CONCENTRATION

“How grateful I am and how I praise the Lord, for now once more your concern for my welfare has blossomed afresh. Though your love for me has never failed, I realize you lacked the opportunity to express it. Not that I have anything to complain about, for, regardless of circumstances, I have learned how to be content in whatever situation I find myself. I know how to get along with humble means and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned the secret of facing either a full or an empty stomach,  to live with either prosperity or depravity. I have strength to endure all things in the power of Christ who makes me strong.” (paraphrased)                               
                                                                                     
As Paul concludes his letter, he mentions one of his primary reasons for writing. In his parting comments, he reserves expressions of gratitude for the gift the Philippians send him through Epaphroditus.

v. 10
His rejoicing is tied directly to the tangible evidence of their continued willingness to partner with him in spreading the Gospel. He is happy to know the Lord is the source of their acts of kindness. Paul notes their care has “flourished again,” a phrase applied to plants and flowers that spring up anew. The term “at last” might suggest the Philippians are lax in sending him an expression of love. But they are challenged by lack of opportunity, not lack of concern. Previously, they did not have the means to send someone on the long trip to Rome. Now living under house arrest, Paul’s situation is changed. His beloved friends in Philippi are committed to assisting him any way they can.

Paul is determined not to live at the expense of his converts. In other letters, he expresses the fear that to accept aid from them might be misconstrued as a misappropriation of funds (I Cor. 4:12). He knows his enemies will seek to exploit the slightest hint of a selfish motive. With great tactfulness, Paul thanks his friends and reveals the secret of his contentment, even while in a Roman dungeon.

v. 11
Paul travels light and speaks little about material needs, but when he does, it is about simple things like coats and parchments (II Tim. 4:13). He disciplines himself to survive on very little. Paul shuns wealth and classifies greedy people as idolaters (Eph. 5:5). During his imprisonments, he has plenty of time for reflection and realizes an impatient spirit is self-destructive. Knowing he is powerless to change his environment, he allows the Holy Spirit to develop within him a spirit of satisfaction.

The word “content” in classical Greek refers to a self-satisfied individual. Paul uses the term to declare his independence of external circumstances. While Paul expresses deep appreciation for their gift, he assures them he is not destitute. To Paul, their offering is yet another validation of their maturity in Christ. With gratitude and sensitivity, he turns his situation into an object lesson.

v. 12
The phrase “I am instructed” (memuemai) literally means “I have learned the secret.” This secret of contentment can only be learned experientially by walking daily with Jesus. Unlike many people, Paul’s happiness does not depend on where he lives, his mode of transportation or his reputation. The term “I am instructed” is a phrase often associated with learning the hidden doctrines and mysteries of cults and secret orders. Memuemai refers to being initiated into these special teachings. The secret instructions the Spirit imparts to Paul help him to develop deep contentment, regardless of his situation. “In all things,” whether in prosperity or adversity, free or incarcerated, Paul learns to adapt. God tests His children as they grow in spiritual maturity. He has chosen this method to develop patience within us. Paul learns not to allow harsh experiences to throw him off balance spiritually.

v. 13
Finally, Paul reveals the secret of true satisfaction. To Timothy, he states that “godliness with contentment” is true wealth (I Tim. 6:6). When he is weak, Jesus is there to give him strength (II Cor. 12:9-10). God alone is his sufficiency (II Cor. 3:5). The writer to the Hebrews encourages his readers to be content with what they have, for God will never forsake them (Heb. 13:5).

Paul does not learn this secret through mental gymnastics, psyching himself into a surreal philosophical worldview. He does not take credit for gaining this knowledge on his own, but gives God the glory for helping him adopt this outlook. The reason for his optimism does not stem from self-reliance, but reliance upon Christ. Because Paul is dependent upon Him, he is independent of worry. We must follow Paul’s example: he cannot change his circumstances, so he changes his attitude.

CONCENTRATION - STUDY QUESTIONS

MULTIPLE CHOICE

1. The secret Paul reveals in this passage concerns:
A. optimism
B. contentedness
C. quarreling
D. gratitude
E. A, B and D

2. According to Proverbs 27:20, what is difficult for many people to attain?
A. a prayer life
B. obedient children
C. satisfaction in life
D. honesty with other
E. integrity

3. In II Timothy 2:10, why is Paul willing to endure extreme hardship?
A. it helped his self-discipline
B. it impressed the Romans guards
C. for the sake of his reputation
D. for the sake of fellow Christians
E. because he knew he would die soon

CONCENTRATION - REFLECTION


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES

1. Paul learns not to live above his means and to not covet what is beyond his grasp. List things you have put on your credit card you now regret.

 


2. If you are in debt, what is your pro-active plan for getting out of debt and staying out?

 


3. How can couples that try to spend more than they earn destroy themselves financially?

 


4. Read 4:11-13. How does this passage compare with the get rich quick philosophy of gambling?

 

5. Paul said he has learned to be content, even when hungry. List your favorite foods and then cross off the ones you could live without.

 

 

6. The Philippians church took advantage of the opportunity to help supply some of Paul’s physical needs. As a couple, discuss what you could supply for needy members in your church and community. 

7. According to 4:11, what is Paul’s solution to worry? List and discuss things you and your spouse tend to worry about needlessly.

CONCENTRATION - REFLECTION


ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

1. Paul learns not to live above his means and to not covet what is beyond his grasp. List things you have put on your credit card that you now regret.

 

2. If you are in debt, what is your pro-active plan for getting out of debt and staying out?

 


3. How can persons that try to spend more than they earn destroy themselves financially?
Write a paragraph on this.

 

 

4. Read 4:11-13.  How does this passage compare with the get rich quick philosophy of gambling?

 


5. Paul said he had learned to be content, even when hungry. List your favorite foods and then cross off the ones you could live without. Write a paragraph concerning how over-eating can be harmful both spiritually and physically.

 

 

6. The Philippians church took advantage of the opportunity to help supply some of Paul’s physical needs. List things you can supply for needy members in your church and community. 


7. According to 4:11, what is Paul’s solution to worry? List things you tend to worry about needlessly.

 


Comments

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.