someone else’s mail is delivered to our house, we normally try to see that it
gets delivered to the right person. We
put it back in the box with a note on it that indicates the need to deliver it
to a different recipient.
What we don’t do is open the
mail and read it out of curiosity about what is happening in another person’s
life. We don’t because we realize that
such an action would be an invasion of privacy.
We wouldn’t want another person to read about the status of our
investments or about how much we owe due to a doctor’s visit. For this reason, we aren’t going to open and
read someone else’s mail.
However, in tonight’s epistle lesson
we are doing just that. We are reading
mail that was not sent to us. This is
Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, not the one at Marion. We are reading someone else’s mail. Yet because Paul’s letters are the inspired
and authoritative revelation from the Lord the Church recognizes that these are
not letters that are limited to the original recipients. We read them as God’s Word that addresses us.
As we read the letter Paul wrote to
the Philippians, we find that one of its purposes is to serve as a thank you
letter. The apostle says in our text, “I
rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your
concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.”
We learn in our text that the
Philippians had sent a gift to support Paul’s ministry. Paul is thankful for this gift – especially
because this is not the first time.
Since hearing the Gospel from Paul, the Philippians had sent gifts to
support Paul on several occasions.
We have this letter which gives
thanks as our text on an evening when we begin celebrating Thanksgiving. Paul gives thanks for the gift, and he also
tells the Philippians to give thanks as he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made
known to God.” The apostle says that
thanksgiving is to be part of our prayers to God.
certainly give thanks tonight. Who
wouldn’t? Many of us will gather
together with family tomorrow as we share in a delicious meal of turkey,
stuffing and a table full of food. We
will enjoy good food – and lots of it!
Then many of us will retire to watch football as some drift off into a
lovely Thanksgiving Day nap.
very easy to give thanks on Thanksgiving.
Yet the truth is that we aren’t so great at giving thanks during the
rest of the year. We take the daily
bread God provides for granted – after all, we just expect it to be there. We tend to be more focused on the things we
think we need. We are keen to ask God
for blessings, but are often slow to give thanks for the many things he has
provided to us.
needs to remind us that giving thanks is to be a daily part of our life. It needs to be part of our life in all
circumstances. It is a little ironic
that our text tonight does not only speak to the abundance of a Thanksgiving
meal. It also addresses our attitude
when things are lacking.
giving thanks for the Philippians’ gift, Paul says, “Not that I am
speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to
be content. I know how to be
brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have
learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
acknowledges the reality of his life. He had known times of plenty and
abundance. But in his life as an apostle he has also known many times of
deprivation and want. Paul says that he
has learned to be content in whatever situation he faces. He tells us the reason as he says, “I can do all things through him
who strengthens me.” This is not some
kind of claim about unlimited potential. Instead, the things to which Paul
refers are the being brought low and abounding; the facing of abundance and
need. He says that he has strength to
face these things.
says that God who strengthens him is the One who gives the strength to be
content in every circumstance. He is the
One who enables him to be thankful in every situation. The apostle says this because God is the One
who has placed Paul in Christ. He says
in our text, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
order to be thankful and content we need the most fundamental relationship of
our life to be one of peace and blessing.
We need our relationship with God to be one of love and peace. Since the fall of Adam that has not been our
natural state. Instead, we are sinners
who are enemies of God. On our own, we
are cut off from God and hostile to him.
his great love for us, God acted to change our status. He sent his Son into the world in the
incarnation. Paul says in this letter
that though Christ was in the form of God he “did not count equality with God a thing to be
himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the
likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
In obedience to the Father, Jesus
humbled himself to the point of death on the cross. He received the judgment against our sin in
order to win us forgiveness. But then
God raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated him. Paul adds, “Therefore God
has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above
every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in
heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
God has won this forgiveness for us
through his Son. And now through baptism
he has placed you in Christ. You have
been linked to the risen Lord – you have been joined to him in a way that gives
you the benefits of his death and resurrection.
You live in Christ because the Spirit has caused you to be born again.
Paul says that this is the most
important thing. It is more important
than the many things we think we need.
It is more important than the things for which we want to give thanks. He states in this letter, “For his sake
I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order
that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a
righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes
through faith in Christ.”
Through the work of the Spirit, you
are in Christ. You are found in him as
you live by faith in Jesus. Because this
is so, God considers you to be righteous. He considers you to be holy in his
eyes – you are a saint. This is the status that you possess now. It is the status that will be declared on the
This is what enables us to give thanks
in all circumstances. The blessing that
we have received in Christ allows us to look at our life and see the many
blessings that God has provided – blessings great and small. We give thanks for all of them as we live in