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About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
Well, we are going to go on a little journey together, and if history and my experience is any indicator of the future, some of you will literally mark this as a major turning point in your life.
Because we’re going to give you the final installment on contentment. We’re going to give you the last secret. The last part. I will give you an opportunity to make a very specific decision. And that decision will activate the faith component in this process of contentment.
And many of you will take it, and you will experience peace, and contentment, and the beginning of a journey in your Christian life that most believers never experience.
Number one on the checklist, by way of review, is that we need to understand, contentment is learned; Philippians 4:10 to 13.
There is a secret that can be learned, and you can actually be at peace, regardless of circumstances being good or bad.
Checklist number two from the Philippian church: We learned that greed must die before contentment can live. That was verse 14 to 18. And the way that greed dies is by developing personal compassion.
We learned we give up our wants to meet some other people’s needs. It’s by a generous spirit where we begin to release the very thing – money – that can consume us.
And third, it’s by developing an eternal perspective, coming to believe and understand that spiritual decisions and financial decisions, instead of being in two different camps, are literally connected at the hip.
The third thing in our checklist we need to remember is that our treasure both reveals and directs the affections of our heart. Matthew 6:21, Jesus would say, “Wherever your treasure is” what’s valuable to you? Wherever your time goes, wherever your energy goes, wherever your money goes, wherever your talent goes – wherever your treasure is – your heart is connected with a chain to your treasure, and if your treasure goes there, it reveals where your heart is, but also has the power to direct it.
Different times in my life, I’ve realized that I needed to shore up some priorities or I needed to work on an area in my marriage, with one of my kids, and here’s the thing – try this – I started putting my treasure toward that area. I put my time, my money, and my treasure toward my wife for a season, and it’s amazing how God changed my heart. Or I put my time and my treasure and my energy toward one of my kids going through a tough time, and I saw my heart follow. Your money, your time, your talent always reveals and directs wherever your heart is.
Peace is great. We all want it, intellectually. The way to get there is very counterintuitive.
The way to get is to give. And that raises a problem. Some of you are thinking to yourself, becoming more generous and being more compassionate, that’s good, except I’ve got a stack of bills this high. I got tens of thousands of dollars in debt. If I actually took serious what you said, who’s going to take care of me? Who’s going to pay my bills? I got needs: There’s college, there’s retirement, and, you know, is this, like, church stuff? Does this really work? Who’s going to take care of me? That’s the problem.
And what I want to suggest is, God has a solution, and the solution is at the very end of Philippians chapter 4. It’s verse 19. And in verse 19, he says, “And my God” – Paul says to this Philippian church – “will meet all your needs according to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus.” If you will, pull out a pen and underline the word my God. That’s the “who” behind this promise.
And then I want you to underline all your needs and put a circle around all. It doesn’t say “finances,” does it? This is a generous church. They don’t have a lot of money. They love Paul. They see what’s happening. And they’ve got some wants, but they see he has a bigger need. So, they give financially to him, and he looks back to them and says, “What you’ve modeled is how people learn contentment.”
And then, almost to reassure them, he says, “Here’s what I want you to know. When you’re generous like that, when your priorities are in order and you’re afraid, I want you to know, my God – personal God, not the force, not some invisible set of factors that operate, but a very personal God who loves you” – what’s He going to do? – “He’ll supply all your needs: your spiritual needs, your emotional needs, your financial needs, your relational needs. How? He’s going to do it according to the glorious riches, what’s in Christ.”
And so, the promise he gives them, and he gives us, is God’s provision. God’s provision. God says if you learn to live this radical give, rather than get, compassion and generosity – He says, “I’ll tell you what – you relax and I’ll take care of you. I’ll make sure you have what you need to take care of you.”
But with every promise, there’s also what I call a “premise.” And there are three conditions here. In other words, my God will supply all your needs according to His riches. You can say, “Oh, that’s great. God’s faithful. He’s big, and I’ve got needs, and He’ll take care of those.”
But some of you have said to yourself, Well, wait a second. I’ve been in church for a while. I’ve read the Bible some. I’ve tried this; it doesn’t work. Okay? I mean, down deep – you’d never say it out loud. It’s not like you go to a Bible study and say, “Hey, I don’t think verse 19 of chapter 4 in – I don’t believe that one!” You don’t say that at Bible studies. But down deep in your heart, you’re praying, and you say, you know, I’m praying and God’s not providing, and I’ve got needs, and I’ve got a bill over here, and I got a problem over here. He’s not doing it for me.
I’d like to suggest that sometimes we get needs and wants confused.
If you’ve got enough to eat and you’re warm, God says, “Really, that’s all you need.” That doesn’t mean you have a 401(k), it doesn’t mean you own your own home, it doesn’t mean you have a second car, it doesn’t mean you have all the fanciest clothes, it doesn’t mean – and, you know, we say that intellectually, but unconsciously, in America, as standard of livings go up, up, up, up, up, what we do is, we make a little bit more money, and the window of our expenses go up, and we start thinking that God has promised that we always live at this level, all the time. And something happens, and we say, “Hey, God, what’s the deal?”
When I was in seminary, I had a very interesting experience. I think God takes you through things before you teach them, and so . . . I’m going to school full time, working full time, and I’m on this straight commission job, where I make about 900 dollars a month. And back in 1980, that still wasn’t very much money – family of five. I mean, you’re living tight. And so, every now and then – I was in a straight commission job, and if someone didn’t pass their physical, I didn’t get my commission. And it would be, like, Oh, man, I – just, Argh! And so, I’d have my rent, and I’m gonna need some food. I didn’t have any money. I mean, we were digging quarters out of the backseat and praying and begging God and claiming Philippians 4:19.
And, I could stand up here for an hour with stories of how God provided and built my faith.
I could tell you the story of a time where a good friend who went to be a missionary in India, and you gotta figure, if God prompts him – He knows what’s happening over here – by the time they decide to send you some money, it goes all the way overseas, and you get this – I mean, I didn’t have enough money for rent. A guy failed his medical, so I couldn’t get the commission. I get a 500-dollar check from a missionary in India. When missionaries are sending you money, you know God’s hearing you.
But no matter where you’re at, you can get thinking – and I love to hear those stories – but we can confuse needs and wants. And we had a particular situation, where I think God wanted to teach us a big lesson. And there was a lady upstairs in our apartments, and her husband walked out on her, and she had a brand-new baby and then a little boy the same age as my older boys. And I was just like you, getting up in the morning, reading my Bible, and this outrageous thought came to my mind: She’s going to get kicked out of the apartment. Chip, you and Theresa – you should pay her rent.
And I said, “Surely, You jest, God.” I said, “I’ve figured it out – when we pay our rent, we’ll have 10 dollars left in the bank.” Chip, I want you to pay her rent. And, you know, sometimes when people are pastors, you think they’re real obedient and real holy, and they make these outrageously sacrificial – I argue with God a lot. So, I said, “No. I don’t think this is a good idea. I think this is my imagination. This could not be the Holy Spirit.” When you get thoughts that help other people, are highly sacrificial, bring glory to God, I mean . . . Well, I guess they’re probably not from you.
And so, about the third day, finally, I give in and say, “Okay, God, I’ll – I’ll” – I mean, this is a reluctant giver – “I’ll do it.” And my heart went out to her. So, we took all our money out of the bank, and we paid for her rent. And so, about nine days later, our rent’s due, and I’m thinking, Okay, Philippians 4:19 – You’re going to supply all my needs. My rent’s due. My rent’s due! Gabriel, do we have a communication problem up there? Could you, you know . . . I mean . . . No money comes. It’s the first time in my life. I mean, I’ve seen miraculous things happen, now, for about two years. There’s no money. Next day – I get a three-day grace period – no money. Third day, I gotta pay – today’s the day, or it’s late. Now, God, Your reputation – what are You doing? Philippians 4:19, does this work or not? And I’m really pretty upset.
And I’ll never forget, it was a government subsidized, little housing project, and I remember walking through our little living room, and I looked and I saw – not an expensive at all – but a TV, and I thought, Hmm, TV. Is that a need or a want? Want. Then I looked over at a stereo system that I’d had for a few years – and I actually went on a basketball trip to Hong Kong – it was pretty nice. Is that a need or a want? And then I thought, You know, when I was a paper boy, I saved all my silver dollars and the silver dimes – and back in the ‘80s, remember when silver got real valuable? I thought, You know something? Maybe God has supplied all my needs, and I’m asking Him for something.
And I shared it with my wife, and we loaded up in our car – my TV, my stereo, my silver dollars, my silver dimes. Theresa went back – and she didn’t have any real expensive jewelry, but she had a couple, three nice rings and a couple necklaces. And we went to a pawn shop, and we turned in everything we could and got about 447 dollars or something. And we paid our rent and had enough money for food for that month.
And you know what I learned? I learned, often, God has supplied our needs, but we unconsciously tell Him at what standard of living He has to come through: “God, I can’t do that because I have to make that car payment,” and you have to have that late model of car. “God, I can’t do that,” or, “I would really follow You, except I have this house payment.” And so, everyone has to own your own home, right? You’re taking your home with you to heaven and . . . Right? And you have to live in this neighborhood, with this zip code, with . . .
The apostle Paul’s going to say if you’re serious about contentment, you need to be serious about God’s promises. And he said there are three conditions about verse 19.
Condition number one – this is not for unbelievers. This is written to a church. Notice, He will supply according “to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus.” I didn’t come to Christ until I was 18. God does not commit Himself to meet the needs of those outside of Christ.
The second condition is, I don’t believe this passage is for all believers. I don’t think every Christian can claim this. I don’t think my priorities can be out of whack. I can be disobedient in major areas of my life, especially my finances, and claim this verse. This verse is written to – who? The Philippian church, who are doing – what? They’re sacrificially giving up of their wants to meet a need in Paul’s life. And the answer is, “My God will [supply] all your needs according to His . . . riches in Christ Jesus,” for people like you, who are doing – what? Have their priorities in line.
The third condition is, I think this is only for believers who’ve chosen to walk by faith, evidenced by sacrificial giving. God will meet the needs of His children who say, “Lord, I want to obey You. I’m sacrificially giving of my money and my time and my talent, and I’m out here on the edge, and if You don’t catch me, I’m in trouble.” He says, “I’ll always catch you. I’ll always catch you.”
And so, the way that you unlock the promises of God is by faith. It’s by trusting. Would you jot down – we’ll probably get to it yet again, but jot down Hebrews 11:6 in the corner of your notes, if you will. ‘Cause more than anything that God wants to develop in your heart, in your relationship – it’s not activities, it’s not external morality, it’s not how much money you give or how much you serve in the church, it’s not trying to figure out how you can figure out some little formula – what He wants to develop in your heart, more than anything else, is a son or a daughter or a student who says, “I love You, Jesus, and I evidence my love by You, that when You say it, I obey it. And I trust You, even when I don’t feel like it, because I believe that You are good, and I believe that You are real, and I believe that You’re true.”
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, for he that comes to God must believe two things. One says that He is, that He exists, and second, He’s a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Did you ever think of God as a rewarder, as a good God who’s for you and loves you and wants to bless you, and is longing for each of His children to take a step of faith so He can bless? God promises He’ll take care of you.
And the evidence of our pile of debt is often an evidence that I have to have immediate gratification. The evidence of our overextension with our time and our finances is trying to get contentment, trying to get satisfied by all the stuff out there.
And over against that, God says, “The more, more, the get, get, the bigger, bigger, the acquire, the acquire, the gotta have, the gotta have is an empty dead end. But He says, “If you’ll learn to release, if you’ll learn to trust, if you learn to walk with Me, I’ll satisfy all your needs.”
Now, let’s talk about how that works, ‘cause there is a principle here, as some of you are thinking to yourself, You know what? I’d like to believe this, but in my experience – I’m not sure it’s worked out for me. And there’s a axiomatic principle behind this promise, and it’s in the Old Testament and it’s in the New Testament. It’s from the life of Christ. It’s in the character of God. It’s from Genesis to Revelation. There is an axiomatic principle all the way, a Kingdom principle about how God has set up life. The world and the world’s system goes this way; this Kingdom principle goes this way. It’s called the “Law of the Harvest,” the “Law of the Harvest.” Some have called it the “Law of Sowing and Reaping,” others the “Law of Reciprocity.”
The Law, explained, is in Luke 6:38. It’s from the very lips of Jesus. It is not a financial passage, although it applies there. In Luke 6:38, Jesus gives the Law of the Harvest. He says, “Give, and it will be given [unto] you. Good measure, pressed down, [running over, shaken together] . . . [over] into your lap. For [whatever] measure you [give]” – and the “measure” means whatever size…. If you use a cup, if you use a bucket, if you use a 55-gallon drum – whatever measure you use to give, in the same measure it will be given back to you. Law of the Harvest.
The world says, “Get, get, get, acquire, acquire, acquire, more, more, more. As you acquire and get, then you will be significant and strong and powerful and secure.” And God says, “No, just the opposite – give, and it’ll be given unto you.” Good measure – in fact, shaken: It’s a picture of someone who shakes something to make room for more. So, he explains that the Kingdom principle is give, so that God might bless.
It’s illustrated throughout nature. Jesus, in John 12:24, says, “Unless a grain of wheat fall unto the earth and die, it remains by itself, alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” It’s just an agricultural picture. But God has made – the creation declares the glory of the Lord. You can take one or two seeds of wheat, stick them into the ground. It seems like the height of foolishness, ‘cause you could take ten or twelve and you could grind them up and make at least one little piece of bread and eat it.
But instead, you take one seed and you put it into the ground, and then you put dirt over it, and you give it away. And then, in a season – you never reap in the same season that you sow – it grows up, and what comes out of it? Hundreds and hundreds of seeds of wheat. “Give, and it will be given [unto] you. Good measure, pressed down . . . running over.”
It’s explained in nature; it’s applied to Jesus. Follow along, as I read Philippians chapter 2. What does Jesus do, what does He give, in order for God to exalt Him? Beginning at verse 8 – it says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to [the point of] death – even death on a cross!” What did – what did He do? He gave His life. He was the grain of wheat that went into the ground. What’s the result?
Verse 9: “Therefore God highly exalted Him . . . and [bestowed on] Him the name [which] is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, [of those who are] in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and [that] every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The Law of the Harvest, the secret – final secret of contentment, is that the way to receive is to give.
We see it in nature, we see it in the life of Christ, and then, in Luke 9:24 – from the lips of Jesus – He applies it to us. In verse 23, He says to a large multitude of disciples, “. . . If anyone of you want to follow after Me, be My disciple, be My follower, you need to . . . take up your cross” – instrument of death – “[deny yourself], and follow Me.” How often? Anybody know? Daily. And then verse 24: “For whosoever would seek to save or keep his life” – get – “will lose it, but whoever would give his life . . . would find it.”
Now, at this point in time – the looks on your faces – I always love it when this happens. There is a conflict and dilemma between your brain and your heart, ‘cause some of you are thinking through some of the implications.
And your brain is going, Luke 6:38 – that’s the principle. It’s as clear as a bell. I see it in nature. Farmers use it all the time. You know what? Philippians 2, it’s true of Jesus. You know that Luke 9 passage? that is black and white. That’s not interpretation. This is an axiomatic Kingdom principle – the Law of Harvest. And then you’re thinking to yourself, Oh, my lands. I would have to think completely differently about how to do life.
So, let’s take it one step at a time. Do you buy – do you, at least intellectually, buy that the Bible teaches this? Well, if you intellectually buy it – then here’s what I’d like you to do. Let’s go to the next page, and I want to walk through the process of how this actually works in a regular person’s life – not a missionary, not a pastor, not some famous spiritual person – I want to walk through how the Law of the Harvest actually works in ordinary people’s lives, so that, as you begin to live in a different way, you will have supernatural stories.
Aren’t some of you tired of hearing stories of, “A quarterback from the NFL sent that guy a thousand dollars, and a missionary sent him 500 dollars. And boy, I could tell you the time where five bags of groceries with only the kind of food – with wheat flour and meat and cheese, and no one knew we had any need”?
Why do you think I get those stories? Because God is a rewarder of those who do – what? Step out by faith. Faith that does – what? Often counter intuitively, you give, when you’re thinking to yourself, Only an idiot would give right now. That’s what I told God: “Lord, excuse me, but I have both brain cells working. I have my rent plus 10 dollars, and You’re asking me to give it to this lady. It’s very nice. Why don’t You give it to her?” And He said, “I’m going to, through you! The question I want to know is, do you trust Me to take care of you?” I didn’t want to do it. I just obeyed. And then God provided.