Encounter: Sit at a window where you can enjoy the changing season before you and read Philippians 4:10-20 & Philippians 3:7-11 in the ESV. Now imagine Paul under house arrest in Rome around 60-62 AD awaiting trial on an appeal to the Roman emperor Nero (one of the most violent emperors in Rome history) after being handed over by Jewish religious leaders. Paul is writing to thank the believers in the city of Philippi for sending him money to support his living expenses (one of the few churches in those years to do so). In a circumstance when Paul could be so discontent about so much, what are the messages you hear him sharing?Underline any words or phrases that shimmer for you.
A couple of weeks ago, Jack and I had the opportunity to attend the Covenant Church’s Central Conference Pastor & Spouse retreat at Covenant Harbor in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We discovered there is a 27 mile walking path around the entire lake that gives access to anyone who wants to take a stroll around this beautiful lake. And every property around the lake has to give access and take care of their section of the path on their property. There are ten mansions on this lake alone not to mention the dozens of other immaculate and large estates. On my many walks around the lake it was challenging to keep an eye on the path in front of me because of the beauty of these estates.
One day we took a pontoon ride around the lake and our camp guide shared with us a bit of history and the cycle of life that goes on seasonally around Lake Geneva. I spotted a big crane taking apart the dock in front of one of the estates and asked what they were doing. He told us every spring they put them in the water and every fall they take them out of the water and in between the owners of most of the estates only visit a couple of times. He added that for most it was just one of their homes.
I looked at the beautiful yet empty houses and it made me sad to think of all it takes to maintain and yet they hold so few memories. And then I thought of the limitations of wealth. A House does not make a home, companionship does not make a friendship and entertainment does not make lasting happiness. He then told us the story of a local billionaire who lived in such extravagance there were few estates that matched his opulence. On a flight in his private jet a few years ago he tripped and fell, hitting his head and dying suddenly. Now his mansion belongs to someone else. The eye of the needle that Jesus shared with us is true. You can’t take all your riches with you. Phillips Brooks writes,
Sad will be the day for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do.
Contentment is life has to be based on something more. We were made for something more. And Paul in his time in the most inopportune moments shared with us the secret he had discovered. Not many share secrets, that is the nature of a secret, yet Paul did. He wanted everyone to know that it is possible that we can learn to live in complete contentment not based on our circumstances but on where our lives are rooted. He said, I’ve learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. And here it is, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This Sunday, we will see the “richness” of what Jesus can do within our souls that causes our lives to be motivated by what we were actually made for. To reflect God’s love in a world in great need and to be transformed into the image of Christ. This path will take us to all the places where we can say with Paul, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Learning Contentment with you,
Spend some time noticing the way nature is changing all around you. The cooler temperatures, the beautiful leaves changing into hues of orange, red and yellow. Now write down any places in your own life where you are experiencing discontent (dissatisfaction with one's circumstances). Like the changing of the seasons, what would need to change in your circumstances in order for you to feel contentment? Is it something long lasting or would it only be temporary? Is this something you can bring to God in conversation asking where the source of your discontentment is coming from? Spend a few minutes writing a letter to God about this or simply talking to God who is within you and with you. If you do not sense some guidance from God, be aware in the next week or so that your answer may come in the form of encouragement from a friend, a scripture or even become more clear through circumstances. Stay watchful for God’s movement in your life.
What encouragement do you find we you learn about how attachment to Christ can result in increased contentment especially in regards to finances?
In your small group time Read Philippians 4:10-20 aloud and discuss thte questions on page 124 in No Strings.