We need to live lives that demand an explanation. Paul lived this life that didn’t make any sense. In Philippians 4, he is talking about joy and contentment while chained to a prison guard in jail. If you could write a letter to your loved ones in prison, would you write about happiness or complain? In Philippians 4:13 we have the most misquoted verse in the Bible. Evander Holyfield had it on his robe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…” and I am going to pulverize Mike Tyson. He wore the same robe to fight Lenox Lewis, and he bit the dust. Maybe you use this verse as a promise to ace a test in class when you didn’t study. “I can do all things through Christ.” We need to look at the context of the verse.
This is what Philippians 4:10-12 says:
“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. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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.”
Have you learned Paul’s secret? “No matter what the economy does, I don’t care.” How many people have you met that have that attitude? They are suffering and others say to them, “You should be stressed out, you should panic.” In contrast, Paul says “be content.”
Christ is enough. You can have nothing and can be content. You can be rich and be content. I really encourage you to read the Bible with an open mind. Voltaire once said, “God created man in his own image and now man is returning the favor.” We want to recreate God in the way we want to be. I want a God okay with me sleeping with my girlfriend, I want a God who says, “my body, my choice.” One author wrote, “The American church has created a middle-class Jesus.” For example, they say that it’s okay to make your nuclear family an idol. When it comes to you and your kids, take care of them first even before your relationship with Jesus. You never find that in the Bible. Christ taught us to be willing to hate father, mother, wife, kids. He said my true brothers, sisters and mother obey my words. I’m not saying we shouldn’t love our family. It’s just that following Jesus comes first. We need a radical Jesus, the Christ of the Bible. We must not settle for a middle-class Jesus.
Sometimes the words of Christ seem crazy. Like, “Quit storing things up on earth. See the birds of the air. God provides for them, He will provide for you.” If you want to find a radical Jesus, read through one of the Gospels.
Life is a lot shorter than you realize. I don’t believe I’m crazy enough. All of Jesus is enough. Anything we give to the Lord is totally worth it. Don’t let your desires color your perspective. There are things about Jesus I don’t like. I prefer He didn’t say those things. When I read what Jesus says, I’m going to try to tweak me, to conform to Jesus, even when it’s hard to do. As I’ve followed, I have found I understand why He said it. When He said it, I know He’s right. Even things on which you disagree, I would encourage you to ask the question, “What have you made Jesus to be?” You will find that a middle-class Jesus never existed. Jesus said, don’t worry about the future, God will provide.” You can know contentment today by surrendering to Jesus and His Word.
Excerpt from Philippians Sermon Series Part Four, Cornerstone Church, Simi Valley.