06/24/2018 = Genesis 1-2 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Why Did He Do it?”

(Click HERE to listen to this message – the sound quality foes way downhill at about the 9-minute mark.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 1-2

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Creation – Why Did He Do It?


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


When I was in High School my lunch was the talk of my class, especially when I was a Senior and my classmates demanded to see my lunch bag each day. Why? Because, sometime during my Freshman year my mom, who had packed my lunch for me from 1st Grade on, started writing messages on the inside of my lunch bag – they were mommy-to-son “love notes” and “good wishes”.

As a Freshman, I was really embarrassed by them, and I wondered (but never said anything to her), Why did she do it?

But by the time I was a Senior, and people anxiously awaited lunch period so they could see what my mom wrote that day, I was kind of proud of my “celebrity status” (and other kids were jealous that their mom didn’t do this for them!

Why did she do it? – because this was one way she could express her love for me without embarrassing me (she never knew how much this meant to everyone in the Senior Quad!).


Today in our Summer sermon series, where we are looking at our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsif you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll get at it sometime this Summer, we start at the Beginning.


Genesis 1-2 (page 1 in the pew Bibles), hear the Word of God …. —-

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,            in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

There is so much controversy about this opening chapter of the Bible! Really! What does it all mean? What do you think some of the debates are about with these verses?

  • What does “day” mean? – 24-hour days? Eons of thousands or even millions of years?
  • Intelligent Design or some kind of Big Bang natural accident?

Let me stop you there, because this sermon is not about proving one theory or interpretation correct and all the others wrong. I mean, I think I know all the answers here, but we’ll save that for discussion in the Social Hall after worship.

What I hope we get an understanding of today, admittedly this will touch on subjects of Evolution v. Creation, and maybe a few other interpretive inspirations, addresses the reasons for this story as the starting place for the rest of Scripture.

So, together, let’s notice a few key elements:

  • Who is responsible for Creation happening? What caused the universe (or, as scientists now speculate, the multiverse) to exist? [God! – Elohim!]
  • Let us make …” is a plural pronoun – even Elohim, the Hebrew word for God, is plural, but it is always connected to a singular verb (not as clear in English, but crystal clear in Hebrew); does this imply, perhaps, a Tri-Une God (three-in-One)?
  • What is the order of Creation here? [Our Bulletin cover has the “Check-list” in order, starts with the outer-space universe, moves toward our planet Earth, from lower forms of life (plants) to higher forms of life (animals), and ends with the Creation of Humankind, male and female, in the image of God, and it was very good!]
  • And the closing verse tells us it was the seventh day, which was holy, because God rested.
  • (There is so much more than that, but that’s a good start)

Now, we might ask, Why do you think Did He Do It?[Don’t answer yet, but keep that question in mind – we are going to keep reading – a second Creation narrative – listen for differences, and for similarities]:


This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.)13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush.  14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,          “This is now bone of my bones        and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’       
    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.



So, again, let’s look at this chapter and notice a few key elements:

  • Who is responsible for Creation happening? What caused the heavens and the earth to exist? [the Lord God! – YHWH Elohim!]
  • Most Bible scholars agree that the language used and the words chosen in chapter 2 sound like a different author, a different human composer, than chapter 1 – again, we can talk in more detail downstairs, but that’s just a real fact.
  • What is the order of Creation here? [Compare this with the Bulletin covers: earth and heavens are first, then water to wet the land, then the Lord God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, breathing life into his nostrils, next came plants, and after that animals, and way last came the woman (the female human)]


So, again, because this is a worship service and not an in-depth Bible study, I’m going to stop there, but remind us of the question we really want answers to: Why Did He Do It?

What do you think?

Because, while these Scriptures tend to be proven as historically accurate over and over again, I don’t think this was written as a science text; I do not think this was ever meant to be understood as a “How to” book.

(btw, have you heard about the scientist who came to the Christian theologian and said he was ready to prove that there is no God, or at least if there is a God, He’s not responsible for everything that exists as Christians claim.

The Christian theologian seemed skeptical, so he asked him to demonstrate his proof.

The scientist stated that if he could create life from nothing but the dust of the earth, that would prove that God is not necessary for that to have happened. And after a week of experiments and chemical reactions and physics events, sure enough, from a pile of dirt a life-form was created.

The Christian theologian was impressed, but then he asked the scientist where he got the pile of dirt.

The scientist pointed to is own backyard, and the Christian theologian said that that wasn’t a fair experiment – the scientist can’t prove anything until he can first create his own pile of dirt!)


What does the rest of the Bible, the whole Gospel, the entirety of the counsel of God teach us? God is love! And His Creation is a way to demonstrate that love – from the opening words of Genesis to the closing words of Revelation we hear God’s Word, which never returns void, which is God-breathed for all time, tell us that He Created everything out of His love – and then that He so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son – the second person of that Tri-Une Godso that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

Adam and Eve were told to go forth and multiply, so that God’s love could be even more powerful. The greatest Commandment, we are told several times, is to love the Lord your God with your heart, your soul, your strength, your mind – and then to love your neighbor as yourself!

Why Did God Do It? So that love could aboundprotection for immigrants, food and shelter for poor, care for the ill and the injured and the orphaned and the aged.

Why Did God Do It? – because, we are created in His image so that we might reflect His love for everyone around us, even as He gave Himself fully because He loves us!


Do YOU feel God’s love today? Jesus died because God loves you!

Will you SHARE God’s love today? Make a planshare that plan with a trusted friendDO your plan. Love someone with the love of God … today.


Thank You, Creator God, for the gift of life – not just our bodily living, but the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ Your Son! May we come to know Your love more deeply every day; and may we share Your love more faithfully with every breath. Amen.


06/17/2018 = Genesis 12:1-3 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

Click HERE if you wanna HEAR this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 12:1-3

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Who’s Your Daddy?”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


After Leslie brought home her fiancé to meet her parents, her father invited the young man into his study to find out more about him.

“What are your plans?” he asked Joseph.

“I’m a scholar of the Bible,” Joseph replied.

“Well, that’s admirable,” Leslie’s father replied. “But what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter?”

“I will study, and God will surely provide for us,” Joseph explained.

“And how will you buy her a nice engagement ring?”

“”I will study hard, and God will provide for us.”

“And children?” asked the father. “How will you support children?”

“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replied the fiancé.

The conversation continued in much the same fashion. After Joseph and Leslie had left, her mother asked her father what he found out.

The father answered, “Well, he has no job and no plans, but the good news is that he thinks I’m God.”


Today we begin a new series, for the Summer, where we will be addressing our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – so, if you have a favorite Bible lesson, or a story that you’ve always wondered about or had questions about, bring them to me and we’ll get at it sometime this Summer.

Today we start with the story where Abraham is called by God.  You’ll see why we’re starting here in a minute.


This is a short, three-verse passage that introduces a 15-chapter story. We’re just going to read these three verses today: Genesis 12:1-3 (pages 8 in the pew Bibles), hear the Word of God …. —-

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,             and I will bless you;         I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.     I will bless those who bless you,             and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth            
 will be blessed through you.”


We are starting this series with this story, not because it’s the first VBS story (it’s notCreation, Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Noah and the Flood, all come in the chapters before Genesis 12). But we are starting here because, in some ways, this is where the Gospel story that leads to Jesus really begins.


We meet Abram in chapter 11, but just barely, at the end of a genealogy of generations after the Flood. And suddenly, Genesis 12 jumps in with, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go ….’

We know nothing of Abram’s background, or childhood, or even his adult-life (other than the names of his forebears), and suddenlythe Lord had said to Abram …” when he was 75-years old, in an established community, getting ready for a retirement home, with no children to take care of his stuff while he might be away!

“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you….”  What destination does he log into his Google Maps for a navigation guide?To the land I will show you!”

And what does Abram do? He does not simply consider how inconvenient this directive is, or complain that it’s not what he wants to do, or decide that what would make him happiest is if he could just do what felt good to him – what he does do is do what God says! And the book of Hebrews tells us that Abraham is credited as faithful – he is saved by grace, through faith, in doing what God wants him to do!


Let me stop here for just a quick second: what do you think God might be calling you to do? Does it seem bigger than what you can do on your own? That’s a sign that means it might actually be from God. Does it mean you might have to change directions? Or that what makes you “happy” is different? Abram heard God’s voice in a way we may seldom know for sure it is actually God speaking, but when he heard it, he did it.


But, before we assume how easy that must’ve been for one of the Old Testament heroes of the faith, please take note that he does not simply obey without hearing some guarantees – and these guarantees are also bigger than life: listen again to verses 2 & 3:

 “I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you;  [later this is further detailed as receiving a “land” – this is part of the whole Middle East unrest over to whom the Holy Land really belongs – and as many offspring as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the beach (in other words, an uncountable number of offspring) – but, how many children does Abram and Sarai have at the time of this call and promise? (Zero) and how old is Abram and Sarai at this time (75 and 50?too big to do all on their own? Uncomfortable? Happy – probably, but now when does retirement happen?) – and the guarantee continues:

I will make your name great,        and you will be a blessing.     I will bless those who bless you,        and whoever curses you I will curse;          and all peoples on earth              will be blessed through you.”


Today is Father’s Day, and we will be praying for fathers and fatherhood is a few minutes, we will have the chance to express the greatest joy of being a father and the greatest challenges, to confess where we goof it all up as fathers and celebrate where our offspring make up for our goof-ups in ways we could never imagine – THAT’s the story of Abraham!

In VBS, when I was a kid, we leaned the song “Father Abraham … had many sons … many sons had Father Abraham … and I am one of them … and so are you … so let’s just praise the Lord … right arm! …” – this is the point of the cartoon on the front of our bulletins today… [He’s bragging about how many children he has ….]

Is Abraham really MY father? And yours? He is the Father of what became known as God’s Chosen People, the Jewish nation, the Hebrews, the Israelites (named after Abraham’s grandson Jacob who after wrestling with an angel became known as Israel), but I’m not Jewish – is he MY father? Am I numbered among his offspring? Are you?


That’s the last line of this promise – that’s where the Gospel message of salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ commences)!

Both in Matthew and Luke (the only Gospels that contain Jesus’ genealogies) show us how Jesus is a direct descendent  of Abraham– through both His mother Mary and His human father Joseph!

And, therefore, to use Paul’s words, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law (Jewish  by blood or marriage or conversion to Judaism, people of the Old Testament covenant) but also to those who have the faith of Abraham (who are of the all peoples on earth          who will be blessed through Abraham’s ultimate offspring, the final fulfillment of this promise, God’s SonJesus who was given because God so loved the world!). He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)


God still calls His chosen people to BE His chosen peoplehow is God calling you today? Will you be able to say, “O God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You. I will seek You in the morning; I will learn to walk in Your ways. Step by step You’ll lead me. And I will follow You all of my days.”?


Because in Christ, we can all sing, “Father Abraham had many sons; many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them; and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.”


Thank You, our heavenly Father, for the gift of our earthly fathers, for their love and protection and providence, and perhaps for how they helped in bringing us closer to You (whether purposefully or unwittingly). And thank You, especially, for calling us Your children and calling us into Your Kingdom purposes, even when our own hopes and dreams need some transformation. O God, You are our God, and we will ever praise You! Amen.



06/10/2018 = Philippians 1:1-2, 4:21-23 = “Servants, Saints, Overseers, Siblings”

(Clicking HERE will bring you an audio file of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:1-2; 4:21-23

“Servants, Saints, Overseers, Siblings”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


I am going to start this sermon a little differently than I normally do – no personal story, no joke, no anecdote. Today I feel  led to start with us just being honest with each other about our struggles. Some weeks in ministry are fun and easy,  nothing but victories and laughter … and then other weeks are like this past week – there were no tragic accidents, no ER visits, no arrests or anything like that; but the number of people who called or stopped in or who just happened to be in the same room as me who had heart aches and trials and unforeseeable difficulties was astounding.

Honestly, just raise your hand if this past week contained at least one event you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. [Auto accidentcar died while out of town – pet died – really illhousehold utilities break down – unexpected bills with no money – and if it wasn’t us it was a loved one…]  (Yeah, see that? And maybe that’s no different from any other week, but this week I was privileged to hear about several of these – and some of them were my own!)

Thank you. I wanted to start there for two reasons1) so we could each see the fellowship we are in; no one is immune to difficult moments; but no one is required to go through it alone. 2) because this is exactly the way of life for the people in Philippi some 2,000 years ago when the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to them – that means it is also for usGod has preserved this Word in His Holy Word for you and me to find His Gospel blessing.


Well, today we’re at the very end of our sermon series in the New Testament book of Philippians. These two months have renewed my love for this little book as I came to realize what it says, and how important it is. I hope this has been even half as true for you as it has been for me.


Before we read today’s short passage, we get a pop quiz. Are you ready?

  • 10 years earlier, did Paul and Silas go to Philippi because this is where they always wanted to go? [NO! this was against their own plans, but it is where God directed them]
  • Name one “bad thing” that happened to Paul and Silas while in Philippi:[They are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith]
  • From what you have heard these past two months, was Philippi a fun place for Paul to have visited? [No – I Thessalonians 2 tells us how un-fun Philippi was!]
  • OK – anything else you learned about Philippi?
    • First and second recorded European baptisms (Lydia and the jailor)
    • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles


OK, one last question: Over the last 7 or 8 weeks, who has a favorite verse from Philippians, or a favorite lesson, or a favorite sermon point or illustration you can share with us? [Put others before you in line – find a way to “agree in the Lord” – we can live through all things, with everything and with nothing, in Christ who strengthens me.]


And now, listen again to the opening words of this letter, and to the final closing words, and we’ll try to catch some of the blessing that’s there for us: Philippians 1:1-2, 4:21-23 (pages 831-2 in the pew Bibles), listen to the Word of God …. —-

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ….


OK, so some quick observations:

Who wrote this letter? [Paul and Timothy – SERVANTS of Christ Jesus.]


To whom was this letter written? [To ALL “God’s holy people” in Christ Jesus – the Greek is “pantoi hagioi” which literally means to ALL the SAINTS – that’s everyone who believes in Jesus (specifically every one in Philippi who believes in Jesus – but these SERVANTS {is there a “greater saint” in the New Testament than St. Paul? He calls himself a SERVANT} writes to ALL the SAINTS!)]


But wait, there’s more! To whom else was this addressed? [the OVERSEERS and deacons – the SERVANTS who started this church, the Apostle Paul and Timothy, refer to their spiritual children as OVERSEERSbishops and elders and deacons!]


And the opening words of greeting include Paul’s typical blessing of Grace and peace from God OUR Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! I want to emphasize the “OUR” in that blessing – God OUR Father. Paul does not emphasize it, but I want to because it connects directly to the closing words in this letter! Let’s go there now.


4 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.


OK, some more quick observations:

Paul writes this letter to ALL the SAINTS in Philippi, and he gives them a directive in his closing salutation: “Greet ALL God’s people in Christ Jesus.” That’s what the NIV says. A slightly better translation would say, “Greet EVERY SAINT (panta hagion) in Christ Jesus)”. The reason I think that’s an important distinction is that Paul is singling out each and every believer, making sure not a single believer is missed; and the word SAINT is used, not just “God’s people” but EVERY SAINT – from the greatest in the church to the least, from the oldest to the youngest, from the OVERSEERS on the Church Council to the babies in the nursery!

If this is an instruction to the Philippian Christians, maybe it’s also meant as command to 21st Century Christians in Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church, as well.


Who else does he say sends their greetings? [“The brothers and sisters who are with” him. Some Bible translations just says “brothers”, or “brethren”, but the word adelphoi is not gender specific – it means brothers and sisters, SIBLINGS in Christ. Remember up in  the opening blessing Paul brings Grace and peace of God OUR Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? This is where he very subtly brings that to a conclusionGod is OUR Father because in Christ Jesus we are all SIBLINGS in the Lord! Treat each other as such!


All the SAINTS here send their greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” This is a brief identifier of where Paul writes this letter from – he was held prisoner, according the book of Acts, in a cell probably located in a place where the Emperor himself, Caesar Nero, could keep his eye on him. “Those who belong to Caesar’s household” are probably the guards and servants under Caesar, some of whom had become Christians because of Paul’s influence in their lives!


And one more blessing benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Amen.


Treat each other as if you were a SERVANT!

Love each other because the other is a SAINT!

Be OVERSEERS and deacons in each other’s lives, help each other grow in Christ Jesus!

Because we are SIBLINGS in Christ Jesus, seek to be God’s people together!


Thank You, dear Lord, for the gift of experiencing Your love, which sets us free to love others. Thank You for Your Son who came to SERVE, not be served. You call us SAINTS, not because we are so perfectly good or “holy”, but because You have called us as Your children and You are God OUR Father. And thank You for the SERVANT-SAINT responsibility of OVERSEEing each other’s Christ-centered spiritual growth, as SIBLINGS in Your household! Today we receive Your perfect grace, and choose to grow together in Christ our Lord. Amen.



Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 212-216.


Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 184-186.


Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 1 & 6; Essential Media Services; 1995.

06/03/2018 = Philippians 4:10-20 = “How to Do ‘Everything’ (and still be humble)”

(Click HERE and you’ll find an AUDIO of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 4:10-20

“How to Do ‘Everything’ (and Still Be Humble)”


Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church


Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


We’re very near the end of our sermon series working our way through the New Testament book of Philippians. And I have to say, the more I read this short Epistle, the more I realize what it says, and how important it is. I hope this has been even half as good for you as it has been for me.


Remember that Paul and a crew of travel partners first visited Philippi 10 years earlier, but what we learn from  Acts 16 and I Thessalonians 2 is that Philippi is a city where Paul and Silas had a particularly difficult experience:

  • Paul and Silas go to Philippi against their own plans, because that’s where God directed them
  • The first recorded European baptism takes place in PhilippiLydia
  • Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned for their Christian faith
  • While in prison, they pray and sing, and God opens the doors and loosens the shackles
  • The jailer gets baptized – the second European baptism on record
  • Paul and Silas create an opportunity to share the Gospel with the Magistrates as well

Philippi gave Paul some success stories, but it was not a fun place for him to be.


After the opening greetings, Paul gives some comments about how everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes – that Christ died just as much for the criminal on the cross right next to Him as He did for your loved one; just as much for you as for Your most admired Christian celebrity; just as much for the sinner on the street or your least favorite neighbor as He did for you!

Then Paul tells these Christ-followers in Philippi, that since that egalitarian perspective is true, we ought to serve each other rather than expect to be served! Paul identifies himself as a “servant of the Lord Jesus” as he addresses the overseers and bishops and church elders here. Then, Paul says that even Christ, who is God of Gods, true God of true God, humbled Himself by becoming a human, a slave, who would die as a convicted-but-innocent man on our behalf; therefore, we, too, should humble ourselves and offer ourselves on behalf of others! Furthermore, he says, in the midst of your struggles, your difficulties, your losses, your trials … REJOICE in the Lord! Then he almost closes the letter with a harsh criticism of human pride vs. God’s grace.

And last week we saw Paul’s PS – where he called out two pillars in the church who were arguing about something, and Paul says, “Agree in the Lord”; and then he tells the rest of the church to remember that Christ died for these two as well, so lift them up.


And, finally, as a second PS, Paul writes today’s 11 versesPhilippians 4:10-20 (page 832 in the pew Bibles), listen to the Word of God …. —-

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. [Remember that he’s writing this letter from prison in Rome – remember also, this church had sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, to visit him and see to his needs.] 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. [I love what Paul says here – “I am content when I live abased and when in abundance; I can be happy eating gruel and top ramen and with a table full of lobster and T-bone; I can drive a Mercedes Benz quite happily, but I’m just as happy with a beat-up old Chevy pick-up truck.” He says. “I have learned the secret (– and you can bet he’s gonna give us that secret) of living in abundance and in hunger, in the swings of life (from manic to depressive). Paul’s secret was best described by a 17th century mathematician and physicist, who was also a Christian theologian in the French Roman Catholic Church, Blaise Pascal. His sister published a book of “The Ponces (Thoughts) of Pascal”, listen to this one: “Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ; and do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ!” We’ll come back to this in a minute – but listen to how closely Pascal’s quote actually comes to Paul’s counsel from last week to “let your ‘gentleness’ be known, for our Lord is nearby”.]

And then comes, perhaps, our favorite verse:

 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. [Please pay attention to the context of this verse: Paul is not saying, “I can fly off the Monroe Street Bridge through Christ.” Please don’t prove your faith by doing that. Neither is he saying, “I can be a competitive Marathon racer in Christ Jesus who strengthens me.” This is his “secret of being content in whatever circumstances life throws at me”. I have heard this sentence translated as “I can take in stride all things though Him (Christ) who gives me strength.” Because Christ gives me strength, I can take in stride the report from the oncologist; because of Jesus Christ, I am not startled by the call from the bank; because of Jesus Christ, I will not become someone entirely different because of this winning lottery ticket; I can still praise God, I can still hold my head up, I can still keep my faith and understanding, regardless of life’s circumstances; I can do all things 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. [Of all the churches Paul planted, of all the new Christian Fellowships founded by Paul, only Philippi sent him help when he was in trouble…] 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.  [Here comes a beautiful “Thank you” note, listen:] 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus [here’s their own church member who came to Paul’s aid in Rome whom Paul is sending back to them because of his own health concerns] the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. [that was a pure, unsolicited, “thank you”. A “Thank you” with no hooks. There was no, “Thank you, that was really great, but next time could you … maybe next time add some chocolate”; not, “Thanks for everything, but next time send a healthier missionary to help me.” He just says, “I am full; I have received ‘full payment’, thank you.”] Followed by a blessing:

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.


Now, let’s return, for a minute, back to verses 12 and 13, “I am content in plenty and in want; and I can do, I can take in stride, all things though Christ who gives me strength.”

Remember Pascal’s quote: “Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ; and do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ!

Look at all the giant things we face in this life – most of which we realize we can do nothing aboutNorth Korea, systems of health care, global economy, human trafficking, orphans in Kenya, etc, etc. What can I do? Right? My life doesn’t countnot when it comes to such magnificent world concerns. I am UN-able to do anything!

Do great things as though they were small, because of Jesus Christ….” These are all “great things”, do them as if they were a handle-able sizepray for North Korea, vote on health care systems, shop local, pray for young girls on the street, sponsor a child in Kenya or contribute a small amount on a monthly basis; love your neighbors as you love yourself. In Christ, we can and do make a difference!


But it’s not just the big things that overwhelm us, right, it’s also all the little things in our lives that pile up, all the thousands of details that clutter our lives, that get in the way of the big things. Several years ago, our house went from a septic system to county sewer system, which meant we needed to pay for our own pipeline to the sewer line in the street – and our money was very tight. So, we hired a company to come and shut off and fill our septic tank, and connect us to a pipeline that went around the house out to the street’s county pipe. A month after it was all paid for, we had trouble with the back-flow valve right outside our back door – so we called the company who hooked us up. Guess what – out of business. So, we called somebody else who said the issue was that the valve, whose job it is to keep the sewage from ever flowing backwards back into the basement of our house, was not installed on the level, and it would be (I forget how much, but at the time way more than we could afford) to get it fixed. So, they did a temporary fix, and said it should only be a problem if there something wrong at the top of the hill (we live at the bottom) and all the neighbors’ sewage also was to flow down into our basement. So … guess where my mind goes every time the downstairs toilet is flushed, or we get a heavy rain…. Is this the time? Right? I’m supposed to be thinking about saving souls, preparing sermons, praying for your loved ones, and here I am listening to the toilet flush! In the grand scheme of life, that’s a small thing, but it occupies my mind way too much.

Do small things as though they were great, because of Jesus Christ.” Paul says, “I can take in stride the swings of life – poverty to plenty, loss to luxury, pain and fear and disease to confidence and good health – I can take all things in stride through Him who strengthens me!”

Big things need to stand in their true place alongside Jesus Christ! When they stand alongside Jesus Christ, I can be “gentle”, relaxed, unstartled (remember Paul’s, “Let all people know your gentlenessthis is why Paul said that last week – the Lord is nearby!”

How do we handle the huge problems that lurk behind every dark corner, every flush of the downstairs toilet, every potential doctor visit? C.S. Lewis fans would say, “Ride on Aslan’s back.” Walk with Jesus! Why would we be afraid when we are guarded by the One who rules the universe?! Right? Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

Handle the huge things as if they were smallracism, hate, fear, start at home! Jesus had 12 apostles, not thousands; He had three inner-circle apostles, not all 12!


And “Do small things as though they were great because of Jesus Christ!” Take care of what seems insignificant, as if it really mattered – at the restaurant, treat your wait staff with utmost respect – and tip them generously! How do we teach generosity to our children? They watch how we treat others! I have watched a young family in our church leave $5 tips at fast food restaurants! Generosity will be well bred in that household!


If you want a list for your Sermon Notes, Paul’s secret to being content has five steps:

  • Praydon’t be anxious, pray, and the God of peace will guard your hearts
  • Whatever is good – think on these things – focus on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, praiseworthy – meditate on these things
  • Put them into practicedo Live like you believe what you say you believe!
  • Fellowship – find or start a small group for support – we cannot do it alone. We need each other!
  • Experience the grace of Godlook for it, expect it!. Paul says, “My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus!

Have you ever gone to a church potluck, and saw a few items on the table that you knew would not last – so what do you do? We all do this right? We try to get in line as early as possible, and we reach ahead for that specific dish – we skip the buffet table and we go straight to the dessert table. Right? Donna brought only one cherry cheese cake – so I’ll skip right past the celery and carrots – I’m not gonna be the fool who doesn’t get a piece of that pie!

But suppose Donna knows how much I love that cherry cheese deliciousness, and when she sees me come in she says, “Hey Mark, I know how much you love that cheese cake, so I made a whole extra pie. It’s in the upstairs fridge for you. Make sure and take it home with you….” So now what do I do at the potluck? – I’ll go straight to the celery sticks!

That’s the grace that God offers us! We know we are taken care of! We do not need to grasp for what we want, we can let others get ahead of us in line! God has a whole Donna-Stone-cherry-cheese-cake just for us!


Thank You, dear Lord, for the gift of experiencing Your love, which sets us free to love others. Thank You for providing all that we need – for even knowing that we need – and with that, help us to know Your love more. You have put us before You in line, You have offered Your grace to overflowing, may we now put others before us in line in the same way, showering those around us with Your grace! Guard our hearts and minds, and give us Your confidence as we live today like we believe what we say we believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Hawthorne, Gerald F.; Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1983; Pp. 193-211.


Martin, Ralph P.; Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Philippians; Wm. P. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.; Grand Rapids, MI; 1983; Pp. 174-184.


Palmer, Earl; Building a Robust Faith: A Study in Philippians, Sessions 5-6; Essential Media Services; 1995.