• Tony Birkhead

#thechallenge Week - 1




Contentment relies on God’s ability to care for us, not on our ability to care for ourselves!


INTRODUCTION

Think about the past week. What is one thing you saw and thought, “I have got to have that”?

Why are we not content with just the basic necessities?

How does our culture fuel discontentment?

Our materialistic culture leads us to believe we need all the things we want. Advertisers push us to buy with the promise that an item will make us happy and bring satisfaction. We buy into this philosophy of greed and discontent, always wanting more and never being satisfied. Contentment happens by moving the focus of contentment from stuff to God.

KEY SCRIPTURE

1 Timothy 6:6-12

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Philippians 4:1-13

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! 2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

READ PHILIPPIANS 4:11-13 AND 4:19.

How does Paul’s view of contentment compare with the modern world’s view of contentment?

Why does God want His children to be content? What is He trying to teach us?

Paul stated that he was content no matter what his circumstances. The word “contentment” Paul used in this passage is a term that describes an inner spirit of freedom and discipline, the ability to conquer circumstances and situations rather than be conquered by them. Because of his faith and trust in Christ, Paul was able to live triumphantly above changing circumstances. In order to find contentment in Christ, we must learn to trust God to meet our needs in the way He knows is best for us.

Read verse 13 again. What made Paul’s contentment possible? What do you think that contentment looks like in real life?

Paul knew that godliness goes hand in hand with contentment, and he wanted Timothy to understand this. When we’re focused on living God-honoring lives, our contentment is measured by what God is doing in us rather than what we have. In order to understand true contentment, we have to reject the notion that it has anything to do with accumulating material possessions or earthly success.

READ 1 TIMOTHY 6:1-5.

What can we learn about contentment from Paul’s charge to slaves in verse 1? How might it relate to our role as an employee or an employer?

The word for “slave” in verse 1 probably refers to indentured servants who sold themselves into slavery to pay off their debt. Though this type of slavery is not analogous to modern-day slavery, it is certainly not an ideal circumstance. Yet Paul challenges such slaves to regard their masters “with all honor” for the purpose of honoring God and not reviling the gospel.

READ 1 TIMOTHY 6:6-10.

How does godliness relate to contentment? What are some ways we can strive for godliness?

The word “godliness” suggests an attitude focused on God and doing what pleases Him. It depicts a reverence that recognizes that we live each moment before God. The more godly we become the more content we will be. Contentment isn’t based on what we have, it’s based on whose we are. Without a desire to be more and more like the One who created us, we won’t experience contentment.

When we struggle to be content, what are we saying about our view of God and our relationship with Him?

What do you think is the “great gain in godliness with contentment” (v. 6)?

How does recognizing the shortness of life (v. 7) change our perspective on money?

To find contentment in Christ, we must learn to trust God to meet our needs in the manner He knows is best.

How can the desire to be rich become a snare (v. 9)?

How can a desire for money affect people spiritually? In what ways can it cause them to wander away from the faith (v. 10)?

Notice the progression in verse 9 (from temptation to snare to senseless and harmful desires to ruin and destruction). Everyone is tempted, and the temptations in and of themselves are not sins. However, the danger often comes in focusing on these temptations more than God and the opportunity He always provides for a way to stand up under them (see 1 Cor. 10:13). In regards to money, He may do so through an opportunity to generously steward and give away the very things threatening to ensnare us. Otherwise, individuals trapped by their longings for riches become full of senseless and harmful desires for that which we cannot take into eternity. When life is built on the illusion that wealth can bring contentment, it only plunges us into ruin and destruction.

How is verse 10 often misquoted? What’s the difference in meaning between the way it’s misquoted (“Money is the root of all evil”) and the way it actually reads? Why is this difference important?

Money is not evil in and of itself. If we as believers follow the many biblical principles of godliness and stewardship, God will enable us to act as His hands and feet on earth, glorifying His name and accomplishing much good for His kingdom through generosity and eternal investments. However, when we love money, we take our eyes off the One who is of infinitely greater worth. Jesus made it clear that we can either love God or we can love money, but we cannot love both (see Matt. 6:24).


MOVING FORWARD

  • We have seen contentment doesn’t come from something, but from someone. How might this realization change the way you pursue contentment?

  • What do your possessions say about the condition of your heart before God? What do they say about what you value?

  • What steps could you take this week to deepen your joy in Christ rather than your possessions and money?




PRAY TOGETHER

Pray that God would help us to see past the lies of the world that tempt us to seek satisfaction in temporary things.


COMMENTARY

PHILIPPIANS 4:11-13

4:11. ”Learned” (Greek perfect tense) implies a lesson resulting in better knowledge. “Content” (literally “self-reliant”) is self-sufficiency that grows out of trust in Christ.

4:12. “I know” results from evaluating various circumstances. The difficult circumstances are “have a little”, “hungry,” and “need.” The contrasting good “are a lot... well fed... abundance.” Together these taught Paul how to be content.

4:13. “All things” refers to the economic fluctuations of life (v. 12). “Through Him who strengthens me” teaches that Christ empowers believers to live in God’s will. Paradoxically, Paul was strong when he was weak; independent only when dependent. Such is the life of a disciple.

1 TMOTHY 6:6-10

6:6. In contrast to false teachers who were motivated by selfish greed (vv. 3-5), Paul urged believers to seek godliness with contentment. The Greek word translated “contentment” refers to self-sufficiency. In Greek philosophy, the word denoted a wise man’s independence of circumstances. It meant to become independent of outside support and to find all you need in yourself. To Paul, however, contentment was not found in himself but in Jesus Christ. Christian contentment is Christ-sufficiency, not self-sufficiency. Paul said to the Philippians, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content” (Phil. 4:12, HCSB). How so? Paul said he was “able to do all things through Him” (v. 13) because Christ had strengthened him.

Why is godliness with contentment great gain? Paul did not refer to destitute Christians, those who did not have even the basic necessities for human survival. No person can be content with destitution. He referred to godly people who had food and clothing and who felt content with that.

6:7. Paul then referred to a true fact related to human birth and death—for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. The Greek sentence begins with nothing for emphasis. Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return” (Job. 1:21; see also Eccl. 5:15). We were born into this world penniless, and when we die, we are penniless once again. Our entrance into life is identical to our exit from life. Our brief life on planet Earth is a journey between two states of having nothing. As someone said, “There are no pockets in a shroud.” Every human being starts life in the same financial condition—with nothing. You did not even have a diaper until your parents gave you one. Family can bury their dead in a display of wealth, but they leave behind everything they accumulated. Whether we have little or much, we have it only for a little while. Material gain is only the traveling baggage of time, not the luggage of eternity. Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:19-20).

6:8. Since we enter life with no possessions in hand and leave the same way, what should be our attitude toward material things? Paul said, if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. Necessities are essential to our existence; luxuries aren’t. Food and clothing meet our basic needs. The Greek word translated “clothing” also means “house,” so shelter likely is included in the necessities.

Many Christians are in financial bondage. It’s because they did not learn to be content with the basic needs of life—food and clothing. They mistakenly added to the list of necessities a newer car, a bigger house, luxury items, and the newest gadget to come on the market. This passage calls us back to simpler living with God at the center of life. Real spiritual contentment occurs when you are Christ-sufficient.

6:9. “Those who desire to be rich” describes people motivated by money and possessions. The Bible has many warnings against covetousness (see Ex. 20:17; Ps. 49:10-20; Prov. 28:20; 30:7-9; Eccl. 5:10; Luke 12:13-21). The Bible also tells of many who came to grief because of it (Adam and Eve, Achan, Judas, and Ananias and Sapphira.)

People who walk the path of greed, who want to be rich, walk into peril. First, they fall into temptation, such as temptation to steal or lie or cheat. The snare that entraps them often is moral compromise. Second, when desire for riches goes unchecked, people fall into many senseless and harmful desires, such as lust for power and prestige. Money becomes an addiction—more money only inflames desire for more money. Greed is senseless (not rationally defensible) and harmful (brings bondage). Finally, greedy people, whether poor or rich, plunge themselves into ruin and destruction. The imagery is of people who are sinking and then drowning. Greed destroys marriages and causes men and women to jeopardize health and emotional well-being. Jesus warned about the eternal destruction that comes to those controlled by greed (see Luke 16:14-31). It was the rich man’s preoccupation with the world’s wealth that caused him to neglect his soul.

6:10. Ruin and destruction come because the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. This may be the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Paul did not say that money is the problem; the problem is the love of money. The Bible has much to say about money, primarily with regards to our stewardship of it. Jesus spoke much about money, because it is how we view and use money that tells where our devotion is. It is our attitude toward money that gets us into trouble.



DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE


HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


DAY 1

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

con·tent (kuhn-tent) adjective- satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

The apostle Paul is the writer of Philippians. Here he states that he has learned to be content in any situation. I love the definition of content. To be satisfied, not wanting. How often are we in a place like this? Paul says that he has been in times of hunger and of abundance, and he has learned to be content in all things. In times of hunger it is easy to want. Typically, I find that I am wanting money. When the time comes where I find myself pinching pennies, all I can think is that more money would just fix this problem, take away my anxiety, pay my bills, and make me feel better.

Or, on the flip side, when times are far more comfortable financially, I find myself wanting the next best thing. Maybe it’s new electronics, clothing, home décor, or whatever else seems to have you wrapped around it’s finger. It’s almost like as soon as I purchase one thing that I think will make me happy, it doesn’t. Then it’s off to the next thing to present itself to satisfy me.

What a sick cycle! It is only when we rest in God that we are truly content. God already knows what we need and what we don’t need. When we are at peace with Him and thankful for every blessing He has bestowed upon us, we are content. It doesn’t matter if we are broke or have an abundance of money, unless we let God satisfy us, we will never truly be content. Contentment is not based on your possessions, but on who possesses your heart, Jesus.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3

I have twins who just turned one. And let me tell you, they are eating machines! In today’s verse, Peter instructs, “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk.” If we’re anything like my twins have been in the first year of their lives, it means we should be ravenous for the pure sustenance of the gospel. The “food” that has made us taste that the Lord is good. When babies are hungry, everyone around knows it! They will do everything they can to get what their bodies need. This is the pattern Peter says we should follow. Now, what will happen when we do? Peter writes there are five things believers should “put away.”

HAVE YOU PUT IT AWAY? So let’s check ourselves today in each of these activities.

#1. Malice is “the intention or desire to do evil.” Do you desire to cause hurt or pain to someone else? Are you holding on to hatred or unforgiveness? Are you making plans to get revenge or attack another person?

#2. Deceit is “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.” Do you have a habit of lying, secrecy, or hiding sinful behaviors? Do you lie at work, in your marriage, or in your small groups?

#3. Hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform.” Is your public life the same as your private life? What moral standards do you really live by—rather merely profess?

#4. Envy is “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.” Do you look at other peoples’ possessions, wishing deeply that they were yours? Are your thoughts marked by lust for someone else’s spouse? Do you burn with envy rather than shine with contentment?

#5. Slander is “making false and damaging statements about someone.” Do you lie about people to make yourself look good? Do you embellish stories about them behind their back? Are you wounding their reputation for personal gain? If you’re engaged in any of these five actions, take this wonderful opportunity to put them a way today!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”

Psalm 139:5-6

It seems like everyone this time of year is talking about their goals for the new year. Often, I hear things like: eat healthy, work out, save more money, etc. What if we were less focused on our outward appearance and possessions and more focused on our relationship with God and how God wants us to love others? If our goals looked more like: more love, more peace, more patience, more gentleness, more kindness and more self-control.

Don’t get me wrong here, take care of that body of yours. Eat healthy, get moving and know where your money is going. But take heart that those things are not the things that define us. Let us be aware of what and who we are putting first in our life and in our hearts. Would it be challenging for us to have goals that were more outwardly focused? Goals that looked more like: invite someone over to dinner once a week, be more patient with so-and-so at work, listen when we hear God’s whisper to go talk to a stranger. What would our life look like if we made what the the world says quiet enough to hear every whisper of God? He is always speaking to us.

May our wonderful Father give you glimpses of the things he has in store for you this year. May you find peace and contentment for being right in this moment of time. May you trust him with your whole heart for every answered and unanswered prayer that was whispered last year. May you lean into His whispers of promises and shouts of love.

He has such great things in store for our lives, too wonderful for us to understand if He were to tell us in this moment! I pray you search for him in the mundane, in the routines and in the choirs. I pray that you lean into the moments of uncertainty with full confidence in Who holds your tomorrows.

Adapted From: http:// shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 4

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.” 4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 4:1-5

Israel’s enemies were clever in their efforts to block the temple’s reconstruction. First, they offered to help. What better way to cause things to go wrong than to get involved in the work? When their aid was rejected, they set out to discourage the workers and make them afraid. The opponents even hired counselors to thwart the Israelites and were successful in hindering the project.

God, however, wanted His people to reject self-reliance and instead carry out His work in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. He offered them encouragement and protected their building project despite the mountain of opposition facing them. Sometimes this means He will remove the problem; at other times He walks us through it. In either case, we are to rely steadily on God’s Holy Spirit. Doing so will allow us to:

•Patiently love our spouse when there is turmoil in the home.

•Wisely guide our children toward godliness in our self-centered culture.

•Follow scriptural principles about giving, saving, and spending in a society that urges us to get what we want now.

•Experience contentment and God’s peace in our current circumstances—single or married, employed or out of a job, healthy or sick.

•Do God’s work His way.

Being led by the Spirit characterizes how we work. While that mindset is countercultural and not pleasing to the flesh (Gal. 5:16), it’s the only way to live as a child of God. Seek out believers who are trying to practice dependence on the Spirit, and encourage one another not to give up.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Acts 20:35

Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Have you found that to be true in your life? I’m not just speaking of finances; I’m talking about giving in general. We can go through life saying, “I need this,” and “What about my needs?” Or we can say, “God has blessed me. He has provided for me. I had a meal this morning. I have clothes on my back. I have a roof over my head. What can I do for someone else?”

The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. . . .You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3, 5 NLT).

Imagine what would happen by simply applying this to marriage. Instead of looking at your husband or wife and saying, “What can you do for me?” esteem the other person above yourself. Ask yourself, “What can I do to bless this person? What can I do to meet my spouse’s needs? Forget about me. I want to focus on my spouse.” When two people are living that way, they will have a blessed marriage.

When you go through life saying, “How can I help that person? How can I bless that person?”— when you start thinking of others instead of yourself—one day you will wake up and realize you’re a happy person. It won’t be because you’ve chased after the things you thought would fulfill you. Rather, it will be because you have your priorities in order.

Have you discovered the joy of giving? If only we would do things God’s way. Then we would be able to say, like Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Philippians 4:12

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