If there is any virtue…

November 21, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Today we bring our series of exhortations on Philippians 4:8 to a close. Paul has catalogued numerous “excellent things” for us that we might meditate upon them and so be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s working in us. We have considered Paul’s call to meditate on whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report or praiseworthy. Today we close by meditating on that quality which unites all these others together, virtue.
In his 1828 dictionary Webster defines virtue in this way:
Moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. In this sense, virtue may be, and in many instances must be, distinguished from religion. The practice of moral duties merely from motives of convenience, or from compulsion, or from regard to reputation, is virtue as distinct from religion. The practice of moral duties from sincere love to God and his laws, is virtue and religion.
Virtue, therefore, is the pursuit of moral excellence and the avoidance of vice. It is the love and practice of whatever things are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Furthermore, in the Scriptures, virtue is the pursuit of moral excellence out of a sincere love for God and for neighbor. God’s mandate is not merely that we do “virtuous things” but that we become“virtuous people.” He crafted us to be men and women who long to do what is right in any given situation – to love truth, honor, integrity, purity, justice, chastity, temperance, mercy, etc. and to practice the same willingly and joyfully no matter the cost.
The English word “virtue” derives from the Latin virtus, virtutis which means “manliness or courage.” You may think it strange that a word which originally referrred to courage came to be used to describe moral excellence. However, the pathway from its use to refer to strength or courage and only later to moral excellence is helpfully explained by C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. He writes,
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
So what of you? Does your virtue have conditions? Or are you truly virtuous, willing to stand out, willing to ruffle feathers, willing to suffer ridicule, willing to be ostracized, willing to be scorned out of love for God and love for others? We must become courageous men and women precisely because God wants us to be virtuous men and women. “I, even I, am He who comforts you,” [says the Lord,] “Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Is 51:12) Solomon warns us, “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”(Prov 29:25)

Reminded of our calling to be virtuous, to choose to do and say the right thing regardless the consequences out of love for God and our neighbor, let us confess that our virtue often has conditions and that we are often ensnared by the fear of man. And, as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Whatever things are of good report

November 14, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Confession, Meditations, Worship
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and Paul catalogues some of them in our text. So let us meditate on whatever things are of good report.
This is the only time in Paul’s letters that this particular Greek word is used. Some versions translate it “commendable” and Louw-Nida’s Greek Lexicon defines it as “deserving approval or good reputation—‘worthy of praise, worthy of approval.’ … ‘what people should praise.’” As such it is closely related to the word that Paul will use in his summary statement – if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
As with the other virtues we have considered, this one finds its foundation in God our Lord: He is worthy of praise. As the Creator of all, He is worthy of praise. “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Rev 4:11) “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps 145:3)
God is worthy of praise not only as the Creator of all but also as the Redeemer of His people. So David calls upon the Lord in trouble. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:3) And the elders and angels cry out with a loud voice saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12) The Triune God is worthy of praise and we are called to meditate upon Him.
But Paul’s words call us not only to meditate on the Lord who is worthy of praise but also to become like Him ourselves – to become worthy of praise. Matthew Henry notes that the command to meditate on whatever things are of good report summons us to embrace whatever “will render us beloved, and make us well spoken of, as well as well thought of, by others.”
So Peter commands us to have “your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12) Our calling is to be men and women of integrity, conviction, and virtue. To conduct ourselves in such a way that others observe our conduct and say, “Those people live honorably and consistently, they truly love their God and one another.”
This means, of course, that we must beware hypocrisy. Hypocrisy “is behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe” (Merriam-Webster). So God speaks to the prophet Ezekiel about Israel, “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.” (Ez 33:31) With their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. “Oh, yes! We love the Lord! We wish to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!” But, in truth, they lived for themselves, not the Lord. Their conduct, far from of good report and commendable, was reprehensible.

So what of you? Are you endeavoring to live a life that is worthy of praise? Are you reflecting the character of Your God? Reminded that this is our calling and that we often fail at it and that much of the Church in our day is guilty of hypocrisy, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

No Confidence in the Flesh

November 1, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Ecclesiology, Politics, Quotations

“The person who puts confidence in the flesh says, ‘Belonging to my tribe and observing my ritual make me secure in my relationship with God.’ In contrast to those who put such confidence in the flesh, the true people of God, the circumcision, put no confidence in national status and religious ceremony. Boasting in Christ Jesus excludes putting confidence in the flesh. Although national identities and sacred ceremonies are not viewed as bad in themselves, they are rejected as the foundation for one’s relationship with God or with fellow believers.”

          G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, p. 222.

Whatever Things are Pure

October 30, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Job, Bible - OT - Psalms, Holy Spirit, Justification, Meditations
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and Paul catalogues some of them in our text. So let us meditate on whatever things are pure. To be pure is to be untainted, free from stain, or blameless. Such definitions invite us to ask, “Tainted by what? Stained by what?” The answers to these questions vary depending on the context – but typically to be pure is to be to be free from sin or compromise or dishonor or blame or corruption.

The word behind “pure” is the Greek word hagnos and is closely related to the Greek hagioswhich means “holy.” As with the other virtues we have considered, the foundation for purity is God Himself. God is pure; He is holy; He is free from stain, free from corruption, free from dishonor.

  • “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness…?” (Exodus 15:11)
  • No one is holy like the LORD….” (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • “Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His footstool— He is holy.”(Psalm 99:5)

Because God is pure, the world as He originally created it was pure. “God made man upright but he has sought out many schemes.” (Eccl. 7:29) God made us upright; He made us pure. We were fashioned to worship Him alone not idols; to speak pure words not lies; to be generous not greedy; to be sexually pure not lustful.

In short, God created us to be pure of heart, to practice purity ourselves and to delight in it when we see it in others. “Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.”(Psalm 73:1) “Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus says, “For they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8). The pure man or woman is one whose motives, thoughts, and actions are free from the pollution of sin. God made us upright; He made us pure.

But we have sought out many schemes. We have tainted the purity with which we were created. We taint the worship of God; taint the service of God. Our motives are often impure; our thoughts impure; our words impure; our actions impure. “If God puts no trust in His [angels], And the heavens are not pure in His sight, How much less man, who is abominable and filthy, Who drinks iniquity like water!” (Job 15:15–16)

When we meditate on the things that are pure, therefore, we find ourselves like the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah saw the glory of God filling the Temple and heard the cherubim crying out to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is filled with Your glory!” Confronted with the purity and holiness of God, Isaiah was immediately made aware of his own impurity. “Woe is me, for I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips….” I am an impure man – therefore, I am doomed!

Meditating on purity reminds us that there is only One Man who has been completely pure. God did not God abandon us in our impurity. In His mercy and grace, He sent our Lord Jesus Christ as the Second Adam, who came to rescue us, His people, and to reconcile us to Himself. He came so that we who are impure might be declared pure through faith in Him and be restored to fellowship with God. And all those whom He declares to be pure through faith, He then teaches to be pure by the power of His Spirit. The Apostle John tells us that “everyone who has this hope in [Jesus] purifies himself just as He is pure” (1 Jn 3:3). He is restoring the purity of humanity in us and through us. We are to point our unbelieving neighbors to the beauty of purity.

And so reminded of the purity of our Creator and Redeemer and the call that He has placed on us to be pure in heart, let us come into the presence of the Pure One, requesting that He have mercy on our impurity because of the purity of Jesus. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Whatever Things are Just

October 23, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - OT - Deuteronomy, Bible - OT - Psalms, Judgment, Justification, Meditations
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are just. The word in Greek is dikaios – righteous, upright, equitable. God is Himself the foundation of justice. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He” (Dt 32:4). “The LORD is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works” (Ps 145:17).
Because God is just, all that He does reflects His justice. He cannot be anything but just. So Paul calls us to meditate on God’s just dealings. Meditate on the worldwide flood, on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and on the gruesome death of Herod Agrippa who was eaten by worms. Meditate on the deliverance of Joseph, on the vindication of Joshua and Caleb, and on the exaltation of David. Meditate on the peg in Sisera’s head, on Samson’s blindness, and on Jezebel’s defenestration. Meditate on whatever things are just.
Of course the preeminent display of God’s justice is in Jesus Christ. Justice demands that our rebellion against God and His law be punished. Jesus took on human flesh that He might bear the guilt of our sin, that He might endure God’s just wrath. He did this because God so loved us that He would show His mercy toward us – but His mercy could not and cannot be unjust. Paul tells us in Romans 3:25-26 that Christ sacrificed Himself for us to demonstrate at the present time [God’s justice], that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The Second Person of the Godhead took on human flesh and sacrificed His life in order that God might remain just and yet extend mercy and forgiveness to the one who has faith in Jesus. Such is God’s love of and commitment to justice even while showing mercy.
Because we worship the God of justice, we are also to delight in and practice justice ourselves. God’s mercy does not eradicate a concern for justice; it strengthens it. The just God delights in just weights and measures, rejoices in just judgments, and revels in just words – and we are to do likewise. “It is a joy for the just to do justice, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov 21:15). It is a joy for the just to execute a murderer, to demand that a thief make restitution, and to uncover and punish a false witness. It is a joy for parents to spank a disobedient toddler, for elders to excommunicate an unrepentant church member, and for employers to fire an unfaithful worker. Meditate on whatever things are just.
So what of you? Do you delight in justice? Are you aware that there are times it is sinful to show pity? God warned Israel:
“If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Dt 19:16–21)

God delights in justice and so judges, priests, and people are to imitate Him. So reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are just, let us confess that we often gravitate toward that which is unjust instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Whatever Things are Noble

October 17, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Depravity, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality, Sin
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are noble. This word noble is “used in classical Greek in the sense of ‘venerable, inviting reverence, worthy of reverence.’ The word exhorts here to a due appreciation of such things as produce a noble seriousness.” (Wuest) Other translations endeavor to capture the meaning with the English word “honorable.”
P.T. Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, once remarked, “No man ever went broke underestimating the public taste.” His remark reflects a sober truth: our sinful nature lends itself to that which is base. Taking advantage of this sinful corruption, much of the entertainment industry has become horribly degenerate, appealing to our baser instincts.
Yet even though our sinful nature gravitates toward that which is base and corrupt, we still possess a longing for nobility, a longing for that which is honorable and upright. Because we have been created in the image of God, we still retain a sense of the divine and, at times, long for those things which reflect His glory, long for nobility. This longing is cleverly expressed in an old poem of unknown authorship:

  I have three tame ducks in my back yard,
  Who wallow in the mud, and try real hard
  To get their share and even more
  of the overflowing backyard store.
  They’re fairly content with the task they’re at
  Of eating and sleeping and getting fat.
  But when the wild ducks fly by
  In a streaming line across the sky,
  They cast a wishful and quizzical eye
  And flap their wings and attempt to fly.
  I think my soul is a tame old duck
  Wallowing around in the barnyard muck,
  It’s fat and lazy with useless wings
  But, once in awhile when the north wind sings
  And the wild ducks hurtle overhead
  It remembers something lost and almost dead,
  And it casts a wistful eye
  And flaps its wings and tries to fly.
  It’s fairly content with the state that it’s in

  But it isn’t the duck that it might have been![1]

Paul calls us, in our passage, to follow those wild ducks; to meditate on what we were created to be; to delight in that which is noble, honorable, and glorious. He calls us to delight in the boy who opens the door for his sister; to rejoice in the wife who honors her husband and shields his faults; to esteem the man who keeps himself free from pornography; to admire the businessman who pays his employees well; to honor the soldier who lays down his life for his friends; to worship the Lord Christ who sacrificed Himself for us all. “That’s what I want to be like,” we should say, “that’s who I want to be.”
So reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are noble, let us confess that we often gravitate toward that which is base instead. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.



[1] http://www.christians.org/grow/grow13.html

Whatever Things are True

October 9, 2016 in Apologetics, Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Politics, Sanctification, Sexuality
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and, in our text, Paul catalogues some of them. He calls us to meditate on these things – to give them our attention, mull them over, and let them shape our attitude and actions.
So let us meditate on whatever things are true. “Truth is an attribute of God. As such the term speaks of His integrity, His trustworthiness, His faithfulness” (Holmes, 827). As the psalmist declares in Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” The Triune God is the true and living God, not a mere idol, not a figment of the imagination, not a pipe dream.
Because God is true, the world which He has created reflects His nature and, therefore, it has a distinct and definite nature. Our calling as human beings, is to understand the way God has made us and the world and to conform ourselves to this reality. We are to live truly not falsely – to live in accord with the way the universe really is. This implies, of course, that the world has a fixed nature, reflecting God’s own nature. This fixed reality characterizes empirical observations, intellectual and mathematical principles, and moral obligations. Boys are boys; girls are girls; animals are animals; gravity is real; 1+1 does in fact equal 2; multiplying the length times the width of a rectangle tells you its area; if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then it follows necessarily that Socrates is mortal; murder, adultery, and theft are grievous crimes; love suffers long and is kind.
All these statements are true, and Paul calls us to meditate deeply on these things. He summons us to rejoice in the regularity of the world that God has made. We are to rejoice in empirical truths, intellectual truths, and moral truths. And we are to rejoice in these truths wherever and by whomever they are discovered. All truth is God’s truth and we are called to meditate upon it; indeed, to rejoice in it.
However, when we are in rebellion against God, we don’t like to acknowledge the truth. Paul declares in Romans 1:25 that in rebelling against God, we “exchange the truth of God for a lie.” Having given ourselves over to this first-order lie, we find ourselves tempted to lie in other areas. We try to hide from the truth – for truth points us inevitably to the Truth Giver. As Jesus declares, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth come to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:20-21).
This is why our culture has increasingly embraced the folly of relativism – whatever is true for you is true for you and whatever is true for me is true for me. There is no such thing as absolute truth – except, of course, for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. So we have begun calling evil good and good evil; justifying to ourselves our sexual licentiousness, our slaughter of the unborn, our greed, our loss of a moral compass. We have set ourselves up as the standard of truth. The result? We can no longer tell the difference between male and female; we have announced that men are able to wed one another; we have declared that a woman can be trapped in a male body; soon we shall claim that pigs fly.

But all this is folly, all this is falsehood, all this is lies and deceit and a sham. And Paul calls us to see it as such and to meditate instead on whatever things are true. So have you? Are you meditating deeply on what is true, are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind, or are you being conformed to this world by meditating on falsehood and filth? Reminded of our call to meditate on whatever things are true, let us confess that we often embrace what is false. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Meditate on These Things

October 3, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Bible - NT - Romans, Meditations, Truth, Word of God
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
As we begin to preach through the book of Philippians, I decided to begin a simultaneous series of exhortations from Paul’s words here in the fourth chapter of that book. Paul is keenly aware that believers are ever susceptible to false ideas, doubts, sinful attitudes, and Satanic lies. Even as our tastebuds can, over time, become accustomed to foods that at first offend our palate, so our souls can become accustomed to filth that at first violate our conscience. Consequently, Paul commands us to meditate on those things that will build us up in the faith and empower us to excel still more in the service of Christ.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that the Philippians “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). Clearly if they are to “approve the things that are excellent”, then they must acquaint themselves with what qualifies as excellence. They must develop a taste for what is truly worthwhile. So Paul gives them a list here in Philippians 4 and urges them and, by implication, us to meditate on these things.
Before we consider the specific things, however, let us first consider Paul’s call to meditateupon them. He commands us, meditate on these things – in other words, give them your attention, mull them over, and let them shape your attitude and actions. Paul’s summons reminds us that meditation takes considerable time and effort. In the Scriptures to meditate is to consider deeply, to turn over in the mind, to reflect carefully. It engages the mind, the heart, the imagination, the emotions. While eastern religions like Buddhism liken meditation to emptying the mind, purging one’s passions, the Scriptures liken it to filling the mind or perhaps cleansing the mind of deficient ideas, thoughts, and assumptions, and shaping one’s passions.
So Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Paul wants us as Christians to be distinct, to have our character transformed into that of the Lord Jesus Christ so that in any situation we can discern what God would have us do. He wants us to be able to prove, to test, to approve the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. This will only happen if we do not permit ourselves to be conformed to this world but instead find ourselves transformed by the grace of God. So how does God go about transforming us? By renewing our minds. And how are our minds renewed? By meditation on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy.
So what of you? Have you been filling your heart and mind with what is excellent so that you can approve what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God? Have you been meditating on these things, turning them over, mulling on them, glorying in them? What are you permitting to shape your thoughts? Are you regularly singing the psalms and chewing on them? Are you regularly reading the Word, memorizing it, and meditating upon it? Are the things of God filling your soul? Or have you instead been meditating on evil things? Turning the sin of another over and over in your head? Anxiously worrying about the future? Assiduously feeding your doubts and fears? Becoming consumed with your social media feed? Conforming your thoughts to Hollywood’s view of the world?

Paul exhorts us to meditate on excellent things that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Reminded of our frequent failure to do so, let us confess our tendency to be conformed to this world. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins to the Lord. We’ll have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Called to Contentment

August 15, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations, Thankfulness
Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
On several occasions I have shared the ancient Roman proverb, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”
What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already have. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled or even exceeded.
These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they focus on our circumstances – if I only had more money; a nicer car; a newer phone; a bigger house; a larger budget. Sometimes they focus on our relationships. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us content.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated our circumstances as He sees fit? Has God promised in Christ to sustain me in the midst of every circumstance? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, and since the God we serve is the same God of love who has revealed Himself in Christ, ought we not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given them to us and promises to sustain us in them.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.