Satisfaction Amid DisconsolationSeries: Turbulence
SATISFACTION AMID DISCONSOLATION
Sermon By Terry Siverd / November 29, 2020 / Cortland Church of Christ
Someone has jokingly said, “Growing old isn't for sissies.” Quite often this idiom or vernacularism references the challenges of getting older: learning to cope with physical aches and pains and/or adjusting to a lack of mental clarity. The Curious Life Of Benjamin Button was a movie about a man who aged backwards - - longevity brought youth. While there are accounts of children who age prematurely (progeria), aging backwards is mythological. Unless you're a real life illustration of Benjamin Button we all experience geriatrophy. “Geriatrophy” is a made up word. A few years ago, when I first coined the term, I thought about submitting it for acceptance in the dictionary, but I never followed through on the process. Geriatrics is the study of aging. Atrophy is a word that describes a withering or wearing down. Thus, geriatrophy is that which naturally occurs as we grow older. There are some people who seem to defy the aging process, at least for a while, but eventually they grow old and die.
As we seniors are sometimes prone to exclaim, “I'm now on the downhill slide”. I commented to a couple of senior ladies the other evening about how I couldn't believe it has now been 15 years since my father passed away. How time flies as we age. When we were young it took Christmas forever to arrive, but when we get older one Christmas runs into another. For quite a while I was content with life in “the middle ages”, but the middle ages have now given way to being a senior citizen - - the latter years. Don't misunderstand me - - I am still content, with so much to be thankful for: I am in good health; I take no meds; My mind is still sharp (for the most part). I have a few aches, but nothing I can't deal with. And I have no plans to kick the bucket anytime soon.
I must admit however, that the last few years have presented some difficult hurdles. On some days I find myself wrestling with CYNICISM.
From a moralistic perspective, it appears that our nation is truly in decline and this weighs on me greatly. Whereas The Word of God used to have great sway, younger ones today are predominately animated by “feelings”. For many, the words of Jeremiah (Jer.10:23) have become the distant prayer of a bygone era - - I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his own steps. The writings of King Solomon appear to some to be irrelevant. In Prov.3:5 we read, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Politically, with such distrust, infighting and corruption - - one wonders what the future holds for America.
From an ecclesiastical point of view, I have been dismayed by the absence of loyalty and tenacity on the part of some. Ones who walk away or fall away when the going gets tough and/or ones who become entranced and captivated by the myth of the greener grass. For me, such has truly been disheartening. Thankfully, my disappointments in this realm have been bolstered and buoyed by the fidelity of many others. I received a card the day before Thanksgiving that truly warmed my heart. It expressed: “Your dedication to loving, serving, and being a light to a needy world is an inspiration. Thank you for all you do and may God richly bless you.”
In this marvelous season of joy, I'm working to combat my cynicism by re-reading Paul's epistle to the Philippians. It is a letter that invites highlighting. Philp.1:21 / For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain ... Philp.2:5 / Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus ... Philp.3:14 / I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus ... Philp.4:19 / ...God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. It is also a letter filled with JOY. I urge you to read this brief epistle this week. It contains four powerful, mind-altering and heart-shapring chapters.
Impressively, Paul writes (Philp.4:11): I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
In reading this brief missive (totaling just 94 verses), one can see that Paul was not at all out of touch with reality. He himself was imprisoned (1:7). He described some of his fellow preachers as ones driven by envy, strife and ambition (1:15-17). He spoke of opposition (1:28); grumbling and disputing (2:14); and self-interests (2:21). Metaphorically, he alluded to those of the false circumcision as “the dogs” (3:2). He called out those who were enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things (3:18-19). He addressed the problem of disharmony between two women, Euodia & Syntyche (4:2). He painfully recalled the lack of support among many of the churches (4:15).
Make no mistake, Paul did not dwell some prophylactic bubble - - his world was anything but sanitized.
He writes in Philp.4:12 - - I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need.
I have titled my sermon this morning, Satisfaction Amid Disconsolation.
HOW WAS PAUL ABLE TO REMAIN SATISFIED IN THE MIDST OF SUCH GLOOM?
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
What was his secret? Was it strictly an exercise of mind over matter? The NEB misses it badly in rendering vs.12 - - I have learned to find resources in myself whatever my circumstances. Paul's “key” (secret), which was not really a secret (it is proclaimed throughout Scripture), was not rooted in SELF. He declares in Philp.4:13 - - I can do all things THROUGH HIM who strengthens me. A few verses earlier Paul writes (Philp.4:4) - - Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS; again I will say REJOICE! He reminds the brethren at Philippi (Philp.4:5) - - The Lord is near. For Paul, this nearness of the Lord appears to have an eschatological thrust. cf. Phlip.1:6 &10 with 4:10-11 & 20-21. But, the nearness of the Lord also seems to have an existential element - - as in Ps.34:18 / The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
As Paul grew in His discipleship he LEARNED to have a better vision of the things around him. As I alluded to earlier, some might argue that he viewed things through rose-colored glasses, but I don't think so. But Paul did grow to come to see all things through the bloody and beautiful lens of the cross of Christ. He was a partaker of God's grace and subsequently a willing participator in the proclamation of the gospel. Paul grew to find great joy in being poured out as a drink offering in the sacrifice and service of the faith (Philp.2:17).
In further clarifying the strength of Paul's ability to derive satisfaction amid disconsolation, all we need to do is backpedal a few verses where we read Paul key/secret (Philp.4:6-7) - - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer & supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And THE PEACE OF GOD, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. When we fully acclimate and orient our minds so as to continually dwell on righteousness, Paul's promises (Philp.4:8b): The God of peace shall be with you (Philp.4:8b).
Biblically, in trying to answer the question, “How was Paul able to find satisfaction amid disconsolation?”, the answer is supplied in Philp.4:19 - - And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory IN CHRIST JESUS. Paul's ability to be content whatever the circumstances was directly connected to his being IN CHRIST.
Perhaps herein lies our problem - - we are not always “all in”. We live in a American world where we're taught to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but that is a concept that tends to dethrone God. We will never find satisfaction amid disconsolation until and unless we let go and LET GOD!