One of the more astounding things Paul says as he closes his letter to the Philippians is easily missed. He writes about desiring the church to increase in their affections for him, desiring them to send love his way. He’s expressed gladness that they’ve done so. He’s written about how God has supplied contentment for him in every situation he’s gone through, and he’s about to reiterate that same idea. Then, in the midst of all that, we find this deceptively profound phrase: “Not that I am speaking of being in need” (Phil. 4:11).
Paul has adopted the revolutionary position that he has no needs. All his needs have been met in Jesus, so all he has left are wants. He is honest about what he wants, but even those are shaped by his satisfaction in Christ. Paul is not perfect, and he never claims to be, but he has “learned,” remember, that when he is starving, suffering, imprisoned, and even denying, he still has everything, because he has Christ. If Christ is all, and if he has Christ, then he really has no needs.
Can you handle that?
Can we agree that in Christ we have no need for anything? We need to be totally sanctified and glorified, yes, but in Christ those are foregone conclusions we just haven’t received yet. We have them even if we don’t actually experience them quite yet. They are ours. Paul further along in the passage says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19).
When I was a kid, video games as we know them today had basically just been invented. The only video-game console we knew about was called Atari. It was a little black square with a black stick on it and one orange button. Can you imagine that? One button. Every game on the Atari console (all three of them) made the same sound. It was a type of beeping and ringing that would make you lose your mind if you played for too long.
Back in those days, you could play outside until the street light came on, and you didn’t have to think to yourself, I should go outside and play. You just did it. You got home, you did your homework, and you knew your parents did not want you in the house. So you’d go play outside.
Sports had seasons. Baseball had a season. There was a football season. There was a basketball season. You didn’t travel all over the state, playing ice hockey in Texas. You just didn’t do it. The world didn’t work like that.
I know it sounds crazy, but cartoons were on in the morning, right after school, and on Saturday mornings. That’s it. I tried to convince my daughter, and she doesn’t believe me. She thinks I’m lying to her. We had no Cartoon Network. You couldn’t watch a four-hour block of SpongeBob SquarePants at seven thirty on Tuesday night. That’s not how the world worked.
No one had a cell phone. You might have a pager, and it was the size of a loaf of bread. And if you had it on vibrate it would break your hip.
Movies came out a few per month, not four or five new ones every weekend.
We didn’t have remote controls when I was a kid. That’s why people had children. There was a little sliding bar that sat on top of the television, and you had to get up when Dad told you and slide it over. Some of you probably had to turn one of the two massive knobs on the set instead.
That’s how the world worked. And in my childhood, we were already far advanced compared to the generation before us!
All these years later, the world is such a different place. For instance, if you want popcorn right now, you throw a bag in the microwave and press a button that says popcorn. How George Jetson is that? Just press the popcorn button, and you get popcorn. When I was a kid, you had to buy a bag of kernels, pour oil in a pan, and put the kernels in there. You had to mess with grease and an open flame!
Why is it so important for us to understand contentment as we come to the end of our walk through Paul’s letter to the Philippians? We live in a world where there is more to do than there has ever been in the history of mankind. There are more things to see, more places to go, and easier means to get there. We live in the most entertained world that humanity has ever experienced, and yet most of us are bored out of our minds and frustrated.
Contentment is unbelievably important in this world. Not just happiness—but contentment. And here is what Paul has said, absent all the conveniences of the modern world and in all the suffering of the ancient one, “I don’t need anything. I’ve learned to be content” (Phil. 4:11, author’s translation).
Matt Chandler and Jared C. Wilson, To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013), 9–11.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on the book: To Live Is Christ (A Study of Philippians), by Matt Chandler
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #1
Philippians 1.1 – 5
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #2
The Worthy Life
Philippians 1.6 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #3
The One God Exalts
Philippians 2.1 – 18
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #4
What the Humble Seek
Philippians 2.19 – 30
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #5
The Passionate Pursuit
Philippians 3.1 – 11
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #6
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #7
Philippians 3.13 – 16
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #8
Centering the Gospel
Philippians 3.17 – 21
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #9
Philippians 3.1; 4.4
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #10
Philippians 4.6 – 7
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #11
Christ Is All / I Can Do All Things
To Live Is Christ, Lesson #12
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.