We have all come here tonight to express our gratitude to God, to give God our thanks and praise for all that He has done for us. God has come here tonight, as well. Tonight God has come to give you a gift that everyone wants, but few people have. God’s gift to you tonight is contentment. To learn more about, we’re going to travel with Paul to a place called Caesarea Philippi. Philippi was home to a number of “contented persons.”
Lydia, from Acts chapter 16 had the gift. Lydia sold very expensive purple cloth. But her wealth wasn’t the reason for her contentment. As Lydia listened to Paul preach, she believed everything he told her about Jesus, and wanted to be baptized. She then invited Paul and his companions to work out of her home, and according to Luke, wouldn’t take no for an answer. Lydia was a very contented woman.
Or how about a man named Epaphroditus, from Philippians chapter 2. He seems to be a very contented man. He couldn’t do enough to help Paul in his work, and no expense was too great for him to bear. Paul writes that he, Epaphroditus, “nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” He must have been very contented to be willing to do all of that.
How about the Philippian congregation as a whole? No other letter from Paul rings with such joy! They were his ‘partners in the gospel,” according to Philippians chapter 1. Of all the places Paul traveled, of all the congregations he started and/or served, he received the most support from that little congregation in Philippi.
And when the Jerusalem Christians were suffering severe poverty because of drought and persecution, Listen to Paul’s description of the response of the church in Philippi: “in a severe test of affliction, an abundance of joy has overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, and as I can testify, beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.” (2 Co 8:2-4).
Like Lydia, they just wouldn’t take no for an answer. They must have been very contented to give so much to help others, when they themselves had so little.
What had you found, Lydia, Epaphroditus, and Philippians, that you so gladly threw yourselves and your money, into the service of Paul and the gospel of Jesus Christ? What did you learn from Paul? What was your secret, O Paul and Silas, that you could sing from your prison cell, with bloodied backs and shackled feet in Acts chapter 16 ? How did Paul write Philippians, a very contented letter, while held prisoner by the Romans and facing certain death?
In spite of Obama’s failure to move our country forward economically, we are still the wealthiest nation history has ever seen. We have more physical comforts that ever before. We travel to exciting places and do exciting things. We have indoor plumbing and outdoor carpeting, air conditioners and water softeners, central heating and accent lighting. And our pets have more to eat and are more content than people in many parts of the world.
But are we content? The family is disintegrating, drug and alcohol abuse is rising, violent criminal gangs are thriving, and people are shooting each other down in the streets. Is that what contented people do and how they act?
So, what is the secret to contentment? Paul, what had you learned that you could say, “I have learned in whatever situation to be content, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” What does Paul know that other people don’t? His secret is this, in his own words: “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.”
When you get right down to it, Thanksgiving is not about wealth and abundance, or at least it shouldn’t be. And neither is contentment. It is true as I said, God has literally flooded us with blessings great and small, yet sadly, many churches don’t even have Thanksgiving services, and those that do are far from filling their pews.
Paul, Lydia, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians didn’t have the comforts and possessions that we have today. But they did have faith in God, and God was faithful to them. God had their backs, so to speak. He bought priceless gifts for them and gave them with no strings attached. He bought their souls back from sin and death with the blood of His own Son, Jesus. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him us for us, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Now, if that doesn’t make you content, I don’t know what will!
Paul tried to explain that to the Romans: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you, by His poverty, might become rich.” They had the Triune God by faith, and the Triune God had them, by faithfulness. That, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is the secret to contentment. Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!”
“If God is for you, who or what can possibly be against you?” We now know what Paul, Silas, Lydia, Epaphroditus, and the Philippians knew and believed: “My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be thanks, praise, glory and honor now and forevermore.” Happy Thanksgiving! Amen.