Faithlife Sermons

Our Sufficiency in Christ-edited

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
Notes & Transcripts




Why the "Sufficiency Doctrine" Is Insufficient

There are those within the Christian body who would say that getting psychological help is un‑spiritual. That we should rely totally on the Lord for our emotional healing! There motto:  Sufficiency in Christ is Sufficient!

My question is why?

Why is emotional healing through psychological healing any different from physical healing of a broken arm, cancer, diabetes, or cataracts?

Why would one seek out professional help for the treatment of T.B., pneumonia, diabetes, or cancer, but be forbidden to seek help for disabling panic episodes, anxiety, depression, anger, fear, phobia’s, PTSD, or co-dependency, to name a few?

A century ago a number of Christians thought it was a sin to wear glasses, or "devil's eyes" as they called them. Their reasoning was "If God wanted you to be able to see, He would have given you good vision."

Even after penicillin was discovered, many Christians died of pneumonia because they wanted to trust God alone and not medications. We know of several Christians who have died in the past few years because they refused to have cancer surgically removed.

Technically, mankind has come a long way; he has even walked on the moon, is in the process of building a city in outer space. But when it comes to common sense, whether it be Christians, or non‑Christians, we have‑not advanced a great deal from where we were during the Dark Ages.

Christ Himself said that those who are sick need a physician.

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Luke 5:31

Luke, who wrote a large portion of the New Testament (including Acts) was a physician. Just because God used numerous miracles in the early church to prove that Christianity was true does that justify the claim of twenty first century Christians that God heal them supernaturally or not at all? So IF God does not heal you supernaturally are you going to continue living a sour life?

It takes a grandiose person to demand a supernatural healing. God certainly does heal some people supernaturally on rare occasions today, but He heals most Christians through the common‑sense application of medical technology and medications. Why did he give man a brain if He never expected him to use it?

Should Christian diabetics who need insulin daily use insulin? Or should they refuse insulin and die in a diabetic coma within two days in order to prove how brave and super‑spiritual they are?

Should antidepressant medications ever be used? Some Christians would say no. Why?

What is the difference between a person suffering with a biochemical imbalance which causes diabetes, and a person suffering from a biochemical imbalance causing severe depression, anxiety, phobias, ect. Answer.....NONE.


The problem the "Sufficiency in Christ" camp has with modern psychology is that they feel they encourage people to look to self, and not to God for their healing. I don't believe those who support this theory have been to a truly professional Christ centered Christian counselor.

In the experience of professional Christian Counselors and of course myself, Jesus Christ is the center focus of our healing. Our clients are being aided by a professional therapist in learning to see themselves as God sees then. That they are children of the King, and their King, the Lord Jesus Christ is interested in their emotional well being.

The “Sufficiency in Christ” camp fears that Christian counseling is based on anti‑Christian, Freudian thought, which directly contradicts the scriptural truth. Their belief is when we are saved, we are "a new creation", and "all things are made new." They ignore however, (barring a supernatural healing) the convert with cancer, or diabetes. When the new convert wakes up in the morning, they will normally still need their daily dose of insulin, or go for their radiation treatments as prescribed in order to keep their diseases in check.

Should psychological help be sought when you can't seem to get beyond the cycle of depression, and/or panic...absolutely! Should antidepressants ever be used? Of course, under certain circumstances medications are necessary.

An excerpt from the book "Happiness Is A Choice", by Dr. Frank Minirth, & Dr. Paul Meier:

"When a patient comes to us and is clinically depressed, cannot sleep, and has suicidal ideation, we have three ways in which we could treat him. We could see him in weekly therapy with no medications, and he would be totally over his clinical depression within six to twelve months on the average (that is, if he doesn’t commit suicide during those first two months when he continues to suffer insomnia and be in severe emotional pain)."

"A second option would be for that same patient to come for weekly psychotherapy and take antidepressants, in which case he would probably be totally over His depression in three to six months." "He would be sleeping well and feeling some improvement after his first ten days on antidepressant medications, so suicide would be less of a risk."

"A third option is for that same patient to check himself into the psychiatry ward of a general hospital, get daily psychotherapy and medication, feel better within a week, and be totally over his depression within three to six weeks, requiring only a month or two of follow‑up outpatient psychotherapy."

"Which option is the most spiritual if the patient has four children at home who have been hurting for months because of his depression?"

"Which option is the most spiritual if suicide is a real possibility, a possibility that would leave children fatherless, (or motherless) and with deep emotional scars?"

"Is it simply more spiritual to tell this person to go home and pray harder, and keep a stiff upper lip?"

"People in need of medical care should receive the care necessary to help them become more the person God has created them to be."

"A fully functional, clear minded, Christ centered individual, effective about the work of the kingdom of God."

"It is the sick who need the doctor." "I believe God made that very clear in His word.

Philippians 4:10-20

Treating as an afterthought his response to the gift brought by Epaphroditus from Philippi (v.18) seems quite appropriate to the content of the response itself. As literature 4:10–20 is a gem; as a note of thanks to close friends who have sent a gift, the passage is full of surprises.

This is true not only when we read it against the background of our own experience of sending and receiving such notes but also when read against the background of the remainder of the letter. Paul and the Philippians do not represent what one would regard as a standard apostle-church relationship.

The Philippians were his partners: In the gospel (1:5), in prison and court defense (1:7), in conflict and suffering (1:30), and unlike all the other churches, they shared repeatedly in financial support of his ministry (4:15–16). Paul held them in his heart (1:7), he yearned for them with the affection of Christ (1:8), he loved and longed for these friends who were his joy and crown 4:1).

Expressive of their mutual love, the church sends one of their members to Paul with a gift. In his response Paul never uses the word thanks. He chides them a bit with “now at length” (“after so long,” NEB) and his immediate modifier, “you had no opportunity” (v. 10), does not fully dull the edge of the reproach. He feels it necessary to say that he did not really need the gift (v. 11) nor did he seek it (v. 17). Paul gives a brief testimony to the effect that he has contentment in either abundance or want and being in Christ is adequate for all situations (vv. 11–13). After commending their kindness in the act which more than once had occurred (vv. 14–16 ), Paul makes sure they understand that his desire was not for the gift but for the fruit or profit from it which would be credited to their account (v. 17 ). As far as he himself is concerned, he says, “I have received full payment, and more; I am filled …” (v. 18). The language here is that which was common to the world of commerce: “I give you my receipt … I am paid in full” (NEB). Paul then shifts from commercial terms to the language of liturgy, designating their gift to him as in reality a sacrifice to God who would in return supply all their needs (vv. 18–19). “God be praised forever. Amen.” This is his “Thank you” note, and apparently offered as a kind of an afterthought!

One has to wonder how the church reacted to this response to their gift. Needless to say, commentators have been somewhat puzzled by it. Descriptions of 4:10–20 have included terms such as tense, detached, awkward, distant, and discourteous. Efforts to explain Paul’s writing in this vein have been many and varied. Some have accounted for Paul’s detached air by speculating that the Philippians had resented something Paul had said in an earlier note of thanks, a note now lost to us. This, they say, would explain Paul’s businesslike, “Here’s your receipt—paid in full.” Others have remarked upon Paul’s stoicism, never allowing his spirit to rise and fall with circumstance. Certainly Paul comes closer to stoicism here than elsewhere in his letters, even using a favorite expression of the Stoics, to be content (v.11). Still others find here a residue of legalism in Paul and portray the apostle, for all his preaching of grace, still unable to receive a gift. -         Our life of partnership in the gospel, Paul said to them, depends neither upon my being present nor absent.

-           The advance of the gospel does not depend upon my being executed or being set free.

-        - My relationship to Christ, he said, does not depend upon living or dying because to live is Christ and to die is to be with Christ. –

-        His relationship to the Philippians, his return to them, his execution, his witness, their witness: everything has to be set in the background of the gospel and the meaning of life in Christ Jesus.

In the same way their gift must be understood. Perhaps Paul does feel some inner conflict between the need to express pleasure over the gift and at the same time witness to his freedom from the victimizing power of material things.

Perhaps Paul had grown suspicious of the entanglements of gifts; after all, his freedom to preach unhindered was priceless to him. Repeatedly he had refused to accept money from churches even though he had the right to live by the gospel.

Now he finds himself in the situation of having received once and again (v. 16) gifts from Philippi. It is therefore important, perhaps even necessary, for Paul to state again his freedom, to relate the gift to ministry (the fruit which increases from it, v. 17 ) and to God (a fragrant offering to God, v. 18 ) and not to himself personally. In other words, the intimacy of giving and receiving must be balanced with distance, discourteous as it may sound. So Paul reminds his friends that he is free. He is able to live with abundance, but it is not necessary that he have it.

He is able to live in hunger and want, but it is not necessary that he be poor. He is defined neither by wealth nor poverty but by a contentment that transcends both nor by a power in Christ which enables him to live in any circumstance. It is important for his friends to see their gift in this framework.  

We should not leave this passage without commenting upon the unusual number and variety of images and analogies used by Paul. Drawn from many sources, these words and phrases are put in the service of the gospel to inform, clarify, and enrich Paul’s communication. We have already noted his use of a key term drawn from the Stoics (v. 11 ), but Paul also pulls from mystery cults the word translated “I have learned the secret” (v. 12 ). In the cults the term referred to the rite of initiation into the mysteries. In the New English Bible, it is translated, “I have been thoroughly initiated.” Paul’s drawing upon two entirely different religious sources in that culture in order to express himself should give caution to efforts to identify his pre-Christian background on the basis of his vocabulary.

Finally, if less profound certainly no less beautiful, is the metaphor drawn from nature with which Paul opens his response to the gift from Philippi. In verse 10, “you have revived your concern for me” translates an image of spring and the appearance of new growth with blossoms. Paul speaks of the blossoming again of their concern for him. Apparently their partnership with Paul in giving and receiving had experienced a long winter which, Paul hastens to add, was not their fault; it simply was not the proper season. Now it is spring again, their concern has blossomed, and Paul is filled with joy.

The Greek words for learned the secret are used only here in the New Testament. It was an expression used in the pagan mystery cults to describe initiations of new members. Initiations were rarely easy, and Paul used the word to describe his initiation by his experiences into living a victorious Christian life. Paul’s initiation was filled with joys as well as difficulties, being well-fed and … going hungry —having plenty sometimes and being needy at others.

This word “I have learned the Secret” was used by the pagan religions with reference to their “inner secrets.” Through trial and testing, Paul was “initiated” into the wonderful secret of contentment in spite of poverty or prosperity. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). It was the power of Christ within him that gave him spiritual contentment.

All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the Christian’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw on the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life. Paul depended on the power of Christ at work in his life. “I can—through Christ!” was Paul’s motto, and it can be our motto too.

The overruling providence of God and the unfailing power of God are two spiritual resources on which we can draw that we might be adequate for the tasks of life. But there is a third resource.

11–13 Their gifts had been a joy and encouragement to him, but he was not relying on them, nor, by writing like this, was he soliciting further gifts. He could honestly say that he had learnt the secret of contentment with outward circumstances, whether he had little or much. He knew that his Lord would not fail to give him what was necessary and to strengthen him to face every situation. In writing these things Paul uses two words that had significant religious and philosophical use in those days.

The other word, translated I have learned the secret, was used in the mystery cults for initiation into a secret.

Paul’s secret of living was an open secret, available for all who would walk the way of Christ. It was the secret of contentment, since to know Christ and to be called to serve him was ‘unsearchable riches’ (Eph. 3:8). How far we know the secret of contentment and to what degree we are proving the sufficiency of Christ for all the demands of our lives are always challenging questions for us as Christians.

Paul, thus, never allowed his weaknesses or perceived weaknesses to be an excuse for inactivity, or for a failure to attempt the impossible task. They in a sense became his greatest assets, and surrendering them to Christ he discovered that they were transformed for his own enrichment and for the enrichment of others.


Are you content in any circumstances you face? Paul knew how to be content whether he had plenty or whether he was in need. The secret meant drawing on Christ’s power for strength. Do you have great needs? Are you discontented because you don’t have what you want? Learn to rely on God’s promises and Christ’s power to help you be content. If you always want more, ask God to remove that desire and teach you contentment in every circumstance. He will supply all your needs, but in a way that he knows is best for you.

Related Media
Related Sermons