lesson
17

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Can we learn contentment?
Philippians 4:10-13

warm up
 
   1. T or F The school of "hard knocks" can help us build fortitude. 
   2. T or F Our contentment in life depends upon our attitude.
wise up

Paul found that the circumstances of life can be cruel even to Christians. If we think the apostles had it easier than we do, we should think again. Yet, despite  their adversity, they learned to have fortitude and contentment. (I Timothy 6:6.) We can be inspired by their example and we can learn what they learned.

I. I have learned. . . Vs. 10-11 
   1. In verse 10, Paul expressed appreciation for the care (financial support)  of his brethren which was flourishing again. Evidently their support had fallen off, not because they did not love Paul or support his work but because they "lacked opportunity." Sometimes we may feel that others have abandoned us in our time of need. We may have expected them to be there for us or to encourage and support but they let us down. It is easy to become bitter or to be hurt. But we must be careful not to judge harshly. They may not have helped us because they lacked opportunity. What about us, are there times when we may have appeared to be negligent and perhaps disappointed someone when actually we really never had an opportunity to help? Discuss. 

   2. In verse 11, Paul said he had learned to be content regardless of his circumstances. Is that something that must be "self taught?"  Discuss why some are never content regardless of how much money or things they have while others may seem to have very little material possessions, yet be extremely happy. Why is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence to many people? What must we do if we want to be content? Does gratitude play a part in our contentment? What about optimism? Looking back over Phil. 4:4-9 discuss how Praise (Vs. 4), Prayer (Vs. 6), and Pondering positive things (Vs.8-9) can help bring a sense of contentment into our lives. 

II. I know how. . . Vs. 12    
   1.
Paul said that he knew "how..."  to both be abased and to abound. He had evidently been at both the top and bottom rungs of the ladder. He knew how to be full and how to be hungry. He had experience having more than he needed and he had experienced the pain and suffering of being in need.
   2. Notice that Paul never says that abounding is better than being abased or humbled. We may think like that but Paul learned not to make such comparisons. Instead he chose to be content and see that every "half empty glass" was also "half full." In fact, he said that he was "instructed both to be full and to be hungry."  He was realistic in that he could see both the good and the bad and refused to focus on just one. To focus only on the good and never see the bad in life can make one naive and gullible. To focus only on the bad and never see the good in life can make one negative and cynical.  
   3. Discuss some ways that we might experience adversity and abundance at the same time in our lives. For example: When we experience emotional lows are there physical blessings (such as our health, our children, etc.) that we are abounding in? 

Many can look back to the early years of their marriage and remember living in small apartments with used furnishings and small paychecks. But they remember being happy because of the "abundance" of love they had one for another. Many can remember lean times when they struggled to pay the light bills month after month. With small children at their feet they should have been bitter during such times. But those were happy days full of emotional fulfillment and joy. because their children's eyes would twinkle when Daddy came home from work. The abundance of hugs and kisses by those small children made up for anything lacking financially in life. Obviously, our "abundance" in life often has nothing to do with money. 

   4. List some negatives in life when we might feel that we are being debased or humiliated and then find something in each of the circumstances listed that one could look for that would be considered a blessing or an abundance.  

III. I can do all things. . . Vs. 13 
   1. In the end, after all the comparisons are made and we have looked for the positives in the midst of negative things, and we have drawn on all our resources... we can learn to be content and we can press on with fortitude "through Christ which strengthens us." Paul recognized that the power or strength needed to accomplish with dignity and grace "anything in life" comes through Jesus. How important is it to know that we are not alone in our struggles? 
   2. How many times do we ignore that lesson from Paul when it comes to our own problems and issues in life. Do we find ourselves trying to climb every mountain in life with our own fortitude and strength? Discuss some problems and issues in life where many will actually turn away from Christ rather than to him for help and strength? Why does that happen?
   3. List some circumstances when it would be helpful to quote verse 13 to yourself. What are some ways that Christ strengthens us?

wrap up

   1. Paul was humble enough to acknowledge that any thing he was able to accomplish would be because of the strength and help he received from the Lord Jesus. Are we humble enough to accept that source of lasting strength in our lives?

Assignment

 Please read Philippians 4:14-23 for next week   copyright 2001