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How to Have Greener Grass NOW
Philippians 4:10-13
Skip Heitzig

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Philippians 4 (NKJV™)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That saying embodies the philosophy that other people's circumstances are more desirable than our own. This attitude can be extended to where you live, the place you work, the one you're married to, the body type you have, and the income you require. Surely, others have it better than we do! Well, let's uncover three basic principles to debunk that theory and, in so doing, add water and fertilizer to our own grass.

In the series Technicolor Joy: A Study through Philippians, we learn how to find joy in the most unlikely places as we discover that God can add color to the most black and white moments in life.

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Outline

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  1. Be Connected to God's People (v. 10)

  2. Be Content with God's Provision (vv. 11-12)

  3. Be Confident in God's Power (v. 13)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: December 31, 2017
Teaching: "How to Have Greener Grass NOW"
Text: Philippians 4:10-13

Path

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That saying embodies the philosophy that other people's circumstances are more desirable than our own. This attitude can be extended to where you live, the place you work, the one you're married to, the body type you have, and the income you require. Surely, others have it better than we do! Pastor Skip uncovered three basic principles to debunk that theory and, in so doing, helped add water and fertilizer to our own grass:

  1. Be Connected to God's People (v. 10)
  2. Be Content with God's Provision (vv. 11-12)
  3. Be Confident in God's Power (v. 13)

Points

Be Connected to God's People

  • The Philippian believers had supported Paul while he ministered in Macedonia. They reconnected when they sent Epaphroditus with money to care for Paul. Epaphroditus was their ambassador to help Paul.
  • Here's the principle: when you connect with God's people, it produces joy and encouragement.
  • There are many believers who are not belongers—they don't fellowship. But when you connect with God's people, it produces encouragement to go on and to flourish.
  • Paul used key words that showed support: care and flourished.
  • Probe: What group are you attached to consistently (church, Connect Group, etc.)? What outreach brings you joy?

Be Content with God's Provision

  • Contentment isn't related to necessity.
    • The Greek word for content means to be self-sufficient or satisfied and self-contained.
    • Paul used the same word differently. His attitude was: if people didn't help him, God would still provide.
  • Contentment doesn't depend on quantity.
    • Paul experienced both contentment and need.
    • The Greek word for full is used for feeding and fattening animals.
    • Abased: essentially, Paul was saying, "I had status; I lost it all." He wrote this letter from jail.
    • There's an illusion that more of something (money or material things, etc.) will bring contentment.
  • Contentment is a learned ability.
    • Note the phrase "I have learned." Paul was still learning.
    • The Greek word for learned is manthanó, which means to learn and understand.
  • Here are a few tips to learn contentment:
    • Avoid comparisons: comparison robs us of contentment and promotes covetousness.
    • Lower expectations: some people expect too much. This brings entitlement and robs you of thankfulness.
    • Adjust to alternations: life won't always be great or horrible; there will be ups and downs.
    • Develop convictions: contentment is related to what you believe about God's sovereignty. Do you believe God is in control?
  • Probe: In what areas of life do you need to learn contentment? Why do you feel that you are not content in this area?

Be Confident in God's Power

  • Philippians 4:13 was Paul's philosophy of life: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
  • The Greek word for I can do means to be strong, have power, have resources. Paul's motto was "I can," not "I can't." Spiritual success comes in "cans."
  • Note it is "through Christ who strengthens." The Amplified Version reads, "I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency."
  • Our attitude depends on where our resources lay: ourselves, people, or God.
  • As we stand on the verge of a new year, here's the challenge: get connected, get contented, and get confident.
  • In the end, a doctor may add years to your life, but Jesus adds life to your years.
  • Probe: Take a moment to discuss these three areas. How do you plan on doing the following in 2018?
    • Getting connected
    • Finding contentment
    • Building confidence

Practice

Connect Up: As you connect up to Christ in the coming year, remember the things Christ has fulfilled in your life this past year. Share about a time when you experienced God's power this year. How did He meet a need or fulfill a promise to you?

Connect In: Share about how you connected to God's people in the church in 2017. What were some of the benefits and challenges?

Connect Out: Were you able to see someone come to Christ this past year? If so, what were the circumstances? How does salvation show the following qualities: the use of people, God's provision, and His power?

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. It does not take long for people to learn to be discontent
      1. We always want more than what we have
      2. We want more wealth, bigger houses, better cars, etc.
    2. Paul planted the church in Philippi because he had received a vision telling him to go there
      1. It was difficult, but the church grew into a thriving community
      2. They supported Paul in his ministry
  2. Be Connected to God's People (v. 10)
    1. Ten years had passed since Paul planted the church at Philippi
      1. At first, they were able to support him financially
      2. Something happened to keep them from continuing to help him
      3. They were able to help him again because Epaphroditus found him in jail
    2. When you connect with God's people:
      1. It will produce joy
        1. In the modern church, there are many believers but not many belongers
        2. They miss out on fellowship
      2. It will produce encouragement to go on
        1. Paul never tried to guilt people into giving
        2. Flourish = to grow luxuriantly; thrive
        3. Paul saw their giving as fruit validating his ministry
  3. Be Content with God's Provision (vv. 11-12)
    1. Contentment is not related to necessity
      1. We struggle to differentiate between need and greed
      2. Autarkés = self-sufficient, contented, satisfied
        1. Paul meant that if no one helped him, God would provide
        2. Psalm 23:1; Hebrews 13:5-6
      3. Contentment does not come from what we have but from Whom we have
    2. Contentment does not depend on quantity
      1. Paul grew up having plenty
      2. He had highs and lows in his life
      3. Most people who lose everything get very depressed
        1. The deception is that more cash brings more contentment
        2. Many people who have won the lottery are actually miserable
        3. Luke 12:15
    3. Contentment is a learned ability
      1. Complaining is second nature to us
      2. To be better at contentment:
        1. Avoid comparisons
          1. Comparison robs you of contentment
          2. It promotes covetousness
          3. 2 Corinthians 10:12
        2. Lower expectations
          1. When you live an entitled life, you will never stop to appreciate what you have
          2. 1 Timothy 6:6-8
        3. Adjust to alterations
          1. When you are abounding, know that you could also be abased
          2. Learn to adjust to the highs and lows of your life
        4. Develop convictions
          1. Contentment is related to what you believe about the sovereignty of God
          2. God gives and takes away (see Job 1:21)
  4. Be Confident in God's Power (v. 13)
    1. Spiritual success comes in cans
      1. You may feel like you can't, but you can do all things through Christ
      2. The same Christ Paul had is the same Christ you have (see Galatians 2:20)
      3. We can do nothing apart from Christ (see John 15:5)
    2. It depends on where your resources lie
      1. Do your resources lie in yourself or in your Savior?
      2. Jesus should not be just part of your life; He should be your life
    3. Your doctor may add years to your life, but Jesus will add life to your years
Figures referenced: Charles Dickens, Corrie ten Boom

Works referenced: "Materialism and Discontent in a Prosperous America," Oliver Twist

Greek words: autarkés

Cross references: Job 1:21; Psalm 23:1; Luke 12:15; John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 2:20; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5-6

Topic: Contentment

Keywords: contentment, generosity, fellowship, encouragement, complaining, entitlement

Transcript

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How to Have Greener Grass NOW - Philippians 4:10-13 - Skip Heitzig

Hello. And welcome to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. We pray that this message encourages you. And if it does, we'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/give.

It's tempting to believe that other people's circumstances are better than your own. That includes where you live, the place work, who you're married to and the body type that you have. As we continue our series Technicolor Joy, Skip uncovers three basic principles to debunk that theory. Now please open your Bible to Philippians chapter four as he begins the message how to have a greener grass now.

Welcome. Would you turn in your Bibles please to the book of Philippians chapter four? We are close to the end of this book like we are close to the end of this year. But I have to say, don't get your hopes up too high again because the year will run out before the book will run out. We have yet another section to look at next time, but we're close. We're going to begin in verse 10 in just a little bit.

Most of you have heard or have seen the story of Oliver Twist. No doubt you've seen the movie, maybe you've even read Charles Dickens book by that name. And when Charles Dickens wrote the book Oliver Twist He was writing against social injustice of child labor in 1830s England. But the story is about a little boy with no name. Somebody names him Oliver Twist in the orphanage. They didn't know his mother's name, they didn't know his name. Somebody comes up with a name.

For the first nine years of his life this young boy spends time in this orphanage before he is put into an adult workhouse. Desperate conditions, he's always lonely and tired and cold and hungry. And one particular meal where all the kids are at the tables eating this glop that's in their bowl, at barely enough to subsist on that young boy makes the major gaffe. He grabs the bowl, gets out of his seat, walks up to the overfed overseer and says, please, sir, I want some more. Remember that scene?

So it was as if he had committed a capital crime because he asked for more. Now what he did out of poverty and legitimately has sort of become the American anthem. Please, sir, we want some more. Does not take long in this life before people, even as children, learn the fine art of being discontent. They want more. They want more than what they have. I mean, there's got to be more. I need to have more. And other people have more, why can't I have more?

So the grass is always greener in the next lawn. The traffic is always faster in the next lane. People are always happier in the next state and life is always better with the next person. You may have heard about the two teardrops that were floating down the river of life. And they had a conversation. One teardrop said to the other, she said, I am a tear of a woman who loved a man and lost him. And the second teardrop said, well, I'm a tear of the woman that got him.

So either way, bad news. I found an article this week. It was called Discontent in Prosperous America. It was all about how Americans have more than ever before, but are more discontented than ever before. But we live at the best time in history, but we have the worst attitude in history. So in this article, the author said the income of the average American has risen drastically in real terms in the last 40 years.

The average American home is 1,000 square feet bigger than it used to be 40 years ago despite the fact that our families are smaller. The average American diet has 500 more calories per person than it was 40 years ago. I think that shows. The average American turned a wheel multiple times to call someone 40 years ago. Now we have smart phones that give us access to virtually any medical information or person in the world, and it fits into the palm of our hand.

Life expectancy has gone up over a decade in the last 40 years. Emissions have plummeted in the last 40 years. He went on and on and on to describe how good we now have it, but how poorly we respond to it. Then he asked this question, does the average American realize that they live more materially comfortable than the czars of Russia did 100 years ago?

So as we stand at the end of one year on the verge of another year, what is our attitude? Is our attitude like, please God, I want some more? What is it that we feel we need more of? Some would say I need a better car, others would say I need a bigger home, others might say I want a better husband, others might say a couple zeros at the end of my paycheck would help.

With that as sort of a background, we go now to our text in Philippians chapter four beginning in verse 10. I want to set the stage a little bit just for the understanding of the text. What we discover as we look at the life of Paul is that he planted a church in Philippi of Macedonia because he had received division from a man of Macedonia saying come over to Macedonia and help us. He was in Troas on the coast, the Mediterranean, Aegean coast.

He went from there, went to Philippi, planted a church. It was difficult. Eventually it was prosperous, it grew, it was vibrant. He had a beautiful relationship with this group of people. And in fact, they at one time supported Paul and his ministry. They financially supported him, they gave him things that he needed while he was in Macedonia and after that. But several years passed since that time until this time that he writes the letter.

But now something happened, and Paul addresses what has happened. A guy from Philippi named Epaphroditus traveled about 800 miles from Philippi to where Paul was in prison in Rome and gave him a financial gift, probably a care package of some sort that would help him. Maybe clothes, et cetera. And he is thanking them for that and mentioning that.

So that is a background. Look at verse 10, Philippians chapter four verse 10. I'm going to read all the way down to verse 18 for the sake of context. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Nevertheless you have done well that you have shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Indeed, I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God." We're going to look at just verse 10 through 13 this morning. And I'd like to point out three principles that are going to help your satisfaction level rise. If you could, if we could get these principles into our new year we will have more joy in the next 12 months than we have had in the past 12 months.

Three easy principles. Be contented or be connected, be content and be confident. Be connected to God's people, be content with God's provision, be confident in God's power. Those are the three principles that emerge from these verses that we look at. Let's begin with the first in verse 10. be connected to God's people. Paul writes, "but I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again, though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity."

OK. So a decade has passed. 10 years have passed from the time Paul went to Philippi to plant the church and got thrown into Philippian jail and got beat up. You know the story. You remember that from the book of X. 10 years have passed. At first they were able to support Paul even when he left Philippi, went over to Thessalonica. They sent aid as he said a couple of different times. Supported him through that, but something happened. And we don't even know what it was that happened. They lost touch somehow.

So they lacked the opportunity to continue that support. And this is what Paul is addressing now, they have reconnected. And they were reconnected because a guy from Philippi named Epaphroditus, an ambassador of that church, finds Paul in jail and says, Paul, here's something from the church and Philippi to tide you over. We want to support you again. We want to help you out. Here's a care package, here's some financial help for you. And they do it to help him.

There's an old Chinese proverb that says if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, go inherit a fortune. But if you want happiness for a lifetime, go help someone. So their joy and Paul's joy rises as he gets help from them. When you connect with God's people, two things will happen. When you make meaningful connections with God's people, two things will happen.

It will produce joy and it will produce encouragement. First of all, it'll produce joy. Notice that Paul says, "but I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again." So part of the joy that Paul is getting is in this reconnection made with the fellowship of this church at Philippi. I have a question.

What group are you connected to consistently? Not what group do you come sporadically to observe and loosely be a part of, but what group do you consistently attach yourself to? Who brings you joy by caring for you? So it's 2:00 in the morning, something has happened, your life comes crashing down, who do you call? Is there some small group leader you could call? Some group of people that could be easily connected to be around you, praying you through this time?

And I bring this up because the Bible frequently brings this up. It seems that in the modern church there are many believers who are not belongers. Oh, they believe all the right things and there is a relationship with God. And it's true. It's authentic. They're believers, but not belongers. They miss the joy of consistent fellowship.

And it's not entirely the fault of individuals, sometimes it is helped to be produced by the institution of the church itself, because I have noticed over the years that many churches love to boast about their membership role that doesn't really reflect who attends the church. So they love to boast, we have 400 members in our roster, but 40 actually go.

There is even an old joke about three pastors who got together. All of them had the same problem. There were bats living in the church building in the attic of all three churches. So one pastor said, I have bats. I try to get rid of them all year long. I can't do it. I put noisemakers up there, I sent cats up there, but the bats still live in the attic of the church that I pastor.

And the second pastor said, we have the same problem, and I've tried to fumigate. I've tried everything we can, but those bats still live there. The third pastor said, well, gentlemen, we used to have bats in our church attic. I fixed the problem. They said, well, please, pray tell. What's the answer? He said, well, I baptize them all, made them church members and they haven't been back since.

And unfortunately, we sort of create this spiritual drifter mentality by just saying, just put your name on the roster. And that's all that is required. But when you connect with God's people, it produces joy. A second thing it will do when you connect with God's people, it produces encouragement to go on.

I think that really is the thought of this whole section for Paul. He needed encouragement. He saw this as an encouragement, a validation so to speak of his ministry. I think that's behind the words when he says that, "last your care has flourished for me again. Though you surely did care, but you lacked the opportunity." Those words lacked opportunities, literally means a good season or a good time.

For whatever reason, and we don't know the reason, but for whatever reason they supported him at first and then it wasn't the right time. It wasn't the right season. And now it is. And one of the things that I love about Paul is that he never tried to guilt people into giving. He never tried to use high pressure techniques saying if you don't give to my ministry, God's going to turn around and leave town. And he never cajoled people.

And over the years I've watched, I've read letters from ministers who pour on all sorts of tactics to get people to feel guilty. I even saw one guy on television, this is years ago in Los Angeles, and probably half of his broadcast he was talking about, we need to up the budget. We need your help. You got to give today or we're going to go broke.

So one broadcast he actually turned around, said I'm going to preach the rest of my message this way because the finances I said we needed have not come in. By the way, that's just a cool logo right there, joy. I'm looking at it for the first time. Anyway, he preached this way, the whole message because the money didn't come in. I actually thought that was his best side.

But note what Paul says. He goes, "your care has flourished for me again." Now, that word flourish means revived or blossomed or to sprout. It was a word used of a barren tree changing from winter time to springtime. The air is warmer, the sunshine is more copious, there's more moisture, and that tree begins to change and revive, flourish, blossom, sprout.

So Paul is encouraged by their recent giving to him. And he sees this as fruit validating his ministry. I am called to this. This is in the will of God for me. I'll never forget when I first moved from California to New Mexico. And it was a scary time because I didn't know what to expect. I just announced I'm moving east to plant a church.

So as I moved, there was a church in Cypress, California that gave us a check for $1,000 saying, we just want you to know we believe God is calling you to be a church planter. I mean, I almost shook when I held that $1,000 check, that man, I'm responsible before God. And it was such a confirmation that we're making the right move. Let's go for it.

So be connected to God's people. Second, be content with God's provision. Verse 11 and 12, he continues, not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am, even the state of New Mexico, to be content. I know how to be abased, I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Now, there's a lot in these two verses. And this is a very famous excerpt. I had a man come to me last night saying, oh, this is my favorite text in the Bible. But I want you to sort of drill down with me. Notice a couple of thing. Notice that contentment, that's really the subject of these two verses, that contentment isn't related to necessity because Paul says, "not that I speak in regard to need or necessity."

In other words, my needs may be met, but my needs may not be met. And if my needs are not met, I just want you to know I'm still going to be content, that it's irrespective of having my needs met. It's a funny thing when we talk about our needs. It's funny what things we regard as being needful. Have you discovered that? I really need that TV. It's a need. I couldn't survive without it.

100 years ago the average American could produce a list of 70 things that he or she needed. Today, that number is well over 500 needs the average person has. I wonder if we don't know how to tell the difference between what's a need and what's a greed. And the greed has now become a need. It happens everywhere.

I've been to Israel now many times. And the first time I went to Israel, I notice these people that live in tents. They're called Bedouins. They're all throughout the southern part of the land in Judea. And Bedouins live in tents. Animal hair tents, black tents. And they travel as a community of tent dwellers together still to this day, in modern day.

They have flocks, like goats and sheep. And they'll move around depending on where they can find pasture land for their animals. So I always love to point the Bedouins out to people that go to Israel. You're going to look now to the side of the road and you're going to see people that lived like Abraham did. So they kind of see the tents in the distance.

But one time we're traveling around and we go around a corner and we see this tent community, and out of a couple of tents we notice a television aerial, antenna going up. I thought, interesting, this has now become a need for the Bedouin people. A television set. Look at the word content in these verses.

I have learned in whatever state I am to be content. Altar-case is the word. Altar-case means contained. I have learned to be contained, self-sufficient, it could be translated. Satisfied would be another translation, or enough.

A person can say I have enough. Interest in word. It was used by the Greek stoics. If you remember your philosophy class, you know that the stoics were a subset of Greek philosophers who believed that you can get to a point where you don't need anyone or anything, and you will not have any emotional response even to the worst things in life. That was their aim. Their aim was independence from any need for any help.

That's the word Paul uses, but that is not what Paul meant by the word that he uses. What he means is that if people help him, great, I'll be connected to those people. I'll see that as fruit. I'll be joyful because of that connection. But if they do not, God will provide.

I'm still contained, I'm still content. So what is Psalm 23 say? You know it by heart. "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. There's nothing I need because the Lord is my shepherd." Hebrews 13, the writer says, "let our conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have."

How could he say that? How could he say be content with what you have? Here's why. He finishes the verse by saying, "for he himself has said, I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, so we may boldly say the Lord is my helper. I will not fear what can man do to me." What all of these verses tell me are the same thing: that contentment does not come from what we have, it comes from whom we have.

"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want." The Lord has said I will never leave you or forsake you. If you provide, great, if not, the Lord will provide. So contentment is not related to necessity. There's something else about contentment. Notice in the verse, contentment does not depend on quantity. Notice where Paul is in his description.

Look at these words: abased, that's really low; abound, that's really high; fall, really high; hungry, really low. So Paul says sometimes life is like this: up and down, high and low. But it doesn't matter. And it's not a matter of having more creature comforts, it's not a matter of having more disposable income because Paul is saying I've lived on both sides of that equation.

Look at the word full in our verse. That word was used of the feeding and fattening of animals. Paul said, I've lived a fat life before. I lived a full life like a fattened animal who ate really well. If you think about the way Paul grew up, he grew up having plenty. He was educated in private schools, he reached status among his contemporaries as a Pharisee.

But then look at the word abased. Can you think of a time when Paul was ever abased? How about right here when he's writing this from jail not knowing if he's going to live or die? That's pretty abased. And how did he get there? On a grain ship in the slave galley that got shipwrecked and had to get on another boat just to make it to Rome. That's pretty abased.

In other words, Paul said I had status. I lost it all. It's interesting that most people who lose everything get very, very depressed. If you think back to the 1929 stock crash, not that you remember that, but you've read about it. I remember reading things that it was so devastating because that brought on the Great Depression. That's one of the factors for that.

But when that stock market crashed in 1929, some executives jumped out of their office windows to their deaths at the thought that they lost everything. They lost it all. And see, that is the illusion, that's the deception. The deception is that more cash will bring more contentment. Man, if I have a lot, life will be easy. I'll be happy with that many zeros at the end of the paycheck. That's an illusion, that's a deception.

Hey, here's a statistic I wanted to share with you. Last year, Americans spent $70 billion on lottery tickets. I'm not going to ask if you buy lottery tickets. I don't care. But it's interesting that we spend last year as Americans $70 billion on lottery tickets. That's more than we spent on sports tickets, on books, video games, movie tickets and music combined. Combined, $70 billion.

Why? Because people believe there's a chance that I could win, and there's a chance that in winning I'm going to find real happiness and I'm going to have it so good. Oh, and I want to help others. I'm going to get this money and I'm going to help so many people and help myself a little bit, as well. And I'm going to be so happy.

Now, I'm sure I don't even have to tell you, you have read or heard of the opposite being true. You've heard story after story of people who won lotteries and their life went to the tank. Article in Time magazine I found on how winning the lottery can actually make you miserable. It cited several examples. Here's just one. Just one.

one man went broke four years after winning $315 million dollars. How do you lose $315 million in four years? He did it. And he lost a daughter and a granddaughter to drug overdoses, he said directly related to his winnings. He was robbed of over a half a million dollars while sitting in his car. And he said, I don't like what I have become. I wish I would have just torn up that ticket instead.

Boy, that sounds a lot like what Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, when he said, "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses." So contentment is not related to necessity, contentment does not depend on quantity. But here's something else I want you to look at in the text and notice. Contentment is a learned ability. It's a learned ability. So before you go, man, I wish I was blessed with the gift of contentment. It's not a gift.

It's a learned skill because look what he says, "for I have learned," verse 11, "in whatever state I am to be content," verse 12, "I know how to be abased. I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry." That is so encouraging to me because I'm still learning. I'm still in the process. I haven't graduated yet. It's something we learn.

There was a monastery in Spain, and if you want to join the monastery to be an initiate as a young monk, you had to take a vow of silence. This is a monastery where you don't say a word, you just contemplate. Now, that'd be very difficult for some of us to be able to do. Can you imagine me not talking for two years?

So the idea is that every two years you get to say two words. So this young guy joined the monastery. He was there for six years total. So two years went by, didn't say a word. After two years, he went before the head priest and he got to say his two words. And his two words were food terrible. Couldn't say two more words for another two. Two years more passed by. He goes again to the head priest and this time his two words were bed lumpy.

So he's had a rough four years. But he hangs it out for another two years and he comes back to the head priest and his two words are now, I quit. And that head priest said, I'm not surprised because all you've done since you've arrived is complain, complain, complain. Hey, have you noticed how easy it is to complain in life, that complaining is like second nature grumbling pointing out the faults of people or things? It just comes so second nature. It's so easy to do.

Just stand around the coffee maker at work and listen to the conversations, as people will trash and talk down the company. They complain, students complain about teachers, athletes complain about coaches, shoppers complain about parking, everybody complains about traffic. So contentment isn't related to necessity, it doesn't depend on quantity. It's a learned ability. A learned ability.

Now I want to give you a few tips on how to learn it better, how to get ahead of the learning curve. First of all, avoid comparisons. It'll get you every time. Once you start looking at what others have or are doing compared to you, you start comparing yourself. It's downhill because comparison robs you of contentment and promotes covetousness.

Second Corinthians, chapter 10 verse 12, "we do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." Cute little story about a pocket watch in London, England who looked up and saw Big Ben overlooking the Thames River by the parliament building in London. And he looked up, and he said, oh, I wish I could be up that high. I wish that I could be over all these people and I could serve more people.

So somebody gave the little pocket watch its wish, and with the string it hoisted it up all the way, all the way, all the way up. But by the time it got all the way up to where that Big Ben clock was, nobody could see it. It was so small. And the moral of the story is its elevation became its annihilation. So avoid comparison.

A second tip on contentment, lower expectation. Some people expect too much. They feel entitled. And when you live an entitled life, always expecting more, you never stop to appreciate what you have. You get robbed of thankfulness. First Timothy chapter six, "godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."

Most of us are not part of the jet set. Most of us are part of the debt set. And the more you try to get into the jet set, the more you're going to become part of the debt set. So lower your expectation, avoid comparisons, lower expectations. Here's a third tip: adjust to alterations. Adjust to alteration.

Article after article I read on happiness said people who are the happiest in life learn to take the bumps, the highs and the lows together, they adjust with it. They learn how to make adjustments in their life. So Paul describes several different experiences in verse 12, ups and downs. Abounding is great. But when you're abounding, know that you could also be abased. Learn to adjust, avoid comparisons, lower expectations, adjust to alterations.

Here's a fourth tip. Should have been number one: develop convictions. What trues do you stand on when you are faced with emptiness or a lot? What truths do you hold to that would keep you from complaining? Because I believe, and I believe it sincerely, that contentment is related to what you believe about God's sovereignty.

It's directly proportional to, do you believe God is in control or not? You want to hear a great statement on sovereignty? Comes from the Book of Job, the mouth of Job who lost his children, who lost his health, who lost everything. And listen to what he said, "naked I came into this world, naked I will leave. The Lord gave and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." How's that for a statement of sovereignty?

God's in charge. You enter into life empty handed, you're going to leave empty handed. You've heard the old joke, you've never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul because you can't take anything with you. So avoid comparisons, lower expectations, adjust to alterations, develop convictions. Those are all good tips that will help you and I learn to be content.

So be connected to God's people, be content with God's provision. A third and final principle to go into this next year with is be confident in God's power. Verse 13, before you even read it I'll just say you know it by heart. If I were to take a poll of the percentage of people in this room right now who could spout this off at a moment's notice it'd be pretty high.

I can do verse 13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Did you know this is Paul's philosophy of life? OK. Now back up. Paul is not writing this verse from the Ritz Carlton in Rome, Paul is writing this in jail. This man has been beaten up. This man has been talked against by unbelievers and by believers. He does not know if he'll live or die. Doesn't know if he'll face a court case tomorrow or be executed tomorrow or be set free.

And yet he says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You want to know what the principle is? Spiritual success comes in cans. You've heard the other message too long. I can't do that. Your fears have told you you can't, others have told you you can't, past failures come back to haunt you and say you can't. I want you to get a new motto this year. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And before you say, well, that's Paul the Apostle. He can, but I can't. Here's what you need to know. Paul didn't just say I can do all things. He says, I can do all things through Christ. The same Christ Paul had is the same Christ you have. So if Paul the Apostle in prison can say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, you can say exactly the same thing because it's through Christ.

Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet it is not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me." Same principle. The JB Phillips translation puts this verse this way, "I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives in me." The amplified Bible adds, "that is I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency." And what Paul says is exactly what Jesus said, but in reverse.

Remember what Jesus said in John 15? He said, "without me you can do nothing." That's what you can do without Christ: nothing. All the I cant's, I can't, I can't, that's a part from Christ: nothing. Paul takes that same truth, turns it around to the positive, he says, "but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

See. It all depends on where your resources lie. Do your resources lie in yourself, or do your resources lie in your Savior? Paul in prison, doesn't know if he's going to be supported or not, doesn't know if he's going to live or die, I can do all things. Corrie ten Boom, have you heard of her? Have you ever read her story? She survived Nazi concentration camps. She said this, "you'll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."

It's all Paul had. And Paul said, that's enough. I'm content. I'm good to go. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So I'm hoping that you enter into this new year not being like those people who go, well, Jesus is like an important part of my life, but rather Jesus is my life. He is the core and substance of who I am. I am living through Christ, and Christ is living his life through me.

So as we stand on the verge of a new year, get connected, get contented, get confident. That's a great message to have at the end of a year into a new one. I heard about a little girl who was staying at a friend's house for dinner and a sleepover. And the mother in that home wanted to make sure that she could eat everything she was cooking. She was cooking up buttered broccoli. Steam buttered broccoli is one of the vegetables for the meal.

And so she said, sweetheart, do you like broccoli? The little girl, the visiting girl said, oh, ma'am, yes ma'am, I love broccoli. So she cooked it up. And as they were passing things around, the broccoli was passed to that little girl, that visiting friend, and she looked at it and passed it on, didn't take one little ear of it.

The mother said, sweetheart, I thought you told me you love broccoli. She said, oh, yes ma'am, I do love broccoli. I just don't love it enough to eat it. Yeah, theoretically we're good at theory, self included, but when it comes to the broccoli coming to my plate now, I do love broccoli, I'll say that. But whatever it might be that you and I don't like to eat, when it comes our way, I just want to say you might find broccoli on your plate this year.

You might find a spoonful of sickness, like Job. You may get a big dish of loneliness added to your plate. You might find that your plate is piled high with all sorts of unpleasant entrees. I don't want this. I don't love it enough to eat it, but it's what God sets in front of you. And because of that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, even eat that broccoli, or whatever unpalatable experience it is.

So I've always loved the saying that says your doctor may add years to your life, but Jesus can add life to your years. He can give you abundant life. Let's bow for prayer. Father, we want to just say thank you for your faithfulness to us over the past year. Thank you, Lord, for all the experiences we've had, all the ways we've learned and grown, the times of plenty, the times of poverty, the times we felt were abounding, the times we felt were being abased.

We didn't like it. But we like what you have done in spite of it, and what we are becoming because of it. And so we're learning to rejoice as this suffering apostle did. Lord, I pray that these three principles will be worked into our new year, that we'd be connected to God's people in a meaningful way, that we would be content with the provision you give us, that it doesn't come always out of need.

It's not related to how much or how little. And it's something we can learn. Lord, I pray that no matter what comes our way we would look your way, knowing that because we're in Jesus and He is the substance and some of our life that we can do this. In Jesus' name, Amen.

It's possible to have greener grass now, but you must be connected to God's people content with his provision and confident in His power. So how will you apply the truth that you learned in this message? We'd love to hear about it. Email us at mystory@calvaryabq.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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8/6/2017
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What Would Jesus Do?
Philippians 2:5-8
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The campaign What Would Jesus Do? has been around for years, challenging Christians to think about what Christ might actually do in any given situation so they might do likewise. Before us, we have an example of what Jesus actually did do. His example of humility and self-sacrifice is Paul’s illustration to fortify his exhortation of loving people through lowering ourselves.
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12/17/2017
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Think What to Do; Do What You Think
Philippians 4:8-9
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Our minds are ever being confronted with ideas, temptations, principles, and values. The battlefield is found in mainstream and social media, universities, and professional journals. Because it's impossible to make it through any given day without bumping into these thoughts and ideas, we must carefully, righteously, and actively manage them. To plant an idea is to produce an action. What we ponder we eventually practice. Consider these three ways to think.
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5/21/2017
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The Happy Prisoner
Philippians 1:12-14
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What does it take to steal your joy? To answer that question honestly, you would need to discover what you're passionate about--what drives you and what your expectations of life are. Why is this so important? Because things won't always go your way. Unfavorable winds will toss the ship of your life around on the ocean of circumstances and heartbreaks. What do you need then? The right perspective! Let's learn these truths from Paul's prison cell in Rome.
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5/7/2017
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The Family Business
Philippians 1:3-8
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No matter what you may do for a living, there is a higher purpose for your life. No matter what you do for work, God is at work in you and through you. You may have a career in mind, but God has a calling in mind. These are not contradictory paths but complementary ones. The apostle Paul assured his audience of God's work collectively, personally, and practically. We are the objects as well as the instruments of God's work in the world.
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12/3/2017
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The Anatomy of a Healthy Church
Philippians 4:1-5
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In the New Testament, the church is often called “the body of Christ.” Like a human body, it has many parts and functions. The church at Philippi was growing and with growth comes growing pains. In this section, Paul addressed some of them and applied the right prescription for what was threatening this group. Let’s consider five necessary components of a healthy church.
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11/19/2017
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Show Me Your Passport, Please!
Philippians 3:17-21
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Anytime you travel overseas, a passport is required. Your passport is a document of citizenship, denoting your country of origin and permanent residence. Your name is written on that document along with your place and date of birth. Jesus said that our names are written in heaven (see Luke 10:20) because we have been born again. That makes us tourists and foreigners here on earth. In this section of Philippians, Paul gave us four distinguishing characteristics of heavenly citizens.
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11/5/2017
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Put On Your Running Shoes
Philippians 3:12-16
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Though I prefer cycling to running, I appreciate the disciplined runner who has trained long hours and has conditioned his/her body to reach its maximum potential. One of Paul’s favorite metaphors for Christian living was the race. In this passage, he pictured the believer as an athlete competing in a footrace pushing towards the finish line. To become winning champions in this race towards Christlikeness, there are five essentials:
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5/14/2017
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Pray for Love
Philippians 1:9-11
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Love is the subject of more songs than any other topic. It's a word that falls off countless lips effortlessly and often without thought. But as someone noted, "One of the great illusions of our time is that love is self-sustaining. It is not. Love must be fed and nurtured, constantly renewed." The great apostle Paul had a deep love for the Philippian believers, and they for him. But love must be understood and developed intelligently. On this Mother's Day, when we celebrate the unique love of a mom, let's also consider how our love can become mature and God-honoring.
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6/11/2017
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Pest Control
Philippians 1:15-18
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Every group—whether it’s a club, a corporation, a homeowner association, or a church—has its share of problem people and detractors. Such can be touchy, irritable, irrational, unreasonable, contentious, or legalistic. Their words may hurt us deeply. Their actions may confuse us greatly. So how do we handle these pesky folks? Most importantly, what should we do or not do with those who name the name of Christ but act like pests?
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12/10/2017
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Overcoming an Anxious Mind
Philippians 4:6-7
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One author noted that we could write on countless American gravestones this epitaph: Hurried, Worried, Buried. Fear, stress, worry, and anxiety ravage modern culture. These two verses of Philippians 4 are among the most treasured by Christians worldwide because of their power to overcome this tendency to be overwhelmed by anxiety. Let’s give our souls a rest by learning and practicing the truths presented here.
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4/30/2017
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News Flash: You’re a Saint!
Philippians 1:1-2
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You've heard it before. Someone excuses his or her crude behavior by saying something like, "Well, I'm no saint, but I do the best I can." Or, "She's so wonderful; she's a saint!" The idea most folks have is that saints are those who've died and attain special status because of their unusual accomplishments while they lived on earth. Nothing could have been further from Paul's mind when he wrote this letter to living "saints." I hope you're one.
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7/9/2017
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Living on Earth; Longing for Heaven
Philippians 1:22-26
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Knowing what Paul knew about heaven made him think very differently about earth. As Thomas Watson said, "Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us." It's like a kid eating his vegetables while eyeing the chocolate cake promised after the meal (the salad becomes a means to an end). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come," indicating we should be longing for heaven. So how do we effectively live on earth with heaven ahead?
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1/7/2018
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Is Your Checkbook Converted?
Philippians 4:14-23
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It’s a strange title for a sermon, I know. Yet it seems many of us try to separate what we believe in our hearts from how we behave with our finances. In these closing verses of this letter to the Philippians, Paul thanks the church that supported his ministry for putting their money where their faith is. This paragraph is one of the clearest theological statements about how money can become a tool for God’s glory and a gauge of spiritual maturity.
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10/1/2017
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How to Treat Good (but Imperfect) People
Philippians 2:25-30
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Some of the greatest people I have ever met have been relatively unknown individuals. They serve diligently behind the scenes with no desire for the limelight. Their names are not known to men, yet they are known to God. But even the choicest servants of God are not perfect. We all have our blemishes, shortfalls, quirks, idiosyncrasies, and oddities. Paul gave us an excellent way to treat such people in his words about his friend Epaphroditus.
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7/16/2017
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How to Stand When They Want You to Fall
Philippians 1:27-30
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The truth is, we’re surrounded and outnumbered! The vast majority of the people we encounter in life don’t share our values nor worship our God. The difficulty of the Christian life is that we’re called to stand up for Christ when the rest of the world wants us to sit down or fall flat. They would much rather that we keep our mouths shut and conform to their standards. Let’s consider four spiritual weapons that will help us in the fight to stand strong in our faith.
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8/20/2017
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How to Have a Great Workout
Philippians 2:12-13
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Every day in every city, people go to the gym to get in a workout. Running on a treadmill, spinning on a cycle, working the stair-climber, and lifting weights are becoming more and more frequent in our health-conscious culture. But money spent on a gym membership is pointless unless we take the right approach. In this message, I want to consider what it means to have a healthy spiritual life by showing you what it means to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." Let's be determined to stay in top spiritual shape.
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10/8/2017
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Has Your Joy Sprung a Leak?
Philippians 3:1-3
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I have a bicycle pump in my garage that stands constant guard to reinflate my tires. It seems that I have a slow leak in one of them. Perhaps from a very small thorn or a defect in the tube, the air slowly leaks out, leaving the ride spongy. Spiritual thorns that deflate joy can also threaten our Christian experience. Let’s consider some simple principles that firm up our life journey and keep "the joy of the Lord" intact.
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8/27/2017
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Glow in the Dark!
Philippians 2:14-18
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To make an object glow in the dark, a phosphor that will energize by ambient light and have a very long persistence (like zinc sulfide and strontium aluminate) must be applied. For a Christian to glow (shine the light of truth and salvation) in a dark culture, there are four considerations that will energize us. Today let’s study how we can penetrate a murky world.
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10/15/2017
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Get a Real Testimony!
Philippians 3:4-8
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I have heard various people give their testimony over the years. A testimony is the story of how you came to believe in Christ personally. What is your story? Could you tell it to someone? You should be able to trace the steps you took in your life’s journey from aimless wandering to purposeful living as a Christian. These verses are Paul’s personal testimony. Let’s consider three essential ingredients to building a real testimony.
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6/25/2017
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Can You Predict Your Future?
Philippians 1:18-21
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If you were going to sit down and write a short description of what you wanted your future to look like, what words would you choose? Let me suggest four that come straight out of Paul's experience: joy, confidence, hope, and life. After musing over past events that brought him to prison, Paul looks ahead to his uncertain future. But these four words sum up what he expected his future to include--even if it meant his possible execution.
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10/29/2017
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Benefits of Being Believers
Philippians 3:8-11
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Being a Christian believer cost Paul a lot. He lost his status, he lost his prestige among former peers, and he landed in a foreign prison cell, facing possible execution. So what did he gain from his choice? What are the rewards and benefits of believing in Christ if the world hates you and most people misunderstand you? Today, we look at five of the benefits that offset any loss we might incur. These gains (or profits) make up for any momentary afflictions.
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7/30/2017
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Being Around People--While Still Being Sane!
Philippians 2:1-4
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Relationships are hard. They take a lot of work. If you think about it, every person in the world is incompatible with every other person. Enough time together would reveal this truth. Because of this, tensions rise, emotions flare, and bad responses ensue. Every friendship, every marriage, every family, and every organization (including every church) has its relational challenges. The church at Philippi did, too, and it was that disunity that tested Paul’s joy. Let’s consider the basics and the basis of successful relationships, and move from surviving them to thriving in them.
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8/13/2017
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Be Humble or You'll Stumble
Philippians 2:8-11
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Humility is that slippery quality that once you think you have it, you don't! Also, the pathway of humility is a hard one. For Jesus, it meant the cross. But humility will always be rewarded. Using Christ as our ultimate example, Paul demonstrates how Jesus' voluntary humiliation was compensated by the Father’s lavish exaltation. So even though humility doesn't come without a price, without it, there will be no harmony, no unity.
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9/17/2017
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A Little Help from My Friends
Philippians 2:19-24
Skip Heitzig
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Life without friendship is like the sky without the sun. Paul knew the value of having true friends who stuck with him during difficult times. And right in the middle of this letter, he mentioned two of them—Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two guys helped shoulder the burdens for the apostle and brought him great joy. As we consider Timothy's friendship profile, see how many of these qualities are present in your own life.
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4/23/2017
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A Joy Unexpected
Philippians 1:1
Skip Heitzig
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Life doesn’t have to be easy to be joyful. In fact, ease of living and joy of heart have little to do with each other. Joy is not the absence of trouble but rather the presence of Jesus. Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter dripping with joy and surprisingly so—it’s not what anyone would expect given the circumstances surrounding the author and the recipients. As we dip our toes into the joyful waters of this epistle, it’s my prayer that your smile will grow bigger and your heart will become lighter.
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There are 25 additional messages in this series.