Steven Furtick — The ConTENtment Commandments
My subject today is contentment. You've heard of the Ten Commandments? You heard of 'em? You've broken them? You've heard of the Ten Commandments. This is not the Ten Commandments. My sermon today is called, "The Contentment Commandments." I want to speak on the subject of contentment and what it takes to live in a place of contentment.
And I was so mad at Abby's softball, T ball, whatever you call it, one where they don't keep score, which takes all the fun out of it for me. I was so mad at her game yesterday. There was this 18 month old, and that baby just had me furious, because he was so good and so happy. And it caused me to contrast how my children behaved at age 18 months.
And I looked at my oldest son, and then my middle child, and I said, "Do you see that baby? That is the opposite." I asked the mama, I said, "Is he always like this?" And she said, "Yeah." And I said, "I hate you for it." She said, "He's just always content." And I told Elijah and Graham, I said, "You were the opposite of always content. Whatever the opposite was. If you would have been like that, Holly and I would have had 12 disciples. We would have just kept populating the earth. One of you is equal to 12 of those."
And the reason I wanted to choose Philippians 4 is because there's one verse I want you to listen for it. It describes Paul. Toward the end of his journey in serving Christ. And he describes a state of contentment, that on the surface seems natural to him, because he's Paul after all.
Touch somebody say, he's Paul after all. But I would suggest to you that Paul is describing a kind of contentment here that is not a disposition you are born with, but a decision that you make. Cause when I think about Paul, I don't think about somebody who just low key, laid back, and waited to see how things turned out. This is the dude who was not content just to preach to the Jews. He had to take the Gospel to the Gentiles and mess everything up.
Wasn't circumcising them. Had to confront Peter, cause Peter was kind of prejudice, but didn't want to act prejudice unless he was around his prejudice friends. He was never content just to maintain the status quo. And yet, the most famous verse about contentment in the whole Bible came out of his mouth. And that was interesting to me.
It's almost like he's describing contentment, not as a disposition, but a skill that can be learned. How many of you would love to learn to be more content in your life? If your hand's up, you're over 35. Cause till then, you just want more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, more stuff, and then you realize you've been drinking ocean water all your life, and it only made you more thirsty.
And the greatest skill in life is not accumulation, but contentment. And Paul's going to illustrate that here in the fourth chapter of the book of Philippians, which is a letter to a church that he founded.
Now, we don't know exactly where Paul was when he wrote this letter. We know that he was in prison somewhere. I don't even know if it's important that we know where he was physically, as much as we study where he was emotionally and spiritually. And so here's what he says. Some of the last words of this letter to a church that he fathered a decade earlier.
He says, "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last, you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I'm not saying this because I'm in need, for I have learned to be content."
I wasn't born this way. I was born screaming my head off. But I have learned, it took me a little while. I had to have God say yes to some things that weren't best for me so I could learn the hard way to trust Him that what He's given me is enough. But I have learned by now, I'm an old man, I bear on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. And "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."
Slow wifi. Ship wrecks. You name it. I've been through it. And I have learned to be content. "I know what it is to be in need. And I know what it is to have plenty." I know what it is to be in a Hyundai. I know what it is to be in a Maybach. I've learned, though, that it is not my situation that regulates my satisfaction.
So I have learned, watch, there's the phrase again, "I have learned," you notice a theme here? I had to go to school. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or Whole 30.
"Whether living in plenty, or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts;" touch somebody and say "I'm good."
That needs to be your opening line if you are single and dating people, before you get deep into the conversation, look at them and say, "I was good before you got here. So if this works out, I'm good. If it doesn't, I'm good." Look at your neighbor one more time and say, "I was already good before they seated me next to you, I was already good."
"What I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs."
How did a passage that started out talking about Paul's imprisonment end talking about their needs? We're going to find out today. The Contentment Commandments. I think the misunderstanding that a lot of people have about the nature of God in our relationship with Him is that He is a God of restrictions. I've come to see more and more as I study the written word, and the way that His spirit moves, and just observe general creation that He is a God of endless permission.
Even the rules or regulations He gives to His children are designed to bring us into maximum freedom. When the children of Israel were coming out of Egypt, which was a land of bondage or as Exodus 20 calls it, the house of bondage. One of the first things that God did after leading them through the Red Sea, drowning Pharaoh behind them, and getting them out of Egypt, was to begin the process of getting Egypt out of them. Because that's the hard part.
It's the hard part not to bring you into freedom, but to teach you how to live in it. For many of us, true freedom doesn't feel familiar. And we would rather stay in something that enslaves us that is predictable rather than embrace something that is new and good, and true, and pure.
So we will go back to familiar addictions. We will go back to familiar mindsets. We will go back to familiar toxic emotional states, because it feels normal to us. And we will choose normal over new. When God took Moses up on Mount Sanai to give him those Ten Commandments that we referenced a moment ago, it was in an effort to teach His people how to live in freedom.
Look at your neighbor and say, "God wants you free." I mean, really, really free. Tell them, really, really free. It's free from what people think about you. Free from the need to have more stuff. Free from the, free from the need to be appreciated by others because your dials of validation are internalized, and the Holy Spirit is your judge and arbiter and vindicator. God wants you free. Be free. Be free. So by the time you get into all the thou shalt and thou shalt nots, what you're really hearing is a God who wants His people to be free. And it seems to me that the Bible is a master course in living in freedom. Starts with those Ten Commandments.
But then, by the time you get over to Paul, he's teaching true freedom in Christ. Isn't it interesting that God used somebody who was in chains to teach His people about freedom. Paul is writing a theological discourse on freedom from a prison cell.
Sometimes God will call you to exemplify or demonstrate something that is directly contradictory to what you feel. That is directly contradictory to what your life is manifesting in that season. So when you come to the book of Philippians, you might expect a treatise on justice, for Paul has been the victim of a great injustice.
Sentenced to trial before Caesar. Treated, by the way, as a common criminal, when he was indeed a Roman citizen. But what you find when you come to the book of Philippians is not Paul advocating for his rights as much as he is speaking of his freedom. And it's kind of interesting, because it seems like Paul in chains is more free than a lot of us.
We make our own decisions and live our own lives. What's interesting though, is by this point in the book of Philippians 4, Paul has pretty much said everything he wants to say to this church he founded a decade ago. He's expressing several freedoms. You can look at these sometime when you're not busy. I know you're busy, but if you get a chance.
Go look at chapter one. He'll tell you about his freedom from fear. This is one of the greatest freedoms that God desires to grant to His children. Freedom from fear. In fact, for him it's gotten so severe by this point, he said, "I don't care whether I die or live." Is he suicidal? No. He's free. He's free. He really believes this stuff.
So by this point, he's like, "Kill me, I'll see Christ. There will be a parade when I get to heaven of all of the people that I led to Christ while I was on the earth. So it's kind of cool, cause I'd like to party with Jesus. Take me out. But if you leave me here, I'll keep working, so the party will be bigger when I get there."
What would it mean to be free? He uses a construct called whether or. It's like saying it doesn't matter. It's like he's got his priorities so fixed that he is free from fear. Then if you want to look at chapter two, you'll see how he's free from his flesh. Oh, I'd love to be free from my flesh. I would love to be free from my feelings. I would love to be free from this management system of my moods that dictates to me how my day is gonna go.
Paul said, "I don't have anything to prove at this stage of my life. I'm not showing off. I'm not showing out. I'm just showing up and doing the will of God. And that's all I got to do, cause I'm free." Throw your hands back, say, "I'm free." Can only go so far, I understand. Private auditorium. Freedom from fear. Freedom from flesh. Freedom from pride to imitate the humility of Christ.
And then something interesting happens. He's done with his letter. He had to straighten out some people who were fighting in the church. He calls them out by name. How would you like to get in the Bible that way? And then he says, "Oh yes, and," it's not in the English translation. The translators didn't think it beneficial to include it. But it's almost a P.S.
Isn't that weird? Because the passage I read you features two of Paul's most famous verses in all of the Bible. You remember them? Philippians 4:13, that's the weight room verse. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Every Christian high school, the squat rack, that's the verse. With an eagle and a body builder. And then there's that one in 19 that you were supposed to shout over, but you were sleepy.
It said, "And my God shall supply all your needs." Financial ones. Spiritual ones. Invisible ones, tangible ones. All your needs according to the glory scriptures in Christ. And those two verses, which are two of his top five most quoted verses were in the P.S. section of his letter to the Philippians. Almost called this message "The Power of a P.S." Because it really represents, watch this, a P.S. is a perspective shift.
And he says this, he says, "Oh yeah. By the way, thanks for the gift." Apparently, they had sent Epaphroditus, if you're looking for a baby name, might I suggest Epaphroditus. It means handsome. They sent this handsome messenger with a gift for Paul to help him perhaps with his mounting legal defense.
If he's writing it from Rome, he's got to keep paying the bills. Cause he's on house arrest, and he's waiting for his trial. And if that's indeed the situation, it's gonna be very expensive. He already has a lot of travel bills. This is a church that he founded. And they send him a gift.
And Paul says, "Oh yeah by the way, now that I straightened you out on freedom from fear, now that I straightened you out on freedom from," um, what's the other one, freedom from fear? "Flesh, and now I got your pride out of the way, and now that Euodia and Syntyche have been called out in my letter. Oh by the way, now that I've told you to rejoice in the Lord, I," verse ten, "rejoice greatly in the Lord."
Are you ready for the first Contentment Commandment? Are you ready? You want to write these down and preach them back to your spouse, because your spouse is impossibly miserable sometimes. And the first one is this, thou shalt remember to rejoice. Thou shalt remember to rejoice. That staff member who took the offering at Ballentyne said he was forgetful. I don't know if you heard him.
He said, "I tend to be forgetful. I forget my keys. I forget my wallet." That's not the worst thing you can forget, Zack. The worst thing you can forget is what He's done for you, and how He's blessed you, and how He's kept you. Y'all look kind of forgetful today.
Sometimes you come to church and you remember to brush your teeth, but you forget to bring your praise. You forget to stir up your spirit. And that's what the worship leaders do. The team does it. They say, "Come on, let's lift our hands." They're reminding you that God is worthy of your surrender.
Real maturity, real contentment comes when nobody has to remind you to rejoice. I didn't tell them this last night, but y'all are deeper. He just told them, "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, rejoice." Why'd you say it again? Because it's crazy how quick you forget. It's interesting how selective your memory is. But, a selective memory can actually work to your advantage if you remember in order to rejoice.
So when you evaluate any given day or any given period of time in your life, when you evaluate a year, you come to the end of one year, and the beginning of the next, you will make a movie in your mind of how this year went. Some scenes you will delete. Some scenes you will enhance. God has given you editing software in your spirit to choose Jeremiah, what you call to your mind. And what you recall to your mind, determines the revelation that you will have and the faith that you can walk in and the contentment that you will enjoy.
Where are my rejoicers? Do you understand the power of this? In Hollywood, they call it final cut. It means you can shoot the scenes, but somebody has to decide which ones go on the big screen. And I want to tell you God has given you final cut over your life. When you open your mouth and bless the Lord at all times. I'm not blessing Him in spite of the battles. I'm blessing Him because of the battles. That's what gave me proof and assurance of His spirit. Lock it down. Lock it down.
"Oh yeah," Paul said, "thanks for the gift. I almost forgot. Thanks for the gift." Now I want you to watch, because Paul is awesome at Theology, but he is terrible at thank you notes. His mom raised him right in a lot of ways. You know, tribe of Benjamin, Pharisee of Pharisees. Send him off to study with Gamaliel. All that, but the boy, he needs some help on this thank you note.
Now, let's just, I mean, he's a human, right? He's not Jesus Christ. And I know it's the Bible, but come on, Paul. Listen to this. How would you like to receive this thank you note? "I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last" you send me a little something. No, it's cool, it's cool, it's cool. I mean I know. Watch this, he said, "Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it."
You see what he did? There was a period of silence for the people who should have been helping Paul weren't helping Paul. And he could have interpreted that in one of two ways. They don't care about me. Nobody cares about me. Nobody is there for me. And I loaned them money, and now I need some money.
You know these little things you tell yourself. The interpretation. The assumption. How do you interpret silence? How do you interpret the times? Here's the key to contentment, it's the second key. You've got to refuse to resent. I don't know whether Paul was in prison in Caesarea, or whether he was in prison in Rome. But I can tell you what prison he refused to live in. The prison of resentment. And there is no prison like the prison of resentment. There are no windows, only bars.
When you lock yourself into your situation. I'm looking at some of you right now, and I know enough about you to know that you could have resented your situation. That's the good thing about being the pastor of the church, and not some little guest speaker. Ehh. I know what some of you could interpret your situation to mean. Or, Paul said, I choose to assume that you wanted to help me, but you couldn't. That's a decision. And it is a key to contentment.
If you don't resist and refuse resentment on every level, you will be locked inside a prison of your mind's own design. And look, this isn't just people. Sometimes in life, you're making decisions about how to view the support you were not given at a young age.
There are two ways to view it. You can live in resentment, or you can live in contentment. Those are your choices. You can say to yourself, you know, it wasn't right that I didn't have. And it wasn't cool that I didn't get. And I could be so much further along. But that is a prison called resentment. God wants His children free.
You can look at your brothers like Joseph and say, "It doesn't matter why you threw me in the pit. God got me to Egypt anyway, and now I'm here to save your life, cause I'm free." The only one really free was the one who was in prison. "He sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives." That's what Jesus said. What does that mean? I will not live another day in my life resenting what they did. What they said. What they didn't do. Who I'm not. What I can't be. It's over. I refuse to live in resentment when Christ died to set me free.