2022-3-06 “Sighs of the Times”

Cornerstone EPC                                                                                 Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                              March 6, 2022

Sighs of the Times”
Philippians 4:10-13

Note the following sighs of the times—among many others that could be adduced or imagined. One says, “If only my candidate, or party, had won, then things would be better.” Another reasons within himself, or out loud for any to hear, “If only I lived in another house, or town, or state, then things would be better.” Still another quips, “If only I had more money, or enjoyed better health, then things would be better.” Yet another expels these words for any in close range to hear, “If only I had this person in my life (or this person out of it), then things would be better.”

Maybe you’ve heard something like this from others—perhaps even other people that you know. Possibly you’ve thought—or have uttered—these or like sentences yourself. All of these sighs, even if expressed with more force than the usual sigh, testify to a single pathological spiritual illness: discontent. The cure avails in today’s text. Let’s hear it as we hear the Word of God read and proclaimed once again in this place.


Before we consider ourselves and our time, we do well to consider the Spirit-led human author of these words—and to consider his time as well. Paul, at the time he wrote this letter to the Philippian Christian households (ca. A. D. 62), was approaching sixty years old, and he had been a Christian for about twenty-five years. He has endured much difficulty in his life and ministry, which he narrates to the Christian households at Corinth ca. A. D. 57:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).

It is no wonder, then, that the Lord leads Paul, in view of his age and difficulties, to call himself an old man to Philemon (Philemon 9).

Paul tells Philemon of this from prison. At the time Paul writes Philippians, he has been incarcerated for about five years consecutively—two or so years in Palestine, then a winter at sea between Palestine and Rome, and then two or so years in Rome. Moreover, Paul tarries no longer under house arrest, as we note at the end of the book of Acts. He, as of the writing of Philippians, is an inmate with the imperial guard, or praetorium. Paul’s situation looks bleaker from the praetorium than it did from house arrest. Furthermore, it has been some time since the Philippians could help Paul materially. If any may have a just claim to discontent, Paul may have such a claim.

However, Paul disclaims such a claim in favor of another. He tells us in today’s text that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he providentially finds himself: whether in plenty or in hunger, whether in abundance or in need, or whether enjoying Philippian gifts or waiting for them to arrive. Even more than this, he has learned the secret of facing things that tempt to discontent. What is this secret? The better question is, “Who is this secret?”

The secret is Christ, Who strengthens Paul—and us. Jesus’ Person—the eternal, second Person of the Trinity, fully God and fully man—strengthens us. Jesus’ work—His death and resurrection, and all these entail—strengthens us. The benefits that flow to us by virtue of our union with Christ—such as assurance of salvation, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, victory over sin, and the like—strengthen us. The relationship that we enjoy with Him—through Scripture, which is His speech to us, and prayer, which is our speech to Him—strengthens us also.1 Again, the secret to contentment, no matter the circumstance, is Christ Himself.

Yet, in matters that tempt you to discontent, you may pray for relief from them. After all, Paul did in the matter of the thorn of his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). It well may please God, in answer to such a prayer, to change your circumstances—and this both for His glory and for your good. Also, there are times when it is essential for you to make a God-empowered attempt to flee dire circumstances. In particular, you are not called to be a punching bag in an abusive situation, nor are those (e. g., minor children) who depend upon you. It well may be Godly wisdom to flee, to resist, to defend, etc., in such circumstances.

The particular cases notwithstanding, God may—for His glory and your good—keep you in the difficult circumstance. He kept Paul in his circumstance; He did not remove Paul’s thorn (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Nevertheless, said thorn became an occasion for Paul to boast in God, in order that God’s power may rest upon him (ibid, 9-10)—and to delight in other providential difficulties as well. This may be our divinely ordained lot as well. If this be the case, then you and I—if God be gracious—will learn, and learn more deeply, the secret of contentment. This secret, the antidote to discontent, is Jesus Himself, Who strengthens us. May He strengthen you this day, and even forevermore.


1 Our engagement with God, both in Scripture and in prayer, occurs in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit.