1. Confront people with care
2. Confront circumstances with contentment
3. Confront all things with Christ
A young mother of two opened up the kitchen pantry one afternoon. She knew that she had two cookies left and was planning on setting them out for her two boys when the oldest one got home from school. But when she opened the cookie jar, she only found one. Well, she knew who the culprit was. It had to be her youngest son who was four years old. She thought for a minute about how to deal with him. Then she decided the best way was to confront the situation head on. So, she called him downstairs. “Young man, there were two cookies in this pantry last night. Why is it, there is only one in there now?” The little boy looked up at her and said, “I guess ‘cuz it was so dark in here I didn’t see the other one?” That wasn’t exactly what that mother was looking to get out of her confrontation, was it? But even though that wasn’t the response she was looking for, she did get results. Confrontation always produces results. It’s just that the type of results depend on the type of the confrontation. The mother’s confrontation produced the wrong results because she confronted in the wrong way. She asked the wrong question. We think of confrontation as a bad thing because the kind of confrontation we’re most familiar with is bad confrontation. But some things in life need to be confronted. They just need to be confronted in the right way. Paul was never known as one who backed down from confrontation. Before Jesus got hold of him on the road to Damascus, he was in the business of confronting Christians. After he was saved, he confronted the Jews in the synagogues. He confronted sin in the church. He confronted James and the church leaders at Jerusalem over doctrinal issues. And he even confronted Peter because Peter had succumbed to the Judaizers. Paul was a bold man who didn’t back down from confrontation on the occasions when it was necessary. But later on in his ministry, you notice something. As the early New Testament churches started to become more established, the true focus of what Paul is confronting becomes clear. Last week and this week, we have been looking at a passage Paul wrote as he closed out his letter to the church at Philippi. As we close out this week of Thanksgiving, it’s particularly appropriate that Paul closes his letter with a very thankful attitude. We don’t normally think of confrontational people as being thankful people, do we? But Paul was. As a matter of fact, it was his Spirit-controlled confrontational nature that enabled him to continually give thanks. Even though I’m sure we’ll all be happy when all the Thanksgiving leftovers are finally gone… there is one part of Thanksgiving that I pray will never go away. And that is the Christian hearts that are full of true, humble, thanksgiving before God that comes this time of year. That’s what I want for each of us this morning. I want each of us to experience true Thanksgiving every day. But in order to do that, we’re going to have to be a little bit like that mom with the cookie jar. We’re going to have to be a little bit like Paul with these Philippian Christians. We’re going to have to get confrontational about some things. Not in our attitude or in our demeanor. But in the way we give. We have to have confrontational giving. As a matter of fact, in order for us to continually experience Thanksgiving, we have to have three kinds of confrontational giving. First, we must confront people with care. Look at verse 10:
The first kind of confrontational giving is to confront people with care. Do you see what Paul is doing here? He’s thanking the people he’s writing to for the way they supported him financially. But notice the way he words it. He says, “that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again.” It’s like he’s saying, “I’m thankful that finally, you started supporting me again.” It had been over 10 years since Paul had planted the church at Philippi. He had spent a short time there with them at that time, but they were known for their enthusiastic support of Paul and the other churches. When he went to Thessalonica, they supported him. When he went to Berea, they supported him. Even later on when he left the Macedonian area and headed south into the region of Achaia, they supported him. As Paul continued his important ministries in Athens and Corinth, he knew he could count on the support of the church at Philippi. Throughout his second missionary journey, they were faithful in the way they supported him. But time and distance tend to change things, don’t they? Have you ever had a long-distance relationship? Most of the time they don’t work. Mine and Miranda’s did because she’s such an extraordinary woman, but most of the time they don’t. Why is that? Because it takes a lot of work to continue to love someone you can’t see. It takes a lot of work to maintain interest in someone you can’t talk to. It takes a lot of work to keep a person at the forefront of your mind when their memory begins to fade. And that’s what happened with the Philippian church toward Paul. Knowing the way that Paul was, I’m sure that his devotion to them never wavered as he prayed for them continually. But their support for him began to fade. And over the years it faded and faded till it became completely non-existent. But then—over 10 years since Paul got them started as a church—they got word that their church planter was in prison in Rome. And when they did, it brought back all those feelings of love and devotion they had towards Paul. And when those fires were stoked again, they renewed their support for him. They picked up where they left off and poured out their support for him and his ministry. Now here’s the wonderful thing. Yes, it was great that they renewed their support for Paul. But what was wonderful was the way he confronted them about it. He could have confronted them in two different ways. He could have confronted them like I would have been tempted to. He could have said, “Well it’s about time.” “I can’t believe you forgot about me after all I did for you.” How easy it would have been for Paul to give them an itemized list of all the things he’d done for them. Of all he’d sacrificed for them. How easy it would have been to list all the troubles he’d been through during those 10 years. All the hard times. All the struggles. All the ways their support would have made it better for him. What a guilt trip he could have laid at their feet. And they probably deserved every bit of it. But that’s not the path he took, is it? How did he confront them instead? “Oh, I thank the Lord that you’re caring for me again.” He didn’t throw in any sarcasm or subtle digs. He simply said, “I know you would have continued if you had the opportunity, but that doesn’t really matter now. What matters now is that you’re caring for me now and I’m rejoicing in the Lord with you because of it.” You know what’s beautiful about that? Yes, they were caring for Paul by providing for his physical needs. But the beautiful thing is that Paul was caring for them by providing for their spiritual needs. He didn’t beat them over the head, even though he could have. He didn’t dwell on the mistakes of the past, even though all those problems weren’t fixed. He didn’t look back. He pointed them forward. Look to the now. Whatever was wrong in the past, I rejoice in what you’re doing right now. Paul was able to experience thanksgiving because he gave to the Philippian church. He didn’t take away from them by digging up the past. He gave by confronting them with the care they needed right now. The first kind of confrontational giving is to confront people with care. To continually experience Thanksgiving, we must confront people with care and we must confront circumstances with contentment. Look at verses 11-12:
The second kind of confrontational giving is to confront circumstances with contentment. You have heard me quote this passage many times. The reason is, because I think it is the most profound statement in the Bible of a Christian who has arrived. Oh, that one day I will be able to honestly say, “I am content, no matter what circumstances I’m going through.” I get discontent when I get behind somebody driving too slow on 460. It’s important that we see what Paul is saying here. He’s not saying that he’s content with everything. That’s the way our politically correct world wants us to be. “Well, whatever lifestyle you want to live, that’s okay as long as you don’t hurt anybody.” “Well, it doesn’t matter what you do in your private life, that’s your business.” That’s destructive, it’s contrary to Scripture and that’s not what Paul meant by being content. Other than Jesus Christ Himself, I can’t think of anyone who was less tolerant of sin than Paul. Acts 24 tells of the time leading up to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome when he was held by Felix, the Roman governor of Judea. Felix kind of held on to Paul for a while because he thought he would be fun to listen to. But one day Felix and his wife Drusilla called Paul up to entertain them with his speaking. Now I need to give you a little background on Felix and Drusilla. Drusilla came from a long line of winners. Her daddy was Herod Agrippa I who just loved to persecute Christians. He put Peter in prison and had the apostle James killed. Eventually he died and was eaten by worms. Her great-granddaddy was Herod the Great. You know him as the one who sent out a decree to kill all the two-year-old and under children in Bethlehem after Jesus was born. That’s the kind of family that Drusilla came from. At the time of Paul’s imprisonment, she was still only a teenager. Felix was the Roman governor of Judea. He had lusted for Drusilla while he was still married to his second wife and Drusilla was still married to her first husband. But that didn’t matter to either one of them. Now here they were, married to each other holding the earthly power of life and death over Paul. And he was standing before them. So what was his message to them? “Here’s how you can have your best life now?” “Here’s five ways to have a happy marriage?” No—he gave them a traditional three point sermon. Here are his points—1. Righteousness. 2. Self-control. 3. The judgment to come. Talk about stepping on toes! Wouldn’t it have been easier just to ask Felix up front to kill him? It would have been easier, but it wouldn’t have been right. Paul was never content with sin. He always expressed discontent with sin in the boldest way possible. In Romans 7, he even showed his complete discontent with sin in his own life. To the point that he said, “who will rescue me from this body of death.” So if Paul was never content with sin, what was he content with? He was content with his circumstances. Whether he was healthy or sick—he was content. Whether God removed the thorn in his flesh or left it there—he was content. Whether his companions abandoned him or supported him—he was content. Whether he was in prison or in chains or in stocks or in church—he was content. Starving, shipwrecked, snake-bit, stoned or saddened—he was content. Can you say that about your life? What does it take for you to continue experiencing Thanksgiving every day? Confront the circumstances of your life with contentment. Don’t be content with your sin. Be content with your circumstances. To continually experience Thanksgiving, you must confront people with care and confront circumstances with contentment. But more than anything else, you must confront all things with Christ. Look at verse 13.
The third kind of confrontational giving is to confront all things with Christ. It sounds really good to be able to confront people with care like Paul did, doesn’t it? But that was Paul. And we’re no Paul, are we? And surely Paul didn’t have to put up with the people that we do. That’s probably true. The people Paul had to put up with were probably much worse. Think about it, his only support and sustenance was from what he received from the churches. And when they just arbitrarily quit supporting him, he had nothing. I don’t know about you, but that would tend to make me pretty bitter. So what kept Paul from being bitter? Not only kept him from being bitter, but enabled him to be gracious and loving toward those who had abandoned him? Christ. In and of himself, Paul knew that kind of confrontational care was impossible. Remember, he was a straight-forward, no-nonsense, get the job done at all cost hothead. In his own nature, it would have been far more likely for him to completely wash his hands of Philippi. But he didn’t operate in his own nature, did he? He operated with the nature of Christ. And the presence of Jesus Christ in his life was powerful enough to allow Paul to confront them with care rather than bitterness. The presence of Jesus Christ in his life was powerful enough to allow him to forgive them of the past and focus on the present. And because of that, he was able to rejoice in what was going on in the now. Are there things that have happened with people in your past that you’re bitter about? Are you harboring resentment and hurt over the past? It’s time to let it go. It’s time to move on and confront the people in the present with care. Rejoice in what is happening right now. I read an anonymous quote this week that said, “What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new.” “But, preacher, that’s just not possible—you just don’t know what people have put me through.” You’re right, I probably don’t—but Jesus does. And He’s the One that Paul says that you can do all things through. You can do all things through Christ which strengthens you—even leave the past in the past and confront people with care starting today.
Jesus can give you the strength to confront people with care and He can give you the strength to confront circumstances with contentment. “Oh, but pastor, you just don’t know the circumstances I’m going through.” Let me ask you—is what you’re going through worse than what Paul went through when he was thrown into a cold, underground cell without so much as even an outer garment? Is what you’re going through worse than what Job went through when he lost all his possessions, his children and his health? I can tell you that it’s not. But that doesn’t make it any easier to go through, does it? Understanding that doesn’t bring contentment, does it? It’s kind of like when you complain about breaking your toe and someone says, “Just be thankful you have a foot.” That’s all well and good—it just doesn’t make your toe quit hurting. Knowing about the suffering of people like Paul and Job do nothing to bring you contentment. Because the only thing that can bring you contentment is identifying with One who suffered more than you or I ever could. And He did it willingly. And He did it to give you the only thing that can give you contentment in the midst of your circumstances. He suffered and bled and died on the cross of Calvary to give you Himself. To give you the strength to do what you could never do on your own. To give you the strength to confront your circumstances with contentment. To give you the strength to confront the people around you with care.
Have you confronted all things with Christ this morning? Have you trusted Him as your Lord and Savior? Have you publicly professed Him as your Savior? Have you followed His command in baptism? Have you walked with Him as you should? Have you denied yourself, taken up your cross daily and followed Him? If you answered any of those questions no this morning, you are in a bad situation. You have no choice but for past hurts and present circumstances to rule over you. That’s no way to live. Jesus has done everything it takes to provide you with the strength it takes to overcome the past and be content in the present. The Bible calls it an unspeakable gift. All you have to do is receive it. Receive the gift of salvation that will give you the strength to continually experience Thanksgiving.