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Enough

A sermon delivered by Howard Batson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Amarillo, Tx., on February 6, 2011.
Philippians 4:10-19

I wish you enough.

A passenger overheard a father and a daughter in their last moments together at the airport.  They had announced her departure, and, standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, “I love you.  I wish you enough.”  She in turn said, “Daddy, our life together has been more than enough.  Your love is all I ever needed.  I wish you enough, too, Daddy.”  They kissed and she left.

The observing passenger remembers:

He walked over toward the window where I was seated.  Standing there, I could see he wanted and needed to cry.  I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?”

“Yes, I have,” I replied.  Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me.  Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.  So I knew what this man was experiencing.

“Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?” I asked.

“I am old and she lives much too far away.  I have challenges ahead, and the reality is, the next trip back will be for my funeral.” he said.

“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’  May I ask what that means?”

He began to smile.  “That’s a wish that has been handed down from generation to generation in my family.  My parents used to say it to everyone.”  He paused for a moment, and, looking up as if trying to remember every detail, he smiled even more.

“When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued.  And then, turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from deep within his memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish enough “hello’s” to get you through the final “goodbye.”

He began to sob and walked away.

I wish you enough.

“Enough” is a word that Paul used in Philippians 4.  This part of the letter is a response to his receipt of a financial gift from the Philippian church, delivered by Epaphroditus (v. 18).  It’s a formal receipt, acknowledging that things had arrived intact and had been duly received by him. 

You see, Paul is in prison.  And in those days, prisoners – their family, their friends – had to pay their own way.  And the Philippian church had stepped up to pay the Apostle Paul’s way.

There had been a time when the Philippians had been cut off from Paul, and they couldn’t help him.  But they had renewed their delight in once again helping  the apostle who had founded their church. 

But Paul wants them to know that as much as he appreciates the gift, his contentment, his satisfaction, is not based upon either giving or receiving, of having or lacking.

Look at verses 10-11

But I have rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.  Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

There is our word:  Content.  It is autarkes.  It means “enough.”  To be satisfied.  To be content.

The Bible actually says a great deal about contentment.  Here are some examples:

Luke 3:14

Likewise the soldiers asked him, “And what shall we do?”  And He said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

Or 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it’s certain we carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

Or Hebrews 13:5

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Of course, that’s the very first temptation in all of human history:  the temptation to be discontent.  God gave Adam and Eve everything a human being could possibly imagine.  They had access to everything in the Garden except one tree.  So many trees; so much fruit.  But they weren’t content.  Satan used that tree to sow the seed of discontentment in Eve’s heart.   He got her to question the goodness of God.  Discontentment is a serious sin that has permeated our culture.  It’s really hard to find a man or a woman who enjoys contentment.

I want us to notice some things about contentment from Paul’s perspective.

I.  Contentment is found above and beyond our circumstances.

Look at verses 11-12.

Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

Paul was, basically, financially insolvent at the time he receives the gift from the church at Philippi.  But there is a contentment which goes beyond financial security – or any other kind of security, for that matter.  It goes beyond the outward circumstance.  You and I can be up or down in our finances, in our romances, in our health, our friendships, but still have a  contentment, a sufficiency based upon the spirit within and not the circumstances without.

 

Paul seemed to borrow this idea of self-satisfaction from the Stoics, though he changed it a bit.  The Stoics had said that a man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his own will, to resist the force of circumstances.  Paul is saying he, too, has the virtue of a spirit free from worry, untroubled by external events, independent of all people and all things.  And Paul cherishes this “above and beyond the circumstances” sufficiency.

Look what he says in verse 12.  “I have learned to be self-sufficient in every situation.”  He says, “I know how to get along with humble means.”  The word in the Greek text means to lower, as one would lower the level of water behind a dam.  Or the height of a mountain or a hill.  So it means to lower.  “I know how to get along in humble circumstances.  I know how to live in depravation,” he’s saying.  “I can cope with it.  I’m able for that task.”

A lone fisherman sat on a stretch of beach.  His single fishing pole was planted in the sand.  Along came a businessman on vacation.  “Why don’t you have two poles so you can catch more fish?” the businessman asked.  “Then what would I do?” asked the Corsican fisherman.

“Then you could take the extra money, buy a boat, get nets and a crew, and catch even more fish.”

“Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman.

“Then,” said the businessman, “you could move up to a fleet of large ships, go wholesale, and become very rich.”

“Then what would I do?” asked the Corsican.

“Do whatever you want!” shouted the businessman.

The Corsican replied, “I’m doing that right now.”

Paul remembers the self-humbling of the Christ that he had spoken of in 2:8.  “Humbled by external forces or humbled by inner attitude, either way, I can make it through that,” Paul says.

And then the opposite, the antithesis.  “And I know how to get along in prosperity.”  The word means to exalt, to abound, to overflow.  To be extremely rich.  “I know how to cope with abundance,” he is saying.

Not all of Paul’s life was marked by cramping and oppressive want of resources.  He had also experienced prosperity in his time.  He hadn’t always been a prisoner.  But in the same way privations could do him no harm, he was equally immune from the harm when fortune smiled.

Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor. (Benjamin Franklin)

You know, the reality is that it sometimes takes more grace to handle prosperity than it does poverty.  At least, that’s my reading of the text.  You might translate it this way, like the NEB, “I have been thoroughly initiated into the human lot with all of its ups and downs.” 

“I know how to get along when I’m being filled,” he says next.

To be full or to be filled was the language used for force-feeding animals to fatten them.  It’s the language used of satisfying the needs of a hungry crowd (Matthew 14:20).  It denotes amplitude.

But then there is the opposite.  “I also know how to get along when I’m hungry.”  It pictures the absence of food (Matthew 4:2).  Again he repeats himself, “Even when I have more than enough or when I have too little.  Doesn’t matter.  I have learned to be content, to count it enough whatever circumstance I find myself.”

Some of you here this morning, your inner peace is driven by external forces every single day.  You have a good day or a bad day based upon how he or she treats you.  A rocky relationship dominates your life.  You have no contentment and inner peace above and beyond that relationship.

Some of you are so drawn to the material things of this world that your happiness is based upon the ever evasive ability to “keep up with the Joneses,” to have as much as your brother or your sister.  To have as much money as they have.  To have as much free time as they have.  To have as much esteem as they have.

Some of you, your happiness is based directly on your health.  It would be hard to suffer poor health and be happy.  But some of the most content people I’ve ever met are people who struggle with their health.

There is a story of a traveler who said to the shepherd, “What kind of weather are we going to have today?”  The shepherd replied, “The kind of weather I like.”  The traveler replied, “Well, how do you know it will be the kind of weather you like?”  The shepherd replied, “Having found out, sir, I cannot always get what I like, I have learned always to like what I get.  So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.”  (Anthony DeMello, S.J., The Heart of the Enlightened)

The first thing that we see is that we must find our contentment  beyond and above our circumstances.

Dr. Victor Frankl survived three grim years at Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons.  He recorded his observations on life in Hitler’s camps.  “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread.  They have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing:  the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.  (Stories For the Heart)

Content.  Above and beyond the circumstances.

There is a second thing we see from Paul about the secret of contentment.

II.  Contentment has to be learned.

Look at verse 11

…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.

When Paul says, “ For I have learned,” ego gar emathon, he is saying, “All of life to this point has been a schoolhouse for me.  And I have not failed to master the lesson.  I have learned the lesson, the secret, of contentment.”

You know, you do have to decide to be content.  It doesn’t come naturally, does it?  Discontent is the natural state of affairs for all of us.

Walter Kerr, in his book The Decline of Pleasure, analyzed the discontentment of our age.  And this is what he observed, and I think it’s keenly insightful.  He noted the very things that we do that should be pleasurable for us are void of joy.  Why?  Because the things we do are being used as a means to an end.  We do not treat them as an enjoyable event in themselves.  For example, we all are compelled to read for profit.  We want to go to a party to form contacts.  We go to lunch for contacts.  We bowl with the guys for unity.  We drive the car to gain the mileage.  We gamble for charity.  We go out for an evening for the greater glory of the municipality.  And we stay home for the weekend to rebuild the house.

One pastor was stopped by his youth minister who said, “John, why don’t you just stop and enjoy life.  Everything you do is utilitarian.  You run for conditioning and to maintain your weight.  You read so as to have more sermon material.  You even play golf for the associations and contacts they provide for ministry.  Just relax.  Why don’t you just do something without any ulterior motive?”  (John A. Huffman, Jr., “Contentment/Faith: Are You Trying to Get Ahead of God?” www.preaching.com)

What about your schoolhouse of faith?  Have you learned to be content?  I’m not saying you’ve never been disappointed.  I’m not saying that things always turn out the way that you want them to turn out – they don’t for me, either.  You’ve had your hardships and your heartbreaks, and some of you are living in the middle of them right now.  But has God ever abandoned you?  Has He ever really neglected you when the chips were down?  Even in the midst of your loss, have you not enjoyed His presence, His peace, His comfort?

You remember the passage on contentment in Hebrews 13:5?  “Be content with such things as you have, for He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

You look back on every point of crisis in your life, and God has been there by your side.  God never promised you an easy life.  Sometimes what we need enough of is hardship to shape us to be like Him. 

One writer said,

I asked for strength  that I might achieve;

He made me weak that I might obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things;

I was given grace that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I received nothing that I asked for, but all that I hoped for;

My prayer was answered.

There is a third I want you to see in this passage. Why did Paul have contentment?

III. Contentment was founded on his relationship with God through the person of Jesus.

Look at verse 13

I can do all things through Him [meaning the Christ] who strengthens me.

Verse 13 could be translated this way:  I have power to face all circumstances of life.  And then the qualifier:  …in union with the one who infuses me with strength.

It’s the great paradox of Paul.  Paul’s independence is based upon his dependence on the Christ.  He really isn’t self-sufficient at all when you look at it from the perspective of the gospel.  He calls Christ the one who continually infuses power.  Some of the later scribes wrote “Christ” in the text.  It’s not in the original.  But they wanted to make sure you knew what Paul meant.

 

Isn’t that a paradox?  Paul, who had given up everything for Christ, had gained all by losing everything for Christ.  He who had longed to know Christ and the power of His resurrection (3:7-10) could only envision Christ as his true source of inner strength.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul made the same connection.  “Most gladly then,” writes Paul, “will I rather glorify in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses…and hardships for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

A fourth and final thing that I have drawn from the text rather indirectly is

IV.  Contentment is not for tomorrow, and it’s not for yesterday.  It’s for today for God’s people.

There Paul is in prison.  There had been times, he said, when he had a lot of money.  A lot of freedom.  But he was content today.

So many of us base our contentment not on today, but on yesterday or in the hope of tomorrow.

Dr. V. Ray Edman, who was the president of Wheaton College, made this illustration to the student body at the university.  Once a year.  If you were a student for four years, you heard it four times.  He would say, “Many of you college men and women are restless.  You’re filled with anxiety about the future.  You’re trying to make your decisions about next semester.  Or next summer.  Or next year.  This anxiety about the future is only destroying your present.” 

“I listened hard,” said one student.  “That’s the way I was.  I was always planning the future and/or fretting about the future.”

Edman went on to say, “God has given you a job.  That job is to be carried out in the present, not the future.   Nothing you ever do will be done in the future.  It will always be done in the present.”  (John A. Huffman, Jr.)

You cannot get ahead of God.   You must be content today.

So what do I wish for you today?  I wish for you enough. 

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish enough “hello’s” to get you through the final “goodbye.”

I wish you enough.

Paul said in all circumstances he had found enough.