Sermon on Philippians 4:10–13
The following is a sermon preached in chapel at the LCMS International Center today, continuing our study through Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
“Self-Sufficiency in Christ”
January 7, 2013 • IC Chapel
St. Paul declares: “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” or literally, to be “self-sufficient.” And so this morning, I want to take a look this concept of “self-sufficiency” and what it means for our lives as Christians today.
The other night, I was watching a show on the National Geographic channel titled Doomsday Preppers. Have you seen it?This is a show about the lives of otherwise ordinary Americans who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Now this particular episode explored the lives of a recently retired couple who had purchased a decommissioned nuclear missile silo in Kansas and then renovated it so that that they’d be fully capable of surviving underground when doomsday arrives. These people went to extreme lengths to ensure that they would be entirely self-sufficient when the U.S. economy disintegrates and hordes of starving Americans from the big cities storm their way out to rural Kansas, foraging for food.
Now we may chuckle inside at the extreme notions of such doomsday preppers, but do we not also have our own kinds of catastrophizing notions that we play around with? Think about it! What is your greatest fear, and how does it begin to manifest itself in your thinking and actions? Perhaps it’s losing a loved one—suddenly by death, or perhaps slowly to cancer. Maybe it’s failure . . . failure with your family, failure with relationships, failure at your job. Recently I was talking to a friend who had completely convinced himself that he was a failure at his job and that he was going to come back after the Christmas break, only to be fired. Of course that didn’t happen at all, and it turns out, after a conversation, that his employer is entirely pleased with his work.
St. Paul says: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content . . .” or “self-sufficient.” But Paul’s contentment or self-sufficiency is not grounded in himself and his own catastrophizing, doomsday notions about himself or about the world around him. Instead he says, “I know how to be brought low” . . . like Jesus, we might observe. This is the same word Paul uses just a couple chapters earlier, where he declares: “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:9). On the cross of Calvary, Christ was brought low—as low as you can go. He suffered the ultimate catastrophe, the ultimate doomsday, the worst thing that could ever happen not just to him, but to the entire human race—that the Son of God, God himself, would suffer and die and lay down his life for the likes of you and me. And that he took all of our fears and our catastrophizing notions and buried them with him in the tomb, and then picked up his life again three days later.
But that’s exactly what happened, and it is in this Jesus Christ—crucified for your sins and raised for your justification—that you have been called through your baptism to place your all trust and sufficiency, your contentment. “I have learned the secret,” Paul declares, of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Jesus strengthens you to be able to do exactly what he gives you to do. You can’t do everything, but you can do everything that he gives you to the strength to do. And in that there is great freedom—freedom from those fears that would seek to enslave you; freedom to be the beloved child of God that he made you through the waters of Holy Baptism; and freedom to serve Christ and those around you, in good times and in bad.
I. N. I. Amen.
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