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The Divine Difference in Life

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The Divine Difference in Life

Philippians 4:10-23

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Oct. 14, 2012

*One of the most famous trials in American history was the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925. A teacher in Tennessee was charged with the crime of teaching evolution. And the trial drew national attention, in part because the teacher was defended by famous attorney, Clarence Darrow. (1)

*Years later Dr. John Herman met the famous lawyer. Both men were in their later years as they talked together. And during their conversation, Dr. Herman asked Clarence Darrow this question: “Now that you’ve come this far in life and you’re not doing much lecturing or writing any more, how would you sum up your life?”

*Clarence Darrow immediately picked up a Bible. This surprised Dr. Herman, because Darrow spent most of his life publicly ridiculing the Word of God.

*The lawyer opened the Bible to Luke 5. It was the place where Jesus preached from Peter’s boat, then told Peter, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon Peter answered the Lord in Luke 5:5, saying: “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

*This was the verse Darrow had found, and he said, “This verse in the Bible describes my life: ‘I have toiled all the night and have caught nothing.’”

*Clarence Darrow replaced the Bible, and sadly said, “I have lived a life without purpose, without meaning, without direction. I don’t know where I came from. And I don’t know what I’m doing here. And worst of all, I don’t know what’s going to happen to me when I punch out of here.” (2)

*How sad to get to the end of your life and find yourself in that shape.

-What a difference it makes when we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

-And here in God’s Word, Paul helps us see the difference.

1. First Christians: God wants to give us a contented life.

*God wants us to have the contented life Paul described in vs. 11&12. There the Apostle said this to the Christians of Philippi:

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.

*“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” That was a remarkable thing to hear from an innocent man who had been in Roman chains for several years. And it’s not like that was the first of Paul’s troubles.

*Listen to part of Paul’s earlier testimony to the Corinthian Christians. In 2 Cor 1:8, Paul said: “We do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”

*Then in 2 Cor 11:24-28, Paul gave this report:

24. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.

25. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;

26. in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

27. in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness

28. besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

*Paul knew more trouble than most people, -- but he was content. Again, as he said in vs. 11: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”

[1] Notice that Paul said he learned to be content.

*I’ve got to tell you that I’m still working on that. God’s contentment doesn’t come by instinct. So if you’re still working on it, don’t beat yourself up too much, because even a great Christian like Paul had to learn how to be content.

*But he did learn, and so can we.

[2] We don’t get contentment by instinct; we get it by instruction.

*Jesus Christ taught Paul to be content. And the same Lord who instructed Paul will instruct us too.

*When John Killinger was preaching in New York City, one of his hosts led him on a walk through a park that overlooked Manhattan. As they walked, she talked about her life when she got to New York several years before. Her husband had left her and she was having trouble with her only child.

*That Christian lady had come to this exact spot one night thinking she could not go on. She didn’t want to take her life. But she didn't know how she could go on in the pain and agony she was feeling.

*Killinger explained what happened next with these words: “She said she sat on one of the benches and looked across the bay at the city. She stared out at Liberty Island in the distance, and she watched the tugboats as they moved in and out of the bay. She sat, and she sat. The longer she sat, she said, the more her life seemed to be invested with a kind of quietness that came over her like a spirit. Down deep she began to feel peaceful again.

*She said she felt somehow that God was very near to her, -- as if she could almost reach out and touch God. Better yet, she didn't need to reach out. God was touching her.

*She felt whole and complete and healed as she sat there that evening. It became a turning point in her life. ‘Since then,’ she said, ‘whenever I feel under pressure at my job or from any personal problems, I come down here and sit on this very bench. I'm quiet; I feel it all over again, and everything is all right.’”

*Killinger’s friend ended her testimony with these words: “‘Be still and know that I am God.’ When we know that, everything is all right.” (3)

*John Killinger’s friend learned to be content. Paul learned to be content. And Jesus will teach us too. God wants to give us a contented life.

2. And He wants to give us a charitable life.

*God wants to give us a life that overflows with generosity and Godly giving. The Philippian Christians are our example here, because they overflowed with generosity for Paul.

*That’s why Paul was so thankful in vs. 10. There the Apostle told them: “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.”

*Then starting in vs. 14, Paul said:

14. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.

15. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

16. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.

17. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

18. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

*This was not the first gift Paul had received from Philippi. Verse 6 tells us that this church had helped him many times. And as Paul talks about their generosity, he gives us some key lessons about giving and receiving.

[1] One lesson is that we all need help sometimes.

*There’s nothing wrong with that. Paul needed help, and someday, so will you. In Acts 20:35, Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus once said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is MORE blessed to give. But it is also blessed to receive. And we need to be humble enough to get the help we need.

*Of course, this truth goes far beyond our financial needs.

-If you think you can make it through life without help, you need help right now.

-I need help all the time. And I am so thankful that I have help!

*There is no way to measure how much help Mary has been in my life. And I think of Gretchen Hamel who’s having the heart cath this week. Twenty years ago, when our son had to have surgery in Memphis for a brain tumor, Freddie and Gretchen gave us a generous gift to help with extra expenses.

*Many other Godly people have helped us over the years in many other ways.

-That’s good, because sometimes we all need help.

[2] Another lesson here is that we need to give while we can

*Verse 10 tells us that the Philippian Christians had always wanted to help Paul, but for some time, they just weren’t able. We need to give whenever we can.

[3] The next lesson is that our giving makes a difference.

*Never think that your giving doesn’t matter. Verse 15 tells us that the Philippians were the ONLY church both able and willing to help Paul. And the time may come when you are the only person who can make a difference.

[4] Another lesson is that our charitable giving has the power to bless in a multi-dimensional way.

*Of course, our giving is good for the receiver. Listen again in vs. 10 for Paul’s relief and joy over the gift he received from Philippi. There Paul said: “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.” It’s interesting to me that one of Paul’s main reasons for writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for their financial help.

*Our giving blesses the receiver, but again, Acts 20:35 tells us that our giving also blesses us. Here in vs. 17, Paul talked about the heavenly fruit our giving puts in our account. Paul said, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” When we generously give in the name of the Lord, we put fruit in our heavenly account that will never pass away!

*Our giving blesses us! -- But most important of all, it blesses the Lord. As Paul said in vs. 18, their gifts were “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

-Their gift made Paul happy, but much more important, it made God happy.

*So our charitable giving has the power to bless in a multi-dimensional way.

-For all of these reasons, God wants to give us a charitable life.

3. But He also wants to give us a confident life.

*In these closing verses of his letter, Paul was supremely confident in the Lord.

-Let me point out 3 ways.

[1] In vs. 13, Paul has confidence in the Lord’s strength. There, he simply said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

*The world tries to teach us to say, “I can do all things.” But of course, that’s not true. I’ll never be quarterback of the Saints, no matter how much I believe!

*You have to finish the verse. Paul said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That means I can go through the best times and the worst times “through Christ who strengthens me.”

-Paul had confidence in the Lord’s strength, And so can we.

[2] Paul also had confidence in the Lord’s supply. This is Paul’s message to us in vs. 19, where he said: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

*Like all of God’s promises, this promise is infallible. And Christians, we can have complete confidence in this promise, because:

-Our supplier is our God.

-It’s scope covers all of the needs of all believers.

-And its source is God’s riches in glory!

*Paul said: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” So Christian, if you are 5 or 105, our God shall supply all your needs. And He can do it, because the whole universe belongs to Him.

*Jesus never runs out of what we need!

-If we need peace, He can give us the peace that passes understanding. (Phil 4:7)

-If we need comfort, He is the God of all comfort.

3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

4. who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)

-If we need wisdom, Jesus is our supply! -- “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

*No wonder Paul had confidence in the Lord’s supply. And so can we.

[3] Of course, Paul also had confidence in the Lord’s salvation. This is Paul’s message to us in vs. 23, where he said: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

*Paul ended his letter right where he began: with the grace of Almighty God.

-The Apostle Paul never got over the grace of God.

*Listen to the way he stressed God’s grace in Ephesians 1:

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

5. having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

6. to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.

7. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. . .

*God loves us so much that He even sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus took our punishment, and gives us full forgiveness, according to the infinite riches of His grace!

*Think about God’s grace in your life.

*Let me tell you a little of our story: In 1973, by God’s grace Mary was riding with a friend in Stuart, FL, when an ad for the Teacher Corps came on the radio. It was a nationwide, teacher-training program that paid for your last 2 years of college, while putting you to work in an underprivileged school.

*By God’s grace, I came out here to Grambling, 500 miles from home. It was the last place I ever expected to be. Mary did not get selected for the program at Grambling, but by God’s grace, the man who did got homesick after two weeks and she was his replacement.

*By God’s grace, Mary’s acceptance into the program at Syracuse University was held up in the mail a few days. And by the time it caught up to her in Louisiana, she had seen something in this Georgia hippy that would not let her go to New York.

*Also by God’s grace, I survived the summer. Looking at me, you might gather that some of those other guys in Teacher Corps were bigger and stronger than me. -- O.K. -- All of them were bigger and stronger than me.

*We were the only ones living on the fifth floor of the dorm that summer. Some of those other guys had sort of a game where they would force the elevator doors open when the elevator was down on the first floor. It looked pretty easy to me, so one day when no one else was around, I decided to do it too. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, so I pushed harder and harder.

*Then, all of a sudden those doors turned loose, and there I was leaning over an empty shaft, with nothing to grab hold to. Another half inch and I would have fallen into that shaft. And when I hit bottom, I would have kept going right on down into hell, because I was as lost as can be.

*But by God’s grace, I caught my balance, and two years later I got a job teaching at Woodlawn Jr. High. My co-worker, Georgia Savoie invited us to church, and by God’s grace I was ready to trust in the Lord.

*Every good thing that has ever come to us and through us has all been by the amazing grace of God, especially the eternal life we have in the cross of Jesus Christ.

*What a difference it makes when we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

*God begins to give us:

-A contented life.

-A charitable life.

-And a life that overflows with confidence in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

1. Scopes Trial from Wikipedia

2. Adapted from “Following Christ” by Joseph M. Stowell - Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996, pp. 29-30 - Cited in “Great Stories in American History” by Rebecca Price Janney, Horizon Books, Camp Hill, PA, 1998

3. David Holwick illustration #3959 - SOURCE: Online Leadership Journal - (America Online) - TITLE: “When They've Heard It All Before” - AUTHOR: Craig Brian Larson - DATE: 01011995

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