Text: Philippians 4:10-13. April 1, 2012.
1) This is what a little girl wanted. Jennifer Schuldt, a writer for the devotional OUR DAILY BREAD, said when her daughter was learning to talk, she had adopted a favorite word: more. She will say ¡°more¡± and pointed to toast with jam. She held out her palm and said ¡°More!¡± when dad gave her coins for her piggy bank. She even exclaimed, ¡°More, Daddy!¡± one morning when her dad was about to go to work.
2) This is what all of us want. Jennifer continued to say: Like my little girl, many of us look around and always want ¡°more.¡± Unfortunately, enough is not enough for many of us. We always want more of many things even though we have all that we need for comfortable living. We need the power of Christ to break the cycle of wanting more, so we can say with Paul, ¡°I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.¡± (Phil. 4:11)
LIVING ON MORE: Why do we want to live with more?
1) It all came from the devil: ¡°Now the serpent is more crafty than any of the animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman: Did God really say you must not eat any tree in the garden?¡± (Genesis 3:1-2) This is not about putting blames on the devil for all of our sins, but it is about the devil¡¯s scheme to stir up the thought of wanting ¡°more¡± than what God allowed them to eat. (2:16-17) We all can safely assume that if it were not the evil thought of ¡°I want more¡± stirred by the serpent, Eve might not have violated the command of God in eating that forbidden fruit. Ever since the Great Fall, we inherit the evil nature of ¡°want more¡± of anything and everything regardless of if we really need them or how much we already have.
2) We believe more is better: ¡°The ground of a rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself: What shall I do. I have no place to store my crops.¡± Then he said to himself: This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul: ¡°You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink and be merry.¡± (Luke 12:16-19) Countless people today have that same belief as that rich man: more is better. Of course the following of the story tells us the opposite.
3) We equate more to safer: ¡°Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.¡± (Prov. 23:5) Centuries later, Paul told Timothy to ¡°command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope ion God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.¡± (1 Tim. 6:17) God is the only true security and only God can provide all our needs.
4) We want more for lavish life: ¡°Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off to a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.¡± (Luke 15:13) Most of us won¡¯t squander wealth in wild living like this Prodigal Son. But most of us love to have more wealth so we can live in lavish life style: spending without thinking, buy more than we need just to fulfill that inner craving of possession. James rebuked people who asked God for more so they can waste it in pleasure living. (James 4:3) Most of us want more so we can buy bigger house we don¡¯t really need, more clothes we seldom wear, accumulate things we don¡¯t need, don¡¯t use for years. In fact, this is wasting God¡¯s resources He created for all people, not just for us.
LIVING ON LESS: Why do we want to live on less?
1) Less dependent on things: ¡°But Jesus answered: It is written: Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.¡± (Matt. 4:4) Jesus didn¡¯t deny the need of bread, or material things, to sustain life. But he called our attention not to depend too much on material things for living. When we depend too much on material things, we may become slaves of them as some already have.
2) Less stressed out for things: Nothing will drop from the sky into your laps. We all have to work to earn a living. If one wants more, he has to work more, harder and put in longer hours like the Bible says, ¡°In vain you get up early and stay up late, eating food earned by hard work.¡± (Psalm 127:2) I am not encouraging anyone to be lazy. But I am making a point that if we can live on less, we don¡¯t have to be stressed out so much in our life. Too many people work overtime all the times or taking double job not because they have unmet needs, but because they want more than they need.
3) Less worry in the heart: During the world-wide economic downturn in the 1970s, many people in Hong Kong lost so much on their financial assets. Some of them lost more than just their money; they lost their ability to live. They became emotionally or mentally disordered. Mental facilities in Hong Kong were over crowded by these people. We all know what Jesus said in Matt. 6:21, ¡°For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.¡± People¡¯s hearts are attached to their money. More money they have, more worry they have also.
4) Less hindrance to heaven: When the rich young man went away grieving instead of following Jesus and inherit eternal life, because he had many possessions, Jesus said this: ¡°I assure you: It will be hard for a rich man to enter the king-dom of heaven.¡± (Matt. 19:22-23) Many people don¡¯t have interest to know God, have no time to serve God, or a heart to see the importance of their spiritual needs because they are too busy and too worldly in making more money. Their life style and purpose of life prevent them from living the way God wants them to live. For seeking to have more, they forsake the most precious part of their life, their soul.
LIVING WITH MORE OR LESS: (Phil 4:10-13)
1) Be joyful with whatever: ¡°I rejoice in the Lord greatly that you now at last have renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concern about me but lack the opportunity to show it.¡± (4:10) The Philippians church was the only church provided material needs to Paul while he was in prison at Rome. (4:15) For some unknown reasons, their support was interrupted for a while, left Paul in a destitute situation. But Paul rejoiced instead of anguished when the church finally resumed their support to his needs. We may imagine how difficult things might have been with Paul when no one cared for his needs while he was unable to meet his own because of his imprisonment. Whatever the material condition it might be, Paul was not affected. Whatever he had, he kept his joy. His joy came from the Lord instead of from material supplies and his joy was not fluctuated by having more or having less.
2) Learn to live with less: ¡°I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circum-stances.¡± (4:11) The Greek word for learned is emathon from manthanw which means ¡°learning by practicing, experience.¡± The Greek for content is autos, self, and arkew, sufficient or enough. The ability Paul had to live with more or less was not born with. He learned that ability by personal experience through living with less. He could feel content by his living condition, even though he had so little. Living with less and still feeling ¡°enough¡± or content has nothing to do with ¡°how much¡± on the outside but with ¡°how you feel¡± on the inside. Anyone can learn this skill to live with less and still feel ¡°content¡± and happy.
3) God has a purpose in 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 living in want.¡± (4:12) Paul had learned a secret to live in different conditions. In all his experience, God had a purpose in it. The Greek word for ¡°secret¡± memuemai is from muew or muw, which means to instruct or to initiate a teaching of mystery. God allowed Paul to go through the highs and the lows, the more and the less for a purpose. In all his experiences, God was in control of Paul¡¯s living condition. Nothing is an accident or a surprise or from any outside circumstance. God has a reason to allow Paul to live that way, and the purpose is in verse 13.
4) To live in the power of God: ¡°I can do everything through him who gives me strength.¡± (4:13) The word ¡°strength¡± in Greek is evdunamounti from en, in, and dunamai, dynamic, the world recognized material of power. To Paul, the ups and downs in living with more or less didn¡¯t drive him crazy or crushed him flat. Instead, in all these experiences, he became much more powerful by the ¡°dynamic¡± of God so he can do all things in all kinds of living condition. Isn¡¯t this wonderful for all of us to know and to learn? Power of life doesn¡¯t come from material possessions but from God in all kinds of living condition, either it is more or it is less, we win.
1) What is your living condition? Many of us are not exactly happy with our living condition. We always want more, bigger and better. This is not just in material possessions, but also position of influence, power in what we do or over others, even in your own family and friends. No matter how much we already have, we always look or dream for more and higher. This unending pursuit of more and higher has become the motto of life in the world, and in many Christians. In doing so, we miss the joy of living with whatever God allows us to have. We need to learn from Paul on how to be content in all circumstances.
2) Have the power of God in you. Stop feeling pitiful at the circumstance you are in, particularly if it is in a less situation. That is the best time we gain access to God and His power to overcome our human weakness. Hard time is the best time to grow character and faith. Living with less helps us focus in God for his love and power of supply. With less to distract our focus in our spiritual growth, we will enjoy a life with simplicity with out the worries of material of the world. God is always in control and He never misses any schedule of supply.