Paul’s final message in Philippians – part 2

An abnormal spiritual condition is reaching epidemic proportions throughout our country. Unfortunately, counselors have not been able to successfully treat this disorder. The abnormality was first diagnosed by Kent Crockett and he described it as Contentment-Deficit Disorder. He identified seven symptoms of this disorder. See if you related to any of these:

Lack of commitment to other people
Compulsion to move to another city or state
Strong desire to quit your job
Urgency to leave your spouse
Desire to drop out of school
Restlessness compelling you to run from your present circumstances
Attitude that anything is better that what you have right now.

Can you relate to any of those?

Dr. Jack Hyles told of an experience he once had on a flight from San Francisco to Chicago. He was seated in 4A and, as he usually did, spoke to the person next to him. He said, Good morning. How are you today? The man did not reply. Dr. Hyles thought the man might be hard of hearing, so he spoke louder. Good morning, how are you today?@ Once again, the man did not acknowledge him. Dr. Hyles started making hand motions like sign language, thinking the man might have been deaf. The man glanced over at him and then quickly looked away. Dr. Hyles said he knew right then he was seated next to a CRAB, that is, a very difficult person. He continued to try to strike up a conversation, It’s a nice day. Again, no response. He asked, Where are you going? He knew that was a dumb question because everyone on the plane was going to Chicago. The man still did not respond.
The flight attendant came by an took the man=s order for breakfast. The man spoke to her, but wouldn’t speak to Dr. Hyles. So, Dr. Hyles asked, Do you have some problems? The man still ignored him. Dr. Hyles thought, This old crab is ruining my trip. I have to sit beside this person for four hours. He is not going to ruin my trip.@
So he called the flight attendant and asked, Ma’am, may I change seats, please? She said, I’m sorry, the plane is full. You must stay in your assigned seat. Dr. Hyles then looked at the man and said, If you think you’re going to ruin this trip for me, you=re mistaken. The man never looked up at him.

All of us are boarded on a plane headed toward a destination. In order to enjoy the trip, you need to understand a couple of things.
FIRST, God has assigned you a seat in life.
SECOND, you are probably going to be seated next to a crab.

That crab may be a difficult person you work with. That crab may be your spouse. It may be a relative or a next door neighbor, or it may even be some difficult circumstances you are going through. And that crab is ruining your trip.

So you cry out to God for help and pray, May I change seats, please? Can I move away from this situation?@ He answers, No, this is your assigned seat in life. Buckle your seat belt and enjoy the trip! But you respond, How can I enjoy the trip when I am seated next to a crab?
Fortunately, God has a cure for Contentment-Deficit Disorder.
Let me offer some advice from God=s word on how to overcome your discontentment.

FIRST – Accept the fact that God has given you an assigned seat.

There are a lot of seats that we would never choose on our own, but God has assigned them to us. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians from a Roman prison. The prisons in Biblical times were different from today=s. Paul didn’t have cable TV, nor a recreation room in which to lift weights. He didn’t have air conditioning or heating or even three balanced meals a day.
No, he was bound by chains, without the entertainment features prisoners have today.

If Paul could have had a choice, he would not have chosen to go to prison for preaching the gospel. He would have preferred to be preaching on the streets or on a missionary journey. But his assigned seat at that time was not on the streets or on a ship. It was in a Roman prison. So, what did Paul do? He LEARNED to accept his assigned seat.
He learned to be content in whatever circumstance he was in.

READ Philippians 4:11-12

Have you learned to be content in your situation?
Have you accepted the seat God has assigned you at this time in your life?
Until you do, you will always be asking Him to let you change seats.

We all know of people who have moved around a lot – and are not in the military.
I even read about a family that moved forty times in ten years. That=s four times a year, once every three months. Why did they move so much? It was because the husband suffered from Contentment-Deficit Disorder. He moved from one job to another, from one state to another, always looking for that perfect place where he would be happy. But there was one place he forgot to look. He forgot to look inside his own heart. God had assigned him a seat in life, but he didn’t want to sit in it.

SECOND – Learn to coexist with the crab.

Paul said he had learned how to get along with humble means and prosperity. He had learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need..

I=m sure Paul was seated next to some crabs in prison. Thieves and murderers were there. Probably some perverts, too. No doubt, some people hated him because of his preaching to them about Jesus. Others had obnoxious personalities that rubbed him the wrong way too. They probably stunk, since they had no deodorant or fabric softener to make their clothes smell fresh. No mints for their bad breath, either. These were the crabs Paul learned to coexist with. He wasn’t going to let them ruin his trip.

The grizzly bear is the meanest animal in the forest. It can end the life of any other creature with one swipe of its= paw. But, there is one animal the grizzly bear will not attack. He has even allowed this animal to eat with him, although it is his adversary. The animal I am talking about is the skunk. The grizzly bear does not like the skunk, but he has decided it is better to coexist with him than to cause a stink. Sometimes it is better to learn how to get along with the crab in your life than fight him and make your situation worse.

If you are working with a crab or working for one, it is better to coexist with the difficult person than to quit your job. Many people become irritated by the crab they work with and, in a moment of frustration, quit their jobs. But they are hurting themselves more that they are hurting the crab. It is better to coexist than to quit.

God has a purpose for the crab in your life. That=s why He assigned you a seat next to him. He is using that crab to teach you some things. One of those things is how to love crabs! It=s easy to love the lovely, but Jesus wants us to love our enemies.

READ Luke 6:32 And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even
sinners love those who love them.

A man was working a crossword puzzle and asked, What is a four letter word for a strong emotional reaction toward a difficult person?@ Someone standing by said, The answer is hate. A lady interrupted and said, No, the answer is love!
You see, everyone is working the same crossword puzzle, but the way you answer is up to you.

THIRD – Realize that changing seats does not solve your problem.

People believe a lot of myths about seat changing. Let=s look at three of them.

Myth #1 – If I could be with someone else, then I would be happy.

Some people think if they could get away from the crab and be with someone else, then all of their problems would be over. But that=s not true, because discontentment is an internal problem, not an external one. Yet, many people have never figured this out. They are consumed with changing seats, because it is easier to change seats than deal with the crab.

Some single people want to change seats and get married, while some married people want to change seats and be single again. Like flies on a screen door, the flies on the inside are wanting to get out and the flies on the inside are wanting to get in. Erma Bombeck wrote a book entitled, The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence. The grass always looks greener on the other side because it is ARTIFICIAL TURF. It is only an illusion. People with CDD (Contentment-Deficit Disorder) spend their entire lives chasing illusions which are always just beyond their reach.

A man in the desert was craving something to drink and saw a lemonade stand on the next sand dune. He ran to it, but when he arrived, the lemonade stand disappeared and reappeared on the next sand dune. When he ran to the next one and grabbed for the lemonade, it disappeared again and reappeared on the next dune. He continued this chase from dune to dune until he died of thirst. He was chasing a mirage. It was nothing more than an illusion in his mind.

We must make a distinction between reality and illusion. Those with CDD believe that illusion is reality and will exchange whatever they have for what they perceive to be better.

A dog was crossing over a bridge with a bone in his mouth. He looked over the edge and saw his reflection in the water. Not realizing that he was looking at a mirror image, he wanted the bone in the other dog=s mouth. When he opened his mouth to grab for the other dog=s bone, he lost the bone he was carrying. He gave up the reality of what he possessed for a reflection.

Many discontented people have exchanged their spouses for what they imagined would be more exciting. Let me read you a letter written to Ann Landers:

Dear Ann,
Sometimes you feel lonely and unloved in a marriage – even after 23 years. You feel as if there=s got to be more to life, so you set out to find someone who can make you blissfully happy. You believe you have found that person and decide he is exactly what you want. So you pack up and say goodbye to your 23-year marriage and all the friends you made when you were part of the couple. You live the glorious life for a few years, and then, a light bulb goes on in your empty head. You realize that you have exactly the life you had before – the only difference is that you=ve lost your friends, your children=s respect, and the best friend you loved and shared everything with for 23 years. And you miss him. You cannot undo what has been done, so you settle for a lonely and loveless life with emptiness in your heart. Ann, please print my letter so others won=t give up something that is truly precious – and let them know that they won=t know how precious it is until they have thrown it away. Heavyhearted in Philly

Myth #2 – If I could just go somewhere else, then I would be happy.
The story is told of a farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life. It was a good farm, but with the passing years, the farmer began to tire of it. He longed for a change for something “better.” Every day he found a new reason for criticizing some feature of the old place. Finally, he decided to sell, and listed the farm with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement. As one might expect, it emphasized all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, acres of fertile ground, etc. Before placing the ad in the newspaper, the Realtor called the farmer and read the copy to him for his approval. When he had finished, the farmer cried out, “Hold everything! I’ve changed my mind. I am not going to sell. I’ve been looking for a place like that all my life.”

Of course, that doesn=t mean that God never wants us to move. It simply means that the grass is never quite as green once we get to the other side. Problems that we can=t see from a distance are on the other side of the fence. When we change seats, we exchange one set of problems for another.

Myth #3 – If I could just get something else, then I would be happy

Contentment is not having everything we want, but wanting everything we have. Repeat

God has supplied us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17) but our hearts must be right before we can enjoy them. If we are not happy with the things we already have, we will never be happy with the new things we receive.

A little boy named Billy was spoiled by his permissive parents. Whenever he didn’t get what he wanted, he threw a temper tantrum, and his parents immediately catered to his wishes. They believed if they gave him everything he wanted, he would never be unhappy. One day Billy’s mother heard him crying in the living room. She rushed in and said, What’s the matter? What can Mommy get for you? Billy pointed to a clock hanging on the wall and screamed, AI want that clock and I want it now! His mother hesitated giving it to him because it was expensive, and she knew he would probably break it. But she had never refused him anything. Well, are you going to give it to me?@ Bill demanded. His mother went over to the wall, reluctantly took it down, and handed it to him. Then Billy started crying again. His mother asked, What=s the matter now? What do you want? Between sobs, Billy said, I want (sniff, sniff) something that I can=t have!

Because Billy wasn=t happy with what he already had, he wasn’t happy with what he received. God wants us to receive His blessings, but if our hearts are not in position to enjoy them, we will simply toss them aside and whine for something else. That=s why discontented people don=t need to change their seats; they need to change their hearts.

FOURTH – Don=t allow the crab to ruin your trip.

Too many people are so concerned about the crab in their lives, they have forgotten how to enjoy the trip. God wants us to enjoy our trip through life, but in order to do this, we cannot allow the crab to ruin it. We must make up our minds right now and say,
Crabby person, you are not going to ruin my trip!
Difficult situations, you=re not going to force me to change seats! Lord, I=m going to be content in my situation and rejoice in it, no matter how difficult the crab may be.

Don=t get the idea that contentment means God will never lead you to a new place. More than likely, He will lead you to make a number of changes during your lifetime. He just doesn’t want discontentment to drive you into a situation that is out of His will. Rather than running from your difficult situation, think about how you can change your heart.

READ AGAIN Philippians 4:11-12

If God does want you to change seats, just remember: another crab will always sit next to you. It=s part of the cure for Contentment-Deficit Disorder

2. Give what you already own (4:14–23). Once you and I are content, we can easily convert material blessings into spiritual blessings. In 4:14–16, Paul writes, “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” Paul commends the Philippians for their generosity to him. In 4:14, he says that they shared with him in his suffering through their giving. This carries the notion of partnership found back in 1:5, 7. He also states that they alone met his needs. I want you to think back to your last birthday. Who remembered your birthday with a card or gift? Who didn’t? Have you ever had a birthday where only one person bought you a gift? How did you feel about that individual? If you are a content person, your focus was not on those people who forgot or ignored your birthday; instead, you were overwhelmed with gratitude for the one person who remembered your special day. Paul is not being passive aggressive in these verses, rather he is especially grateful to the Philippians for their generous giving toward him.

In 4:17, Paul includes a tack-on phrase that is the key to this entire passage and one of the top reasons to speak on giving. Paul writes, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit [lit. “fruit”] which increases to your account.” Twice in this short verse, Paul says, “I seek” (epizeteo). This is a very strong Greek term that means “to be seriously interested in or have a strong desire for.” Paul wants the Philippians to know once again that he’s not after their money. (And all God’s people said, “Whew.”) Instead, he is actively and intentionally seeking their eternal good. Think about it: Who benefits most from a gift to God’s work? You might say, “Well, that’s obvious. The recipient does.” Really? Here, Paul says that the primary beneficiary of your faithful giving is YOU! And I don’t just mean the warm feeling you get inside when you help someone. Paul is talking about something that goes far beyond that. Whenever you invest your time, treasures, and talents in God’s kingdom, God deposits fruit (karpos) into your ERA (Eternal Retirement Account). So God, others, and you benefit when you give. God pays in many ways, including eternal rewards that you are commanded to store up for yourself in heaven.

It is important to understand that you become a partner with whomever you support. If you support our church, anything that the Lord allows our staff and ministries to accomplish, you share in. This means that when you stand before Christ, you will be rewarded for the fruit that comes from our ministry. Even though the Philippians were 800 miles away from Paul, they supported his ministry, and through Paul’s fruit, the eternal pay off for them will be great! Perhaps you need to spend more time investing in your ERA than in your IRA. We need to ask, “Where can our money have the most eternal impact?”
In 4:18, Paul expresses once again that he isn’t after more money (whew!). Three times he states that he has been given enough: “But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent” (4:18a). Paul is not after a salary increase. He isn’t striving for a promotion. He is content in Christ. The Philippians blessed Paul’s sandals off. Ironically, if any church had an excuse not to give, it was the Philippians since they were one of the most impoverished churches (2 Cor 8–9). But in spite of their circumstances, they gave, not just according to their ability, but beyond their ability. Paul now offers three expressions of gratitude for the Philippians’ generosity. He calls their gift “a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (4:18b). Paul draws upon the Old Testament where they would take an offering and lay it on the altar, and they would pour it out and it would create steam that the whole community could smell.

In most churches, people look forward to the song set and the preaching. (Notice I said most churches.) Nearly everyone enjoys observing the Lord’s Supper and baptisms. Everyone enjoys a good potluck or dessert social under the guise of “fellowship.” Yet, I think for most Christians, the offering is an awkward and necessary evil.

Now we come to one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible: “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” This is not an unconditional promise, it is a conditional promise. God’s s promise to supply your needs (cf. 4:16) is embedded in the context of faithful, generous, even sacrificial giving. God meets our needs to express His approval of our giving. God does not promise to take care of the needs of believers who are stingy, lazy, or irresponsible. On the other hand, if you are giving as the Lord expects, He will meet your needs. Note carefully, he promises to meet needs, not wants.

Since the birth of our first son, Karen and I have tried to meet the needs of our three children. However, we expect them to be responsible with their money, their clothes, and their possessions. If they ruin their clothes, we don’t run out and buy them more. They have to make do with what they have. If they spend all their money on candy and frivolous toys, we don’t give them more money. This would be enabling our children to live irresponsibly. That’s not how things are run in the Jacobs family. That’s also not how things are run in God’s family. If you are a faithful giver, you can expect God to meet your financial needs. If you’re not a faithful giver, you shouldn’t expect God to meet your financial needs, because you’re not obeying His Scriptures.

Paul closes out the letter of Philippians with the following benediction: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” When believers invest their lives and resources in God’s kingdom, He gets the glory (4:20). The mention of saints reminds us that every believer plays a vital role in God’s work in the world (4:21). The saints in Caesar’s household refer to convert that came about because of false imprisonment. It is fitting that Paul concludes with: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Paul was focused on Christ and the eternal return on the Philippians’ financial investment.

Two friends were walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxis were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, one of them said, “What an interesting place to hear a cricket.” His friend said, “You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!” “No, I’m sure of it,” his friend said, “I hear a cricket.” That’s crazy,” said his friend. The man, who had heard the cricket, listened carefully for a moment and then walked across the street to a big, cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have superhuman ears!” “No,” said the man who heard the cricket. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.” “But that can’t be!” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.” “Yes, it’s true,” came the reply. “It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs. “See what I mean?” asked the man who had heard the cricket. “It all depends on what’s important to you.” What is important to you?


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