August 31, 2014
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Are You “Comfort”-Able?
Sovereign God, in Your mighty acts You reveal Your justice and truth. We sing Your praises, for You bring down tyrants and raise the poor from the dust. May Your Son be our confidence and comfort, our strength, as You judge the world with righteousness. Amen.
This week I read a story about a Russian couple who lived in a small hut with their two children. The husband’s parents lost their home and so the couple invited them to move in with them. This was a small hut that now housed 4 adults and 2 children. It seemed unbearable to the wife, so she went to the village wise man to seek his advice.
The wise man’s solution to the problem was to bring their dog into the house with them, and come back in a week. But, of course, the situation only got worse. A week later the wife went back to the wise man and complained that it was not better. He told her to bring their chickens into the house and come back in a week.
Well, you can imagine. By the next week this poor wife was pulling her hair out. So when she went back to the wise man, he told her to bring the cow into the house and come back in a week. Unbearable turned into desperate which became miserable which escalated to torturous.
So the wise man said, “OK, now remove the cow, and take the chickens out, put the dog in the yard, and come back in a week.” By now the little hut seems like a mansion and these 4 adults and 2 children were happy and contented!
Contentment almost always seems elusive, doesn’t it? We think, if I just had this one more thing, then I’d be content – but it never stops with just one more thing.
This is not just a 21st Century American problem. It seems the New Testament people 2 millennia ago, across the globe, struggled with it, too. The desire for more money, for more prestige, for more free time, for more respect, for a little love….
This Summer our sermon series comes to us from Paul’s prison epistle to the Christian fellowship in Philippi. We have already seen that even though Paul was under house-arrest and could have remembered how hard life had been in Philippi, he chose instead to be thankful for all the ways God works good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).
Today we read from Philippians 4:10-23, where we’ll find the apostle Paul living in complete contentment – joy even. He will give us three keys to discovering this comfort, and being strong in the Lord because of it. Listen to God’s Word from Philippians 4:10-23…. —-
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.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
In stark contrast to our world, our contemporary world and the world of Paul’s day, Paul found contentment and comfort – while chained to a Roman guard in jail, he teaches us three keys to being “comfort”-able. (We can probably see more than these three, but we will concentrate on these today.
Before we begin looking at Paul’s direct teaching to us here, let me remind you, first, of the Good News, we see all through this short letter.
The Heidelberg Catechism of 1562 asks, “What is your only COMFORT in life and in death?” And it answers, “That we BELONG—body and soul, in life and in death—not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior, JESUS CHRIST.” Remember that Good News!
First Key to being “Comfort”-able: Get/Stay connected to Jesus Christ. Verse 13 says, “I can do all this through HIM who gives me STRENGTH.”
Remember that the word for “strength” has the same root as the word for “comfort”. Where does Paul find “comfort”? “From HIM who gives [him] STRENGTH!”
Paul may have heard some of the original 12 apostles remind each other that Jesus had said, “without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5); and “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
He might have remembered his own experience and teaching to the Church in Corinth when he wrote, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God!” (II Corinthians 3:5). Paul knows that our comfort and contentment is found in the fact that we belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ!
In fact, he just wrote in Philippians 3:10, that all things pale in comparison to knowing Christ!
Paul reminds Timothy, in II Timothy 4, that there is no circumstance ever that we could possibly face that Jesus could not provide the power to overcome. I just read a Facebook post from a friend quoting Louie Giglio, an astrophysicist and evangelist, who tells a man facing problems he does not how to cope with, that God looks at us in those situations and says, “Dude, I got this; I created galaxies!”
God promises, that in all our life’s troubles, He “will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Get/Stay connected to Jesus Christ.
Second Key to being “Comfort”-able: Get/Stay connected with the Body of Christ/the Church. Verse 14 says, “it was good of you to share in my TROUBLES.”
Notice that we are not promised a trouble-free life. No one can make that promise. But we are promised strength to get through the troubles.
Paul talked about the Philippian Church’s generosity, their cooperation, and their effort.
Their generosity was like a budding tree (verse 10) flourishing and healthy; it was a spiritual investment from which future fruit would abound (verse 17); and it was like a sweet-smelling sacrifice, a fragrant offering, pleasing to the Lord (verse 18). No church is perfect in this way, but the story of this church being generous to the Rogers High School football team is a story of biblical proportion – like a budding tree, from which future fruit will produce, and of which the Lord is greatly pleased!
Their cooperation shared in Paul’s physical distress, and provided for him in ways no one else had. And by doing that, they were credited in sharing with Paul’s Gospel work, his work for God’s kingdom purposes! Again, our cooperation with several other RHS neighborhood churches allowed us to bring the entire football squad, freshman thru varsity teams, to share together in an entertaining and inspiring evening at the movies.
And the Philippian Church did not stop just because it was a challenge. They persevered and gave their best effort to be/stay connected with the true Church of Jesus Christ! May we stay connected to the true Church of Jesus Christ!
Third Key to being “Comfort”-able: Get/Stay confident in God’s provision; proclaim “the riches of God’s GLORY in Christ Jesus” (verse 19).
Notice how personally Paul says this: “My God will meet all your needs.” Not that Paul owns God, but that Paul belongs—body and soul, in life and in death—to God. And the proclamation is that this Almighty God, our heavenly Father, will meet all our NEEDS! A colleague reminds us, he said “our needs, not our greeds”!
Paul says, in Ephesians, that God provides “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine”.
And he says that the source is “according to the riches of His glory”. Not “out of the riches”; not “from the left-overs of His riches”. The word “according to” in this sentence implies that the well cannot run dry – there is no limit! All of His riches are available to His children.
Get/Stay confident in God’s provision! And tell your stories to the people around you.
There’s a story about William Randolph Hearst, the famous and extremely wealthy newspaper magnate from the late 1800s until he died in 1951. He was a collector of rare and unusual artifacts. The story says that there was one item he desperately wanted to own, so he hired an agent to locate the item and make bids on it until it would be his. It took months of searching, but the agent finally found this rare object … in one of Hearst’s own warehouses! The treasure he so desperately desired was already his!
If it is contentment we seek – we do already possess it in Jesus Christ! Are you “comfort”-able? Your strength is available – it is already yours, in Jesus Christ.
As we move into our time of prayer, with Kathy leading us in prayer, let me start simply by praying for anyone in the room with us this morning who is grasping for that peace that passes understanding, that contentment beyond what we own, that only comfort in life and in death that comes from knowing we belong—body and soul—not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Neill, Greg; The Joy of Contentment; Marble Falls Church of Christ; Marble Falls, TX; March 2005.
Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 460.