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Healthy, Growing and Full of Love

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…for I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation

Phil 4:12b


“I think he knows ’the secret’!”


On Sunday I was carrying a toddler while talking to a friend. The toddler was licking his fingers and had an enormous smile on his face…

“He looks so happy” we said “I think he knows ’the secret’!”


In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that he has ‘learned the secret of being content … whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want’ and it’s as a result of 'him who gives me strength'


3 things stick out to me about Paul’s words in these verses (Phil 4:10-13):


1) we have to learn contentment, we’re not born with it.

Our natural state is to strive for more, and to keep looking for things to temporarily titillate. I think what the apostle is saying to us here is that he had learned not only to experience contentment, but that which is real contentment. The process of learning this is to learn a new definition of contentment.


2) both poverty and wealth are equally regarded as trials.

Sounds weird right?! We are inclined to view poverty as a trial, but abundance as a blessing, and are continually seeking after a state in which we have everything we want. But contentment is not having all you want, but wanting what you have.


3) Jesus is the secret to victory over these imposters

This is the theme that runs through nearly every verse of Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, a continual harking back by Paul to that great discovery in his life when he learned that he had nothing in himself, but that ‘in Christ’, Paul had sufficiency for every situation.


How content are you? Does your face radiate like a finger-licking toddler, or do you murmur and complain because of lack or excess?


I want to be like Paul…and I want to be like David, whose thirsty soul would only be satisfied by God (Ps 63), and who asked for and sought after God alone (Ps 27). Don’t you want to live having learned a new definition of contentment?

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We write this to make our joy complete.

1 John 1:4


Do you know the feeling of discovering something great, and the joy you get in sharing it with others?! Maybe it’s a new Netflix series, an up-and-coming artist, a restaurant that’s just opened...


I remember discovering Jack Johnson’s music for the first time…as a surfer, I knew this kid from Hawaii who’d had some early success before an accident forced him to take up other pursuits - directing surf videos and making music. I remember watching Loose Change and hearing his song Middle Man for the first time...


“What is this?!” I exclaimed to Toby, my best mate from Uni.


You couldn’t get his music in Australia yet, there was no Spotify or Apple Music, so I had to order one of his CDs from the US! After weeks of waiting, it finally arrived...I listened to it on repeat, and would play it for anybody who was willing to listen - “You gotta hear this!"

I couldn’t help it…the music had gripped me, I loved the way it made me feel, and I had one of the few copies of his album floating around. To this day, it’s still one of my favourite albums.


I’ve been in the 3 letters of John recently…they might be short on pages, but they’re not short on challenge!


In the first 4 verses of 1 John, the word ‘we’ is used 9 times (compared to ‘you’ which is only 3). John is writing from his own personal experience, and is sharing his testimony - what he’s heard, what he’s seen, what he’s touched. He’d heard Jesus' teaching and could give a personal testimony of His miracles. He'd seen Him die on the Cross and was a witness of His glorious Resurrection. And John wanted to get the word out in the hopes that those who heard and read his letter could share in fellowship with him, and ultimately with God the Father, and Jesus the Son (v3). And that would make his joy complete.


John’s an old man by the time he pens this letter, maybe in his 80s…but he’s still in love with the treasure that he discovered in his younger years. He had found something of tremendous worth and he couldn't help but share it with others so that they may have the hope of eternal life as well (1 John 5:13)!


Why? For their good, and for his joy.


The only thing better than discovering a new artist, or show, or restaurant, is getting to share it with others...

The only thing that can make knowing Jesus even better, is helping others see and share in His beauty...


For their good, and for our joy.

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And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Hebrews 10:24-25


“I do want to go to church” they said.

…it’s always hard to convey tone of a spoken statement in written form, but let me put it this way: they didn’t sound particularly convincing, almost as though they were trying to convince themselves they meant what they were saying!

“Ok” I replied, “but why?” which I think caught them a little off-guard.


This was part of a conversation I had with a christian friend a while back who’s found it challenging to connect into a local christian community…for years, and for a variety of reasons (some practical, some personal, some spiritual). As is true for others - some who have sadly had very negative experiences of ‘church’, some who fell out of rhythm during the pandemic, some who don’t see the need, and others for whom their life circumstances seem to get it the way.


Let me be very clear...I don’t want to confuse attending a Sunday service with being the church. As we often say, we don’t go to church, we are the church! We, you and me, are the bride of Christ wherever we are, whenever we are!


But in response to that conversation, I thought I’d pen a few thoughts as to why I think gathering with other Christians to fellowship, worship God, sit under the Word, receive encouragement, and serve and be served, is important…it’s not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the reasons why:


1) It’s God’s primary design for our spiritual growth and well-being.

Whilst it may take on different shapes and forms, a central aspect of our Sundays is gathering around God’s word. Speaking the gospel to each other and proclaiming the scriptures, is God’s primary means for a disciple of Jesus to grow in spiritual maturity. If we are not regularly in settings where this is happening, we’re missing part of God’s process for spiritual growth.


2) We’re in danger of disobeying God.

Did the author of Hebrews have Sunday church services in mind when he penned the above verse (Her 10:24-25)? Maybe not in isolation, but I’m certain they fit into the category!

As God’s people, we ought to delight in and strive to keep God’s commands…including meeting together, encouraging one another, and spurring one another on toward love and good deeds. And out of love for our Christian brothers and sisters, we ought to encourage them to consider the same.


3) We make a statement to the world that God is not worthy of worship.

It’s an age-old adage…we spend our time on the things we truly value. If we make a habit of choosing other things ahead of gathering to God, what does that say about where He fits in our priorities?! Again, and as I’ve said before ‘going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than sleeping in a garage makes you a car’, but it can communicate something to those around you about what you love and value.


4) We miss out on the opportunity to minister to others.

We’ve all been guilty of it (or maybe it’s just me!), but sometimes we think that corporate worship is only about having my spiritual needs met…and by extension, if I don’t have or am not aware of my spiritual needs, then I have no reason to attend. We live in a culture that can drive us towards individualism and self-centredness, but Jesus modelled an others-centred life, serving, helping, and encouraging others.

It’s not all about filling a spot on a roster, but every time we gather with others is a chance to bring a word of encouragement to someone who needs it, a warm welcome to someone who is new, a prayer for someone who is suffering, and to add your voice to the choir of heaven (Hebrews 12:22). Not to mention God has gifted each of us uniquely, and these gifts can be exercised and developed when we gather too!


5) We skip out of a foretaste of heaven.

John Piper summarised CS Lewis’ 'Reflections on the Psalms’ by saying: "God is most glorified in us when we are the most satisfied in him. The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever."

Revelations gives us a picture of what is to come, no more pain sickness or sorrow, and we will worship (Rev 22). This is why the church was redeemed and what God’s people will do when Jesus returns to finish his work of renewal and restoration. In the meantime, I think of our gatherings like a string of streetlights on a dark road, lighting and guiding us home.


I realise I’m ‘preaching to the converted’, and perhaps there is nothing new here, and certainly much that I’ve left out. But the conversation with my friend gave me pause to remember why I believe Sunday gatherings are important, and I’m glad you do too.

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