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Dave Dealy: The Secret Of Contentment, Philippians 4:10-13

May 13, 2024

Audio Recording

Contentment comes from actively participating in Christ’s life and surrendering worldly desires. This focus on spiritual fulfillment leads to genuine godly contentment.

Westside Church Podcast
Dave Dealy: The Secret Of Contentment, Philippians 4:10-13
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

Paul didn't have any kids. He wasn't married. But he went around his entire life planting these little families throughout the known world. And we don't know who his favorite was, but I have an inkling it was this church in Philippi. So when you read his letters to the church in Corinth and the church in Ephesus and Galatians, it's got some fatherly tone to it, but it's mostly, hey, stop doing that. Would you just stop doing that, please? Would you get along with each other once in a while? You know, I just imagine Paul in the front seat, like, shut up back there. You know, he's kind of got that tone a bit to him. But when he gets to the church in Philippi, where we've been the last six weeks, there's just this affection he has for this church. He just, gosh, I love you so much, man. I can't stop thanking God for you. I rejoice every time I think about you. It is just this delight that Paul has for this church in Philippi. And as he is just, like, encouraging them, he is also instructing them on a life lived in the model of Christ, a life lived in the picture of Jesus.

And it should, hopefully for us, as we've been going through this, it should awaken in us some ideas that this isn't just a belief system Paul's talking about. He's not theologically just wrestling with what's true or untrue or the nature of God. He gives us a picture in the Christ poem of Jesus, in his fullness of his nature and who he is.

And because of that, how we are to live as Christ followers, that this isn't just, I believe in Jesus, this is a. I take on the nature of Christ in how I live.

And then Paul gets into the nitty gritty with this. He talks about being humble, being humble, that Christ himself humbled himself, taking the form of human likeness, became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Paul talks about showing love through service, that we lay down our lives for one another as Christ laid down his life for us, that we as Christ's followers, we release power. We don't grab power. We don't use the things we've been given to our own advantage, but we use what we've been given to the benefit of others.

And he has this heavenly perspective, Paul does this heavenly perspective where he can say, for me to live is Christ to die is better.

My life is so much bigger than this moment, than the small thing I'm living in, than the circumstance I find myself in.

The point here, as we've walked through this book of Philippians, is Paul is saying that being a follower of Jesus requires active participation.

Active participation. Living into the life of Jesus, not just believing in him. That's important. But it doesn't stop there. It's an active participation in the Christ life. And today, as we land this plane and wrap up this series, we talk about what the fruit of a life lived in the Christ model looks like.

What is the fruit of this? What is the result of living a Christ modeled life? Here's what Paul says.

Chapter four, verse ten. I rejoice 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 am in need. Put a marker there. We're gonna come back to that. I'm not saying this because I'm in need, for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstance.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in every, in any and every circumstance, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, I can do all of this through him who gives strength to me. This is God's word, and this is where we're going to park it for today.

It should be no surprise to you that our culture is on a quest for contentment. Our culture is on a quest for contentment.

Everywhere you look now, I know in this room there are many of you who are on the fence about Jesus. You drove down Shevlin Road and you saw a sign that said, life, love, Jesus. Okay, I guess that's where the Jesus people hang out. I'm gonna go check it out. Curious about Jesus. You are welcome here. You are welcome. We are so glad you're in the right place. And there are some of you that are a little bit farther, maybe on the journey of. Yes, I like what I'm hearing about Jesus. But this surrender of all of me, this turning over to Christ, to all of who I am in my life. Slow down. Just slow down a minute. Let's just walk this out. That's okay. We want to go on that journey with you.

Or maybe you've been following Jesus your whole life since you could remember. I had somebody in the first service says I was baptized twice at the age twelve. And they were not twelve anymore. They were much farther along than twelve.

Maybe some of you are like that. You've been in this journey a long time. Here's the thing. Wherever you find yourself today, regardless, know this, everyone, whether in this room or not in this room, whether near to Christ or the farthest thing from him, everyone is chasing contentment.

There isn't a human in existence who isn't chasing contentment.

Today we're going to dig into what that means.

Cause it seems that Paul makes a claim here that he has figured it out. He has figured it out. What does he say? He says that I have learned the secret to contentment in every circumstance. And thank you for reaching out and caring for me, but I don't need anything. I don't say this out of need. I figured this out. Contentment thing.

Hear this, you guys. When he says, I'm not saying this because I'm in need, he's in need.

The guy is in prison as he's writing this. And then we're not talking like a nice organ, air conditioned cot, three meals a day healthcare kind of prison.

We're talking like shady, dark, gross, neglected, abused kind of prison. Earlier in the book of Philippians, he talks about the shackles. He's in shackles.

And that word shackles is unique. It's not just that he is shackled to a wall or bound hand and feet. That word shackle is unique, meaning that he is shackled to someone else 24 hours a day. He is shackled to another human, a guard, 24 hours a day. Think about this. I know it sounds bad. Listen, it gets worse.

Chakulton, they're human means he doesn't sleep alone, he doesn't eat alone. When he eats, he doesn't use the bathroom alone. Are you getting the picture here. And here he says, I don't say thank you because I'm in need. I'm not in need. I have need of nothing. What is he talking about?

Is he just crazy? Maybe he's getting to something.

He's pointing us to something.

And our culture is chasing this. They are pointing to their own things, right? And we can see this everywhere. Everywhere that we look, the explosion of therapy. And therapy is a good thing. My wife's a therapist. I'm pro therapy, all right? When I was growing up, therapy, talking about going to therapy was like, absolutely. No, no.

They called therapist shrinks. Like, you're going to a shrink. I had to look that up. Cause I didn't know, like, where'd that word come from? It literally is from the old tribal practice of shrinking heads. Like, you conquered a people and you shrunk their heads and you wore them as ornaments.

That's how they used to talk about therapy. You're going to have your brain shrunk down to its basest form.

And hopefully they fix you, like going to the mechanic. Hopefully, like, they put you back together, get you at least operational when you leave because you're broken. That's not. Therapy is celebrated. If I could tell you how cool it is to hear people say, like, oh, let me tell you what my therapist told me this week. Oh, my family of origin. Wait till I tell you about my family of origin and how it screwed me up to do blah, blah, blah, blah. This is just, like, a very normalized thing, which is really, really good.

And it is part of this movement toward how do we become content? How do we find peace. It's part of it, what our culture does, and it's a good, healthy thing.

Mindfulness.

There's a thousand apps you can download right now, and it will be a male or female voice. It will have an accent if you want. It can personalize your name and where you live. It can put your kind of music in the background. There's so many options for mindfulness. Everyone is into it, and it's wonderful. I use it. I use it. It's a good, good thing. And there's another pointer our culture is using to find contentedness. Everybody wants contentedness. And then good old fashioned retail therapy.

Good, old fashioned retail therapy. Mama needs some new shoes. I'm feeling down. Mama needs some new shoes. Hey, another gift idea, just in case you didn't get anything yet.

Contentedness for mom.

This is everywhere. It's all through our culture. Hopefully, we can see that. Paul claims to have found this while suffering in prison.

He doesn't get retail therapy. He doesn't get a massage. He doesn't get the shoes.

He is in the worst possible place, and yet he claims to have found a contentedness.

My argument today is that what Paul found is what God intended for us from the very beginning, that we could live in a place of contentedness, regardless. Regardless. Here. You don't believe me, so I'm gonna prove it to you.

In the early part of the Bible is a book called Genesis and a book called Exodus.

And there's a portion of Exodus that's called the Ten Commandments. Now, you want to clear out a church, start talking about the Ten Commandments. Nobody wants to hear about the Ten Commandments. Nobody likes the Ten Commandments.

Everybody's anti Ten Commandments, and I think they're misunderstood. We're going to recalibrate the Ten Commandments just for a moment this morning. All right?

It's the least possible thing to preach on. There is a final commandment of the ten that God gives his people and says, you will not be a people who covet.

You will not be a people who covet. Now, what's happening here?

Remember this, that Israel, God's people, has chosen people who he picks to be an example to all the other nations of all the world for all time.

What he is like. He's going to show himself by revealing himself to a people, creating a people like him who follow him. And that is going to be a light to the world that all people would come to him. That's the game plan. And it goes sideways. Really early in Genesis, this whole plan goes sideways.

And we catch up with Israel in Exodus, and they have been enslaved for 400 years to Egypt.

And then God miraculously says, it's time. We're leaving now. Gather your things. We're going to cross an ocean, and we're going to start a whole new nation. We're going to do it together. Now, imagine this, 400 years. This group of people has no identity. Has no identity other than being slaves to someone else.

There's a great line that says that it took 400 years to get slavery into Egypt or into the Israelites, and it took 40 years to get Egypt out of the Israelites. For 400 years. They're steeped in this identity of being slaves. And the 40 years they leave to start this new project with God is working out that slavery and creating a new identity. And one of the ways God does that is he gives them these commandments. This is what my people are like, is what he's saying. This is what my people are like.

This is how people are gonna know you're my people.

And so he gives them these instructions. Lots of good things in there. Now, I want you to imagine today we decided, you know what? We're gonna grab this group and we're all heading over to eastern Oregon in the middle of nowhere, and we're just gonna start our own thing. Weird. I don't wanna do it. Not suggesting this, but play along this idea with me. We're gonna go start a new thing. We would have to quickly figure out, how do we do this? Okay, talk to me about murder. Are we murder, yes. Murder, no. Are we. Is that part of our thing? Not our thing. Okay, great. No, murder. Adultery. Are we no. Okay. Most hands are saying no. Okay. Yeah. Okay, good. So we're gonna say no. Okay. How do you feel about lying? Be honest.

We ought to figure out how to do this, how to be a people. Right? God gives them these identity markers. That's what the ten commandments are. They are identity markers for what his kind of people live and look like. And the last one he gives is, you will not be a people that covet other people's things.

You won't be that. And ironically, the last commandment is just a reflection of the first. That is, you won't have another God besides me. I'm it for you.

I'm your God. And he ends with, and you won't be a people that covet. You won't covet your neighbor's house or your neighbor's wife or their tools or their stuff or their income, anything. You won't be a coveting people.

Why am I going on around this?

Coveting is the deforming of our contentedness.

Coveting is the antithesis of our contentedness.

And my thesis is that you were created to live in a contentedness with God that will fill your soul, that will hold you in good times and bad, that will buoy you in a storm.

And coveting disintegrates that.

It dissolves that.

Coveting isn't a word we use often. I'm sure you haven't said, hey, I felt really coveting today, recently. It's not a word we use. It's not a normal english word. We use the word wanting.

Wanting. And I want to distinguish those for a second because they're important to understand our contentedness. Wanting is when my dog is wagging her tail.

She wants something great.

Coveting is when the tail is wagging my dog.

It has taken over.

It has control. Now, as we begin to unmask coveting, hopefully we can see it as a counter formation practice. As Lindsey said, everything we do is formational. What we listen to and who we hang out with and the things we do with our bodies and our minds and our time and our resources all are forming us. God gives us identity markers of how we, the Jesus people, are meant to be formed. And coveting is not part of that. It is not part of that.

What happens when coveting takes over?

Because, listen, I sit with plenty of you, and we will dig in and talk about the things your heart most longs for.

A spouse, a home, a title, income enough to do this or that.

There are things that your heart is tied to and what God is warning us with in saying, do not be the people that covet, lean into my contentedness. He's saying this. When you elevate that thing, that person, that job, that item, to where your heart longs for it, you will begin to worship it.

There's no way around that.

When it consumes you, where is no longer you wagging your tail, wanting something that would be great, and it's not bad to want. But when that want festers into coveting, you will begin to worship that thing.

You will begin to devote yourself to it.

You will serve that thing.

It does not serve you any longer. You serve it until you realize, after months or after years, for some an entire lifetime, you will realize that nothing outside the love of Jesus can hold your soul.

When we take our soul and put the weight of it on another person, it will crumble. They will crumble. They're not made to hold it. When we take the weight of our soul and we put it onto an idea of a life we wish we had or someone else had, it will crumble. It can't hold your soul. It wasn't made to do that.

Only Jesus is made to hold your soul this way.

So then how do we move from coveting to contentment? As Paul talks about, as he describes it, I want to give you just a few thoughts, ideas.

One, that true contentment is a secret. It's a mystery that points to something bigger. True contentment points to something bigger.

False contentment can be exposed, and we'll talk about how we sort that and see that for ourselves. And finally, contentment grows. With practice, Paul says, I have learned the secret to being content in all circumstances. It's something we can grow in. All right. True contentment is a secret. Paul says, I've learned the secret of contentment. Secrets, by nature, are not obvious. They're secrets. They're not obvious.

But when we experience them, when we hear them, when we get the whisper of them, we can sort what is true. There's something true in there. Recently, when there was a lot of construction going on a few years ago in our town, some evil person put a sign up on one of these new property signs that said, coming soon, in n out burger.

And my heart longed for that to be true.

My heart longed for that to be. There's. Is it true? Where are they building it? Does anybody know? Can I find any information? No, it's a secret because it wasn't true. But my heart longed for it to be true and awakened something I wanted. That thing Wallace Stevens, the poet, in his poem called Sunday Morning, which I encourage you to go google it, find it, read it. It is a beautiful poem about the very mundane things of life, pointing to the glory eternity of Jesus of God, Sunday morning. He says this. He says, even in contentment, I feel the need of some imperishable bliss.

Even in contempt, even in those moments, I'm experiencing something really good, really joyful, really peace filled.

I need something imperishable, something bigger than that.

None of the things we talked about, people, things, items, shopping, therapy, any of the even good stuff of our world is imperishable.

None of it. Thank God for that. If it were, that would be our God.

If you could have something in this life today that would hold your soul and give you contentment for all of eternity, that would be God. Then there isn't anything in this life, in this world, that can do that. All it is is short little blisses we get to experience. And those are little gifts, but they point to something bigger. Second, false contentment.

Those perishable blisses, they can be exposed, and they mainly are exposed in want and in plenty.

In want or in plenty. When I sit with people and that thing they've been longing for, the spouse or the home or the job or the title or whatever it is, the promotion becomes clearly out of grasp. Not happening.

The plan has fallen apart. There is a despair. It's not just like, ah, well, bummer. Tomorrow's a new day. It is a despair that takes over. That's a false contentment exposed.

It is the weight of our soul being put on something that's not meant to hold it. But this also happens in plenty.

We all know the stories of the celebrity, the musician, the star, the billionaire, who seem to acquire all the things we think would be bliss.

If I could just x, y, z.

They seem to have it.

And the despair that comes in realizing they're as hollow as when they started, they're as empty as before all of those things arrived.

That is a great. That's an exposure of false contentment promises. But then every once in a while, you experience someone who seems to be doing and living. What Paul is talking about, these little hints. I was watching Scotty Scheffler, number one golfer in the world right now.

He's won four or five tournaments he's played in this year, and he won the Masters for the second time in April, the biggest tournament in all of golf. Second time he won it. I was watching when he sank the last putt on the 18th to win it and clench it. And he sank the putt. And he turned around, and there's this hill of fans, thousands and thousands of people on all the cameras, blasting this around the world to billions of people.

And he turns around, he looks at the hill, and he just goes, ah.

And then he turns to his caddy.

He says, okay, let's go.

What?

What?

He just, like, waits for his caddy to pick up their stuff, and they just walk out, very chill, weirdly chill for winning the masters.

And then people are asking him, like, you seem a bit subdued with all of this. He's like. He's polite and answered, no, you don't play good today.

Later, someone's like, ah.

So are you happy about this?

We saw you on the green, and you turned over the crowd, and, like, you let it out for a second. But then he's like, no, no, no, you misunderstand.

I turned, and I faced that hill, but I was only looking for one face.

I was looking for Meredith.

Meredith is Scotty Scheffler's wife, who he has been with since they were early teenagers, before he was famous, before he was great at golf, spent his whole life with.

And Scotty Scheffler happens to be a Jesus follower. I hesitate to even say that because we in the christian community tend to, like, grab anyone who, like, even remotely is okay with Jesus and, like, put them up here. This is the new one who's gonna be the thing.

It's dumb. We shouldn't do that. But he happens to be a Jesus follower, and he says, I'm looking for my wife.

That's the only face I'm looking for, because she sacrificed like I've sacrificed. And here's the truth of it. And he says this in an interview. The thing about Meredith is she doesn't care.

She doesn't care if I shoot 86 and don't make the cut, or if I shoot 66 and I win the Masters. It's all the same to her.

And what he's saying is, I know I'm loved unconditionally.

I know I'm loved.

And he points to an understanding of knowing, like, his victory's in Jesus, not in all the other stuff. And he loves to play golf. So go play golf and play golf. Great. But it doesn't hold the weight of your soul.

He seems to have figured some of that out. So how do we. How do we do this? In closing, for ways we practice, Paul says, I have learned the secret of contentment. Here's four ways we can learn. We can practice to grow in contentedness through every circumstance. First, meditate on what is true.

Meditate on what is true.

The story of God in scripture is not a bunch of random stories.

It is one story of God pursuing you, you chasing after you, wanting to be known by you, that you can be fully known by him.

That is the story of scripture. Meditate on that.

And in it there are poems for you to read and psalms, and there are chronicles for you to read. And there are stories and narratives for you to read. And there are teachings Jesus gives us. Meditate on these things to be reminded of what is true. Second, after you meditated on what is true, discipline yourself to check your wants and coveting, check yourself.

Third, when you get to the place where that thing has been stirred up and exposed, be with Jesus. Commune with God. Pause.

Welcome God into that moment. You can be driving in your car, on a walk, at your desk, and you're so frustrated. Jesus wants to be there. Jesus wants to be there with you in that moment. He desires that.

And finally, after we meditated on what's true, disciplined ourselves, invite God in and commune with him. Then the final practice in all of this processing with Jesus, and we see it in Paul, is surrendering. The final practice is always surrender. It is unclenching my hands to the things I've been grasping onto for my salvation, for my hope, for my future, for my peace, for my contentedness, and opening my hands.