would be transformed. Paul’s circumstances are some of the toughest. He talks about a profound sense of joy that he experiences despite his situation. Lasting joy is available.
The problem with joyful moments is that they fade
Holidays end, weddings last a day. Events bring great joy but life doesn’t stop. Society says we need to keep creating joyful experiences. If we keep looking for the next joyful moment, we’ll feel despair. We might think God doesn’t love us, or that we’re not good enough, or that God isn’t powerful enough. Paul says good situations aren’t guaranteed.
The origin of joy is gospel partnership
The joy comes because of the partnership Paul shares with the Philippian church. Paul experiences joy now in spite of his situation. Christian fellowship is the giving over of yourself to the gospel. Paul is addressing the whole church. His joy isn’t grounded in his relationships with the leaders, but everyone. Everything is from God. You can be confident because the gospel that unites us isn’t going to be taken away. When persecution comes or situations arise, Paul is afraid their relationships will be the downfall of the church.
The path to joy is abounding love
Paul has confirmed the truth about Jesus to all people he’s met. The Philippians stand with Paul. They are true gospel partners. Paul longs for this church with all the affection of Jesus. Do we long for one another? We only have to look at Jesus to see that this is true. He shared his abounding love with us. The joy of Jesus won’t fade. His love is expressed in gospel partnership. Our joy can fade for a number of reasons. God has placed us in a church family so that we can walk with each other.
Contentment is elusive
Paul has learned the secret of being content. He points out truths about his life. He knows what it is to be in need and he knows what it is to have everything. There’ll be times when you have plenty but there are also times when you’ll be in need. We feel contentment slipping away. Paul has everything he needs as a prisoner. He’s content whatever the circumstances. When things are going well, Paul isn’t grasping for more. Some of us are never content. Paul knows his circumstances aren’t all there is to his life. We think that life is nothing more than our circumstances.
Contentment is learned
Paul has learned to be content. It’s possible to learn it. The debate around contentment was part of the culture when Paul wrote the letter. Your mind will let you down. What you need to be content is something immutable.
Contentment is from God
How can Paul find contentment? Jesus (v13). He’s rejoicing in him. To be with him is better than this life by far. Jesus is of surpassing worth and has taken hold of us to give us his righteousness. The reason we’re not content is that we can watch our circumstances fade away. If we were to love the immutable, unchanging one we would learn to be content in any and every situation. Only through Jesus can we find the strength to be content. People who give generously to the gospel are beginning to understand contentment doesn’t come from their circumstances. To be content, look to Jesus.
The Philippians have already been generous and God has supplied their needs. Every time they give, they learn to be content. Their partnership has made it possible for people to become Christians.
Generally we’re not very good at rejoicing in our culture. You can choose to have confidence in yourself. It can turn you into a horrible person. You can’t take criticism if you’re rejoicing in yourself. Being a Christian isn’t about making the team win.
A different thing to live for (v19-21)
If your confidence is in something that’s not Jesus, your confidence is in something that will pass. That moment of glory will end. This world is broken with tears. You can see the scars. Paul is warning you to stand firm. The things that stop us putting our confidence in Jesus are usually good things. If your desires are your god it’s hard to admit your bad decisions. If we are really right through Jesus there is something else to live for.
A different thing to think about (v8-9)
What you’re thinking about will come out in what you do. Think about how you are thinking. If you’re aware of it you can change it. There’s always something good to think about because of the gospel. If you think about that it change who you are.
A different way to be (v2-7)
Conflict haunts us. The life he describes seems far away. Enjoy that God is for you in Jesus. Start enjoying Jesus’ goodness today. Enjoy the righteousness that comes from him.
Paul has been dealing with the issue of unity within the church. He challenges them on the source of their confidence. People were teaching Christ plus circumcision. Paul was addressing this issue head on.
Confidence in the flesh is nothing but loss
Paul bigs himself up and then trashes it all. The most important things in his life were worthless and he says they are a loss to him. He has seen the danger and has realised that holding on to those things would’ve killed his spiritual self.
Confidence in Christ is gain
When we’re found in Christ we gain a righteousness that’s found through faith in him. It doesn’t come from good works. All our sin is washed away. Paul says there’s no comparison between the two positions. He’s writing this letter from prison. The instant Paul was changed he received Christ’s righteousness and his life is focused on him. He knows that to die is gain. The righteousness isn’t fully realised on earth.
Confidence in Christ causes us to rejoice
It’s when we rejoice in Christ that we are compelled to press on. We want to be involved, to make us feel useful. We can find ourselves starting to wrestle back for control. Faith is utter surrender. The outcome should be rejoicing. We must press on but it must come as a direct result of our rejoicing. Paul isn’t saying there won’t be suffering. When we celebrate in what Jesus has done, we can focus on him. Paul’s focus is on what’s ahead. Rejoice in the Lord. What can be better than knowing Christ?
Friendship doesn’t seem to be valued as much in today’s culture. Married people can think they don’t need friends as much. Paul thinks that friendship ought to be something we think about far more than we actually do. He prays that their love would abound more and more.
The beginning of friendship
Paul is deeply concerned for the Philippian church. He longs to see them. He considers what would be better for him. Timothy is concerned too. Friendships begin with this shared interest. Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother. Friendships are forged by labouring together for Christ.
The deepening of friendship
Timothy isn’t self interested and has proved himself. He’s reliable. He considers others as more valuable than himself. Nothing would stop Epaphroditus from following through. Paul isn’t just sending any two people. He wants the character of these men to stand out so that the church will give them respect. For Paul it’s important for the church to be unified. Jesus gave up his life by becoming obedient to death on a cross.