May 17, 2009
We could call this section, All Thing
The next section is vv. 10-19, but we will only get through v. 13.
V. 10. Paul closes his letter to this church with thanks to them for their faithfulness in their support of him in the ministry. They had faithfully continued their support since he had been with them some time ago. That support had been interrupted for a period of time, probably because of the distance or the inconvenience of his being at Rome. Now they are able to get the support to him once again.
He did not say I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because of any material need in his life, although he had those needs. In other words, he did not rejoice in the Lord greatly because he was out of money and the support arrived just in time. He rejoiced greatly with spiritual joy that the Lord by his Spirit moved in the hearts of the people to be concerned enough about Paul's material well-being that they sent material support to him.
Sadly, this is not the message we get across the electric media from those who seek the support of Christians. They will tell how close they are to having to shut down, or how close they are to not being able to make their bank note. "We rejoice in the Lord that your financial support came just in time to avoid financial disaster."
Paul's rejoicing was in the fact that this church practiced what it said it believed. Their profession of Christianity was real enough to see that Paul received support from them. Again, the use of our finances reveal where our heart is. They loved him, and their faithfulness in this support proved this love.
1. Notice what he says, But I rejoice in the Lord greatly. He is thankful to the church for sending the support, but he is clear in saying that he considers the support as coming from the Lord.
2. I have found it very easy to forget that support comes from the Lord and not from men. I know that for those who work 12 hours a day, it is hard to rejoice in the Lord for His support, because it is obvious that they worked very hard for it. Regardless, He alone is the source of all good, even though we work for it.
3. But even though Paul realized that his support came from the Lord, he did not take it for granted. He realized that God uses people to supply our needs,
Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
4. When we give to others or give in support of the church, we are giving to the Lord, not to men. Of course, that giving must be according to God's laws.
If we give to those who refuse to work, we are not giving to the Lord.
5. Even though the support was not as much as Paul deserved for the work that he had done, he was humbly grateful for what he did receive. Unlike us, he was not worried about what he did not receive. He was genuinely grateful for what he did have, and did not complain over what he did not have. It is ungratefulness against God that complains over what we do not have, and covetousness that desires more.
Covetousness can be defined as sacrificing what belongs to God in order to gain what we want.
Like children, no matter what they might get from us, or we might provide for them, are they disappointed if they do not get more?
Paul thanks the people, and rejoices in the Lord for His provision.
V. 11. Paul said, "I am not rejoicing in your support because I needed the money:
for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content.
In other words, I AM THANKFUL FOR THE SUPPORT, AND I REJOICE IN THE LORD FOR IT BECAUSE IT PROVES WHERE YOUR HEART IS. I NEEDED THE SUPPORT, BUT I WAS CONTENT WITH WHAT I HAD.
There are three very important words here, I have learned.
In Hebrews 2:10 & 5:8, we are told that even Christ had to learn, and he learned through suffering. He did not suffer for sin, although he did suffer as a sinner in the hands of evil men.
No doubt Paul was just as prone to be discontent as the next man, and as prone as we are. But through his suffering, he learned.
Through Divine Providence:
* He learned that impatience does no good.
* He certainly learned that material goods cannot not provide contentment.
* The American people have learned the hard way that one cannot borrow their way to contentment, though our government leaders have not learned it.
Two points sum up v. 11:
1. Contentment must be learned.
2. 1 Timothy 6:6-10. Our goal must not be riches:
Illustration: The song leader in Louisiana owned a profitable insurance business. (Dell Reed) The state allows only so many licenceses to sell insurance. A good number of years previously, he had found a man who lived in deep in the swamps of LA who had a licence, but was not using that licence. He bought the licence, and set up an insurance agency. He had to take in a pardner to make it go, but he owned the licence, so he was the controlling pardner. It was a good business,
He made good money from the business, but he was not content. One day in the late 70s, a man and his wife came to the church for help. They were driving an old beat up car that looked like it needed its "last rites." I forget just how it came about, but they found a house to rent, and stuck around.
The man had an idea about how to make a good amount of money. His idea was to purchase the wheels and axles from under mobile homes that were being used, rebuild the axles, and sell them to new home manufactures. It was a good idea, and though warned about it by the pastor, the insurance man bought into it. It was unknown as to what kind of man it was who had the idea.
They rented a good size building that had made small fishing boats, and bought a semi. Among other things, rather than loading the axles lengthwise, they loaded them crossways because they could get more on it. That made the loads too wide to travel without a permit. So they paid many fines for being too wide.
Over a very short period, probably less than two years, the poor man had the wealth of the insurance man, and the insurance man had to sell the licence to his pardner, losing the controlling interest. He had purchased a nice house more in station of a successful business man, but had to sell it and move back into his smaller home.
The man who gained the wealth moved to Texas, bought a nice house and car. In fact, after he moved, I was asked to go get a truck that the man had taken. It was a very long day over and back. So my wife took me over, and I brought the truck back.
The insurance man had been warned, but he was discontent with his successful insurance business. Discontentment made him easy pray for a slick man with an pleasant idea.
God's warning is not against having money nor against desiring to have material possessions. The warning is against having the goal of being rich. This goal of riches results not only in compromise of all kinds, but blinds one to the reality of the facts. It makes him easy pray to get-rich schemes.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. A conscience void of offence toward God and toward man is the true contentment.
V. 12. The contentment of v. 11 was learned the hard way. Paul had been both in dire need and abundance. He had lived on both sides of the fence. He could identify with everyone no matter where they were located on the social ladder.
I am instructed... Paul was instructed, and he learned from his instruction how to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
He learned to be content in hunger and need by being hungry and in need. He learned to be content in fullness and abundance by being in fullness and abundance.
It sounds like Paul went quickly went from one extreme to another. He would be on top with plenty one day, and on the bottom, hungry the next. From abundance to want overnight.
By God's providence, he had been made all things to all men, that by all means he could reach some for Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:22.
Some things here for us.
1. Experience is the best teacher, and the harshest teacher at times. Sadly, I seldom learn the first time around, so I must go through the schooling many times.
2. Sudden reversals are not at all uncommon and there are reasons for those reversals. We need to seek God's face and learn what He has for us.
3. The real lesson comes when we drop from abundance to need. Can we rejoice in Christ when we see everything go down the drain?
4. We can not say to the Lord, LORD, YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND. The Lord lived in poverty, and Paul wrote from the experience of poverty when he told us to rejoice in the Lord.
5. We see far more people survive in the Lord in need, than we see survive for the Lord in plenty.
We had a man in Indiana whose goal was to be a millionaire. He said he would not tithe until he had the million, because he wanted to see if he would be faithful with a lot of money. He ended up with serious family problems.
How many people have I met who jump job to job, hoping to increase their wealth or station in life. It seems "pastors" are especially susceptible to this problem.
If the Lord should give us abundance, could we still be faithful to the duties of a Christian? Can we still place the Lord first? Can we remain temperate?
Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.
I have seen more than a few people drop away when the Lord blessed them with abundance.
6. When we are in need, can we see the prosperous around us, and still keep a good spirit toward God and toward men? Do we murmur toward both? (See Ps. 73 and 37.)
7. How would we react if we had a sudden reversal as Job had? All of the wealth that he had worked for over the years was gone within a few days.
We grow accustom to our station in life. We learn to fit in. Sudden reversals probably prove our character about as quick as anything. Sudden drop from plenty to poverty would also reveal our true friends, as it did with Job.
One of my favorite movies is "The Little Princess." It is an old Family Feature Film. Some years ago, our Linden library sold some of their overstock, and I got the two part movie.
She went from riches to dire poverty at receipt of a letter that her father had died in India, yet she retained her good character. In the end, she found that she was an extremely rich young lady.
Paul said in v. 11 that he had learned to be content. He learned this the hard way, the same way that we must learn. The Divine Providence of God placed him in these many different situations and he learned from them, just as we must.
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